"Trekking through dense, remote forests in search of rare and wondrous species seems like a Victorian pursuit. But not to Dan Hinkley, a horticulturist who travels the globe today on a quest for exotic plants. As with the great plant explorers of previous centuries, what Hinkley brings back from his expeditions may not only enrich our gardens, it may even shed light on the evolutionary relationships among plants. For NOVA's "First Flower," producer Doug Hamilton journeyed with Hinkley and Chinese botanist Yin Kaipu through the Hengduan Mountains of southwestern China. This interview took place at a site where, two decades ago, Yin's mentor discovered a remarkable "hanging lily."
A short clip of the hour long Nova program 'First Flower. For anyone interested in the flora of our planet, an excellent program which was first broadcast in 2007.
Most Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists won't touch it, yet many coffee aficionados can't go a day without it. I belong to the latter group. When I lived in a high mountain valley in Mexico I used to buy my coffee beans from a local grower, always on the day that they were roasted. They were still warm and aromatic when they arrived in my kitchen. Now that I live in Thailand, a friend sends me monthly parcels of a delicious coffee grown and harvested in Vietnam, and which satisfies my taste buds more than the locally grown Thai coffee.
And in case you were wondering, September 29th is recognized as National Coffee Day in the U.S.
"Sultan Murad IV, a ruler of the Ottoman Empire [12th century], would not have been a fan of Starbucks. Under his rule, the consumption of coffee was a capital offense.
Though Murad IV banned tobacco, alcohol and coffee, some say he consumed all three and his death was the result of alcohol poisoning. The sultan was so intent on eradicating coffee that he would disguise himself as a commoner and stalk the streets of Istanbul with a hundred-pound broadsword. Unfortunate coffee drinkers were decapitated as they sipped.
Murad IV's successor was more lenient. The punishment for a first offense was a light cudgeling. Caught with coffee a second time, the perpetrator was sewn into a leather bag and tossed in the river. ...."
Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.
This piece includes his short film on Gratitude and Happiness. Brother David Steindl's spoken words, Gary Malkin's musical compositions and Louie's cinematography make this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.
I have lived with the plant above for the past nine years but had no idea of its botanical name. It was given to me by a friend in a large pot, and for many months I thought it was nothing more that a foliage plant with quite attractive leaves. Then one day it suddenly it bagan to 'flower'. Now every year it has a succession of flowers over a several month period. Somewhat bizarre, but quite attractive in a strange way. Some Thai friends have said it was they thought it was known as 'Black flower' [ ดอกไม้สีดำ ], even though it was actually purple and not black.
Finallly discovered that its botanical name is Tacca integrifolia, 'Bat Flower', and it is a native of nearby Malaysia.
And knowing that it was called 'Bat Flower', I even found a video on Youtube - taken at the Lyons Arboretum in Hawaii.
In this visually dazzling talk, Jonathan Drori shows the extraordinary ways flowering plants -- over a quarter million species -- have evolved to attract insects to spread their pollen: growing 'landing-strips' to guide the insects in, shining in ultraviolet, building elaborate traps, and even mimicking other insects in heat. [TedTalks]
[Usually this blog contains rather impersonal bits of news and things that interest me. Today's posting is much more personal, a bit of personal history.]
Reading about the death of gay Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt in Afghanistan yesterday opened a personal repository of memories more than half a century old.
I recalled the day in October of 1955 that I learned that Sp3 Gregory Bartoni, a Korean linguist attached to the ASA, had been killed in Korea. No, not from warfare, since the Korean War had ended three years previously, but rather a tragic jeep accident on an icy road. He had also died in a foreign land, far from his native home and his immediate family. Also far from his military lover, who was stationed on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Gregg and I had first met at Fort Devins, Mass. where we were assigned to a two man room during the first part of our 'intelligence training'. Later we would both attend a year's training at the Army Language School in California, where he was assigned to the Korean department, and I would be studying Russian. Both languages were necessary during the 'cold war' of the time. We both eventually worked collecting intelligence for the Army Security Agency, a super secret military wing of the National Security Agency.
I know it may sound a bit corny and perhaps overly romantic, but it was love at first sight. And we were both aware of it from the time I walked into our two man room. I remember well that Gregg was reading a book by John Donne, a contemporary of Shakespeare, and listening to some Vivaldi. We spent that first evening drinking beer and getting to know each other. We found that our interests, in classical music, opera, literature, botany, film and art, dovetailed like a perfectly mitered joint. His family was from Greece and Italy, and mine was from Slovakia, though I also had a bit of Mediterraneanancestry.. Both of us had joined the military not out of any über patriotic reason, but rather as a way of escaping the draft and not having to shoot anyone or be shot at.
We knew that somehow destiny had arranged for us to become lovers and lifetime partners. It was certainly not something that we announced to all our military buddies, but rather they adduced it for themselves, and were accepting. They knew us first as individuals and worthy of their friendship, and if we happened to be gay that was our business. [This was long, long before the introduction of DADT.]
Towards the end of our year's language study we drove down to So. California to spend the three day 4th of July holiday with my mother, since my birthday also occured during this period. Bozhena, my mother, almost immediately adopted Gregg as a second son. In fact it was during dinner at a restaurant that weekend that she casually mentioned that we seemed to be very much in love. So I didn't have to have the long dreaded , "Hey mom, I'm gay" talk with her since she had figured it out all by herself, and as I learned, even approved of my choice of a life partner.
