Wednesday, September 26, 2007

California Floristic

Something I was thinking about while riding BART to work: California plant communities. This may be a strange thing to be thinking about at 8am, but I used to be, and still am, a bit of a botany nerd. I've taken some botanical trips to some `interesting plant areas of CA; two of the more notable areas I have visited are the White Mountains and the Siskiyou Mountains. The oldest living trees, Pinus longaeva inhabit the White Mts., and in the Siskiyou Mts., there exists, alongside California conifers, other conifers that usually inhabit farther north, Alaska and Northern Canada.

California is a biodiversity hotspot, meaning that a high number of native or endemic plants are found here. Where I live, Oakland, the plant community is considered Coastal Sage Scrub. But you can find very little evidence of this now. Depending on what system you use, Munz, Ornduff, Jepson and etc., there are up to 30 plant communities; some even argue that each city, town or even hillside is its own plant community, although I find that a little extreme.
There must have been something in the air for me to ponder California plant life, for when I arrived at work, I saw this headline: New Plant and Animal Species Discovered in Vietnam
There's always great hope when we discover new things in this world.
on the pictures: 1. Coastal Sage Scrub- the Santa Cruz coast (July 2003)
2. a conifer in the Siskiyou wilderness
3. A scene of the White Mts.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Imagination loved to wander the streets. The sun delighted her and the sounds of conversation, cars driving, and footsteps would make her smile. The wind would come up and blow her dusty, copper-burnt hair into a halo around her wide-open pale, green eyes. She would let her nose take direction, and she would joyously pursue the smell of daphne, stomping through front yards until she happily located the scented culprit. Those were the days when we held each other’s hand.

Life gets hard. Challenges can nose their way into the sunscented happiness. It was hard for me to let go of her hand, I had to once in awhile. But I always wanted to take her hand again.

Oh, what a petulant one she is. I always hope she would understand and not stay angry for long. My moods are my moods; I cope by navigating into architectures of withdrawal. It is a complex building with rooms going into more rooms. I never felt lonely as long as I knew that she was out there.

Some of places on the street I cannot go back to, they are haunted for me. I never felt comfortable brushing up against the traces of my memory. Imagination could spin those memories into something else. She could re-call the story that would erase my regret. She was always my best friend. I whispered all my grieved secrets to her while we slept. Her hair intertwined with my hair, there was no boundary between her skin and mine. Our limbs flung onto the other. So of course I began to miss her when she was gone.

"Free of disappointment and tedium, the days went by blissfully. In the mornings, we would wake up happy, joyful at being together; each day presented us with a vast, unknown world of surprises. Familiar things ceased to be familiar, recovering their newness, while other things, like park and lakes, became inviting and maternal. We went around the streets noticing things other people didn't see. Aromas, colors, light, time, and space were more intense for us. As if under the effects of a powerful drug, our sense of perception had grown more acute. But we weren't drunk, just perceptive and calm, endowed with an unusual capacity to be in harmony with the world." - Cristina Peri Rossi Full Stop

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

season of hoaxes

Why do we fall for hoaxes? Some hoaxes seem too absurd to believe, and yet people believe. Is it the impossibility that we fall for? Perhaps in this life of much-desired security that some event, so improbable enchants us. And perhaps, in this pre-ordained world, that something can escape and exist outside of all expectation? Yet, when the hoax is discovered, oh the wrath. Nevertheless, no one seems to learn from it, and one waits to fall for the next hoax. Below the story of the word that never was, the wine mixer that never existed, the pianist that never played and the story that was never written.

Turn to page 1,850 of the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia and you’ll find an entry for Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, a fountain designer turned photographer who was celebrated for a collection of photographs of rural American mailboxes titled “Flags Up!” Mountweazel, the encyclopedia indicates, was born in Bangs, Ohio, in 1942, only to die “at 31 in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.”

If Mountweazel is not a household name, even in fountain-designing or mailbox-photography circles, that is because she never existed."

If indeed Parker’s hundred-point 1921 P├ętrus was a fake, such hubris might not be misplaced. Could Rodenstock have become so proficient at making fake wine that his fakes tasted as good as, or even better than, the real thing? When I asked Parker about the bottle, he hastened to say that even the best wine critics are fallible. Yet he reiterated that the bottle was spectacular. “If that was a fake, he should be a mixer,” Parker said. “It was wonderful.”

Fundamental to the burgeoning interest in Hatto was awe that she could be so tirelessly productive during what should have been her retirement. Her exploits seemed even more remarkable after Richard Dyer, then the chief music critic of the Boston Globe, interviewed her in the summer of 2005 and wrote an article that began, “Joyce Hatto must be the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of.” The next paragraph contained a surprising revelation: “Hatto, now 76, has not played in public in more than 25 years because of an ongoing battle with cancer. She was once told that it is ‘impolite to look ill,’ and after a critic commented adversely on her appearance, she resolved to stop playing concerts.”

