Have a Safe Weekend

Because.

COVID-19 Schedule Changes

The best-laid plans, and all that. The old Chinese curse about living in interesting times definitely applies through this month, and apparently beyond. The news about the Dallas County shelter-in-place order requiring all residents to stay at home unless conducting essential business is now international news, but the subsequent mandatory orders applying specifically to Richardson and Garland are just as big a deal. Right now, the Dallas County order will be up for review on April 3, the Garland order until at least April 7, and Richardson cut to the chase and set its order to run until at least April 29. Any way you look at it, anyone in the greater Dallas area isn’t going anywhere, especially since local police are empowered to ticket and/or arrest anyone running about without good reason.

And how does this affect the Triffid Ranch? Quite honestly, it stops everything for the next month, and directly affects the rest of the year. Unlike the twerp at the mail drop last Monday who wanted to argue that the Dallas County order didn’t apply to him because of one tiny issue that he assumed invalidated the whole order, the orders aren’t up for debate over here. As anybody in US Army Basic Training learns on the first day of Nuclear/Biological/Chemical training, you do NOT take off your mask until someone with the proper authority gives the proper “ALL CLEAR” signal. You may be melting in the heat, and you may want the freedom to take it off and relax, but it’s there for a reason.

So what this means is that every Triffid Ranch event scheduled for March, April, and May has been rescheduled, delayed, or otherwise put on hold. The planned April 18 Manchester United Flower Show open house is delayed. This also means that all appointments will have to wait until Richardson’s order is lifted, although remote consultations are still open. (If anything, if you’re looking for a custom enclosure, the delay should give it plenty of time to get established by the time you’re able to pick it up.) Among the important events:

As always, keep an eye on the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page for changes to the schedule: everything depends right now on how well the COVID-19 situation flattens out, and what gets scheduled against what. Until then, stay safe, stay distant, and we’ll see you when we see you.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #15

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on February 21, 2020.

Installment #15: “What To Do When Jimmy Hoffa Gives You The Final Logs of the Marie Celeste. And Tells You How He Got Them”

So the last couple of months have been a wonderful time at the Triffid Ranch. The last open house was a blowout, the NARBC Arlington reptile show booth was a hit (and yes, I’m signed up for the September show), and the biggest problem right now is constructing new enclosures to replace ones going out the door. With that came an extensive cleaning, both of the gallery and the Web site, with more to come. Among many other things, the Enclosure Gallery section of the site was finally stripped of its endless scrolling option and everything put into separate links, for further perusal at the reader’s convenience. Oh, and we have stories.

A little backstory here. People who knew me in the days before the Triffid Ranch know that I was a professional writer between 1989 and 2002. “Professional writer” as in “actually getting paid for publication,” even though a lot of the muck shoveled out of my typewriter and computer didn’t quite qualify on either category. (Everyone brings up the tropes of “People DIE from exposure” or “pay the writer,” but amazingly nobody brings up the number of articles, stories, essays, and reports commissioned for publication that are then spiked because they inconvenience a friend of the editor’s, thrown back because the editor saw some other bright shiny object and says “this isn’t what I wanted,” kicked down the road and then tossed back because “it’s no longer timely,” or, my favorite, simply neglected because the editor is more worried about getting attention than in doing his/her job. With all of these, does the writer get paid for lost time, lost effort, or lost hair and stomach linings? Oh, it happens…about as often as the Dallas Cowboys come home with a shutout World Series pennant.) With a few relapses, I’ve stayed away from pro writing since then, because the aggravation isn’t worth the strain, and this comes from someone who had to threaten to dox every senior executive at SyFy in order to get payment, one per day until either I received a check or the president was getting phone calls on her personal number about why this freelancer hadn’t gotten his check, because nothing else made a difference to them. Others can do the pro writer tango, and that’s fine.

That said, when the gallery opened in 2015 and the first plant enclosures first went public, a strange thing happened. When the gallery first opened, I relished the sense of mystery, and when people would ask “So what’s the story behind this?”, I assumed they meant a discussion of themes or materials or concepts. No, what they meant, quite literally, was “what is the story?” The first response was “What story do YOU want from this?”, and it wasn’t wiseacre: it was serious. The problem was that viewers and purchasers both didn’t want their story about what they were viewing. To an individual, they wanted my story. In many ways, the enclosures were like museum displays or zoo exhibits: people could stare at them all day, but they wanted context and an explanation of what they were viewing. They didn’t always need one, but they wanted to know that one existed, and that there was more to the enclosures than carnivorous plants with neat backgrounds. 

At the same time as that was going on, it was hard as the enclosure creator not to create “What if?” scenarios, instead of leaving everything to the viewer. Asking a viewer to answer the question “So what story do YOU want?” became an internal comparison between the scenario suggested and the one roiling around in my head. Think about it for a while, and the stories became more and more elaborate: who put this here? Why are the plants here? Are they interacting, or did one come before the other? Most importantly, if an unknown protagonist came across that scene, what were the characters and situations that led to that moment? It’s now up to the viewer: how does this story end, and why?

To help that along, every enclosure debuting at the gallery from here on out has its very own backstory, available at your convenience. Much as with the QR codes on museum or zoo displays offering further information, the nameplate on each enclosure has a QR code, readable by the vast majority of smartphones and tablets, so that it can be pulled up right then, or you can go to the Enclosure Gallery section of the Web site to read at your leisure. Some may be silly, some may be humorous, and some may be really, really dark. With the exception of ones that are obvious tributes to other writers or artists, though, they’ll be as unique as can be managed.

Don’t look at this as a return to writing. To paraphrase the old Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety, “I don’t hate writing! I hate publication!” Look at this as “augmented fiction.”

