I recently learned that one of my favorite cartoonists, George Booth, died last year. Here’s a selection of his cartoons to remember him by. Click on them to see them larger.
This is the package the Dianthus seeds I planted last year came in:
These are the Dianthus that came from that package:
Something’s not quite right here. Also, they were supposed to be annuals, but every plant came back this spring and is blooming copiously now.
It’s time for the peonies.
IT’S OKAY TO READ SLOWLY
I tell myself that, because I am not a fast reader.
I can do speed reading, if it’s absolutely necessary—but I find it painful and exhausting. My natural reading pace is languid, almost lethargic.
My lifetime reading plan has been my proven path to Nirvana
Even more to the point, the books I read must be savored and slowly digested. Proust is one of my favorite authors, but I could only handle his ultra-dense writing in small doses. So I read through his 2,000-page novel at the pace of seven pages per day. I started when I was a teenager, and got to the final page shortly before my 30th birthday.
Of course, I read many other things during that period, but I always came back to his massive book—taking it slowly, thoughtfully, in the way it deserved.
For many years, I felt that my slow reading was holding me back. I would be wiser, I would be smarter, I told myself, if I could just read faster. I often keep going back over the same sentences again and again, trying to decipher their inner meaning. This slows me down to a tortoise’s pace—and it’s frustrating.
But now I believe slowness was a benefit. My learning was deeper and more mind-expanding because I didn’t rush it.
By the way, I did the same thing when I learned jazz piano. I spent months learning things that could have been mastered in days. But by the time, I was done, I had internalized my learning at a deep level.
Life is not a race. The journey is its own reward. If we could make the trip instantaneously—like they do with those teleporters in Star Trek—it wouldn’t be worth anything.
See Lafferty’s “The Primary Education of the Camiroi.”
Linum perenne puts on a good show when the neighborhood cats haven’t flattened it.
I’ve heard the Medieval world described as one in which people lived among the ruins of works greater than any they could themselves create. This is actually only true in part and for a time, as when the Medieval world got going, architecturally speaking it absolutely blew Greece and Rome out of the water (granted, I’m fuzzing a lot given the time frames involved).
However, one could describe our world as one that lives in the shelter of works greater than any we create. Except, it is more bitter than that; we live in the knowledge that we could create as our ancestors did, but we do not. It’s an odd failure of will rather than ability, or perhaps of intent.
We are living in an age that is starved of romance. But here’s the strangest part of the story: it’s easier than ever to find a physical connection with a partner. As they say: there’s an app for that.
As a result, it’s easier to hookup than go on a romantic date. Has that ever been true before in the history of society?
Sometimes having a good role model is a drag
Twenty years ago today I launched my first weblog, Mixolydian Mode.1 I intended to write mainly about books and music. My gimmick was that I would post a simple MIDI arrangement of a traditional, public domain melody every day. I never wrote all that much about what I read or listened to, but I did post a tune a day for over a year. Finding and arranging the tunes became tedious; I eventually reduced the frequency I with which I posted them, and finally quit altogether. There are over 600 of these MIDI files gathered here. Some of them are transcriptions of old music, but the vast majority are my own arrangements.
The first tune I posted, on April 14, 2003, was the thirteenth-century round, “Sumer is icumen in.” Here is the file. Back then, if your browser wouldn’t play a MIDI file, QuickTime would. This is no longer true. Here is the tune as an mp3, which should work in all browsers.
Here are the lyrics, if you’d like to sing along:
Sumer is ycumen in,
Loude sing cuckou!
Groweth seed and bloweth meed,
And springth the wode now.
Ewe bleteth after lamb,
Loweth after calve cow,
Bullock sterteth, bucke verteth
Merye sing cuckou!
Wel singest thou cuckou:
Ne swik thou never now!
The first several years of the twenty-first century were the golden age of blogging. Even though I never had much to say, my site got a lot of traffic and a lot of links. At one point I was receiving over 400 hits a day, and it’s possible that most of them were actual visitors, not just bots. Sure, Glenn Reynolds got that many hits in a minute, but out here in the backwaters of the internet, that wasn’t bad. That golden age is long over, and I get less and less traffic every year. I expect that when I observe the twenty-fifth anniversary of my weblog, I may get a hit every other day from an actual human visitor (and a hundred from the multitudinous bots every hour).
Soon after starting Mixolydian Mode I discovered that some Japanese animation is worth watching (most isn’t, of course; Sturgeon’s law applies here as it does everywhere else). This led to contact with Steven Den Beste and the eccentrics who hung out at his place. Steven quickly became my most prolific commenter. Soon I began a second weblog for my anime explorations, so that readers of my main weblog who weren’t fascinated by all things Japanese would not be subjected to my obsessions.
