Saturday, June 17, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 135

Yet another white-blooming Schlumbergera seedling. This is one of the medium-quality white ones: I may or may not keep it around.

Name finalists: Chiune Sugihara, Fog Machine, Glass Slipper, Rental.

Fog Machine is kind of nonsensical, but, you know, fog is white, this is white, it sort of works. Rental is because from everything I've seen, available apartments are always painted white. Like, always always.1

Glass Slipper was previously considered for 193A Arcade Gannon; it works better as a name for 135A because the photos for this one were lit in a way that showed the translucence of the petals more often.

And then there's Chiune Sugihara. He was a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania during World War II, who is now known for issuing travel visas to Lithuanian Jews (as well as Jewish refugees from Poland) to travel to Japan. (From Japan, they were then able to reach various other destinations as immigrants or refugees, with the assistance of the Polish ambassador to Tokyo, Tadeusz Romer.) Sugihara was officially prohibited from doing what he did. Per Wikipedia:
At the time, the Japanese government required that visas be issued only to those who had gone through appropriate immigration procedures and had enough funds. Most of the refugees did not fulfill these criteria. Sugihara dutifully contacted the Japanese Foreign Ministry three times for instructions. Each time, the Ministry responded that anybody granted a visa should have a visa to a third destination to exit Japan, with no exceptions.
By ignoring the official process and issuing visas anyway, he was risking his job.

Wikipedia says that Sugihara spent 18-20 hours a day, for about six weeks (18 July to 28 August 1940), writing visas.
According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kaunas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train's window even as the train pulled out.

In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, "Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best."
He is thought to have directly saved about 6000 Lithuanian and Polish Jews, though there's some dispute over the number.2 Not all of the people who received the visas were able to leave Lithuania in time, either: some were captured by Germans during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and executed anyway.

He did eventually lose his position in Japan over this, but not until 1947. He was also held for 18 months as a prisoner of war by the Soviets, in 1944-46. He died in 1986, at the age of 86. There's a lot more at his Wikipedia article, including a list of books about Sugihara.

And, honestly, I don't see any point to pretending to consider the other three names. There's something about this story in particular that I find moving -- I mean, there are a ton of other people who risked one thing or another to help save European Jews during World War II. But, I dunno, there's something about this specific story that gets me. (Best guess? Something about the contrast between the incredibly high stakes and the incredibly tedious act. Can you even imagine hand-writing visa documents for 18 hours a day, for 6 weeks?)

I do kind of like Glass Slipper, but this seedling is pretty obviously 135A Chiune Siguhara.

And lest I forget, here's a 352A bud update. The bud has dropped off, as I was expecting it to. So, if I can keep to the schedule I set up for myself and nothing really weird happens, we only have seven more Schlumbergera seedlings to get through this year.


1 Which I understand, of course: it looks clean, it looks bright, and people generally don't have strong feelings about it one way or the other. You probably could get someone to rent an apartment where all the walls in all the rooms were painted an intense tomato red, but not everyone is going to find that appealing, and you don't want to have to show an apartment to more people than necessary, 'cause every person you show to who doesn't wind up renting is a waste of your time. Therefore, white.
And yes, I know it's actually normally off-white. (I assume this is because white-white looks too sterile and cold?) Close enough for our purposes, I think.
2 Which is further confused because some sources cite the number of descendants of those Sugihara saved, instead of or in addition to the actual people. And also nobody was exactly counting at the time, and not everybody who got a visa was saved, and not everybody who was saved had been given a visa, and so forth. It gets confusing. The point is that it was a lot.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Anthurium no. 1447 "Daesha Richards"

Please bear with me, reader, I promise we'll be getting some more interesting Anthurium seedlings soon.

Which is not to say this one's boring; it's just not particularly good. The blooms have all been pretty small. The color combination is a common one,

and the foliage is not great,

so it's probably going to be discarded eventually. But there is something slightly noteworthy about 1) how many blooms it's produced, and 2) how hit-or-miss those blooms have been. I don't have photos for every inflorescence the plant has produced, but here's the first one:

and here's the most recent one.

