Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Art of Gardening

Thought for the day:  Gardens have a way of bringing people together, drawing them from their homes.  [Clare Ansberry]

The Atlanta Botanical Gardens has been drawing a lot of people from their homes lately, and this past weekend, Smarticus and I joined them.

Formal paths through gorgeous gardens? Yep. A raised canopy path through the trees? Affirmative. Also, pond and desert gardens, a children's garden, and multiple greenhouses filled with exotic plants. Lots and lots of stuff to see. But do ya wanta see what's been drawing so many people to the gardens?

See something a tad unusual at the end of that path at the left? That's the Earth Goddess. Ever hear of mosaiculture? This blend of art and horticulture first bloomed (Sorry, couldn't resist.) in Europe as early as the sixteenth century, and has since grown popular all over Europe and North America.

There. See her better now? Talk about statuesque. She's twenty-five feet tall.

Mosaiculture framework is constructed of welded pencil and sheet steel, stuffed with growing medium, and fitted with an internal irrigation system. The plants are plugged into pockets of a special fabric that's stretched over the frame, and it takes several months of growth to achieve the desired sculpture. The exhibit in Atlanta showcases nineteen sculptures, and contains more than one hundred thousand plants.

Atlanta's exhibit, dubbed Imaginary Worlds, was made possible by the International Mosaiculture of Montreal, a nonprofit organization that's staged numerous shows around the world to highlight this centuries-old form of  3-D gardening. Lucky us, this show in Atlanta is the first major exhibition of this kind in the United States. Wanta see more?

Two cobras. Aren't they neat?

Here's a closer look at one of the cobra heads.

And one from the rear. One snake's body stretched out along the ground, and the other's was coiled, but they both featured similar designs.

A pair of butterflies.

A unicorn!

Isn't this shaggy dog adorable?

What's an imaginary world without an ogre? This one has a hole clear through his head, so kids can climb into one ear and out the other.

How about a couple dancing fish?

There were several smiling berries. I was only gonna show you this one, but I've gotta show you one other because...

... he reminds me of the Little Rascals' Alfalfa. Check out that center part. All he's missing is a giant cowlick.

Here's three of the rabbits, but there were quite a few more of them. Several frogs, too.

But I think you've got the idea. There was SO much stuff to see there, but rather than show or tell you any more about that, I'd rather share something else with you.

The International Mosaiculture of Montreal designed and created all of these sculptures before shipping them to Atlanta in fifteen temperature-controlled tractor trailer trucks. Pretty cool, huh? (Literally.) Also, since this non-profit took root in 1998, it has hosted an international mosaiculture competition each year, which is going on right now. This year's entrants will be on display at the Montreal Botanical Gardens from now until the end of September. All I can say is WOW! Check 'em out!

A garden isn't meant to be useful. It's for joy.  [Rumer Godden]

Gardening requires lots of water— most of it in the form of perspiration.  [Lou Erickson]

Gardens aren't made by singing, "Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade.  [Rudyard Kipling]

                                                 So how does your garden grow?

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
                                            May all your weeds be wildflowers.

P.S. In case you missed it, the lovely Janie Junebug conducted an interview with me on her blog yesterday, and will be doing a review of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade tomorrow. Why dontcha stop by? If you're on the fence about whether or not you wanta read my novel... maybe she'll give you a little push. (Very gently, though, I'm sure.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Super-Size It, Cowboy

Thought for the day:  In the covered wagon days, if a baby was born in Texarkana while the family was crossing into the Lone Star state, by the time they reached El Paso, the baby would be in third grade.  [Wallace O. Chariton]


Can ya dig it?

You'd better believe it, pilgrim; they do things up BIG in Texas. Shoot, there's a ranch near Corpus Christi... King Ranch... that's bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island! Then again, I reckon Texas needs big ranches. After all, the state has upwards of  sixteen million cattle. (You gotta beef with that?)

