Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Meet the Jays

June 27, 2020

A follow-up to my 6/9/20 posting “The June flora and fauna report”.

The apricot cymbidium orchid I’ve called Cuppy (in #4 in that posting), aways the last to bloom, finally came to an end on 6/24, extraordinarily late. The orchids will now put their energy into their root systems and into shoots that will spring up when the rainy (and cool) season begins in late November.

Then there was the bird feeder (#3 in that posting), which on 6/9 had not attracted any birds, nor had the birdseed spread out as a lure, on the ground near it and on the fence tops. But as the days wore on, I came to be adopted by a pair of California scrub jays — big, often noisy (though not for me), territorial, seriously clever, and amenable to human company (they are corvids, like crows and ravens). They are also crazy fond of peanuts (which my birdseed provides) and acorns (which they can get from the California live oaks that are all over the place here, and in which they are probably nesting).

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The June flora and fauna report

June 9, 2020

Continuing a long series of postings about things I happen to come across in my immediate neighborhood. Particularly plants, sometimes with notes about their taxonomy and their names. And particularly plants I can see out my window, and the various creatures that afflict them. My most recent posting in this series seems to have been from 1/21/20: “A squirrel in the hand” (excerpted below).

Now the 2020 report.

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Trois lapins pour le premier mai

May 1, 2020

It’s the first of the month, which I have learned to greet with three rabbits — by starting the day saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”. More than that, it’s the first of May — by some cultural reckonings the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and also (in some countries) International Workers Day, so: dance around the maypole, set bonfires for Beltane or Walpurgis, prepare for outdoor bo(i)nking (rabbits again!), break out the lilies of the valley (muguets pour le premier mai), cue the choruses of L’Internationale, and march in solidarity with the workers. (Feel free to choose from this menu, as your taste inclines and your schedule allows.)

Into this rich multicultural stew, Julie Taaffe forwarded to me a Facebook posting for the day by John Forti, “the Heirloom Gardener”, whose centerpiece is this leporine re-working of Botticelli’s Three Graces from La Primavera (Spring):


(#1) Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: Melinda Copper’s Dancing Graces

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Easter eggs 2020.1: Mussorgsky chicken with crocuses

April 10, 2020

The first of two entertaining Easter egg postings on material that came in my mail today. This one is sweet and playful; the other one is raunchy and homoerotic. There’s a lot you can do with eggs.

Ee2020.1 is a Jacquie Lawson animated ecard for Easter, illustrating the Mussorgsky piece “Ballet of (the) Chicks in their Shells” / “Ballet of (the) Unhatched Chicks” from Pictures at an Exhibition with chick after chick hatching, while one egg rolls about in struggle, with its chick finally emerging triumphantly among crocus flowers:


(#1) Eggs, chicks, and crocuses: all symbols of spring and (re)birth

(The sound track has an orchestral version of “Ballet”, with cheeping sound effects.)

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St. Martin des Poires

March 29, 2020

(Nothing actually crude, but a lot of mostly high-falutin’ sextalk that might give some people the fantods.)

In yesterday’s mail, a postcard from Ryan Tamares (a Stanford friend who is now socially but not postally distant from me) with this crate label from the 1920s and 1930s, featuring a character I’ll call the Bartlett Pear Kid:


(#1) We’ve been here before, in my 2/14/12 posting “Suggestive”, where I wrote: “The newsboy is hustling pears, but to modern eyes the label suggests something more salacious.”

I pursued this example further in a 6/14/16 posting “Crate labels”, which I’ll take up in a little while. But first the literally fabulous history of the Bartlett Pear Kid, who eventually became St. Martin des Poires, B.P.I.

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Mexican dicks with super-spiny nipples

March 24, 2020

(The penises (and nipples) are all symbolic, but if that troubles you, the title should be a warning.)

