Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ghetto Gardening

The garden is going crazy these days, with the July heat and seasonal thunderstorms.  Diligent watering with the drip system helps.

The early flowers are done, but the rest are doing quite well.  I'm trying to establish some more perennials, but since I grew them from seed I don't expect many of them to bloom this year.  Next year I'll have some new stuff I hope.  At least that's the plan.

I also broke up some clumps of the alium and tulips I had accumulated and planted them somewhere else.  I'll have to wait till next year to see if the tulips took, but the alium should bloom again later in this season.

One of the perennials I established last year, the black hollyhocks, bloomed this year.  It also grew to nine feet tall, which kind of scares me.  That's not a flower.  That's a tree.  I'll have to make sure to cut these back.  When the pansies went weedy, it was cute.  But if these hollyhocks go weedy...

Here's a flower I wouldn't mind going weedy.  The packet said "balsam" but whatever they are, I do like them.  This is the first year I've grown them, and if I get my way, it won't be the last.

Now this exemplifies what the Ghetto Garden is all about.  Repurposed materials plus creative growing solutions equals my approach to gardening.  These cinderblocks were once used as part of a ghetto shelving unit.  I painted them black because when I redid my living room, I intended to reinstall them...only now painted black.  Yeah, a great idea that died in its infancy.

So I arranged them in an open spot in the garden, filled all the spots with garden soil, installed a drip line, and instead of a ghetto shelving unit I have a ghetto planter.  It works pretty well, although it does dry out quite easily, even with the drip.

Question:  Can you grow pumpkins in a container?

Answer:  I'm gonna try!

I ran out of space to plant this in the ground, but I did have a big container.  I just hope it's big enough.  This variety of pumpkin --in theory-- was okayed for containers, but we'll see.

I'm also growing a variety of peppers, tomatoes, and even squash in containers this year.  Also due to a lack of space.

I'm also making an effort to grow cucumbers...vertically.  So far, so good.  I got one of these spiral stake things and I was skeptical at first, but this plant is growing right up in it and judging from the number of blossoms, I should have cucumbers coming out of my ears in a couple weeks.

And finally, here's an exclusive look at what's been going on in the front yard.  This has been a work in progress that won't be fully realized until next year, maybe the year after that.  The first step was the killing of the lawn and the eventual mulching of the area.  The next step was building a planting mound, which I did the other week with a cubic yard of primo dirt. And today, another step accomplished:  the planting of it.  (I also installed the drip system that's going to help it flourish.)

Some of these plants I grew from seed myself, but I went ahead and bought some on sale.  Home Depot had gallon perennials for $2.50 a piece, cheaper than a six-pack of annuals.  City Floral had a perennial sale going on, but the selection was limited for a cheapskate like me.  I planted some daylilies, creeping phlox,dianthus, and various salvias.  We'll see how it looks in a month or so. I expect next year it'll look beeeeeautiful.

Listening to Pop Music

I was in the store the other day and I heard Kelly Clarkson's song, Already Gone. I only knew it was Kelly Clarkson thanks to the weird announcement from the radio station. Apparently instead of hiring a live DJ, they just hired a lady to record the artist and song titles, then they process it to make her sound like a computer. Who needs a DJ when you have the fake-computer-voice lady?

Anyway, if it wasn't for fake-computer-voice lady, I would have never known who did this song. I like to think I have an open mind musically speaking, but truth be told, I'm not immune to snobbery. With my love of metal and old blues, am I missing some of pretty good bubble gum concoctions from gameshow contestants?

Maybe. I do like this song. And I shouldn't like this song.

It's cheesy. Overproduced. Trite. It's the perfect song for teenage girls to break boys hearts to, and I hate songs like that. But I like this one.

Although it brings to mind the vastly superior If I Were a Boy from Beyonce. I'm not sure why, having listened to both songs repeatedly the last few days. There's probably something similar musically going on, but I'm too illiterate to say what. You know how pop music rolls. Sounds go in and out of fashion, and once a sound is in, everybody does it.

Some just do it better than others.

Mark this prediction on your brains: Someday, Beyonce will be on a postage stamp.

All that Marilyn Monroe stuff you see now? In fifty years, it will be Beyonce stuff.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Failure of Storytelling

I watched The Wolfman the other day, and let me tell you, it's an utter failure of a film. The color scheme is bleak. The story could have been punched up a bit. The performances were, how shall I say, unconvincing.