Most of us associate the Lone Star State with oil wells, cattle ranches, pick-up trucks, and twenty-gallon Stetsons, (Hey! Ten gallons ain't big enough for Texans!) but it also has more sheep (and wool) than any other state, as well as the largest herd of whitetail deer in the country. Add to that the largest rose garden in the world at the 22-acre Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, and the not-so-hot reputation for releasing more greenhouse gases than most countries on the planet. Oh, and let us not forget the world's largest Calf Fry Cook-Off, held in Amarillo every year. What's that, you say? Shhhhh... bull testicles. Um, yeah.

The deadliest natural disaster took place in Texas, too— the Galveston hurricane of 1900, which killed from 8000-12000 people. (And no, I don't know why there's such a wide range in the mortality estimate.) As hard as it may be for Texans currently suffering through a miserable drought to believe, the state holds the national record for the most rainfall within a 24-hour period. During Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, a total of forty-five inches drenched the state, forty-three of which fell within that 24-hour time frame. Lots of other superlatives to describe Texas, but suffice it to say it boasts the world's largest parking lot, (at Dallas/Ft.Worth Airport) the world's largest rattlesnake round-up, the largest Ferris wheel in the Western hemisphere, and a place called Big Texan Steak Ranch Restaurant, where what must be the world's largest steak is served. Anyone who can eat its signature 4 1/2 pound steak within an hour gets it for free. What a deal, huh? Unfortunately, there's no indication as to whether the restaurant provides a free ambulance ride to the cardiac care unit afterwards.

WAIT! Hold the presses! In the midst of all these biggest claims to fame, and there's plenty more of them, Texas also holds one lonely little record for the smallest. Warrenton, Texas has the smallest Catholic church in the world. It measure twelve feet by fifteen feet, and can seat fifteen parishioners, but its doors only open once a year. (Easter, maybe?)

Okay, before I end up turning this into the biggest post, how's about if we move along and check out some pictures, shall we?

 Some people who consider these critters to be little more than an armored nuisance may refer to them as a rat on the half-shell, but to me, they're right up there with the duck-billed platypus. The armadillo is the official state animal of Texas, and while some of you may have already known this little tid-bit, I find it to be fascinating: they always have four babies. The female lays a single egg, and then it splits into four, so all four babies are always of the same sex, too.

The Alamo, in San Antonio, is the memorable site where 187 determined Texans fought and died in 1836, while attempting to defend the fortress against 4-5000 Mexican soldiers.

In Ft. Worth, you can find Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest (of course!) Country and Western honky-tonk. Would you believe this place is sooooo big, it actually houses a 4800 square foot rodeo arena?! Yowza. Pictured here is the rather sizable dance floor. Can't you just imagine the blaring music, and a huge crowd of people shuffling around the floor, doing the Texas two-step in blue jeans and pointy-toed cowboy boots?

The Texas capitol building, which opened in 1888,  was built with fifteen thousand carloads of pink marble. Yep, you guessed it; it's the largest state capital building in the country. Matter of fact, its dome is seven feet higher than the National Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Texas is the only state that's been governed under six different national flags: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the U.S. It's also the only state that joined the union by way of a treaty, (in 1845) and by virtue of it being a sovereign nation before joining, it retained some rights denied to other states:  For example, Texas owns all of its land, so the Federal government must ask permission if it wants to create a park or cut timber there. The state also retains the right to fly its state flag at the same height as the national flag.

Katy, Texas was once the home of America's only replica of China's Forbidden City. Known as the Forbidden Gardens, this amazing place had these full-scale statues, as well as a complete recreation of the Emperor's throne, and a 1/3 scale terra cotta army. Unfortunately, this unique site closed in 2011 to make way for the Grand Parkway. When it closed, the terra cotta soldiers were offered on Craig's List for one hundred dollars apiece, but excessive demand quickly shut down the offer. Whatever happened to them and the rest of the items that were in Katy? I don't know.

Other really-musta-been-cool stuff that used to be in Texas, but are no more: the Flagship Hotel on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston. It used to be the only hotel in North America that was built completely over the water. Alas, it was demolished in 2011. Okay, so maybe cool isn't the most appropriate word to describe this place, but it is... gone. Plano used to be the site of the Cockroach Hall of Fame Museum. Uh-huh. Big ol' dead roaches were dressed up and displayed in dioramas... one was sitting at a tiny piano, dressed up like Liberace. See? Unique, right? Anyhow, the owner closed up shop and moved to Phoenix last year. So who knows? You guys in Arizona might pick up another new museum in the near future.