And this one came in between.

It's still not extremely common, but the seedlings, collectively, are producing inflorescences on short peduncles more frequently now. I don't know if this is because of damage from pests, or if environmental conditions in the basement are causing plants to attempt to bloom before they're actually ready to do so, or if we're seeing recessive genes show up in the F2 generation that didn't have visible effects in the F1 seedlings, or what, but it feels like it means something.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 132

The name finalists for this one are giving me a bit of mood whiplash, but it's a nice seedling. One of the more interesting things about it is that it photographs as pink or magenta at different times, and I haven't been able to figure out whether that's because the flowers are actually changing color with age1 or because my camera's screwing with the color balance. Or both.

So what are these whiplashy name options? Glad you asked. Divoon, Pointy Space Princess, Rosenstrasse, Sweet Baboo.

Divoon keeps coming up and then getting shot back down, see 181A Margaret Atwood and 182A Padparadscha, but surely one of these times it's going to stick, right?

Pointy Space Princess is a nod to the character Lumpy Space Princess, from the show Adventure Time.

(warning: the video's volume varies substantially from one clip to the next)

The name actually describes the region of space, lumpy space, of which she is the princess; it happens to also work as a physical description, and she self-describes as lumpy so I'm not sure if this is an important distinction to make, but since I've just learned this I figure y'all may as well learn it too. In any case: I wanted to name a lavenderish seedling after LSP, but A) the Schlumbergera seedlings are not lumpy, they're pointy, and B) I didn't want to give the impression that the makers of Adventure Time or whatever company owns the rights to it approved this particular seedling or were affiliated with me. Therefore Pointy Space Princess. Which might still not be distinct enough, but it's the best I could do.

Rosenstrasse (German for "Rose Street") is the name given to a protest in Berlin, during February and March 1943, in which the non-Jewish wives of German Jews who had been arrested and were to be deported demonstrated until their husbands were returned. There's a ton of stuff about it at Wikipedia, and the story overall is, I gather, not so much that standing up to oppressive regimes can save lives (though it can, and did) as that if you stand up to oppressive regimes, you can sometimes embarrass them enough that they'll do what you want in order to shut you up, so they can do different horrible things. Not the ideal message, but we can't be too picky about where we find hope and encouragement these days.

Sweet Baboo is intended as a reference to the comic strip Peanuts: Charlie Brown's sister Sally referred to Linus as her "sweet baboo" a number of times, generally with Linus protesting that he was not her sweet baboo. I'm not clear on whether Sally ever actually defined what a sweet baboo was, but I suppose it's clear enough from context what she meant. I'm not sure why this seedling seems like it could potentially be a sweet baboo. It just does.

So the first name I'll drop is Divoon, less because I don't like it than because the other three names are just obviously better.

And Sweet Baboo is fine, except that there turns out to be a musician performing under that name, which would be a problem even if I liked their music, but is more of a problem since I don't.2

So we're stuck between a very silly name (Pointy Space Princess) and a very serious one (Rosenstrasse). Which is uncomfortable, and I'm not sure how to choose between them. I can't even eliminate one on the grounds of color-appropriateness, because the lavender/magenta photos work for Pointy Space Princess about as well as the pink photos work for Rosenstrasse, and I don't know which color is the "real" one, or whether either color is "real." Whatever "real" even means in this context.

I don't know exactly what tipped the scales for me, but after thinking about the question for a while I decided to go with 132A Pointy Space Princess. Which is mildly disappointing, but I was going to be mildly disappointed either way, and there will be more World-War-II-related names coming along shortly,3 and I imagine we'll see some pink seedlings next year, so it's not as if the Rosenstrasse opportunity is gone forever.


1 A theory for which there is some support: the early blooms tend to photograph pink, the later ones magenta.
2 Or at least I don't think I do, so far. This is less a comment about the quality of the music than it is a comment about me: I hate about 90% of music the first time I hear it, even things that I later wind up loving for decades. Dunno why.
So maybe if I listened to more songs by Sweet Baboo I'd eventually come to love them, but the first impression wasn't great. *shrug*
3 (at least 135A, 201A, and 271A)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 202

As of 8 June, the bud on seedling 352 is still there. I still think it's going to fall off before the flower gets around to opening, but I'm less and less certain about that than I was. (The biggest argument in favor of the bud aborting is that I'm starting to be the tiniest bit excited about the possibility of the seedling flowering.)

But anyway. Seedling 202A. The shape of the bloom has me wondering whether the pollen parent might have been Schlumbergera x buckleyi;1 I don't have a way to prove it, but most of the seedlings are bilaterally symmetrical (having a clear left and right side, where one is more or less the mirror image of the other), and 202A, buckleyi, and the one known seedling of buckleyi all look more radially symmetrical (symmetrical along multiple axes at once).2

The name finalists: Feeling Gorgeous, Joan Didion, The Die Is Cast, Thermite.

Feeling Gorgeous is what it sounds like. Not sure how it got on the list of prospective names. Joan Didion is a novelist and journalist who I know primarily from her two books of collected journalism (The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem). The Die Is Cast is the English translation of alea iacta est; as Wikipedia notes, it is often used "to indicate that events have passed a point of no return," and I imagine the reader can guess what that might be a reference to. (The Die Is Cast is appropriate to this particular seedling mostly from the way the flower photographed; it looks to me sort of like a comic-book version of the trail left by a die falling through the air.)

Thermite is the general term for a mixture of powdered metal, fuel, and metal oxide which burns briefly at very high temperatures,3 and I was pretty sure it had been considered as a seedling name previously, because it's been on the list of possible names for forever, but apparently it's never made it to the final round before.

I'm pretty comfortable with dropping Feeling Gorgeous immediately. It's not the worst name, but the other three are better.

I feel like Joan Didion is the one needing the most explanation. I love the way she writes -- there's always a tension between herself as a dispassionate observer merely recording the scene, on the one hand, and what she actually feels about whatever it is.4 She somehow manages to flip back and forth between the two in a way that seems perfectly natural, which in my case, at least, has a way of drawing me into the subject matter even if it's something I would normally not give a shit about. As an example, here is the second section of the essay "Good Citizens," taken from The White Album (1979):
Pretty Nancy Reagan, the wife then of the Governor of California, was standing in the dining room of her rented house on 45th Street in Sacramento, listening to a television newsman explain what he wanted to do. She was listening attentively. Nancy Reagan is a very attentive listener. The television crew wanted to watch her, the newsman said, while she was doing precisely what she would ordinarily be doing on a Tuesday evening at home. Since I was also there to watch her doing precisely what she would ordinarily be doing on a Tuesday evening at home, we seemed to be on the verge of exploring certain media frontiers: the television newsman and the two cameramen could watch Nancy Reagan being watched by me, or I could watch Nancy Reagan being watched by the three of them, or one of the cameramen could step back and do a cinéma vérité study of the rest of us watching and being watched by one anothr. I had the distinct sense that we were on the track of something revelatory, the truth about Nancy Reagan at 24 frames a second, but the television newsman opted to overlook the moment's peculiar essence. He suggested that we watch Nancy Reagan pick flowers in the garden. "That's something you might ordinarily do, isn't it?" he asked. "Indeed it is," Nancy Reagan said with spirit. Nancy Reagan says almost everything with spirit, perhaps because she was once an actress and has the beginning actresses's habit of investing even the most casual lins with a good deal more dramatic emphasis than is generally called for on a Tuesday morning on 45th Street in Sacramento. "Actually," she added then, as if about to disclose a deligthful surprise, "actually, I really do need flowers."

She smiled at each of us, and each of us smiled back. We had all been smiling quite a bit that morning. "And then," the television newsman said thoughtfully, surveying the dining-room table, "even though you've got a beautiful arrangement right now, we could set up the pretense of your arranging, you know, the flowers."

We all smiled at one another again, and then Nancy Reagan walked resolutely into the garden, equipped with a decorative straw basket about six inches in diameter. "Uh, Mrs. Reagan," the newsman called after her. "May I ask what you're going to select for flowers?"

"Why, I don't know," she said, pausing with her basket on a garden step. The scene was evolving its own choreography.

"Do you think you could use rhododendrons?"

Nancy Reagan looked critically at a rhododendron bush. Then she turned to the newsman and smiled. "Did you know there's a Nancy Reagan rose now?"

"Uh, no," he said. "I didn't."

"It's awfully pretty, it's a kind of, of, a kind of coral color."

"Would the . . . the Nancy Reagan rose be something you might be likely to pick now?"

A silvery peal of laughter. "I could certainly pick it. But I won't be using it." A pause. "I can use the rhododendron."

"Fine," the newsman said. "Just fine. Now I'll ask a question, and if you could just be nipping a bud as you answer it . . . "

"Nipping a bud," Nancy Reagan repeated, taking her place in front of the rhododendron bush.

"Let's have a dry run," the cameraman said.

The newsman looked at him. "In other words, by a dry run, you mean you want her to fake nipping the bud."

"Fake the nip, yeah," the cameraman said. "Fake the nip."
That's a long quote, I'm aware. But it illustrates how Didion is able to on the one hand describe the scene in an objective-seeming way -- by the time you're done, you know how many people there are, something about their motivations, what they were physically up to, what they were holding, etc. -- while at the same time having her own personal feelings about the scene lead you to the desired conclusion. Nancy Reagan is is acting (to the point of taking direction from the newsman and cameraman), is trying too hard, is not a serious person.

(It's worth noting that this would all have seemed a lot more remarkable in the late 1970s than it does now, in the era of "reality TV," where we all know that pretty much everything on television is staged to this extent. That Didion manages to write it in a way that makes it feel weird and off-kilter roughly 40 years later is what I'm talking about.5)

Anyway. Whew.

All three remaining names would be perfectly acceptable to me, so I guess it's time to disqualify some of them for silly reasons.

The Die Is Cast works best if certain very good or very bad things happen in the near future. Since I can't know what's going to happen in the near future, and neither can anyone else, it's maybe a little risky? Or maybe it's just more editorial than I'm feeling right now. In any case: gone.

Thermite is an especially good name for an actinomorphic orange and white flower, and I only have one more of those coming up. On the other hand, I really love Joan Didion,6 and this somehow seems like a particularly good flower to name after her although damned if I could explain why. Since I have to jump one way or the other, and since I've gone to all the trouble of transcribing a bit from her essay, I guess I'm going to go with 202A Joan Didion. There will be other opportunities to use Thermite.


1 (As with the majority of the seedlings, the seed parent is 'Caribbean Dancer.')
2 The fancy term for this in flowers is actinomorphic. Wikipedia has a whole article about floral symmetry, for anyone who is interested.
3 Thermite is also notable for being capable of burning under water, as it contains its own oxygen. The basic idea is that you combine a metal oxide with an un-oxidized metal that forms even stronger bonds with oxygen, and then heat it up until the oxygen starts jumping from one metal to the other, which releases more heat, which induces more oxygen-transfer, etc.
The main applications of thermite, as far as I can determine, are in welding, metal-cutting, and YouTube.
4 I don't think this is my original observation; pretty sure I'm duplicating a review of some work of hers I read a long time ago, though I have no idea what review, or what work. It is, nevertheless, a good and true observation, and well worth stealing.
5 Also, yes, there is in fact a hybrid tea rose named for Nancy Reagan, and it is in fact sort of pinkish-orange, though some photographs show it as thoroughly pink or thoroughly orange. says that it wasn't registered until 2003, which surprises me.
6 I mean, that's a strange way to put it, as her writing is rarely very warm or cuddly, and I don't know her as a person. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I feel a mysterious and strong affinity for, and admiration of, Didion.