The most fascinating aspect of hoaxes is the extent to which they tend to escape the control of their creators, absorbing new accomplices along the way. As McHale observed in a recent interview, literary hoaxes are ''cut loose from their source, or outright lie about it, and so float free, in a certain sense, so that they can be reclaimed further down the line and used for all sorts of unintended purposes."

Monday, September 17, 2007


"Every day things happen in the world that can't be explained by any law of things we know. Every day they're mentioned and forgotten, and the same mystery that brought them takes them away, transforming their secret into oblivion. Such is the law by which things that can't be explained must be forgotten. The visible world goes on as usual in the broad daylight. Otherness watches us from the shadows." - Fernando Pessoa

Friday, September 14, 2007


Stolen pictures: top-
bottom- from W Magazine October 2007
Photographed by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

My imagination has left me. She left neither a note nor a forwarding address. One day she said, "I'm going out for a walk", then under her breathe she muttered, "and I'm never coming back." I did not believe her then, she is often petulant. When she was gone for a while, I thought she was hiding among the books by my bed. But she could not be found.

I know why she has left, She felt unappreciated, under-utilized, abandoned. I changed. I no longer lingered in dreamy dialogue with her. I was too immersed in history and science. I wanted answers, I stopped drifting along the avenues of possibilities. I was tired of all the things that could be. History steals sleep from the reader, dreams become truncated, filled with events. Imagination always wants room to spread about, leave her socks on the floor and mess up the bedcovers. I found myself always picking up after her, then resentment started to invade. It beings with cutting words then turns into pricked sideways glares followed by unsuppressed blown raspberries . No wonder she left.

No one wants to be forgotten, as though you never existed.

I thought I caught glimpse of her among the trees, but she dissolved into smoke. And the leaves fluttered helplessly with laughter around my head. I did not run after the apparition, I'm too tired.

"One falls in love with certain places restlessly associated with the beloved and strolls among them, alone but intimately accompanied." - Cristina Peri Rossi Mona Lisa

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

useless efforts

Pictures stolen from this website:
Amazing stuff!

"Some of the useless efforts are beautiful, others somber. We don't always agree about their classification.

There are men who have taken long journeys in pursuit of inexistent places, unrecoverable memories, deceased women, disappeared friends. There are children who undertook impossible tasks with great resolve.

Entire sections of the museum are dedicated to voyages. We reconstruct them from the pages of the books. After a time of drifting across various seas, traversing dense forests, discovering cities and marketplaces, crossing bridges, sleeping on trains and station benches, the travelers forget the purpose of the trip yet nevertheless continue traveling. And then one day- lost in a flood, trapped in the subway, asleep forever in a doorway- they disappear without a trace. And no one comes to claim them."

The Museum of Useless Efforts -Crista Peri Rossi

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

John Lilburne

Who's that writing? John the agitator

"If only John Lilburne were left in the world, then John would quarrel with Lilburne and Lilburne with John" Henry Marten

picture 1 is from this website- a Libertarian who travels the world giving lectures- I'm not a Libertarian, but he does have nice pictures on his website-

From Wikipedia:

John Lilburne (1614?–August 29, 1657 England), also known as Freeborn John.

John Lilburne began in earnest his campaign of agitation for freeborn rights, the rights that all Englishmen are born with, which are different from privileges bestowed by a monarch or a government.

John Lilburne was arrested upon information by an informer acting for The Stationers' Company and brought before the Court of Star Chamber. Instead of being charged with an offense he was asked how he pleaded. John Lilburne demanded to be presented in English with the charges brought against him (much of the written legal work of the time was in Latin). The Court refused Lilburne's request. The court then threw him in prison and again brought him back to court and demanded a plea. Again John Lilburne demanded to know the charges brought against him.

The authorities then resorted to flogging him with a three-thonged whip on his bare back, as he was dragged by his hands tied to the rear of an ox cart from Fleet Prison to the pillory at Westminster. He was then forced to stoop in the pillory where he still managed to campaign against his censors, while distributing more unlicensed literature to the crowds. He was then gagged. Finally he was thrown in prison. He was taken back to the court and again imprisoned.

This began the first in a long series of trials that lasted throughout his life for what John Lilburne called his "freeborn rights". As a result of these trials a growing number of supporters began to call him "Freeborn John" and they even struck a medal in his honor to that effect. It is this trial that has been cited by constitutional jurists and scholars in the United States of America as being one of the historical foundations of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is also cited within the 1966 majority opinion of Miranda v. Arizona by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the other side, perhaps related, an apartment that costs 45 million dollars? Not even a house, but an apartment in a 201 unit apartment building in New York City-absurd. From the New Yorker

A building like this leaves you two choices: you can resist it or you can yield to it. On one level, there’s something unsettling about the whole thing—is costume-drama luxury the best that our new century has to offer? And what are we to make of the feeding frenzy surrounding it, in an already hypertrophied real-estate market?