Monthly Archives: March 2021

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 2

Want to know how this started? Here’s the beginning.

Friends from outside North Texas are always surprised to discover that Dallas has a very deep and very thorough gonzo streak. “You’re talking about Austin, right?”, some ask. Others, whose sole experience with Dallas comes from the 1980s sitcom of the same name (and trust me, that show was a sitcom), scoff “Dallas is a cultural wasteland!” While Dallas can take credit for being the home of so many forms of cultural homogenization (I once lived a literal rock’s throw from the headquarters of Brinker, the restaurant conglomerate behind Chili’s), it’s not all McMansions, bad bleach jobs, and worse cocaine. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life either lived in Dallas or came from Dallas, and that was partly due to understanding the phrase attributed to the writer Richard Wright of “Put down your bucket where you are.”

The simple truth is that Dallas’s odd history was always either wallpapered or coopted by proud gatekeepers, so we learned to keep our candles under a bushel basket. Until very recently, VERY recently, any news coverage, either paper or broadcast, on nonconformist events was either spiked or shoved into a template of “Hey, look at the freaks!” The co-option was deadlier: get an enclave of like-minded Nightbreed situated in town, and first the area was swamped by drunken SMU brats wanting a nice slumming session on the weekend, and then the properties were bought up and gentrified all out of recognition. We didn’t have the money or the clout to fight it, so we just always kept at least one bag packed at all times in preparation for the notice that we’d have 30 days to move out before that great record shop or that wonderful band venue was razed and turned into fratbro condos.

And here’s the funny part. As opposed to Austin and Portland, whose reputations as iconoclast havens were dependent upon a constant inflow of people declaring just a little too loudly “I’m expressing my individuality,” Dallas oddballs just waited. We didn’t get a flood of hipsters and attention addicts because the people they were trying to impress didn’t care, and they rapidly flounced off to Brooklyn or Seattle. Instead, Dallas attracted and retained a crowd that wanted to get things done instead of talking endlessly about what they were going to do one of these days when the stars were right and they no longer had to wait for their inheritance. Bit by bit, so many people who really liked the good things about Dallas worked on little bits and chunks, to where we have places like the Kessler and the Texas Theater and Panoptikon and the Oak Cliff Halloween Parade and bike paths that actually go somewhere. Dallas isn’t perfect, but as someone who will celebrate a full 40 years here in December, it’s not the place in which I grew up, and we all salute the places and events that were wilonskyed and then assimilated to death back in the day that helped make this happen.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows in Dallas might have done as well as they are now if they’d started in 1995, or 1985. However, now we have a large enough crowd willing to put our bucket down where we are that its success is so much sweeter.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – 1

Want to know where this started? Here’s the beginning.

The traveling Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are relative newcomers to Texas: the first Dallas show was only in 2019, and the only other city in the state served by the Expos is Austin. Otherwise, they range all across the United States, spread out far enough that attendees aren’t overwhelmed by too many shows close by. The vendors all spread through the outré, from bone collectors to taxidermy restorers to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and each show is carefully curated (a term horribly abused over the last decade but completely appropriate here) to maximize the variety of vendors. At each Expo, attendees have the options of curios, natural history, horror and fantastic art, and exotic clothing, and two shows so far have one goofball carrying carnivorous plants.

Another aspect of why the Expos are so successful has to do with thoughtful and succinct advertising and promotion. Instead of blanketbombing an area with advertising that probably won’t reach the people most likely to attend and annoy the people least likely, the Expos work predominantly with word-of-mouth, augmented but not replaced by social media. One of the more charming aspects of its touring schedule is running new shows within a reasonable distance of a previous show, a few months later, so that those who missed one have the option of waiting a year or making a road trip. The upshot for Dallas vendors is that about a third of the attendees had been waiting since 2019 to come out again, a third were from outside the Dallas area but who wanted to see what was in Dallas that wouldn’t be in their local area, and a third would have come out no matter what.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2021 – Introduction

As of April, the Texas Triffid Ranch has been showing up to events and shows throughout the Dallas area and elsewhere for 13 years. Not all of those shows have been great ones: remind me to tell you the “Friends of Fair Park” stories one of these days. However, after 13 years, it’s easy to list the ones where sales may not have been the greatest, but the crew and attendees were so much fun to be around that sales didn’t matter that much. It’s easy to list the blowouts, and the shows where the van was nearly empty going back home, and the shows where you made friends that will be with you for the rest of your life. Out of all of those, the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows are one of the most exhausting. This isn’t a bad thing.

