Symbiogenesis and the Descent of the Electric Leaf Blower

I'm been in a very unproductive funk for … well, most of January. There's a sort of rank cabin fever vibe hovering over this place. Especially these last few frigid days. True, I roused myself from bed early enough to get the trash hauled to the curb. But after a late breakfast while meandering the internet, I finally had to get out of the house. I decided to head to the downtown library.

I headed up to the fifth floor to grab a few science titles. In the evolution section I saw a couple that looked appealing. “The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America,” by David Rains Wallace. And “Darwin's Blind Spot: Evolution Beyond Natural Selection,” by Frank Ryan.

The Wallace book might not be too heavy on the science, as the writer appears to mainly be a nature writer with a passion for central America. But, still, the isthmus of the Americas has been at the center of several contentious theories of species migration, particularly megafauna and human beings. From a quick glance at the jacket blurb, it looks like the author isn't so much concerned with big mammals of the Pleistocene, nor the intrepid people of the Paleolithic. Rather it seems to be an analysis on the spread of more mundane flora and fauna along the north-south route during the very beginning of the Pliocene epoch 5 million years ago when North America and South America finally cozied up to one another.

The book by Ryan appears to be an overview of Lynn Margulis' endosymbiotic theory, and the greater concept of symbiosis as an engine driving evolutionary change. But I see no mention of Dr. Margulis in the acknowledgment section nor in the introduction. She does receive a few pages according in the index, but as one of the most important thinkers in the field, I would think she's be all over the place. Well, we'll see.

I also picked up three DVDs.

“A Face in the Crowd.” My sister has spoken favorably about this over-looked classic many times. I have seen maybe half an hour of it on TV some years back, and thought it powerful. But I'll finally get to see the whole thing. Directed by Elia Kazan. Starring Andy Griffith (who was so phenomenal in “No Time For Sergeants”) and Patricia Neal. Script by Budd Schulberg.

“My Dear Tom Mix.” (“Mi Querido Tom Mix.”) This is a Mexican film that came out in 1991. According to the DVD cover, the script was adapted from a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Someone needs to alert the fine folks at the Internet Movie Database to this. It sounds like a bitter sweet magical realism film about a woman and her imaginary friendship with a Hollywood cowboy actor.

“I Am Cuba.” This is a film I only know for it's famous long opening tracking shot, a single take that is beyond breath-taking. I'm hoping the rest of the film is even close to the visual over-load of the beginning.

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There's a nice little nostalgia site, PLC Link Dump. They had an embedded YouTube video. It was a music video from the band Critters Buggin. For anyone who was around Dallas in the 80s you'll no doubt have memories of Edie Brickell and New Bohemians (found memories, I don't doubt, as they made very pretty, inoffensive music). I have no idea what Edie (AKA, Mrs. Paul Simon) is up to these days, and nor do I care. However, I've, for some years, been a big fan of Critters Buggin, now a Seattle band, and made up of three members of New Bohemians, as well as a member from Ten Hands, another high-profile Dallas band from the eighties.

But other then clicking on the YouTube button to hear a great Critters Buggin song (Brozo the Clone), I was completely taken by the incredible claymation in the video. There were a few moments when I thought it might be from one of Karl Krogstad's early pieces, but the work was way too intricate and organic. I quickly found out it was from a well-known animator (though unknown to me) named Bruce Bickford.

I next discovered that there is a newish (2005) documentary on Bickford titled “Monster Road” (which, sadly, is not yet available on NetFlix). I did head over to the website of “Monster Road” director, Brett Ingram. He's got some nice videos of some earlier work of his on his website.

Ah, sweet serendipity!

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There have been some amazing technological innovations that I'm all over. These are things that have recently become ubiquitous which certainly do improve our lives. See, I personally can't envision a world without sun-block, rechargeable batteries, digital photography, wireless communication, and I could go on and on until I end up sputtering out with things I don't really use like Viagra and portable dialysis machines (though, those sound grand!). But the one thing I think is wrong on all fronts is the leaf blower. Electric or gas powered. Doesn't matter. Because someone could come up with a solar powered leaf blower that was silent and I'd still pan it. The noise of the god damn leaf blower is just scratching the surface of the idiocy of this hellish device.

Let's put this into context. It wasn't just crushing boredom and general ennui that forced me out of the house this afternoon, it was also because there was some damn noisy machine screaming in the apartment on the southside of me (note: I'm still the only person occupying this tri-plex). It was no doubt the landlady's son working a carpet cleaner, or something.

When I stepped outside, I noticed I needed to retrieve my plastic trash barrel from the road where the garbage men had cavalierly tossed it. And as I was doing this, I noticed that an electric leaf-blower was sitting on the sidewalk. Ah, so the landlady's son was not rug-shampooing, he was leaf-blowing.

But as I placed my trash barrel alongside my porch, I saw a man walk up to retrieve the leaf-blower. He was not my landlady's son. He was some aging golden-haired surfer new to me. He walked up and introduced himself as Michael, my new neighbor. (Note: I'm no longer the only person occupying this tri-plex.) He said we has a chef, recently relocated from San Francisco. He apologized about the leaf-blower by explaining that he was “a real clean freak.” He couldn't abide by the pile of leaves that had collected around the door of his new place. I won't argue. There were loads of leaves there. If I were a neat freak (and, um, I'm not), damn if I'd be happy to strap on a leaf-blower and begin spreading all the waste here and there and well, I guess I'd have to put it somewhere. I guess I can't put it in other people's yards (well, can I?) so I guess I'll just blow it all out into the street. Great. And so now, Mr. Fucking clean freak, what do you do with a big ugly mess of dead leaves in the street in front of your house? I say: Fuck leaf blowers and the assholes who use them! If you're green, you mulch the leaves into your lawn with a lawn mower (probably of the push-mower variety) — or, more likely, you add them to the compost pile. Okay … not so green? You do what I did as a kid. Rake, bag, and sweep up the detritus. How hard is that? I tell you, it looks damn neat.

So, Mister chef from San Francisco, clean up your mess, don't spread it to the rest of the block. But, welcome to the neighborhood! Just place the crème brûlée on the back porch, and all will be forgiven.

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