Other News

It took long enough, but the Triffid Ranch presence on Facebook is now as dead as cathode-ray tube monitors, and it was for a lot of reasons. The biggest and foremost was needing to focus on the gallery, but recent developments with Facebook’s algorithms as to which posts would and would not be shared with Page subscribers, as well as how much getting them boosted was going to cost, made being on that platform intolerable. Instagram and Twitter are both still destinations, but getting off Facebook was a plan for the better part of a year, and the current gallery efforts just expedited that. (And yes, this is a shameless plug for subscribing to this newsletter, early and often.)

Recommended Reading

Because more enclosures have gone out the door this year than in all of 2019 (and it’s mind-boggling when considering that the original gallery at Valley View Center opened up five years ago next August), it’s time to recharge the creative batteries by immersing in other people’s dreams and seeing how they influence mine. With the next newsletter, this section splits off recommendations into fiction and nonfiction, but for now, go out and buy yourself a copy of Medusa Uploaded and its sequel Medusa in the Graveyard, both by Emily Devenport. I refuse to hide my partisanship, as Emily and her husband Ernest Hogan have been friends and cohorts for three decades now, and that’s aggravated by the fact that the two consistently write fiction that plays Whack-a-Mole with my subconscious. By the time I’m finished with Medusa in the Graveyard, I should have some really interesting dreams that need to be turned into carnivorous plant enclosures.

Music

Friends joke and grumble about this being “the worst timeline,” but they’re not entirely wrong. If it weren’t, then blues musician Cricket Taylor would be coming back home to Dallas to sold-out shows, heading back for yet another world tour, and taping the latest opening song to the biggest shows on Netflix. Let’s fix the timeline by making this happen, shall we?

Have a Safe Weekend

Because even a pandemic is a little better when narrated by Vincent Price.

Enclosures: “One Giant Leap” (2020)

This is an excerpt from the transcription of the Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transmission (GOSS NET 1) from the Apollo 11 mission.

Communicators in the text may be identified according to the following list.

Spacecraft:
CDRCommanderNeil A. Armstrong
CMPCommand module pilot   Michael Collins
LMPLunar module pilotEdwin E. ALdrin, Jr.
SCUnidentifiable crewmember
MSMultiple (simultaneous) speakers
LCCLaunch Control Center
Mission Control Center:
CCCapsule Communicator (CAP COMM)
FFlight Director
Remote Sites:
CTCommunications Technician (COMM TECH)
Recovery Forces:
HORNET   USS Hornet
RRecovery helicopter
ABAir Boss

A series of three dots (…) is used to designate those portions of the communications that could not be transcribed because of garbling. One dash (-) is used to indicate a speaker’s pause or a self-interruption and subsequent completion of a thought. Two dashes (- -) are used to indicate an interruption by another speaker or a point at which a recording was terminated abruptly.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/15 Page 395

04 14 28 22 LMP (EVA)
As I look around the area, the contrast, in general, is *** comes about completely by virtue of the shadow *** down Sun … very light colored gray, light gray color, a halo around my own shadow, around the shadow of my helmet. Then, as I look off across *** the contrast becomes strongest in that the surrounding color is still fairly light. As you look down into the Sun *** a larger amount of *** shadowed area is looking toward us. The general color of the *** surrounding *** the contrast is not as great. Surveying all the dusty area that we’ve kicked up *** considerably darker in texture. Now, I’ve kicked up one, and I imagine that this is *** Surveyor. The same is true when I survey across on – along the area that we’re walking. In general *** to the fact that there are footprints there. General terrain where I’ve been kicking up a lot of this surface material is generally of a darker contrast *** color.

04 14 31 29 LMP (EVA)
The panorama I’ll be taking is about 30 or 40 feet out to plus ***

04 14 31 39 CC
Say again which strut, Buzz?

04 14 31 43 LMP (EVA)
The plus Z strut.

04 14 31 47 CC
Roger.

04 14 31 48 LMP (EVA)
And right in this area, there are two craters. The one that’s right in front of me now as I look off in about the eleven o’clock position from the spacecraft, about 30 to 35 feet … There’s several rocks and boulders 6 to 8 inches across … sizes.

04 14 34 13 LMP (EVA)
I’m now in the area of the minus Y strut taking some … photographs.

04 14 35 52 LMP (EVA)
How’s the bulk sample coming, Neil?

04 14 35 56 CDR (EVA)
Bulk sample is just being sealed.

04 14 36 58 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Houston, Columbia.

04 14 37 01 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. Go ahead. Over.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/16 Page 396

04 14 37 09 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Roger. No marks on the LM that time. I did see a suspiciously small white object whose coordinates are – –

04 14 37 25 CC
Go ahead with the coordinates on the small white object.

04 14 37 28 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Easy – Easy 0.3, 7.6, but I … right on the southwest end of a crater. I think they would know it if they were in such a location. It looks like their LM would be pitched up quite a degree. It’s on the southwest wall of a smallish crater.

04 14 37 58 CC
Roger. Copy Echo 0.3 and 7.6, and –

04 14 38 27 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. While I’m talking to you, LOS will be at 111 19 31; AOS, 112 05 43. Over.

04 14 39 04 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. Did you copy LOS AOS times? Over.

04 14 39 14 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Negative, Houston. You broke. Disregard. I’ll get them off the flight plans.

04 14 39 19 CC
Roger. Out.

04 14 39 56 LMP (EVA)
There’s something going on out here/

04 14 40 12 CC
You’re breaking up again, Buzz.

04 14 40 18 LMP (EVA)
I say there’s something going on out here. A shimmering…what the?

04 14 40 53 CC
Clarify, Buzz.