Curious about that biggest rattlesnake round-up in the world I mentioned earlier?

Who needs a museum devoted to roaches? The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas sounds a heckuva lot better. It includes a children's museum, segments on sports, dinosaurs and evolution, energy, and earth sciences. Even has an earthquake simulator. I don't know if it's the biggest museum, but it does have a 1.5 ton geode— that's gotta be pretty high up there on the top of the scale. But what sounds most intriguing to me about this museum is a build your own bird exhibit. Visitors can select wings, birdsong, ( Born to Be Wild would be kinda fun...) diets, tails, feet, and feathers to construct it, and then they can put on 3-D glasses and make it fly! That's outside of anything I've ever seen in a museum, so it sounds totally cool to me.

The San Jacinto Monument, near Houston, is among the tallest in the world. At 570 feet, it's twenty feet taller than the Washington Monument in D.C.

The first suspension bridge in the United States is the Waco Bridge, which was built in 1870, and is still used today as a pedestrian crossing of the Brazos River.

Here we have another museum. Located in San Antonio, the Witte, among other things, houses the Hertzberg Circus Collection, more than 4200 artifacts from the heyday of circus popularity, dating as far back as 1893.

The sheriff and a deputy from Trinity, Texas were on TV a couple weeks ago, and they mentioned a popular pastime in their small town. Something called chicken poop bingo. Natch, that piqued my sophisticated curiosity, so I had to check into that. Guess what? I even found a video! (Lucky you!)

Okay, we've gotta get your minds off chicken poop, so how's about stuffing them with sausages? Because of its large (Of course!) German-heritage population, New Braunfels holds a ten-day festival every year in celebration of wursts. Naturally, it also includes appropriate music and attire... and oh yeah, beer. Matter of fact, guess what else you can see at this festival? The world's largest beer bottle collection.

Okeydoke, let's move on to see what kinds of cockamamie laws are still languishing on the books in the fine state of Texas, shall we?

