Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beauty and the noxious weed

A Male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeding on Musk Thistle flowers across the fence from an unmowed horse pasture between William B. Umstead State Park and the North Carolina Museum of Art.

As a larvae, he may have eaten tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) leaves in the nearby forest, as my Grandmother Memommy (Jackson) Frink explained to me when I was a child in her garden on the Honey Hill Road in Columbus County, learning the names of butterflies.

copyright george frink

There were two of them Saturday, as oblivious to the bicycle rider with the digital camera as their ancestors once were to the nearsighted child and his patient, doting grandmother. She would have pulled that (noxious, invasive, European) weed up, as will I when next I pass by the spot. There are, however, a lot of them along the roadsides in that area.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Velvet still on his antlers

Grazing beside a Meredith College athletic field early Sunday morning, this white-tailed buck was unconcerned until other bicyclists labored up the hill, derailleurs clicking.

copyright george frink

Then he and a smaller doe gamboled across the field together, dancing over the brow of a slight hill and meandering into the woods.

I grew up hunting them with Walker Hounds and shotguns. Cameras are better for both of us, I suspect, and the sight and sound of Walker Hounds and of deer, however widely they may be separated from one another, is no less a delight.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wild Poinsettia

Wild Poinsettia (Euphorbia heterophylla)

© 2012 Claude W. Rankin and George Frink

The wild poinsettia is a North American cousin of the Christmas poinsettia. This Euphorbia heterophylla was photographed by the late Claude W. Rankin in Cumberland County, North Carolina.

It thrives in the wild from Virginia south to the tip of Florida, west along the Gulf Coast and finally including the entire state of California.

It typically blooms from June through September.

This variant is also called painted leaf, fiddler's spurge, Mexican fireplant and annual poinsettia."Painted leaf" refers to the fact that there are there are other, similar spurges which have no red on their leaves. "fiddler's spurge" alludes to the fiddle-shaped leaves, which are typically two to five inches long. "Mexican fireplant" alludes to the native land of its better-known cousin, the Christmas poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrim).

Another variant is called fire on the mountain, because a big bed of them on the mountainside gives that impression.

Like the Christmas poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima), our wild poinsettia is an invasive or noxious weed.

The Christmas poinsettia is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He discovered euphorbia pulcherrima and introduced it into the United States, apparently in the early 1800's.

Taxonomic Classification

  • Superdivision: Spermatophyta -- Seed plants (seed plants)
  • Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (primitive flowering plants)
  • Subclass: Rosidae
  • Order: Nepenthales
  • Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)
  • Genus: Euphorbia
  • Species: Euphorbia heterophylla (wild poinsettia)


University of Illinois Extension Poinsettia Pages

US Department of Agriculture Plant Index

North Carolina State Univeristy's poisonous plants site.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve 'Reindeer Food' reconsidered

I not only helped inflict the myth of Santa Claus on my sons George and Jack, I made feeding his eight tiny reindeer a Christmas Eve ritual.

My Aunt Betsy Frink Adams gave us spiced “Reindeer Food” one Christmas (Or was it a gift from my first cousin, Betsy Adams Holden?). The boys and I put out a tidy pile of sweet oat hay, which had been stockpiled to keep our pet chickens warm, and sprinkled it with the special “Reindeer Food.”

After the boys were sound asleep, I'd gather up all but a few wisps of the hay and use a three-pronged cultivating rake to make reindeer hoof marks over the feeding spot and across part of the lawn, inevitably leaving behind traces of Aunt Betsy's mix.

George and Jack on a Christmas Day decades ago in Fayetteville, N.C.

The next morning, the boys' grandmother's big Bouvier des Flandres would show persuasive interest in the reindeer tracks (because they were spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg from the "Reindeer Food").

The existence of Santa's tiny reindeer thus affirmed by the ecstatic dog, both boys would settle into another few days of blissfully believing in a Jolly Old Elf who brought them gifts.

It only worked for a year, or maybe two, my sons eventually told me. They were angry at the time. I think they had begun to understand that they had been made a show of for the watching adults and not for any lasting purpose.

Fun though it was, and entirely well-intended, it was still exploitative lying, like the commonplace and commercially convenient newspaper pretense that there is a Santa Claus. But worse. Because I was setting a parental example of socially convenient lying. for fun.

I was showing my love for them, but what I did was a mistake. There are equally satisfying theatrics that are honest and that do not encourage retreat to unrealistic fantasy worlds.

We might have had as much fun, and had it honestly, by defiantly studying the astronomy and implications of the Solstice. That tradition would not have ended with childhood's credulity but would instead have fostered realistic discussions of why the 25th is Christmas Day. Because Christianity tried to appropriate the pagan festival date for its own use, but our Scottish ancestors kept other traditions alive. It may not be too late to share their ancient fun, with eyes wide open.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Re Joe Liberman's censorship: Push back and raise hell (in that order)

Yield to a self-appointed mandarin like Joe Lieberman and freely begin to forfeit both your own right to publish and the opportunity to learn much which is vital to you.