Yes, the News for Penises is back in business, with a bulletin from our floral department, beginning with the truly stunning image of plants of what was described as the Mammillaria cactus species pilcayensis:


(#1) A collection of what are variously referred to as sock, finger, thumb, or penis cactuses — the last especially because of the color-marked analogue of the glans penis, complete with a purple analogue of the corona of the glans penis (alternatively, those could be finger tips, or toes)

(On the corona as bodypart, see my 3/6/20 posting “Tragedies of the pandemic”.)

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Timothy and Agrimony

February 25, 2020

(Plants, but also gay male life, with the latter focus leading to talk of mansex in street language (also with some deeply carnal (but fuzzed) photos of 69ing), so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

My morning names for 2/15: timothy and agrimony. A familiar crop grass (for grazing and hay) and a yellow-flowered bitter-tasting medicinal herb. Then these personified as two queer types: Timothy — called Timmy — the twink, a cute country boy, a hayseed, sometimes found with a stalk of grass between his teeth; and Agrimony — called Agro — the bitter old queen, jaded, sharp-tongued, largely disaffected with the queer community and feeling alienated from those in it.

The two men are of course unlikely to hook up, or even have anything to do with one another socially, but they share one bit of their sexual makeup: they both adore 69, find the exchange deeply satisfying. But characteristically, they prefer different positions for the act.

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Revisiting 43: the Socka Hitsch nominal on the rural Swiss roadside

February 15, 2020

In my “Socka Hitsch” posting yesterday, Christian Zwicky / Socka Hitsch described by the nominal

old eccentric rural Swiss roadside sock vendor ‘old, eccentric sock vendor on the roadside of rural Switzerland’, ‘seller of socks along the road in the countryside of Switzerland who is of advanced age and exhibits unconventional behavior’

An unusually long nominal — I was showing off some — but not one with unusual components, put together in unusual ways. In the middle of it, rural Swiss roadside, with the complex adjectival rural Swiss, modifying the compound noun roadside — a perfectly routine and unremarkable expression    (compare rural Dutch in the attested rural Dutch landscape, urban English in the attested urban English roadworks, etc.), but one of some interest to people who fret about how the form — the morphology and syntax — of expressions (like rural Swiss) links to their meaning — their semantics and pragmatics.

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Revisiting 41: roses for remembrance

January 31, 2020

A very sweet Twitter comment on my posting yesterday “Roses now, or roses later”, from London Sacred Harp (@LDNSacredHarp):

Read these beautiful reflections on singing from the #SacredHarp in the face of real and impending mortality, and Give. Him. The. Roses. We wish Arnold the most elegant and highly scented hybrid teas, blowsy cabbages, striped Bourbons, Titania’s sweet musk roses and eglantine…

(Clearly a message from a specific person, not from the London Sacred Harp singing group as an organization, but I don’t know whose actual voice this is.)

A lovely wish, understood figuratively — my little patio garden in Palo Alto is entirely unsuitable for roses (it’s mostly cymbidiums and geraniums, plus some succulents) — but it taps into two rose-related matters, one general (roses as remembrance gifts), one personal (two hybrid tea roses in memory of my man Jacques Transue, a red Mister Lincoln in Bucks Harbor ME (where his family has long had a summer place), a peach-pink Gemini in Columbus OH).

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A squirrel in the hand

January 21, 2020

A literally eventful time of the year, surrounding the Mournful Valley of my life, that rift of bereftness between Ann Daingerfield’s death day, 1/17, and Jacques Transue’s birthday, 1/22; see my 1/16 posting “At the rim of the Mournful Valley, singing”.

By accident, in this period fall two odd celebratory dates: 1/20, Penguin Awareness Day; and 1/21, today, Squirrel Appreciation Day. Plus, on a Monday in or near this period, MLK Day in the US (this year: yesterday, 1/20/20).

This year I’ve been terribly sick and deeply dispirited, but I was cheered by coming across a sweet photograph of a young Jacques and a squirrel he had, to some degree, tamed:

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