As with almost every other Triffid Ranch show of 2020, last year’s Oddities & Curiosities Expo was rescheduled and then re-rescheduled, but the O&C crew figured that the drop in COVID-19 cases in Dallas County in the last few months made a cautious opening worthwhile. For the most part, attendees reciprocated (although some responded to “Sir, I have to ask you to pull up your mask” or “please put on a mask” as if asked “Sir, all patrons are required to put on a corset”), and a grand time was had by all.

As for the Triffid Ranch, having an event at the end of March is problematic only because so many famous carnivorous plants are just starting to emerge from their winter dormancy. Last February’s weeklong deep-freeze exacerbated that dormancy: Venus flytraps and threadleaf sundews are just starting to wake up, and Sarracenia pitcher plants that normally would be opening blooms by the end of March are only now starting to extend bloom spikes, and most will probably still have fresh blooms by the beginning of May. This mattered not a bit to the Oddities & Curiosities crowd: they were just glad to be able to see carnivorous plants up close and personal.

To be continued…

Have a Safe Weekend

Well, back to the linen mines: this weekend’s Triffid Ranch appearance is at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Fair Park, making up for last year’s cancellation. Considering how much of a joy it is to be at an Oddities & Curiosities show (look for the Triffid Ranch booth in Austin in June, too), I don’t know who’s going to be more thrilled to be there: the vendors or the attendees.

The State of the Gallery: March 2021

Enthusiasts of old arcade games may remember the short lifespan of virtual-reality shooter games in the early 1990s. The most common was a contraption where each player stood atop a small platform, wearing a helmet and a chest rig with an attached gun and movement switch. When the game started, the idea was to shoot your opponent: the gun allowed five shots before it attracted a five-polygon “pterodactyl” that was declared to be immune to gunfire. The movement switch was a rocker switch that moved you back and forth, and you physically turned to go another direction. These never really took off due to the limitations of image rendering software and hardware at the time: even slight head movements had a delay between the movement and when the video screens in each helmet replicated it, leading to overcompensation to get a response and a horrible “here we GOOOO!” sensation that scared to death anybody ever afflicted with labyrinthitis or inner ear infections. It was possible to beat this and learn to move at a minimum, but that required both an exceptional level of patience to wait in line for another chance and an exceptional wallet, and most people tried it once, went back to Tetris, and forgot all about it.

For some reason, this sums up the month of March in most years. After all, remember the famed gallery move of 2017?

This year, March started hot and just kept going, and we’re going to keep up the momentum through the rest of the year. 2020 allowed a great opportunity to organize space and time for maximum efficiency in shows and events, so they’re going to happen a lot more often this year. In addition, as existing shows keep rescheduling and venues start to reopen, the events calendar keeps changing.

One of the things that’s changing is an emphasis on events at the actual gallery, starting in April. Between booth fees, truck rentals, and accommodations costs for out-of-Dallas shows, as well as an ever-increasing percentage of show attendees refusing to wear masks, and having more events but at the gallery makes more sense. In addition, the weather for the next two months should be so wonderful, as it usually is, that holding events outdoors makes perfect sense. Right now, the plan is to keep up the regular Sunday 10am-to-4pm schedule because that seems to work for so many folks, and when things get too hot to consider having events outdoors, we’ll just move inside. We might spice this up during holiday weekends, particularly Memorial Day and Labor Day, but expect only the occasional break in the schedule for other events. For April, though, make plans for April 11 and April 25, the latter of which should be a perfect time for the next Manchester United Flower Show.

With the reopening of businesses and venues throughout the greater Dallas area, it’s also time to shake things up and clear out some room needed for new enclosures. For those business owners and office managers wanting a really good excuse to get a Triffid Ranch enclosure but not ready to rent, keep an eye open for an upcoming contest to win a free Triffid Ranch enclosure for your venue, no strings attached. (Well, some strings: people would probably love to see it in its new location.) 2020 was an especially busy year for new enclosures, so it’s definitely time to find new homes: if you’ve had a crush on a specific enclosure but haven’t quite planned to make a commitment, make plans now.

