Monday Reads: Horticulture

Woman With Flower 1932 By Pablo Picasso

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m going to borrow something–well steal it directly–with attribution to my friend and writer Michael Tisserand. It’s a reference to Dorothy Parker which is a hell of a lot better to read about than anything I can find on a Monday Morning in Trumpist America. It’s also a one word reminder for me to get my horticulture class finished up shortly despite that the weather here is really messing with everything except my damn banana trees. Michael wins the internet for the entire month of July with his tweet hands down! (See below).

So, let’s do the background work for Michael’s punchline in which Dorothy is brilliant and Michael is spot on. You can see his tweet below and how he revamped it for the bizarre announcement that Melania has suddenly taken an interest in revamping the Rose Garden.

There is substantive evidence that Dorothy Parker created the horticulture pun while she was participating in a word game at a party. She may have spoken it during a meeting of the famed Algonquin Round Table. These gatherings were held regularly by a group of columnists, playwrights, actors and other bright individuals at lunch within the Algonquin Hotel in New York City between roughly 1919 and 1929.

The earliest evidence, however, appeared several years later in 1935 in the widely-syndicated column of Walter Winchell. The actual pun was too taboo to print in a newspaper in the 1930s; hence, Winchell’s comment was curiously cryptic. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Dorothy Parker can make up a sentence containing the word “Horticulture,” but hardly here.

A month later another gossip columnist named Harrison Carroll printed an elliptical comment that also linked Parker to the pun without sharing with readers the details of the witticism: 2

What was Dorothy Parker’s priceless offering when the gang at the James Gleason party were playing one of those “make a sentence with a word” games and someone suggested “horticulture”?

Special thanks to top researcher Bill Mullins who located the two citations given above.

The earliest account presenting a full version of Parker’s remark that QI has located was published in 1962 in a magazine of arts and literature called “Horizon”. An article by the prominent drama critic John Mason Brown referred to two puns. The first quip was based on the word “meretricious”, and an exploration of its provenance is available in another entry here. The second jest was ascribed to Parker: 3

Frank Adams’s solving the problem of building a sentence around “meretricious” with “Meretricious ‘n’ a Happy New Year,” and Mrs. Parker’s solving the same problem with “horticulture” by coming up with “You may lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think”—these and a hundred others of their kind may by now have become enfeebled by familiarity. But they were born of a moment, and meant for that moment, and at that moment they were triumphant.

In addition to wordplay with “horticulture” Parker cleverly refashioned a very old English proverb about stubbornness: You may lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As noted previously, when Parker delivered her joke it was too racy to be reprinted in contemporaneous books or periodicals published for a wide audience.

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Frederic Bazille: Black Woman with Peonies 1870

So, given those disastrous–albeit not permanent–Christmas displays where she ruins the White House annually, I can only wonder how dark and deranged the nation’s First Illegally visa’d sex worker will make the Rose Garden. My guess is this is another attempt to distract us from the miserable job her Sugar Daddy has done on everything and his continued assault on civil liberties as well as his massive grifting enterprise.

And then, not to mention the folks around him like crank Economist Peter Navarro who felt inclined to mock Dr. Fauci’s first pitch today.

“You know, the only thing I regret is Dr. Fauci’s pitch the other day at Opening Day. I felt bad for him,” Navarro said. “But I always look forward, and we’re all part of the team. And he actually tells people to wear the masks, and my job is to get them made.”

All the best people! All the BEST! People! Be BEST!

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet

Okay, enough levity. It’s back to the Sugar Daddy billing it all to us and the depths of depravity he brings to this country.

So, I don’t often read Town & Country, but when I do I make sure the article is almost as cheeky as Dorothy Parker. “How Brooks Brothers Became a Symbol of What Not to Wear to the Revolution. That notorious “Ken and Karen” couple from St. Louis politically slimed a 202-year-old staple of American belonging. Is it still Ok to wear sensible chinos and a pink polo?”

Clothes are not the only politicized aspect of our appearances now—nor were they ever; hair is also a prominent battleground. During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s signature powdered pouf was copied by the bourgeoisie, but it was reviled by the starving sans-culottes, who saw it as a wasteful indulgence, another representation of her to loucheness and profligacy.

A more modern hairdo once popular with hipsters is the shaved/faded sides and long-on-top look, or grown-out “high and tight” once favored by everyone from Macklemore to David Beckham. That, too, has been appropriated by far-right figurehead Richard Spencer and his ilk, who have taken to wearing it with Brooks Brothers suits, because Nazis used to wear the hairdo to look tidy under their helmets.