04 14 40 58 LMP (EVA)
Something just appeared in line of sight. It wasn’t here before, and it wasn’t visible before touchdown. It was preceded by a shimmer around the area, and now we’re looking at a structure.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

04 14 41 07 CDR (EVA)
I see it as well. A large assemblage of vertical struts, much lighter in color than the surrounding area. It has a large area of what appears to be vegetation of some sort, of a red-purple coloration, along the base.

04 14 41 25 LMP (EVA)
And there’s a door.

04 14 42 01 CDR (EVA)
Yeah. A door.

04 14 42 14 CC
Houston. Please clarify. A structure? A door?

04 14 42 39 LMP (EVA)
The structure is approximately one hundred yards high, constructed of stone. Points at the top, appearing to be eroded slightly at the top, as if by meteoroid ablation. No obvious entryway, no windows, but there’s a door way up, a little more than halfway up the face. I’m turning the TV camera…now.

04 14 43 18 LMP (EVA)
*** get the panorama now. Okay.

04 14 43 33 LMP (EVA)
Did you get it?

04 14 43 50 CC
Holy mother of God.

04 14 43 55 CDR (EVA)
The structure is odd enough, but there’s a big blue door. It looks like it came off a farmhouse. It’s big enough that we could walk through with EVA suits, if we could get in.

04 14 44 45 CC
Neil and Buzz, this is Houston. Is there any way to access this door? Over.

04 14 45 03 CDR (EVA)
Not unless we packed a ladder. It’s up about four times the height of Eagle, maybe five.

04 14 46 36 LMP (EVA)
I’m moving past the vegetation to get a closer look from underneath. Yeah…it’s a door, but it’s not attached to anything. It’s suspended maybe two feet from the structure surface, with no visible means of support.

04 14 47 17 CC
Roger. Out.

04 14 47 18 LMP (EVA)
Houston, I’m going for samples of the vegetation.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/18 Page 398

04 14 47 37 CC
Negative, Buzz. We don’t have any way to transport biological samples.

04 14 47 55 LMP (EVA)
Roger, Houston. Otherwise, I see nothing other than the door. No artifacts, no displaced regolith, no signs of who made it or why. I’m attempting to chip a piece off, and it’s denting the shovel. The structure looks from a distance like sandstone, but on closer observation, it appears to be sintered from what looks like diamond.

04 14 48 04 CDR (EVA)
Houston, what is the status of our consumables?

04 14 48 48 CC
Neil and Buzz, this is Houston. To clarify my last, your consumables are in good shape at this time. Over.

04 14 50 26 LMP (EVA)
Not enough time to go through the door, even if we could reach it?

04 14 50 34 CDR (EVA)
Yes. I think you are right.

04 14 51 29 LMP (EVA)
Houston, what are our options? We can’t enter it, we can’t break in, and the EVA’s running out.

04 14 52 01 CDR (EVA)
Houston, orders?

04 14 52 07 CC
Complete the other objectives. Do not get any biological samples, but look for artifacts or other signs of technology. We’re otherwise keeping the schedule. Over.

04 14 52 20 LMP (EVA)
Roger, Houston. We’re returning to Tranquility.

04 14 52 27 LMP (EVA)
As if we’ll get any sleep next to that thing.

04 14 52 47 CC
Roger.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes bicalcarata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, resin.

Price: $350

Shirt Price: $300

State of the Gallery: March 2020

Well. Skip out on one update in February, and look at what happens. All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi…er, I mean, all of those years of mental preparation for the collapse of human civilization, and here’s what it comes down to. No zombies, no Daleks, no mutants, no dinosaurs, no asteroid impacts, all of the rampaging highway raiders in Mohawks and bondage pants are riding mopeds…there’s a very good reason to stay home until this is all over.

Very seriously, for all of the “Love In the Time of COVID-19” jokes, March just got very interesting around the Triffid Ranch. Being open solely by appointment, social distancing was already enforced before everything went down, and a lot of those appointments may now be run virtually. (Yes, that means finally getting my Skype account up and going.) I was literally in Austin for 15 minutes last weekend when the City of Austin announced that it was shutting down the SXSW art and music festival, and cancellations rapidly spread through Texas, especially after Dallas County set up a ban on gatherings for more than 500 people on March 13. I was last-minute scheduled for a one-night presentation via the Corpsepaint Show at Gas Monkey Live on March 13, so there was that. All-Con was on its second day when Dallas County ordered its shutdown, with all of the vendors having to pack up and go home at about 11:30 Friday morning. Then came the list of events that were being rescheduled because there was no guarantee that COVID-19 would abate by the planned date. The Deep Ellum Art Festival. Fan Expo Dallas. When the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo shuts down, you know people are taking this seriously.

To their eternal credit, the organizers of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo touring shows and Texas Frightmare Weekend have been on the case. Not within an hour of the Dallas County announcement, the Oddities & Curiosities crew were up and rescheduling shows, with the Dallas show moving from March 28 to June 27. Texas Frightmare Weekend is still starting on May 1 until further notice, but Loyd Cryer and his faithful crew were already running contingency plans and reassuring attendees and vendors that if anything changed, they’d know as soon as humanly possible. To their greater credit, both shows understood that a lot of us vendors were going to be hit badly due to the number of March shows shutting down, so they both posted lists of vendors so interested bystanders could buy from them directly until the situation was under control. In the interests of solidarity with cohorts and friends, go check them out and buy mass quantities, or at least let friends know that they’re out here:

Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo vendors

Texas Frightmare Weekend vendors

(Don’t worry about me. Go help them. Seriously.)