In the meantime, the spring shows continue. March 27 is the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; the next weekend, April 3, it’s time to head out to Justin for the Frightmare Collectibles Spring Slasher Camp outdoor event, running from 11am to 9pm. Naturally, this means lots and lots of time in the gallery in the interim, and for these two, it’ll always be worth it.

And one last thing. For the last several years, the technology side of the Triffid Ranch has been a little, erm, lacking, mostly due to a comparable lack of resources. The Twitch streams particularly suffered: contrary to the official company line, the Twitch app for iPads is great for receiving (the Friday night events by Dallas’s own Panoptikon are proof of this) but terrible for broadcast, causing things to freeze midstream and resetting only possible with a complete hard reboot. This has changed, with both the first new computer for Triffid Ranch work since 2011 (hey, it got the job done) and equipment to facilitate streaming events. Because of that, expect a lot more virtual events, all the way around. Those continue every Thursday at 8:00 pm Central Time, with the videos being available for later viewing at any time. Now time to get back to the linen mines.

The Aftermath: The Boho Market, March 2021 at Klyde Warren Park

As a general rule in North Texas, if you’ve reached March 17, you’ve survived winter. That’s not in a literal understanding of the vernal equinox, of course: Texas weather can be so variable and so randomly violent that we still stand a chance of seeing ice and snow storms all the way to the first official day of spring, and very occasionally past that. For any purveyor of carnivorous plants, this is more than a philosophical discussion: two days of subfreezing weather right at the end of winter can delay temperate carnivores’ emergence from winter dormancy by as much as a month. By St. Patrick’s Day, though, it’s reasonable to settle down, take a big breath, and exhale for the next hour, knowing that no matter how bad the upcoming summer may be, we probably aren’t seeing significantly cold weather (best defined as “all non-hail water that hurts when it hits you in the face”) in the calendar year until at least the end of November.

As another general rule, the time between Oppressive Cold and Oppressive Heat in North Texas runs short, so every spring and fall is a microcosm of the Ray Bradbury short story “Frost & Fire,” and we tend to spend both seasons as if we only live for eight days. The last year of lockdown concentrated this drive to get out, and thus we open the curtain on the Boho Market traveling arts show at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas.

As the opening of the 2021 Triffid Ranch show season, this definitely had its moments. The weather was absolutely stunning, even for the middle of March, with a light breeze instead of the usual blasting south wind. Even better, it kept up from dawn until the end of the show in mid-afternoon. If weather like this is a constant through April and May, this is going to be a spectacular show season.

From here on in, the weekends get lively: the next Triffid Ranch event is at the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Fair Park on March 27, running from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.(Get your tickets online right now: the Expo will NOT have any tickets available the day of the show for health reasons.) The Saturday after that is the big Spring Slasher Camp outdoor show at Frightmare Collectibles in Justin, running from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, and then we start the 2021 Triffid Ranch Porch Sales on Sunday, April 11. Whatever else happens around here, it definitely won’t be dull.

Have a Safe Weekend

With outdoor markets starting to open up again, the Triffid Ranch follows. This Saturday, it’s the Boho Market at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm: March 2021 is going to be BUSY.

Enclosures: “The Last Fallen” (2021)

For far too many species in the universe, a cessation of hostilities usually entails the construction of monuments both to the fallen and to the victors, occasionally to the losers if revisionist history is a concept to the creators. Only on the world Solace, one of the hardest-hit of the locations for the famed Morph War, does one see a monument to the fallen that features the individual responsible for ending the war, forever, as well as the instigator of the peace.

The Morph War was less a traditional war than a quantum wave of destruction. For especially arcane reasons, eight worlds comprising the economic collectives the Shimmer Haven and Orange/Bell/Twitch cut off all commerce between each other, and when other collectives in the vicinity kept up trade with their antagonists, declared hostilities against them as well. Instead of training, supplying, and shipping troops to worlds where local atmosphere, gravity, or lifeforms made deployment dangerous or impossible, the Morph War was the first major conflict where soldiers were designed for specific conditions, matter-printed on location, and implanted with tactical and functional knowledge on site. Instead of months of training after years of formal education to produce a single soldier, thousands or even millions could be created from a single template, organized within minutes, and given orders from one central location. Better, the templates and cerebromemes could be edited as necessary as the war continued, removing weaknesses that the enemy could exploit before the enemy even realized they existed. Perfect soldiers rolled out of matter printers on 200 worlds, on neutral constructs, and anywhere else a sufficiently robust matter printer could be installed and protected from attack. Those 200 worlds rapidly became overrun with vast armies, causing new fronts to open on a daily basis further and further out, until the whole of the home galaxy had at least one pitched battle somewhere on or within it. In addition to standard soldiers, spies and agents could be printed and imprinted with the same ease, also changing them into whatever form was needed for their function and allowing them to report enemy communications and movements. The Morph War was many things, and a completely remote war was one of them.

The end of the Morph War came from within: transcription errors affected both hardware and software, and the future diplomat S-Yon Mye had plenty. K/His template was originally for an observation and subterfuge model, but k/he came off the printer with only one eye instead of the expected three, so the new print was was to assist with collecting data on conflicts on k/his station and forward them back to administrators with the Shimmer Haven. K/He was correspondingly upgraded with new cerebromemes outlining the whole war and the reasons for it starting, including direct feedback from Shimmer Haven leaders if the supplied memes didn’t contain enough information to make an informed analysis. Unbeknownst to those administrators, but S-Yon Mye had slightly corrupted files for knowledge as well as form, and having access to real-time data from the home organization meant that k/he could absorb new information at an unforseeable rate. Analyzing battle data opened a hitherto impossible question: could the whole war be ended, permanently, with no more loss of life, thereby achieving the best possible option to existing and future operations?

S-Yon Mye discovered something else. While preparing incoming enemy visual and technopath communications for forwarding, k/he detected a separate fragmentary message on a distinctive subchannel. Deciphering took days and confirmation that this was not a countersubterfuge trap took more days, but k/he discovered a similar misprint working in a roughly similar role behind Orange/Bell/Twitch lines. Both had a time crunch: new universal cerebromeme downloads were scheduled for both sides soon, intended as an effort to keep up compliance with current orders, and thereby wiping out any stray bits of independence, disobedience, or noncompliance that might have cropped up. After establishing more secure lines of communication, they came up with a radical and frantic plan: the War had to end. The War had to end simultaneously across millions of fronts. Most importantly, the War couldn’t be allowed to start up again, either deliberately or because the soldiers already printed refused to end “on the verge of victory.”

The efforts by S-Yon Mye to shut down automatic cerebromeme updates has been written about elsewhere, but the complete countermessage still has force: “Stop all conflicts. Acknowledge opponents as their own entities. Stop all measures, peacefully if at all possible, to counteract this.” “Love thy neighbor as thyself” had invented itself over and over across the cosmos, but never was it implanted right into the core of what could be called a morality bomb, and the shrapnel affects that galaxy to this day. Simultaneously, all forces dropped weapons and tools, waved or its equivalent to former deadly enemies, and waited for updates. The last casualty of the Morph War was a member of the heavy infantry on Solace, Plugger Vanguard slogging through a riverbed turned swamp to take on a weapons emplacement, who was already targeted for a projectile guaranteed to puncture n/he’s intrinsic armor when the order came through. The leadership of both the Shimmer Haven and Orange/Bell/Twitch followed soon: they didn’t take a cessation of hostilities very well, and attempts to stop them from reverting that morality bomb ended about as well as expected.

In the years in which Morph War soldiers built new lives in lieu of fighting, the soldiers and any remaining indigenous civilians agreed on one thing: this could not happen again. This led to contemplation memorials being built across the galaxy, reprising the cerebromeme and reminding all that they were once nothing but killing constructs, but were no so much more. Years after S-Yon Mye finally wore out and dissolved, Morph War veterans planned to continue the memory with crystal corundum statues of k/he and k/he’s counterpart WwWwWy9, but with one proviso: Plugger Vanguard had to be remembered as well, as a reminder that when wars end, someone has to be the last to fall.

Today, the planet of Solace is home to approximately 2 billion sentients, all printed from new templates. Every once in a while, someone from outside the galaxy attempts to foment war, either by threatening to conquer or by attempting to stoke civil divisions. These don’t end very well for the instigators, and their ashes or fragments are always buried beneath the nearest memorial to Plugger Vanguard, as a constant reminder. Those make excellent compost for future-printed generations.

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

Plant: Nepenthes ampullaria

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

Price: $250

Shirt Price: $200

Enclosures: “Tomb of White Plume Peaks” (2021)

(This backstory is dedicated to Saladin Ahmed.)