It should have been better. Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, they're all pros. But how they thought this would work, I'll never know. I can picture the director sitting them down, saying, "Alright, so we're going to make a depressing movie with no redeeming qualities whatsoever."

"Well. is it going to be scary?" Del Toro asks.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, sure," the director says. He's not thinking of scary right now, he's thinking of the color gray.

"Forget scary," Hopkins says, "I want blood!"

The movie was definitely bloodier than I thought it would be, but by now I think a lot of that stuff has lost its value. Sure, it's pretty horrific to see a guy run around after getting his arm lopped off by a werewolf, but you don't see it happen and who cares? You don't know that guy. He's just some stunt-guy with his arm strapped around his back and a leaking prosthetic on his shoulder.

Thus was the problem of The Wolfman's violence. It just wasn't interesting.

But there was one moment where it almost worked. The Wolfman is chasing down a hapless, bumbling villager. With the Wolfman breathing down his neck, the villager gets stuck in a quagmire. He manages to get a few shots off at the Wolfman as he approaches, but it's pretty clear that he's a dead man.

He turns the gun on himself, but clicks on an empty chamber when he pulls the trigger. The Wolfman gets him anyway.

I think that's an interesting idea, although it didn't quite work in The Wolfman. It could have. It could have been the culmination of a very suspenseful scene, so memorable because it's so horrible. But as it is, it's tacked onto an orgy of gore so and that character existed only to be slaughtered in a bloody way, so who cares?

Ten Million Slaves

I've had the opportunity to watch Michael Mann's Public Enemies a couple of times now, and there are a few things I like very much about it, and many things I don't.

Sadly, the things I don't like make it a Michael Mann movie. He wants to be true to life, so he forgets about a little thing called a story, which is understandable in some ways because life doesn't have a plot...although movies should. Mann recognizes there needs to be some kind of emotional hook, so he throws in a not-too-convincing (or interesting) romantic subplot. Mann puts two strong characters in opposition, but he puts so much effort into making them both sympathetic that the audience gets no charge from watching them oppose each other onscreen. (Come to think of it, many of Mann's movies suffer from similar problems. Heat was bogged down by a pedestrian love story, so was Miami Vice. And while I liked Ali a lot, it's definitely a "plotless" movie. It's almost strange to think he also directed Collateral, which had a plot, no extraneous love story, and a most unsympathetic character in Vincent.)

At any rate, these are all problems with the script. When it comes to execution, Michael Mann has it down. His pioneering use of digital cameras is amazing. I'm no expert on the terminology, but Mann often refers to it as "depth of field." You can get close-ups with everything in the background perfectly in focus. You can get master shots with massive skies where you can see every swirl and puff in the clouds. I think that stuff is amazing and with frames that beautiful, you almost forget there's not much of a story.

And then there's the music. Otis Taylor is featured prominently with perhaps the movie's signature song, Ten Million Slaves. Musically, it fits the time period, the finger-picked blues and banjo you'd hear on dusty 1930s streets, but its bassline and background singers mark it as of this time. Thematically it has nothing to do with John Dillinger or gangsters, but fits.

And it's a great song.

Ten million slaves, 'cross the ocean
They had shackles, on their legs
Ten million slaves, 'cross the ocean
They had shackles, on their legs

Don't know where, where they're going
Don't know where, where they've been
Don't know where, where they're going
Don't know where, where they've been

Monday, July 05, 2010

4th of July

Never use your camera's "Fireworks" setting. It doesn't work.

I had a prime spot for the fireworks display in Nederland last night. The shore of the lake, right under it. We were so close, we could see the operators and fire marshals on the peninsula across the water. The explosions went off directly above us, echoing off the canyon and raining down sparks that you felt like you could almost touch.

It was a vivid, visceral experience that these pictures do no justice.

The lake in Nederland idea came from my cousin Josh, who lives in the vicinity and has been to the thing many times over the years. He's got a nice spread up in Coal Creek Canyon: house, a nice pasture, a great view.

For instance, this is the view off his back porch.
We went for a walk and I snapped a few shots of some wildflowers. Check the Columbines.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

I have a strange relationship with Reason Magazine. There's no middle ground, no meh. Most of the time I think they're dead wrong. But on some things, immigration and marijuana policy, specifically, they're right on.

So on the 4th of July, America's independence day, where we celebrate not only political separation with England but what we really value: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I'd like to endorse with a fist pump this video: