Around here, we seem to forge ahead with spring earlier and earlier each spring. Some of that concerns our gradually warming climate and the rest to devices extending our growing season earlier in the spring. But while it is technically spring here in New England, you wouldn’t know it. Friends in more salubrious climates laugh when I say it’s spring. More like late winter, with a few warm days thrown in. OK, but you have to work with what nature gives you. This is why many of us resort to artifice to get a lead on the growing season. I use fine spun fabrics like remay, low hoops covered with greenhouse plastic, classic cold frames, and the device you see in the photo. It’s a large plastic tub with a plastic greenhouse tub top. My wife bought it at one of the job lot discount stores. It did not work out for the purpose she had in mind, but I used to grow lettuce all spring and again all fall. I’ve already started my early spring lettuce crop indoors, but yesterday I decided to push a bit and planted some seedlings into the plastic tub cold frame. After all, as usual, I had planted too many, and they’d only need thinning anyhow.
The lettuce is not the only thing out in the spring rain this morning; garlic is too. Specifically, this was the garlic that I had seeded two years ago. This year it should result in harvestable bulbs. The garlic planted from bulb sets last fall is just barely popping up. My wife will have much more garlic this fall than we can use. If things go as expected. But as you know, let’s not count our garlic bulbs before we pull them. Anything could happen between now and August to wallop our expectations. Last spring started with poignant beauty, but a series of late frosts hit just as the fruit trees were flowering.
Every spring, I have at least one experiment. I don’t think the early lettuce is going to be it. I’ll have to come up with something really fringe for New England – sugar cane?
I’m not sure that the concept of a “stable genius” predates modern political asininity. But the idea of the unstable genius certainly has a history – particularly in the genre of B science fiction movies. Many of these movies are now in the public domain and are available for showing on our local (here in the USA) public access television stations.
Have I mentioned that I run one of these TV stations? Yes, I do. And I love to salt the late night hours with titles like it came from beyond time or Creature from __________(insert your scariest place here!).
This is a canny marketing move for me. I know there are people who, tired of Netflicks, are roaming the channels for the unusual at three in the morning. What could be more uncommon than a demented scientist out to spawn test tube creatures on an unsuspecting world while stealing a succulent heroine from the buff hero? The hero needs to quell the hordes of slimy things with only the hamfisted help of the Army, the local reporter, the heroine, and a jar of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise? Yes? The creatures are allergic to the stuff.
So this is the stuff that I run after midnight for the insomniac crowd. And, of course, there is almost always some unstable genius daring to do what no stable genius would do and open the floodgates of creation to demon spawn. The problem is that with all the ecological disasters, political insanity, and stable and unstable geniuses running around, it’s gotten a bit hard sometimes to tell the difference between some news reports and the B science fiction movies. So one or two of my insomniacs have emailed me and asked for old westerns.
But I don’t know, running old John Wayne stuff where First Nations folks get robbed blind, cattle destroy prairie, and unstable idiots shoot up entire towns for fun seems just a bit too much like real life. I prefer science fiction.
The weather has ruined one or two promising relationships. One day you’re sitting at the coffee shop reveling in how your tastes seem to mesh, and after the weekend hike, you run over to her house to pick up the spare shirt and toothbrush you’d left at her apartment. She’s “not there” when you arrive, and your stuff is in a paper shopping bag with your name written on it in the precise architectural lettering you had found so enchanting just last week. Why? A sudden realization that you detested the other’s favorite weather. She found misty, cool weather romantic. You found it to be suitable only for a muskrat on the prowl. You found a bright sunfilled day perfect for hiking. She preferred to lie in the sleeping bag till noon, masked against any sun intrusion.
You softly suggested that your taste was the prevalent preference for hiking. she rolled over and muttered something about what she had ever seen in you. It was a chilly ride back to Boston, and the weather forecast called for precipitation.