The New York Times once dubbed it the “Hitler Youth,” but it has since gone on to be nicknamed the “Fashy Haircut”—short for fascist, natch—and some of its adherents seem blithely unaware of the politics telegraphed by their coiffure. In 2016, the Washington Post once noted the irony of white nationalists “sporting a hairstyle that’s already been repurposed in the 21st century by young people whose ethos is radical safe-space inclusiveness, not ethnophobic separatism with eugenic undertones.”

In the context of today, that misdirection is precisely the point. The alt-right has intentionally become more sophisticated about blending in, substituting red tank tops and MAGA hats with more ambivalent iconography, the kind of fungible avatars that can be taken at face value, or interpreted as dog whistles if weaponized.

Arguably, another head of hair that looks suspect in the current climate is worn by perennially corporate hyper-conservatives like Jared Kushner. It’s the third-grade-picture-day, combover haircut that announces you have a turtle in your lunchbox and get to wear big boy pants because you haven’t wet the bed in weeks. It’s hair that looks excessively Boy Scouty and feckless precisely because it isn’t, like when predatory octopods camouflage themselves by mimicking the ocean floor.

For maximum due diligence, ask yourself a few difficult questions before opting for the old standbys when getting dressed for your next Zoomtinis. Remember that something that looks “safe” on the surface rarely is. We must all make sacrifices during times of (culture) war, but dressing in flip flops and pajama bottoms is arguably better than walking out of your house looking like you want to annex the Sudetenland.

The McCloskeys, by the way, are looking at a possible felony for what the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis called unlawful use of a gun “in an angry or threatening manner.” The fashion police, however, has not yet pressed charges, though a guilty verdict seems like a foregone conclusion.

⊰ Posing with Posies ⊱ paintings of women and flowers - Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

And of course, having enough money to eke a roof and essentials during a global pandemic and a country wide depression is just too much for Republican Senators who want every one back lifting that bale and toting that barge. Maybe they should be forced to find a job in this environment. After all, they caused it.

From WAPO: “GOP, White House aim to temporarily reduce weekly unemployment benefit from $600 to $200. House Democrats have proposed keeping $600 benefit in place through January but the program is set to expire later this week; $200 would be bridge as states move to new system.”

“We have unemployment running out, we have renter protection running out, we have state and local governments going into new month and won’t have the money and will lay off thousands and thousands of people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday morning on MSNBC. “We’re at all these cliffs and we still at this very moment don’t have a plan from the Republicans. We want to sit down and negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with a ghost.”

Given the difficulty of reaching agreement on the multiple contentious issues at play, Meadows and Mnuchin suggested over the weekend that Congress might need to pass a narrow bill including just the unemployment insurance, schools money and liability provisions.

Democrats have rejected that approach, and McConnell has yet to publicly embrace it, either.

The legislation will exclude the payroll tax cut President Trump had demanded, which Senate Republicans opposed. But it is expected to include language related to the FBI headquarters building that is diagonal from Trump’s hotel in downtown D.C. It was unclear exactly what the language would say, but Trump has said he wants to see a new headquarters building built on the site, and his administration killed a plan to relocate the headquarters to the suburbs.

The legislation also appeared likely to contain a number of other provisions pushed by a variety of Senate Republicans, which could potentially help secure more votes. These include a bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aimed at bringing production lines back to the U.S. from China. Graham predicted over the weekend that half of Republicans wouldn’t support a new coronavirus spending bill.

Legislation by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on increasing incentives for advanced chip manufacturing also was being eyed for inclusion, as was a bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act.

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Woman Seated By A Bouquet Of Flowers Artwork By Suzanne Valadon

Nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning!!! Grifters gotta grift!!!

The plan does include an August payment to all of another $1200. The generosity and humanity underwhelms! So Greg Sargent has an interesting hypothesis up today. Is this just Click Bait or Wishful Thinking? “How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s reelection hopes”. This is also from WAPO.

It would be a peculiarly apt form of poetic justice if the entity that has done so much to help President Trump run this country into the ground — Fox News — ends up playing an outsize role in helping destroy his chances at reelection.

Yet that may be exactly what’s happening.

This possibility is thrust upon us by two remarkable new reports: one in The Post illuminating Trump’s unsettled mental universe as he grapples with the new coronavirus surge, and one in the New York Times reporting that his law enforcement crackdowns are only accelerating more protests in response.

For Trump, Fox News has two functions: With some exceptions, it largely functions as his “shameless propaganda outlet,” as Margaret Sullivan put it, aggressively inflating his successes and faithfully pushing his messages. When Fox occasionally departs from this role, Trump rages at it as a form of deep betrayal.

Okay, so this is enough for me today. But hey, we got the whole week and at least until January to endure all this pettiness, meanness, greed, law breaking, … oh, go ahead! Add to that list!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?