Back when I started posting online, Blogger and Safari didn’t get along, and WordPress didn’t exist. Instead, I used the now-forgotten pMachine. It worked well for a while, but eventually it became impossible to efficiently clean up the spam comments that increasingly infested the blogosphere. When the pMachine people abandoned the free version of their software, it was my cue to move to WordPress. In April 2007 I re-launched my weblogs, calling them now “Zoopraxiscope” and “The Kawaii Menace.” Some time after that I merged the latter into the former so I just had one weblog to maintain. The original weblogs no longer exist. Some of the highlights are collected in the “ancient texts” in the sidebar at right. There are snapshots at the Wayback Machine for the morbidly curious.
Since 2007 I’ve paid for my webhosting, so that visitors are spared ads and I have adequate online storage and control over my websites. Some hosts are more reliable and ethical than others, and I’ve occasionally had to move my weblog. The WordPress migration tools don’t always work perfectly, and quite a few of the pictures from years past have disappeared into the aether. All the text since April 14, 2007 is still archived, though.
Blogging has changed over the past twenty years. As I recall, it used to be more social, more fun, more frivolous. You could discuss the ramifications of a recent political outrage, and then post the results of silly Quizilla quiz, or play tag with other bloggers. Quizilla is gone now; webrings are forgotten; St. Blog’s Parish has lost most of its parishioners. Part of the change is probably due to foolishness and triviality migrating to Facebook and other slums, and part of it may be due to the medium maturing, but I sometimes miss the old days.
There are those who are no longer with us. Steven, Charles G. Hill, Shamus Young, Wonderduck2 — all of them are missed, along with Zippy Catholic, Gerard Van der Leun and others. And then there are those who took their blogs private or just stopped posting altogether. I sometimes wonder how the Rat Maiden is doing these days, or Kashi, or the crack young staff at the Hatemonger’s Quarterly.
I’ll continue posting spasmodically until Big Sister takes my computer away from me or a Carrington event crashes electronic civilization. The frequency of posting will probably steadily diminish, but I’ll continue reading, watching, weeding, grumbling, thinking cynical thoughts, and taking pictures of everything.
Another of the orchids I got last year is blooming. This one is a hybrid of Australian Dendrobium species, probably mostly D. kingianum. Specifically, it’s SVO9679: “Den. Purple Zip ‘SVO’ x Den. King Zip ‘Red Splash,'” from Sunset Valley Orchids. The flowers are an inch and a quarter across, much smaller than the very red Cattleya’s. In compensation, there are a lot more of them, and they have a fine spicy fragrance.
Incidentally, this orchid has nothing to do with the “Dendrobium” in a certain game featuring cute girls and bad botany. It’s not a “Lycoris,” either.
The temperature today got up to 88°. In about twelve hours it will be down to around 30°; it’s springtime in Kansas. It will be cold again Thursday morning, but after that it should be safe to plant this year’s batch of seedlings outside. As usual, I was over-ambitious and will have plenty to give away should anyone reading this be in the central Kansas area soon. I concentrated on drought-tolerant perennials this year. Once they’re established, most will need little care, though they all will need regular watering during their first summer. A few will bloom this year, but most will require patience.
Pictured above: Digitalis, Symphyotrichum (i.e., Aster), Dalea, Oenothera, Thermopsis, Achillea, Dianthus, Ptilotus, Callirhoe, Salvia, Lupinus, Monarda, Delosperma, Penstemon (three kinds), Rudbeckia, Helianthus, Silphium, Baptisia, Asclepias, and Liatris. (Not pictured: Talinum (or Phemeranthus), Amorpha.) The majority are from Prairie Moon Nursery.
Right now is peak bloom for bradford pears. I don’t have any in my yard, but my neighbors do. This is from my driveway:
Eric Carra, who maintained Wonderduck’s Pond, died earlier this month.
I first came across Carra, a.k.a. Wonderduck, nearly twenty years, ago when he was one of the regulars at Steven Den Beste’s place. I soon discovered that he had a lively and well-written weblog of his own, which immediately became one of my daily stops.
He wrote largely of Formula One racing and military history, with an emphasis on the Battle of Midway. There were also rubber ducks, baseball, music, his job and events in his life. And there was anime. The Duck and I had very different tastes, and partly for that reason he was always valuable reading. When we both liked something — Yuru Camp, Roy Clark, etc. — the chances are that it really was good.
There are about eighteen years of vigorous, entertaining writing at the Pond. Pick a random month and browse; you’ll probably find something worth reading. My favorite posts are the series of episode reviews for the utterly ridiculous Rio Rainbow Gate in early months of 2011, starting January 5 and continuing through April 15. The show’s brazen combination of illogic and fanservice provided a splendid opportunity for the Duck to employ his gifts for snark and sarcasm. If Rio is mentioned in future histories of animation, it will be for providing Wonderduck a suitable target, just as Colley Cibber is remembered because of Alexander Pope’s satires.
In memory of Eric Carra, I’ll watch a few episodes of Azumanga Daioh tonight.