With all of this, it’s hard not to bring up my home town’s unofficial motto: “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy, what do you think about Dallas?” All I can say is that while we’re all staying home, with good reason, keep an eye open for interesting updates: since the gallery is reasonably isolated and I have plenty of time that was previously taken up with show preparation, it’s time to write up all of the plant care guides and other ephemera that had been put off for months and sometimes years. At least, that’s the idea. We’ll see how it goes from here. Until then, stay inside, stay safe, and rest assured that if you get a newsletter from me, it’ll include more content than far too many of the ones flooding your email box right now. And so it goes.

UPDATE (3/16/2020): I just got word from Jason at Curious Garden about Saturday’s carnivorous plant workshop, and it’s being rescheduled for a date after all of our current self-quarantine. This news wasn’t unexpected, but it came just as the City of Dallas ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, and gyms within city limits. It’s getting strange out there, folks, so take care.

The Aftermath: Nosferatu Festival 2020 – 2

Nosferatu Festival in Austin had a lot going for it, but one of the best was the screenings on Saturday and Sunday of the classic 1922 film. Modernized soundtracks for silent films aren’t new (after all, it’s been 35 years since the rerelease of Metropolis with a soundtrack highlighted with new music from Freddy Mercury and Bonnie Raitt, among others), but Nosferatu seems to bring out the best from original electronica composers, and attendees of Nosferatu Festival got two live performances for their efforts. After that, the number of people chuckling and pointing back at my booth at the scene showing off carnivorous plants was just gravy.

All said, thanks to everyone involved with Nosferatu Festival, from the venue to the attendees to the interested bystanders, for putting up with me over two days, and I for one would love to see more events like this at Come and Take It Live. The venue has an excellent feel that’s perfect for darker events such as this, and combine that with a very horror-friendly staff, even having a tire blow out on my cart while packing up on Saturday night wasn’t the bummer it could have been. (Said tire ruptured with no warning on my second-to-last load, loudly and explosively enough that I thought I’d been shot at, and much better that it blew out at the end of Sunday night than when I started setting up on Saturday. THIS, kids, is why any vendor at any show should have at least one spare cart, rack, or other contrivance to convey inventory, just so you’re not dependent upon borrowing someone else’s cart that might not exist.) Let’s see what next year brings, shall we?

Fin.

The Aftermath: Nosferatu Festival 2020 – 1

Well, there’s Austin. Despite arriving in town just in time to learn that the famed SXSW Festival was being cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, everyone else involved with this year’s Nosferatu Festival was ready to go, and so was the Triffid Ranch. It shouldn’t be any surprise that a three-day festival dedicated to the first movie vampire would attract people with an appreciation for impending plagues, so even with the rest of Austin crashing around us, we made the best of it. (A little tip: George Romero taught us all that apocalypses are easier to bear if there’s a sufficient supply of barbecue on hand, and I make it a point to stock up at Green Mesquite on Barton Springs every time I’m in town. Considering how late we all got out of the festivities each night, having a nice stockpile waiting for you at the hotel makes being in a strange town a bit better.)

It’s been a while since the last time I set up a booth at Come and Take It Live (some may remember it as the site for the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays shows until it switched venues in 2019), but it’s like riding a bike. The staff and support crew was on the ball, the weather was exemplary, and an enthusiastic crowd waited outside for the 4:00 opening on the two main days. Even with the threat of coronavirus, we were determined.

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

Apologies for a lack of updates this week: expect a whole lot later today, as I had to drop out of one show tonight out of concern for my mother-in-law and several others are rescheduling until after the current COVID-19 concerns have passed. Expect updates later tonight (after all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere soon), and then it’s time to rewatch a movie that was a little more prophetic than we knew when it came out in 2007. (Hey, I was looking forward to having something silly for Friday the 13th, but reality intruded.)

Have a Great Weekend

For the folks south of Dallas: by the time you read this, the TROTS (Triffid Ranch On Tour Secretly) tour to scenic Austin begins, setting up for Nosferatu Festival on Saturday and Sunday nights. If you can make it, I’ll see you there.

Enclosures: “Inverter” (2020)

Let me tell you something about Some Guy.

I first heard about Some Guy nearly 30 years ago. An ER nurse friend was relating her horrendous day when she mentioned the standard discourse. Someone is brought in, or crawls in, or hobbles in, with a horrendous injury, usually one bad enough that the police need to be involved. Without fail, when the obliging officer queries as to what happened, the patient has the same story: “I was at home on my porch minding my own business, when Some Guy came up and shot me/stabbed me/soaked me with pepper spray/shoved a broken bottle up my butt for no reason whatsoever.” Ambulance drivers and EMTs backed her up: during full moons, Some Guy was busy in rich and poor neighborhoods alike, usually in incidents involving alcohol, firearms, and big knives or bigger swords. After an incident involving model rocket engines and Everclear that disrupted his wedding anniversary dinner, one EMT told me that he was putting up posters in his spare time offering a reward for anyone who found Some Guy, and received all sorts of calls giving the whereabouts of Some Guy. The source? “Some Guy.”

It was about that time that I discovered where Some Guy got the money for all of his ammunition and bladed weapons. During the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, friends came to me to tell me aaaaaaaaall about this great investment opportunity, legal stratagem, or career change that was absolutely sure to beat the odds. The investment opportunity might have been a plan to sell action figures of various sports figures remodeled as superheroes, with no actual business plan other than “taking bets as to how much cocaine the CEO could shove up one nostril before a company all-hands meeting,” but it had the potential for a multi-billion-dollar IPO before it all crashed and the stock turned back into pumpkins and mice. When confronted with the sheer inanity of some of these, I was told, over and over, that it had been checked and verified, and backed up by an expert. And who was that expert? You guessed it: Some Guy.