  • One must acknowledge a supreme being before being able to hold public office.
  • It's illegal to sell one's eye. (Maybe you can lend it?)
  • It's against the law to swear in front of a corpse, or to indecently expose one. 
  • When two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each shall come to a full stop, and neither shall proceed until the other has gone. (Say, huh?)
  • It's illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing. (So sit down, bozo!)
  • It's against the law to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel. (Go up a flight or two.)
  • It's illegal to milk another person's cow. (That kinda sounds like a euphemism, doesn't it?)
  • A recently passed anti-crime law require criminals to give their victims 24 hours notice, either orally or in writing, to explain the nature of the crime to be committed. (How, um, considerate of them...)
  • The entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned in Texas, because it contains a recipe for making beer at home. (How dastardly! I guess the recipes for homemade explosives aren't a problem.)
  • In Abilene, it's illegal to idle or loiter with the purpose of flirting or mashing. (But officer, those sweet little taters were asking for it!)
  • In Austin, it's against the law to carry wire cutters in your pocket. (How about a Leatherman?)
  • In the town of Borger, you can't throw confetti, rubber balls, whips, firecrackers, or... feather dusters. 
  • Texas must have a problem with feather dusters. In Clarendon, it's illegal to use one to dust any public building. (Keep those foxy feathers at home, ladies.)
  • Sorry, you can't raise an alligator in your home if you live in Corpus Christi. 
  • It's illegal to own a realistic dildo in Dallas. (Paint it, maybe? With stripes and polka dots?)
  • In El Paso, it's against the law to wear a lewd dress in public. (Honest, officer, my dress isn't like that at all— it's just friendly...
  • Better sit on those hands! In Galveston, it's illegal to make offensive gestures at a special event.
  • You also have to get permission from the director of parks and recreation before getting drunk in any city parks. Oh, and you can't let your camel run loose on the beach, either. (Better put a leash on him.)
  • Finally, in Galveston, it's also illegal to throw trash from an airplane. (But it is still permissible to flush.)
  • Fire and brimstone is okay to preach from the pulpit, but thou shalt not disrupt any church service in Harker Heights by swearing.
  • In Houston, it's illegal to sell limburger cheese on Sundays. (Now, that just stinks!)
  • Also in Houston, beer may not be sold after midnight on Sunday, but it may be sold on Monday. (?)
  • In Lubbock county, it's illegal to drive within arm's length of alcohol... even if that alcohol is in another person's bloodstream. (Put the lush in the trunk!)
  • I guess parents in Mesquite can't save money by cutting their kids' hair. It's against the law for children their to have unusual haircuts.
  • The dress code in  Odessa makes it taboo to wear a star of David or a peace symbol, because they're both considered satanic symbols.
  • In Port Arthur, it's illegal to emit obnoxious odors in an elevator. (I'll bet midgets really appreciate this law.)
  • In San Antonio, it's against the law to flirt or respond to flirting with the eyes or hand. (Using other body parts is evidently acceptable.)
  • In Temple, cattle thieves may be hung on the spot, and it's AOK to ride your horse into the saloon. (A whiskey for me, and a double oatmeal cookie in a bowl for my friend here, barkeep.)
  • And finally, last but not least, in Texarkana, owners of horses may not ride them at night without tail lights. (Where do ya put the battery?)
This is ordinarily the point at which I'd say it's time for (ta-DA!) the weirdest news stories of the week, but I don't have time to hunt for them right now. (Sorry.) One of the strangest— although we really shouldn't be surprised— stories in the news recently involves good ol' never-give-up politician Weiner from New York. His twitter tallywhacker-waving made the news a couple years ago, which of course I  had great fun with in an unlikely hero post but he's baaaaack! Not only does he have the temerity to run for mayor of New York, it seems (surprise!) his much-publicized regrets about his past behavior, which caused him to step down from his Congressional seat last time... may have been nothing more than regret about being caught with his pants down, because it didn't stop him from tweeting more pics of himself. The funny thing? Based on other political scandals, there's a good chance he'll be elected. Go figure. I guess it's a case of better the hooligan ya know than the one you don't. 

Oh well. No weird news, but here's some cowboy philosophy and humor, courtesy of Will Rogers. (1879-1935)

  • There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.
  • Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
  • A fool and his money are soon elected.
  • Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.
  • Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.
  • Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
  • What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.
  • All I know is just what I read in the paper, and that's an alibi for my ignorance.
  • Letting the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.
  • Buy land; they ain't making any more of the stuff.
  • Things ain't what they used to be, and never were.
  • Get someone else to blow your horn, and the sound will carry twice as far.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.

.As a heads up, the lovely Janie Junebug is gonna be interviewing me on her blog on Monday. We'd love it if you'd be neighborly and stop on by for a visit. We'll throw a nice little side of beef on the grill . (Don't worry... plenty of veggies, too.)

That's it for now, pardners. Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[Images courtesy of Wikipedia, morguefile, and seniorark]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Advertising Winds Still Blow

Thought for the day:  Do advertisements reflect society realistically, or do they merely attempt to manipulate our perception of it?

Subliminal messages may be taboo in today's advertising, but that doesn't mean commercials aren't designed to manipulate our thinking. After all, it's their job to convince us that our lives would be better if we buy whatever product it is they're trying to sell.

I saw a subliminal advertising executive, but only for a second. [Steven Wright]

Let's hope society wasn't as blatantly sexist... and clueless... as it comes across in these ads from the '40s and '50s.  We looked at some a couple weeks ago... today, we're gonna check out the rest. Once again, thanks to my brother for sending them to me.


Some of you might be experiencing a little agitation of your own after looking at some of those ads, but you know I can't send you away in that kinda state. We've gotta end with a chuckle. So, how about a couple commercials with a funny side? You don't have to understand the language to get the point in the first one. Um, if the second one offends anyone, let me apologize in advance. Sorry! (giggle)

Some of you dropped in to visit with Dianne Salerni and me at her blog yesterday, and I thank you for that, but if you (gasp!) missed her interview with me about Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... we're still there! Come say hello. There's still a piece or two of chocolate rum cake left, but you'd better hurry. Chocolate cake is never allowed to sit around long enough to get stale. It's a rule. Um, I think we'll skip the tea. For some reason,  I'm simply not in the mood for a cup...