Not all teachers are human. My most influential non-human teacher was my gray cat Clancy J Bumps ( don’t ask what the J was for, he didn’t like to be called by it and would attack madly). Among the nicknames he earned was – The Grey Menace. The Menace loved to fight. But he almost always won through strategy and intimidation. Few cats or dogs dared actually to engage him in full combat. The enormous German shepherd learned this lesson the hard way. He thought the kitty was a handy snack. The Menace was tied on a leash in the yard. The dog did not know that the leash had a breakaway section for times just like that. Clancy mewed piteously and lured the dog into our yard. He then snapped the lead, assaulted the dog, and sent it into a hurried attempt to clamber over an eight-foot palisade fence. Afterward, the Menace sat there licking the blood of his claws. The dog’s owner was furious. I pointed out that the dog was collar and leashless, outside his yard and in mine. The dog also had attacked my poor, innocent cat. I refused to pay the dog’s vet bills. Although the Menace tried to lure the dog back into the yard again, it whimpered every time it saw Clancy in the yard.
An excellent example of a teacher you’re thinking? Well, he tended to make friends with his foes after fights. Seeing four or so cats basking in the sun was amusing. With catnip growing as a weed in the garden, the afternoons often turned into catnip nap sessions. The Menace was fiercely loyal to his friends and would threaten to tear you up if you threatened them. He also knew when to make a face-saving retreat and take credit for a victory. He was a gourmet who loved chile, roast beef subs ( with hots, please), and relished a good dance party.
What did I learn from him? First, you should attack fiercely when attacked, make peace afterward, and enjoy life to its fullest.
Magazines and catalogs eventually add up. The ones I save have articles, designs, projects, and products that get placed on my maybe list. I don’t know why I do it. But, in the past three years, not one has made it to the benchtop. And, you know, I honestly can’t think of one that’s made it to the bench in ten years. So why do I save all this potential recycling? Maybe because you can’t tell when you’ll need something and go rummaging for it in the stacks. But it’s like looking for a shiny needle in the proverbial haystack. So the other day, I emptied the storage boxes of the accumulated magazines. They haven’t gone far yet. They went into another bin for my wife to take to the long-term care facility she works at. I feel good that rather than merely being recycled, they’ll have an additional life before eventually getting pulped to make new paper.
Meanwhile, I haven’t given up everything. There is a stack of at least a year of back issues of Maine Antiques Digest (MAD) that I can’t separate from yet. They are not full of projects. Instead, they are full of inspiration. Roving through the back issues, I find exquisite crafts and art objects produced over the centuries. I have no interest in duplicating these; they are just reminders that craft and art are a gift that transcends years and generations.
Vivid flashbacks are something to avoid. However, I found over the last decade that a few movies and television shows tend to trigger some incredibly real flash temporal relocations; I feel like I’m in the process of being transported. One of these was an early episode of the Incredible Mrs. Maisel. Unfortunately, it was set in a New York City which was entirely too recognizable to me. While watching, my mind filled in the blanks and recreated the streetscape from long-lost memories. Finally, I had to get up and leave the room before being ripped from the current time and dropped somewhere near Greenwich Village, where I might run into a younger version of myself.
Just thinking of this is giving me an anxiety attack.
Around the same time, a movie about a cat and a folksinger on the run came out. Parts of it are set in the Village. I started having evil Deja Vue watching it. It was popular, and I saw clips all over the internet. Friends, knowing my history, asked if I would see it. I just shuddered and said no.
It wasn’t that the times and scenes were so awful, but they were traumatic. As a result, I have no desire to “enjoy” the urges, fears, and joys of a teenage me. Part of the fear was knowing what was in store. The future held the Vietnam War, the drug overdoses of friends, bad relationships, and much joy. Being an aficionado of Science Fiction, I couldn’t guess if I’d be able to change things or just tag along for the ride. Either situation scares me.