Gregg was sent to Korea, and I went to Hokkaido, both horrifically cold in the winter months. After a year of writing at least once a week, we made plans to spend a lengthy R & R in Kyoto. And then we planned to visit some gay language school friends stationed in Kyushu in southern Japan. This was in September of 1955. Certainly the most memorable vacation of my life and Gregg felt the same.
In October two of my letters to him were returned to me having been stamped "Undeliverable". Perplexed I wrote to the unit commander where he was stationed, and soon received a reply that he unfortunately had been killed in a jeep accident. The first love of my life had been unceremoniously snatched from me and my future shattered.
Some six months later I was visiting with a Buddhist priest friend there in Hokkaido, an elderly gentleman of immense wisdom and compassion, who was the abbot of a small zen temple.
Then suddenly I was talking about Gregg and his death. I was even talking about our relationship, not knowing how Shimizu-roshi would respond to my revelations. He was silent. Then he began to gently explain that it was normal to love and expect our relationships to last forever, but it was this very aspect of human behavior that the Buddha had pondered and attempted to comprehend. The message of Buddhism was that all of life was impermanent, transitory, and whenever we attempted to hold on too tightly, we were bound to suffer the consequences.
Reverend Shimizu sighed ever so softly. We had been speaking in English, but he suddenly reverted to Japanese and said, "Hardest of all to love are the cherry blossoms." Then, as if to make sure I understood, he repeated it in English. He gazed out of the open room, the shoji had been left open to let in the gentle night air. He looked to the verdant hillside beyond, now bathed in the light of the nearly full spring moon. In the foreground there was an old cherry tree and even in the pale moonlight, petals could be seen drifting to the ground below. I knew that his phrase held a special significance, but had not yet grasped the meaning.
He continued, "There is a seventh century collection of poetry, The Monzen, which begins with the lines, 'Time passes and nothing endures, the delicate cherry blossoms least of all".
The pauses in his conversation were obviously as important as the information within the words, phrases and sentences. "The blossoms in spring, the song of the nightingale in summer, the red maple leaves in autumn and the first snow of winter are the most moving of all beautiful things,.......... but which of them lasts forever?..........Human life is no different."
"Perhaps most important, and difficult, is to learn an appreciation and acceptance of the moment. Like the refreshing breeze of summer your young friend has moved on. Your life was enriched by his presence, inspired by his knowledge and comforted by his love, and now you are faced with the ultimate reality that nothing physical lasts forever."
He continued by quoting the entire poem of that anonymous author of so long ago. Someone who, it appeared, had faced the same emptiness that had gripped my being.
Time passes and nothing endures, the delicate cherry blossoms least of all.
A storm in the night and we are parted from the blossoms; They are gone in the morning. These few words and tears alone remain.
Love them, those blossoms that fall so quickly. Realize that the ancient pine too, After a thousand years, will wither.
"I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee." ~Flash Rosenberg
Will readily admit that I have been a coffee addict for 60 of my 77 years. Absolutely cannot imagine passing a day without my caffeine fix.
One of the greatest joys during my 11 years of living im Mexico was that I lived next to, and traveled through, a small coffee plantation while walking to my universty classes every day. The fragrance of the white coffee blossoms was divine, and light aroma of the coffee berries [cherries] as they ripened remains one of life's finest moments.
"Coffee is the best thing to douse the sunrise with." .
While visiting The Gutenberg Project a few days ago, I encountered the works of a favorite Greek/Roman historian, Cassius Dio. Since the price was right, of couse I downloaded all six volumes. Encountered a charming gastronomic tale regarding the Emperor Claudius and his not so charming wife Agripinna.
"Claudius was preparing to put an end to his wife Agrippina’s power, to cause his son Britannicus to assume iuvenes, and to declare him heir to the throne. Agrippina, learning of this, became alarmed and made haste to forestall anything of the sort by poisoning Claudius. But since, owing to the great quantity of wine he was forever drinking and his general habits of life—such as all emperors as a rule adopt for their protection—he could not easily be harmed, she sent for a famous dealer in poisons, a woman named Lucusta who had recently been convicted on this very charge; and preparing with her aid a poison whose effect was sure, she put it in one of the vegetables called mushrooms. Then she herself ate of the others, but made her husband eat of the one which contained the poison, for it was the largest and finest of them. And so the victim of the plot was carried from the banquet apparently quite overcome by strong drink, a thing that had happened many times before, but during the night the poison took effect and he passed away, without having been able to say or hear a word. It was the thirteenth of October, and he had lived sixty-three years, two months, and thirteen days, having been emperor thirteen years, eight months, and twenty days.
The emperor received the state burial and all the other honors that had been accorded to Augustus. Agrippina and her son Nero pretended to grieve for the man whom they had killed and elevated to heaven him whom they had carried out on a litter from the banquet.
Nero has left us a remark not unworthy of record. He declared mushrooms to be the food of the gods, since Claudius by means of the mushroom had become a god."
The author, Lucius Cassius Dio Cocceianus, from his Roman History.
"This rare and very elegant suite of six flower prints was produced by the Flemish engraver, Johann Theodor de Bry, in the late 1590s. The series was based on paintings by a little known countryman of de Bry's, Jacob Kempener. But it was the engravings that proved to be the superior works of art, featuring grotesques, garlands and ornament on the vases and nearby insects to enhance the feeling of capturing still life, in concert with the blooming flowers.
The series was called 'Polyptoton de Flores' (The variance of the flowers) and the mottoes* themselves - devised by de Bry and featuring word plays in Latin hexameter - follow the theme of transience. Life is short, as with a flower's bloom. ....."