Let us instead push back and raise appropriate hell, and in that order. Because the answer that matters most is defiance of extralegal restrictions on your right to publish and to know. For if we are silent and thus consent, it is silence we shall have.

This is not a partisan issue. Lieberman's authoritarian showmanship has no refuge in any political party which prizes the rule of laws, not people. Which prizes due process, not authoritarianism. He is not a judge. And even if he were, no charges have been filed. No trial has been held. No conviction handed down.

For examples from among Republicans, as Glenn Greenwald observes in a different context "... you have Newt Gingrich demanding that Assange be declared an "enemy combatant" and Sarah Palin calling for his murder."

Lieberman's action is at the fore, however, because it is rank official bullying, as Greenwald argues. Lieberman is using his clout as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee to get his way.

We know how to answer bullies. Whatever their methods and goals.

For example. below is one of the Tableau charts, captured from the Google server cache. I offer it as an illustration of the information Lieberman so proudly does not want you to see and in small defiance of his intimidation of Tableau:

Unlike Josh Marshall I was not "surprised when Amazon agreed to host Wikileaks, but I was when having done so, they yielded to Lieberman's relatively weak sally at intimidation and terminated the account. How could they have failed to anticipate that possibility before agreeing to host the account?

It could but probably will not happen here.

This blog space is owned and provided by Google, which could but probably will not yield to Lieberman or others and delete even this insignificant ghost of a blog, where I have been know to champion poets and poems, the rights of the mentally ill and other causes and non-causes I am somehow moved to write about.

I mention the broad, capricious nature of my concerns here because there is more at hazard than the current controversy.

We have forgotten much if we believe failure to push back now cannot imperil dramatic broadcasts, art films, novels, plays, poems, scripts and short stories and eventually your right to say what you will to your friends and neighbors. This is not just a matter for journalists who have grown passive and for journalism which has grown flabby. It most certainly not merely a matter of concern about the providers of online server space and services.

It is fundamental, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation has sought in a different context to remind us with regard to online censorship:

In countless ways, the Internet is radically enhancing our access to information and empowering us to share ideas with the entire world. Speech thrives online, freed of limitations inherent in other media and created by traditional gatekeepers.

Preserving the Internet's open architecture is critical to sustaining free speech. But this technological capacity means little without sufficient legal protections. If laws can censor you, limit access to certain information, or restrict use of communication tools, then the Internet's incredible potential will go unrealized.

The government has time and again tried doing just that—indeed, censorship laws have often aimed at speech that could not be similarly restricted offline. And when old laws are not properly adapted to this medium, it's all too easy for the government, companies, and individual litigants to undermine your rights.

There is to remind us of where such bullying can lead the historic lesson of another member of the U.S. Senate, also named Joe, who until effectively opposed and after many lives had been ruined, claimed to protect our national security while burning through our collective freedom of expression.

If you have not already, please push back. Until forbidden to do so by due process of law, publish something objectionable to the would-be mandarins, even if you must mimeograph it and tape it to your door. And find a civil way to raise your voice in objection to arbitrary censorship.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

False mark of shame

Christ cleansing a leper by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864.
(c)Public Domain

Like you, I either am now or may soon be crazy, psycho, sicko, whacko, a nut case and if you're a member of Active Minds you're with me.

Those terms mean only that each of us has a living, organic brain which is prey to illnesses to which misguided stigma are attached.

Active Minds was first organized because that stigma kills by discouraging the mentally ill from seeking timely, effective treatment, and by burdening with unearned shame some who do seek treatment.

That organization of college students seeks among other things to teach the simple truth -- there is no more legitimate shame in mental illness than there is in the common cold.

Yet the stigma persists. It persists and if we give it nurture, we risk having on our hands the blood of friends and loved ones whom acceptance would have saved.

No, those are not your hands at which I glance. My maternal grandfather killed himself not long before Christmas four decades ago when I was a freshman at North Carolina State University, and I have come to believe that with a little more understanding of chronic depression and rejection of prevailing prejudice about mental illness, I could have pulled him through.

Somewhat similarly, Active Minds was founded by Alison Malmon after her older brother, Brian killed himself when in March of 2000, when he was a 22-year-old college student and she was a college freshman. That was one year after the First U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Mental Illness addressed the stigma as a pervasive evil.

She explains that Brian developed symptoms of a schizoaffective disorder, was hearing voices and was having suicidal thoughts while a student at Columbia University in New York. Because of the stigma, he hid them until even treatment could not make the illness bearable. Thus she says, and I agree, the stigma killed him.

In his book "The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change" (Oxford University Press, 2007), Stephen Hinshaw explains that such concealment continues in part because those who suffer from mental illnesses continue to face housing and job discrimination, as well as hurdles when voting, obtaining a driver's license and maintaining child custody, in addition to facing profoundly negative, misguided, personal responses from others.

No college student, I am not eligible to join Active Minds -- just to say the prejudices involved are deep-seated, irrational and entirely possible to overcome. And live what I assert.

Those prejudices drive into the grave people who could recover, become well, productive and happy again. if we would substitute compassion for this ugly, ancient fear.