A Fantasia on Irises

by Bill Benzon

When I was a child I sought out the first blossoms of spring. The forsythia bushes were first. Then tulips perhaps? I don’t really remember. I’m guessing, though the guess is not groundless. Daffodils, yes daffodils, yellow and white.

But I DO remember the irises. Not vividly, for it was a long time ago and, as I sit here running through memories while typing these lines, none of them are vivid. But distinct. I even remember bowing down to see them more clearly. This memory is kinesthetic.

David Anstiss, 2015, CCA BY-SA 4.0

And I remember my mother kneeling in front of the flower bed. Brown slacks. Heavy gloves. She was breaking up the ground and weeding the bed. Her flowers.

She loved the irises. At least I think she did. I know I did. Why? They were tall flowers, the tallest in the bed. Was that it? Perhaps, in part, height brought the blossoms closer to the yes. Was it the color? They were colorful. It was only much later that I would learn how many different colors and colorways found homes on irises. These irises were what I have come to think of as “canonical” or “standard” irises – light blue, deep purple, white, flecks of yellow on the beards.

Yes, that’s what they’re called,  at least colloquially, those fuzzy yellow things radiating from the center – beards. The more or less vertical petals are called standards; the droopy ones are called falls. And that complicated stuff in the center – anther, crests, stigmatic lips (stigmatic!?). It’s all so complicated. Read more »

The Pollinators of Technology

by Evan Edwards

DownloadOn the night of Monday, April 3rd, a man stood in the middle of the intersection at Franklin and Columbia in Chapel Hill, NC. Within minutes, thousands of people poured out of bars, houses, apartments, fraternity and sorority homes, and who knows where else, barrelling down the largest streets in the town to join him. There’s a video that shows it happening in high speed. The University had just won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament which (if you don’t know) is a very big deal.

I grew up in North Carolina, and as the week drew closer to the game, I watched so many people that I know from Middle and High school making their way back to the state, just to be there if/when they pulled it off. If they couldn’t make it, many documented their excitement wherever they were, on social media, and sent messages and memes to one another as the game loomed closer, just brimming with enthusiasm. Although I never really got into sports, it was a bit moving to watch people get so very joyous about something when nearly everything else in the news is tinged with a kind of abysmal horror.

If you watch the video I linked to above, you notice that the frame shakes as it pans from side to side. Because we’re used to it, we can read this erratic movement as the work of a smartphone camera because professional cameras and drones aren’t this sloppy, and no one uses handheld video-cameras any more. In the shot, too, you see the arm of the man in the intersection upstretched in the first few frames, the luminous glow of his iPhone at its apex, almost giving him the look of an angler fish wandering the deep, or a single firefly waiting in a meadow. As the crowd rolls in, you can’t always make out the screen glow, but it’s clear that almost everyone in the crowd is either raising their phone up to take a picture, to record video, to go live, or to snapchat.

When I was younger, my friends and I did something similar to this. We would call each other during concerts, to leave voicemails or let them listen for a while if a song that meant something to both of us was being played. For me, it was a special way of using technology to deepen a personal friendship. This was before I was on Facebook (you had to have a college e-mail address to get an account when I was in High School), Myspace was not used for sharing things like this, and so the concert voice mail was, in some way, the most cutting edge social medium we had. It was extraordinary to wake up to a voicemail like that from a friend. Absolutely moving.

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