It was hard not to see Some Guy in just about everything if you looked, but he tended to stick to entertainment, business, and real estate, where the ratio of money over brains tended to run in opposite directions. Some Guy had a thing about working on multiple layers. I once worked with The Dumbest Guy In Tech, who proceeded to regale everyone in the office about how he’d heard on the radio about a species of rattlesnake was now colored to blend in with bluebonnet blooms, so anyone wanting to enjoy Texas wildflowers had to watch out for snakebite if they went for the traditional photo poses in bluebonnet fields. When I pointed out that (a) bluebonnets only bloomed for about a month, thereby making the rattlesnakes a blue-purple target for 11 months out of the year, (b) there was no earthly reason why rattlesnake colors would be selected toward blending in with bluebonnets, and (c) rattlesnakes had better things to do than distill venom solely to bite flower tourists on the tuchis, The Dumbest Guy In Tech proceeded to tell everyone “Well, the DJs said they’d verified that it was true.” Knowing perfectly well that the only things a morning terrestrial radio DJ would ever verify are the results of paternity or STD tests, I decided to check on it anyway, and called up the station to learn the name of the government authority or professional herpetologist who described a snake color morph unknown to any reptile authority within the United States, Mexico, and Canada. After hemming and hawing on the air, they finally admitted who had sent them the obviously Photoshopped photo on which they’d based their entire report: “Some Guy.”

At this point, I was wondering if Some Guy was an actual human, or some horrific deity mixing the worst excesses of Loki and Nyarlathotep. Maybe he was a hereditary title, passed on down the centuries by individuals or organizations unknown to challenge and remove the overly credulous. That theory took extra credence when suddenly “Some Guy” switched to “A Lot of People.” Every idiotic idea being given credence in popular culture could be laid at the feet of A Lot of People and their mocking king. Pivoting to video. Texting while driving, especially while driving a stick. Living mermaids and creation science. Tying pension funds to Enron stock values. Government should be run like a business. Giving credence to anything Cory Doctorow had to say about anything. With that realization came the realization that any sufficiently developed incompetence is indistinguishable from conspiracy, and that Some Guy and A Lot of People are just as dumb as the people who parroted them. The difference was that Some Guy had dumb ideas that tickled the brain just enough to make them happen, or attempt to happen.

The finale came, as so many do, with someone who should have known better. One fine day in June, an experimental quantum generator went live, with the idea of using quantum units, or “qubits,” to detect possible dimensions that exist in conjunction with our own. The important aspect was the recent confirmation that contrary to previous assumptions, the human brain wasn’t too warm and too wet to allow quantum effects, and the generator was created to test the possibility of human memory and cognition having a specific quantum component. The researchers behind the whole project were very forthright about what they were attempting, and encouraged responses from the public as to ethics and responsibilities with the experiment results. Based on one particularly enthusiastic comment, once the generator went live, a major new feature was added for the public’s benefit: a second generator that, if it worked correctly, would allow the alternate dimensions to be seen with human eyes, like a polarized lens for afternoon sun. The second generator worked beyond all expectations, including that of its instigator, Some Guy.

What happened next is common record among the survivors. Backing previous research by the psychiatrist Harold Shea and the neurologist Crawford Tillinghast, research that didn’t exist in our reality until the second generator switched on, the second generator didn’t just allow those dimensions to be visible with human sensory organs unsuited to the task. It confirmed that human imagination, the stacking of seemingly unconnected data until they collapsed into a final result, was also a quantum function, and both generators gave that imagination form. Not just one imagination, mind. The effect ranged worldwide, suddenly mapping an infinitude of alternate worlds and scenarios onto the globe and everyone crawling on it. The world’s script was being written by the famed infinite number of monkeys banging away at an infinite number of typewriters, and the generators gave them a good goose and a shot of ketamine and told them that they were writing a miniseries for HBO.

For approximately ten minutes, every imaginary scenario bouncing around in every human’s head got its chance to get up on stage, take a bow, and throw feces at the audience. The whole of the Atlantic was disrupted and displaced as multiple Atlantises attempted to rise and fall at once, much to the consernation of their residents and those living within 1000 kilometers of a coast. Within five minutes, Tokyo was literally smashed flat with kauju and robots falling from the sky. The multiple asteroids, flying saucers, and random plates of spinach ravioli that hit Chicago punched a hole through the Earth’s crust and turned Lake Michigan into the planet’s largest hot tub. Dallas being full of shopping malls that were themselves full of flesh-eating zombies was no longer a metaphor. London witnessed a spectacular battle between Daleks and triffids as the prime minister appeared on television to scream “Hands up: who likes me?” New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, and Moscow and everyone in them simply disappeared, converted into raw churning chaos by all of the possible horrific scenarios. And few talk about the new moon that used to be Lewisville, Texas: that many banjos playing at once knocked the area into orbit.

At about ten minutes in, someone or something had enough presence to turn off both generators, with partial effects. At that point, every scenario stopped, and the ones that required drastic changes to basic laws of physics evaporated. Many of those that could exist in our reality disappeared within seconds, but others were mapped onto our reality, mixed in like a scoop of cigarette butts into birthday cake batter and served with a smile. We got a slew of new neighbors, all of whom remember a drastically different world than the one in which they wake every morning, and some handled it better than others. We’re all working together to get by, mostly to deal with all of the other surprises dumped on us. The worst were the rocket-propelled atomic hamsters. It’s bad enough giving one of the most vile-tempered creatures in our reality ramjets and unlimited atomic fuel, but what sort of sick monster gave them a taste for fresh human bones? It’s a good thing that so many of us woke up with iron-based or silicon-based bones, or else things would have gotten so much worse.