Time is the distance I’ve put between me and past events. So I think that in parts of my mind, I see those things as still going on; just I’m no longer there to take part. Time is thin scar tissue that allows me to move on, but as Cormac McCarthy said: “Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”
Many trades and crafts have techniques rooted in centuries of precedence. For example, I’ve known boatbuilders who, while depending upon computer systems to draw and print out plans, still like the feel and physicality of an old-fashioned half-hull model in their hands.
The set of gouges racked in my carving shop is not an anachronism. Their tool steel and tempering are improvements over the Roman models, but the lineage is apparent.
But some tools don’t have old origins, and woodworkers use them daily. For example, the bandsaw was probably invented in the 1830s and, by the 1870s, was a regular feature in workshops worldwide. It’s found today in all but a few boatbuilders’ shops and is part of the tool kit of the traditional boatbuilder. Its invention was propitious for the building of the clipper ships, and an early ships saw ( a large bandsaw for cutting timbers for frames) was in use by the mid-1840s in Daniel Mackay’s shipyard. So it was adopted in a traditional trade because of its undeniable utility. It might have been a bit asinine not to use it.
I go back and forth on the concept of what is traditional partly because of its interest to me as an anthropologist and partly because of my trade as a nautical carver. At some point, everything was a new-fangled gadget, in the words of a mentor of mine. And although we don’t note it, many of those gimmicks and gadgets fail to catch on – take a look at some of the supposedly modern wonders issued patents but which failed to either work well enough or fulfilled a purpose for which there was little need.
The ones that do catch on fulfill some fundamental need, and while they make room for innovation, they are often used to create the strictly traditional as well.
Let’s cogitate on this while using the new chatbots and AI tools.
It’s unpredictable when we’ll get the cold frames going, but it will probably be sometime in the next two weeks. Max, however, is undaunted. The snow doesn’t bother him. He has already offered his services as a master digger. That was predictable. I absolutely declined and offered him a supervisory role in chasing chipmunks and squirrels out of the garden. He enthusiastically accepted.
Limiting yourself to a one-word descriptor is so out of one of those sad personality tests. Based on your response, all sorts of shallowness are revealed. So clearly, Portzibee Communications couldn’t use you as a class three interoculator for intra-corporate affairs ( 32 K per year).
Much better that you smile and walk away from their idiocy. The hamburger place is offering 42K.
But if you must simplify life in that particular manner, why not develop a plan in which you identify, over the course of the day, which word most epitomizes you at that moment?
You just made your wife upset over some dumb thing? Penitent.
Complete the most fantastic game with a great score? Super.
Missed feeding time for the cat and dog, and the cat threatens a visit with Catzilla? Idiot,
So there you have it. Don’t be staid. Be creative! And now I must be off to open cans of food for the cat and dog lest I go from idiot to cretin.
When the kids were little, the Simpsons were big in our house. The occasional use of the term embiggen was tolerated with a bit of judicious commonsense, ” Well, dear, there are worse things they could pick up from the TV.” Recognizing that the television would not do a fast fade from the house, we restricted watching to things we didn’t disapprove of. There were many public television shows, tapes, and later DVDs of series we found less objectionable than others. But we controlled the channel selection and refused to get a cable subscription. No cable subscription; think about it. We were on tight budgets in those days and had other things to spend the money on with four kids. We did not save the receipts on what we spent for the alternate media but felt that it was a better deal than 365 channels of trash.
Then there was me. I worked in video. After a day of watching the screen, analyzing cuts, transitions, and writing scripts and storyboards, I couldn’t turn off at home. I’d find myself critiquing every shot held too long, every poor choice of a transition or dropped storyline. Needless to say, the kids picked it up from me. My wife could “drain the brain” in front of the tube, but not my kids. They were terrible critics. Maybe it’s unsurprising that we like animation so much; scripting, budgets, and storylines are better supervised. There are fewer inane superstar personalities to follow along with, and they are made for entertaining in briefer bursts. Unfortunately, so much of what’s on cable is made as mere content filler for channels but has little value.
Well, that’s my piece for today. Or as Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain would say, “Naaarf!”
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