Thursday, May 22, 2008

Topics tried and true

We enjoyed Ian Frazier's piece on conducting a writers' workshop at a church soup kitchen ("Hungry Minds," The New Yorker; May 26, 2008; page 56). Among the subjects most successful over the years are these: "How I Came to New York," "If I Haddn't Seen It, I Wouldn't Have Believed It," "Shoes," "The Other Me," and "My Best Mistake." "My First Love" was too fraught. I could write about shoes and about how I came to New York. I can't think of anything in connection with "I Wouldn't Have Believed It." About the others, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


There's a beautiful photograph of vintage Tonettes, the ones with the closed bottoms, on the last page of the May/June issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine. The title head is "magic flutes." They have found a place in the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments. "Susan E. Thompson '79MusM, curator of the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments, is a proud defender of the tonette, a humble plastic flute that encouraged many a budding musical career. The tonette's heyday was in the 1940s and '50s, when schools used it to determine whether young students would be able to master a 'real' instrument." I think that "Tonette" is a trademark. The first Tonette that I knew was a khakhi-colored one (an example is shown in the photograph, available on line). I believe that it accompanied a family member into the combat zone in World War II, or perhaps it was included in a Red Cross package to prisoners of war. My personal plastic musical instrument was a Flutophone (see its photograph).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


We still have a few Drummond's phlox and one or two each of half a dozen varieties of sweet pea. Leftover nasturtiums are blooming again. So are milkweeds, of both colors. Delphiniums are too many to count. There are even still a few poppies. Fennel, chives, and oregano are in bloom. We have original cosmos and Bright Lights. There are two small French marigold flowers of some sort. Black-eyed Susans, even the ones beaten to the ground, are covered with giant flowers. There are still plenty of firewheels and bachelor buttons. The last of the buds on the hollyhock stalk are about to open. The potted geraniums are very handsome. Zinnias are doing well by us. Lantana, two kinds of oleanders, and three kinds of rose of Sharon are blossoming. The first of the Turk's cap flowers are here. In pots are gazania and sweet William. We're seeing squash blossoms. We have more and more four o'clocks. I feel as though I've overlooked something, but I can't think what. When the heat's really upon us, it'll be interesting to see what holds up.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A casual calendula

We used to grow these in pots; they've never done much for us in the ground. And this is particularly late in the year to have flowers. Well; a flower. It's yellow. We can hope for more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Evening glory

This morning glory, new to us, opened in the morning and stayed open all day. It's extremely large and is a blue-ish white with diagonal pale blue striations. This calls for some detective work.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Modern material culture

This is the most beautiful and functional bit of packaging seen in a long time. In it was a present for someone with a sudden need to document moving images. Three of the four tall outer sides document the contents. This view shows the object ready with its USB connection open. The package is merely sealed, not encased in hard-shell vacuum-formed plastic. When the top is opened, two D-shaped holes present themselves as easy grips. Inside the item is easily removed, and the instructions are as simple as can be. The item itself feels good in the hand and is easily understood by anyone. I expect that the Flip, like the JamCam, will inspire a cult of devotees. I'm almost tempted to acquire one myself. Anyhow, it's rare to find a handsome object packaged in a handsome way.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rose of sharon

The favorite variety was the first to open: white, with a crimson center. The storm didn't bother them at all, surprisingly, even though the branches are so brittle. A recently acquired factoid is that this is the national flower of South Korea. The ones that have sprung up from seed have yet to reveal what color flowers they will bear. The only one that never reproduced, and is now gone as are all the other ones that used to be nearby, was the extremely doubled pink one that looked exactly like a Kleenex carnation.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

From a past life

This could have been a much more interesting obituary than it turned out to be. How odd for the name of Harvey Schein to be associated forever with Betamax, when there was so much more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The music at the Big Squeeze event made everyone so happy that we had to buy the CD: About Time, by Los Texmaniacs. Every track has its virtues, and the bonus is that Augie Meyers sits in for some of the music. Among the happy echoes are those of Doug Sahm and La Tropa F. I love it that the last track is devoted to a David Farias solo of accordion classic La Repetida.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

They're not pink!

Our zinnias are seldom any color but a weary, faded rose. Is it the lack of acidity in the soil? Do they mix with volunteers, which are always pink? This year is different, though. We have a handsome and gaudy stand of Bright Lights cosmos, which never do as well for us as the old fashioned magenta, pink, and white ones, intermixed with many shades of zinnia. The zinnias that have succeeded in producing dark red and red-orange flowers, among other not-pink shades, are not the very rounded button-like varieties, but they are one of the smaller ones, although we don't now remember which

Monday, May 12, 2008

Old-timers return

We've been happy to enjoy the biggest remaining stand of oleanders that we know, those resplendent at the pitch and putt at Butler. Even there, though, some appear to be suffering from the mysterious blight that has taken so many. I'd never choose to plant oleanders, but I do enjoy the ones we have. There used to be three, but one succumbed to the blight. One of the two remaining is a sprig from the one that died, planted in a sunnier spot and quite a distance away. Thus far, it seems to thrive, producing flowers of the most common color, a deep sort of magenta. The other is one seen in many older Austin yards, producing a buttery-colored flower that's not white, but not quite yellow, either. We noticed the oleanders at Butler and then came home and found ours blooming, too. I never see oleanders in any of the nurseries these days. They've gone completely out of fashion.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New uniform needed

All the old ones still exist, because I never (well; hardly ever) wear anything out. So there are strata of styles, but the basic idea remains the same. I can wear something less formal and more unconventional. I demand linen or cotton. I don't mind wearing these in the winter and they are a must for the summer. There must be a steady supply of wardrobe items; the manufacturers and vendors must remain in business. Ideally, I would find the perfect garment of each type and then be able to track down someone able to reproduce it in fabrics that I choose. I'm on several quests right now, and this one is far down on the list, but someday things will wear out and someday the things that are supposed to return to being in style but never do will become too ridiculous to be seen in anywhere but at a masquerade party.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

True blue

This is another tough customer that grew up through a crack, obviously from one of the "salad mix," "greens mix," or "mezclun" seed packets. It turns out to be chicory, which I haven't seen growing anywhere for ages and ages. So far it has produced four handsome flowers. I think I remember that these can't be cut to bring indoors, that they immediately close up and that't that.