And Some Guy? Not only did he survive, as did most of the Lots of People, but he was stupid enough to advertise that he was still around. This time, though, people started to pay attention to what he was saying, track his comments, and track him. What aided these efforts was the amount of unlikely, implausible, and devastatingly effective hardware and ordnance left behind when what was now called the Quantum Inverter turned off. As Earth was cleaned and sorted, the Lots of People were winnowed and blown away one at a time, with everyone else participating. You have no idea how much you’re loathed until a Jain kicks your head off like Chuck Norris and uses it as a street sign, and some of them gave common cause between the Daleks and the Spectroscope Nuns to take turns.

This is where we are now. Some Guy is truly alone for the first time: he tries spreading his baloney, and it’s picked up and neutralized via the telepathy webs within microseconds. We finally cornered him in the one portion of Antarctica still frozen and undeveloped, after being chased into the wastes by dinosaurs and terror birds on land and anomalocarids by sea. After all this time, I get to lead the assault team to reach him, and we’ve had the better part of three years to collect the absolute cream of destructive hardware left after the Inverter incident to make sure he doesn’t walk out. “Terminate with extreme prejudice” doesn’t begin to describe his fate: anyone comparing him to the Devil would be asked “And how many times did the Prince of Lies knock up your little brother to deserve THAT comparison?”

About five minutes ago, we received a radio message: Some Guy was wanting to negotiate a surrender in an effort to be disintegrated and wiped from this reality with the tiniest bit of dignity, and he was STILL trying to dissemble and confuse. That’s it. He has five teams waiting behind ours to make sure he doesn’t make a break for the ocean, three ribbon drones able to track him based on the random bits of DNA he breathes out, two continents’ worth of missiles, darts, spears, blowgun pellets, cane toad skins, emitters, and disruptors trained on his location, and about five kilos of mother-prime unflavored antimatter waiting to drop on him if he somehow gets past us. It won’t matter, though, because even if the anomalocarids didn’t get one of his feet, we know exactly where he is. We know because Some Guy told us.

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes unknown hybrid (#1 BE-3172)

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.

Price: $250

Shirt Price: $200

The Aftermath: Leap Day 2020 Open House

Even despite its temporal brevity, this was a long February, so holding a gallery open house on February 29, the Day That Stretches, made perfect sense. The weather was wonderful, the company the same, and the gallery was full of people being the first to view a series of new enclosures created just for the weekend. The only problem the whole night involved calendars: every one we could find was defective, and they all switched over from February 29 to March 1 without the intervening February 30. I guess my birthday will show up on next year’s calendar, then.

Because of both a series of shows and the vagaries of the weather, March won’t have an open house, but April will. Check back on April 18 for the Manchester United Flower Show, and maybe by then people and plants alike will be recovered from the switch back to Daylight Savings Time.

Have a Great Weekend

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The Leap Day gallery open house is Saturday. If you wonder how such a thing could be possible, consider that I remember seeing a toy store in downtown Lansing, Michigan with a stack of these in the front window when I was two, and THAT was the moment where the timeline split and all of my other realities involved my becoming a football star and Catholic priest. Selah.

Shoutout for Leap Day

One poster, and everything’s melting down. To everyone who came to this site thanks to the new poster that went out two weeks ago, or who arrived via Glasstire, welcome, and feel free to dig around. If you like what you read, the Leap Day at the Texas Triffid Ranch open house is this coming Saturday, starting at 6:00 pm, and it’s open to the public, the sporting press, and any art critics looking for easy targets. (With the last, I’m dead serious: we’re very fluent in constructive criticism here. So long as the response isn’t huffy demands for freebies followed by bad reviews because the freebies were freely given, known in the Dallas music and film communities as “getting wilonskeyed,” fire away.) And so it goes.

Have a Great Weekend

And for this weekend, a little round from one of the best blues musicians Dallas has ever produced. Not familiar with the one and only Cricket Taylor? Well, that needs to be rectified.

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The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #14

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on January 24, 2020.

Installment #14: “The Best Intentions”

The question keeps coming up with visitors and clients at the gallery. Even with a decor that continues the argument that Doctor Who and The Red Green Show are really the same television show, one items stands out. It’s led to lots of stares, a few quiet questions (where the individual looks up with a quizzical expression but doesn’t actually get anything out), and a few misunderstandings. It’s all involving the same thing, though: “Why is there a poster for the movie Annihilation in your gallery?” 

As I said, it’s a regular question, where those asking it assume that there’s a big artistic explanation, or at least a smirk of “Well, I really liked the movie.” Most Triffid Ranch stories have to go the roundabout way in order to tell the story right, and this one takes a little while. The short version: the 2017 movie Annihilation is based, rather loosely, on the novel by author Jeff VanderMeer, from the first volume in his Southern Reach trilogy. You might recognize the name: Annihilation is the first adaptation of one of his novels so far, but his latest novel Dead Astronauts flooded the book review ecosystem when it came out in December 2019, and that was just a side story on one chapter of his 2017 novel Borne. Those of us who remember the 1990s may remember Jeff as far back as his first novel Dradin, In Love, from his extensive short fiction and nonfiction output over the last 30 years, or from the various fiction collections he and his wife Anne have edited over the last 15 years. Most importantly for this discussion, Jeff VanderMeer is to blame, partly at least, for my getting into carnivorous plants.

Okay, since the short version is inadequate to the task of explaining what’s going on, here’s the long version. Jeff VanderMeer is to blame, partly at least, for my getting into carnivorous plants. Happy?