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Big Sale. Last Week. Why advertise? I already missed it. They're just rubbing it in. [Yakov Smirnoff]

Friday, July 19, 2013

You'd Better Shop Around

Thought for the day:  Seeing's as how most of the merchandise sold in America's WalMarts was produced in China, do you suppose most of the stuff in China's WalMarts was made in the USA?

Nah, I don't think so, either.

Even though WalMart stores have popped up in many parts of the world, including China, the merchandise must vary quite a bit from country to country. I mean, how likely is it that a shopper in China would have any interest in buying corn dogs, a book about Uncle Sam, or a Super Bowl tee shirt?

So what does a WalMart shopper in China want to buy, you ask? Hehe. I'm so glad you asked, because we're about to take a little gander inside a Chinese

                                                                    Ready??? Here goes!

Not sure if the powdered horse milk is for foals or fools people.

I reckon anti-bacterial undies keep a fella's dong phu from getting too phooey, huh?

In case you can't tell, that's assorted reptile parts in them there bags. For most of us, frog legs are about as adventurous as we wanta get.

Underwear may be sanitized, but Chinese people evidently don't have a problem scooping rice out of big open-air bins.

Now, this is a bunch of bull. Or at least, it's a pile of a certain anatomical part of a bunch of bulls, if you get my drift An aphrodisiac, maybe? More like a purgative, if ya ask me.

Not the kind of Crocs we're accustomed to seeing at the store, is it?

So exactly what do you remove from water to make it dietetic? Oh, wait! I've got it. Maybe they add something to it. Like ipecac. That'd knock those pounds right off...

YUM! Savory duck carcasses.

What? Not interested in DIY frog legs?

Again, no concerns about the sanitary conditions of bulk meat, either.

Now these are kinda cool. More men might drink water if it tasted like meat. Hey! Where's the bacon...?

Um, yep. Those things are exactly what they look like. Pig faces. Smoked, maybe? I'd rather have bacon with my eggs, thank you very much.

How about some assorted animal ribs? No need to be shy, people... just help yourself.

Although this picture was included on numerous websites along with a mess of other shots allegedly taken inside a Chinese WalMart, I suspect it's bogus. But funny. I like funny. (But I don't want to see eyeballs in my pickle jar.)

So there ya have it. What's the strangest thing you ever saw in a Superstore? In America, the strangest thing in the store may not be the merchandise; it may be the shoppers. Let's just say... they have a...  fantastic sense of fashion. Don't believe me? Check out this People of Walmart video. (There's plenty more of 'em on Youtube, too.)

Since the topic today is picking on  about Walmart, I might as well throw this out there, too. Didja hear that WalMart is thinking about selling wine under its own label? Their marketing department thinks a cheap-ass huge potential market for cheap-ass  inexpensive wine exists. Who knows? Could be they're right. After all, who doesn't love Two Buck Chuck? So whattaya think Wally World should call their wines? How about these creative suggestions:

  •  Chateau Traileur Parc
  • White Trashfindel
  • Big Red Gulp
  • World Championship WRiesling
  • NASCARbernet
  • Chef Boyardeaux
  • Peanut Noir
  • I Can't Believe it's not Vinegar 
  • Grape Expectations
  • Nasti Spumante

The beauty of Wal-Mart wine is it will make ya sick go equally well with white meat (possum) or red (squirrel). (No need to tell me this scintillating information I received from a friend is yet another hoax. I know perfectly well squirrel meat isn't red.)

Next Monday, the lovely and talented Dianne Salerni will be interviewing me on her blog. It seems she has a few questions about Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade. How about that? She's a fantastic writer, and it'll be a genuine honor to visit with her. Tell ya what. Why don't y'all stop in and say howdy, okay? Heck, I'll even bake a chocolate rum cake.

Not enough blatant self-promotion for ya? How's this? Yesterday, my old hometown newspaper in Maryland ran an article about ... moi and my book. Life is good. Oh yeah, life is definitely good.

                                    Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.