Okay, backstory. I first encountered the literary dervish that is Jeff VanderMeer about 25 years ago. Due to being laid up after extensive shoulder surgery in 1994, I decided that I could spend my time zoned out on painkillers while watching afternoon television (and in those days, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was the most challenging option out there) or I could take advantage of the opportunity. The next four months alternated between extensive therapy to give a modicum of normal range of motion to my right arm, writing, and learning Web design. With those last two, this was that magical period just before the Internet went really mainstream, in what is generally referred to as the Golden Age of glossy full-color magazines. Lots of magazines meant a need for content that required lots of writers, so I spent the second half of the 1990s polluting the tables of contents for a slew of science fiction and gonzo magazines you’ve probably never heard of. The subsequent collapse of those magazines at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century was mitigated by getting a new career in first Web design and later technical writing, for a slew of companies and online publications you’ve probably never heard of. (If you have, the odds are pretty good that they either still owe you money or they owed someone you know money when they shut down everything and moved out in the middle of the night.) At the beginning of 1995, I had a column for a magazine you’ve probably never heard of, where I was having grand fun beating on some of the more established and pompous gatekeepers in the science fiction community: I wasn’t making any money, but I was infuriating the right people. That’s when I started a regular correspondence with a certain somebody from Tallahassee, Florida. 

To say that this was an easy friendship would be a blatant lie. Both Jeff and I were opinionated, fervent, enthusiastic, and more than a little hyperactive: the difference between us lay with his having talent. I nonetheless attempted to keep up, but kept forgetting that what I thought was idle frippery could be intensely annoying to others. At one point, Jeff blew up on a throwaway piece I wrote for an email newsletter you’ve probably never heard of, and told me “Why don’t you start writing about gardening?” Others would have escalated the conflict, or at least told him exactly what impossible sexual act he could attempt, with accompanying photographs, diagrams, and helpful videos. I thought about it, made a few “Hmmmmm” noises, and did just that. Hang onto this, because this is important.

All of this was fun and games until the beginning of 2002. That was a particularly bad year all the way around, especially for someone with a severe writing habit that was subsidized with 60-hour weeks indulging in technical writing forays. The dotcom crash went into its third year, and a lot of endeavors subsidized with techie money turned back into pumpkins and mice. The non-technical writing career ended in May 2002, after arguing with yet another wannabe editor of yet another stillborn culture magazine about how “exposure doesn’t pay the bills, especially from a magazine that most likely will come out when the Dallas Cowboys win a shutout World Series pennant.” Sometimes, you can be TOO right: after seeing a pattern of publications promising to pay “when we’re successful” and then making damn sure that they never became successful enough to pay their contributors, I shut down everything and walked away. 18 years later, and I still don’t regret that decision.

Here’s where Jeff came back again. Four months later, I received a phone call from a company in Tallahassee, Florida that needed a technical writer. That sort of thing happened a lot, mostly with technical recruiters pretending that they were working by wasting their victims’ time with jobs that didn’t really exist, but these folks were serious. Even better, they were willing to pay for a face-to-face interview. Three days later, I was on a Delta flight, with a seatmate stopping in Tallahassee on his way to Miami, telling me “Don’t waste your time in the Panhandle: the real action is in the South.” I wasn’t going to give him any grief: Florida was one of the few states in the Estados Unidos that I’d never so much as flown over, and everything I knew about the Florida Panhandle came from Golden Nature Guides from the 1960s. I wasn’t expecting alligators on everyone’s front porch, but I at least expected to see tree frogs.

The punchline: after the first phone call, since I knew absolutely nothing about Tallahassee, I emailed the one person I knew who did: a guy who was still trying to convince me to return to writing. Jeff had lived most of his life in Tallahassee, and he told me to go for it. 

Fast-forward two weeks: not only did I get the job, but they were even willing to pay for me to move there, so that meant loading up my old Dodge Neon with everything I thought I’d need for the next few months, leaving my frantic fiancé in Dallas, and making a straight drive along Interstate Highway I-10 to Tally. After getting set up in a residence hotel just off the highway and visiting my new workplace, it was time to explore the new environs, and I found myself on a Friday afternoon in the Tallahassee Museum. The Museum is less a formal museum than a wildlife preserve and recreation of the general environment facing early European settlers in the area, which meant lots of forest, lots of bog, lots of animals ranging from Florida panthers to indigo snakes, and the widest range of flora I’d ever seen. And there, up in the front by the main visitor center, was a planter full of Sarracenia purpurea, more commonly known as the purple pitcher plant. And that, as they say, was that. Discovering later that the boglands around and in Appalachicola National Forest have the widest variety by genera of carnivorous plants of any area on the planet was just gravy.

Well, time elapsed. The company that hired me was climbing out of bankruptcy after the dotcom crash, and three months after moving out there, I discovered that the big software package I was hired to document wasn’t going to happen and that my services were no longer needed, This was about three days before Christmas and six days before my fiancé and I were to be married, and literally an hour after purchasing non-refundable plane tickets to get back to Dallas for that wedding, which meant having to fly to Dallas for holidays and wedding, flying back to Tallahassee on New Year’s Day, cleaning out my rented room and saying goodbye to my roommate, and driving back to Dallas. (A little tip: don’t try that as a straight trip if you feel the need: the first 11 hours aren’t that bad, but the last four are where sleep deprivation starts to kick in. I’m just glad I didn’t encounter any significant road construction.) One of the last things I did before leaving Tallahassee, though, was visiting the Tallahassee Museum one last time and ransacking the gift shop’s selection of carnivorous plant books.

17 years later, those books are part of the library at the gallery. The fascination with carnivores never let up, ultimately leading to giving lectures on carnivores, then selling them at shows and conventions, and ultimately to the gallery. And behind this all was the cherished friendship of Jeff VanderMeer, who never gave me any grief in Tallahassee about needing time to recuperate and heal. In return, I do nothing but cheer over news about new books and upcoming television deals. A hardcover copy of Dead Astronauts sits on display in the gallery as I write this, and the Annihilation poster will only get replaced in its current place of honor when the next movie adaptation comes out.  That said, it’s still so much fun to send him pictures of the crowd at a gallery open house, wag my finger, and yell “Dude, this is YOUR FAULT!”

And if you think this was an odd story, just wait until I tell you about Ernest Hogan. Ernest REALLY has a lot to live down after having to deal with me for the last 30 years.

Other News

​It took long enough, but the Triffid Ranch presence on Facebook is now as dead as cathode-ray tube monitors, and it was for a lot of reasons. The biggest and foremost was needing to focus on the gallery, but recent developments with Facebook’s algorithms as to which posts would and would not be shared with Page subscribers, as well as how much getting them boosted was going to cost, made being on that platform intolerable. Instagram and Twitter are both still destinations, but getting off Facebook was a plan for the better part of a year, and the current gallery efforts just expedited that. (And yes, this is a shameless plug for subscribing to this newsletter, early and often.)

Recommended Reading

You may have missed it during its original release, but a lot of Triffid Ranch inspiration these days comes from a rereading of Raven Rock by Garrett M. Graffiti, a look at efforts after World War II to build and rebuild facilities for government officials to survive a major nuclear attack. Examining facilities never used but still technically active is a long-running fascination, and you don’t get stranger than a lot of military and government plans that were sidelined as peace broke out.

Music

Finally, a combination of long hours and seeking new vistas at the gallery means needing a lot of new music, and the current work background music comes from the German electronic band Blutangel. When you need music for future archaeology, you can’t go wrong with this crew.

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 4

The spring 2020 NARBC Arlington reptile show is over, but the application for the September 2020 show just went out. Expect a much wider range of plants in September, as the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were still in winter dormancy in February, and expect a whole new range of enclosures as well. Thanks to everyone who came by the booth this time, and I look forward to seeing all of you in seven months.

Fin.

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 3

Astute readers might notice that the enclosures at the gallery and at shows through 2020 so far have nameplates with both basic information on the enclosure and a QR code. Triffid Ranch displays already started phasing out individual business cards as of last year and using QR codes for the main Web site, with overwhelmingly enthusiastic results. The QR codes on the nameplates was based on extensive study of museum display design: the overwhelming number of smartphones today read the QR code with the camera and ask “Would you like to go to (Web site)?” as soon as it’s detected. Among many other things, the individual nameplates are for those who want to take a further look when the booth is overcrowded: take a quick shot and read the enclosure listing at your leisure.

The biggest surprise upon implementing QR codes was with younger attendees: they know about the codes, but overwhelmingly they only see it used for advertising, and advertising for products where they have absolutely no interest, in an attempt to be “edgy”. When they discover someone who uses QR codes that actually impart information, instead of trying to get their email addresses in exchange for a discount coupon, they practically squeal with joy. When I get back to technical writing, this is going to be part of an ongoing discussion on usability that needs to be elaborated further. As Vincent Flanders has been noting for the last two decades, people are willing to use new technology if it actually does something for them, and not because some marketing rep is looking to pad his/her resume with yet more buzzwords. Suffice to say, expect the Triffid Ranch to expand in their use, particularly with more elaborate plant care guides in the near future.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 2

One of the best things about attending the NARBC Arlington reptile show for the last decade is watching the evolution of the venue and the attendees. While Texas had excellent reptile shows on its own in the past, the real conversations involved big shows on either coast of the US, and we were left on the sidelines. The last time I was a vendor at NARBC, back in 2013, one of the regular questions asked by attendees was “Are you going to be at (big East Coast show)?” This time, all focus was on Arlington, with a remarkable number of attendees coming in from outside the state, and some coming from outside the US.

(This leads to an apology in advance: this show and Texas Frightmare Weekend are the two Triffid Ranch shows with a significant number of attemdees who fly in from elsewhere, so a lot of patrons point to a bottle or jar and ask “Could I take this on the plane?” That’s a question I honestly cannot answer, because it depends upon the airline, the baggage handler, and whether or not the TCA rep inspecting your carry-on luggage has issues with you having a flask full of sundews among your lacy unmentionables. The best thing I can recommend is to check two sources before flying out to an event like this: the first is to check with the airline in advance as to its policies about glassware in carry-ons, and GET IT IN WRITING in case someone has an issue during boarding. The second is to check with the state or country to which you will be returning about any necessary inspections or permits needed to bring live plants back home: the last thing any of us want is for you to have your new plant confiscated and/or destroyed because of a regulation or ordinance of which you were unaware.)

This in itself led to interesting conversations with regulars from the NARBC Tinley Park show in Illinois, many of whom hoped that the Triffid Ranch might go transcontinental. Sadly, as much as I would love to attend any show in the Chicago area (I haven’t been in Chicago in 40 years, and a lot of online friends have been nuhdzing about making a trip north for a while), the thought of a trip of that duration depends upon how well the New Orleans Oddities & Curiosities Expo show goes this August. If New Orleans works out, well, it’s high time to head up to Chicago.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: NARBC Arlington Spring 2020 – 1

It’s been a while since the last time a Triffid Ranch booth appeared at the North American Reptile Breeders Conference show in Arlington: it wasn’t for a lack of interest, but a lack of opportunity. This year, though, it was time to return, both to a new date (the first time since moving to the new gallery space that it was practical or sane to attempt a February show) and to an extensively expanded space at the Arlington Convention Center. Taking over the adjoining hall meant both room for new vendors and much wider aisles between rows than in previous years, both of which were greatly appreciated by new and returning attendees. This meant the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at an NARBC event, and the crowds kept coming all day Saturday and to the close of business on Sunday. Reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, enclosures and accessories: NARBC had it all, and now it included carnivorous plants.

To be continued…