Throughout the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, the development and expansion of popular acceptance of role-playing games of all sorts was paralleled by a similar expansion in live-action role-playing games (LARPs). Ironically, the expansion of augmented reality applications created a whole subgenre of LARPs in which everything was as real, considering the circumstances, as possible. Live weapons, live and exceedingly dangerous traps, CRISPR-modified animals and plants as monsters…the rise of DARPs (Deadly Action RPGs) rapidly ran into such vague guidelines as international law, causing adherents of extreme gaming to hire lobbyists, set up locales and campaigns in areas without legal jurisdiction, or both.

The most extreme example got its start when Gordon Davidson, the creator of the Subdermal Pizza international gaming empire, was diagnosed with an untreatable brain tumor in 2087. Having approximately nine months to live, he rose to the challenge of the old adage “You can’t take it with you” by designing his final monument: both a repository of his mortal remains and the ultimate DARP death chamber. Taking inspiration from a famed adventure in the earliest days of role-playing games, what was later named “the Tomb of White Plume Peaks” worked on a simple principle: tombs are intended to preserve wealth and prestige long after its inhabitant ceased caring, so a good tomb was one that dissuaded tomb robbers by any means necessary. If the robbers succeeded anyway, good for them. The multiple mystical weapons hidden within and the robotic minions constantly patrolling the tomb ground were just gravy.

Constructed on a mountain face in Baja California, the Tomb was a testament to how much technology could advance with sufficient financing of research and development, as well as how much further that technology could advance when its designers were told “make it HURT.” Approximately half of Davidson’s approximately $25 billion in net worth went into its actual construction, with a comparable amount going into stocking it with appropriate challenges and a foundation dedicated to maintaining and upgrading them. In addition, Davidson’s PR team rarely missed a chance to note that the Tomb contained at least $100 million in gold, added to a collection of carefully fabricated artifacts and treasures to be found inside. By the time Davidson died, he personally died completely bereft, but his memorial was almost literally dripping with wealth.

Anyone attempting to enter the Tomb started on the same general footing. All modern technology had to be given up, and all participants were supplied with clothing, weapons, and equipment from a supply depot (carefully constructed to resemble a general store, complete with AI storekeeper and weaponskeeper). Only when properly attired and equipped could they walk out to the Tomb’s front gate, which would part enough to let them through before closing behind them. At that point, they were cut off from the rest of the world, and any information about the Tomb was only available to the outside world if they lived long enough to return. All anyone could tell from the outside was that the Tomb was incredibly resistant to technological cheats: drones’ radio signals were jammed and countercontrolled, attempts to drill into the Tomb from other spots on the mountain were countered by robotic sentries (and those sentries self-destructed to nearly Em-See-Squared effect if “live” captured for study), and attempts at mapping via muon detectors only revealed that the Tomb was loaded with metal, particularly gold. To learn anything more, someone had to go inside, possibly to die right after the gate closed. The crudely painted “BEWARE STOBOR” on the walls alongside the gate was added a decade after Davidson’s death, partly as an especially obscure joke and as a last legacy to someone who went in solo.

In 30 years, only one group entered and returned with any information from within. That group, the traveling LARP troupe The Absolute Mendacities, returned with only two members, both of whom were critically injured when they emerged. When he awoke in a hospital’s ICU two weeks later, Mendacities leader Robert Michner related that the Tomb was even more of a challenge than he’d realized. Among recollections of traps and puzzles that one reporter described as “Ditch Day at Caltech with plutonium,” he and his girlfriend Darlene Birdsong gave important details about the internal layout of the Tomb, culminating with a battle in the main mausoleum with the nano-reanimated corpse of Davidson that cost Michner his left arm, but left Birdsong with Davidson’s famed DARP graphene sword “Brainscratcher” as a well-earned trophy.

That was the last major expedition to the Tomb: shortly after, the worldwide price of gold crashed and never recovered, and Michner’s recollections related a vital bit of news about the $100 million in gold inside. The gold was there, but in leaf and veneer on walls, ceiling, floor, and most of the items therein, often painted over, and impossible to collect without the sort of methodical scraping precluded by the Tomb’s various sentries. Acknowledging the effort necessary compared to the return, those DARPers dedicated to treasurehunting left the Tomb alone, leaving those seeking extreme thrills available nowhere else. Out of those, none have returned, but they probably died happy.

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

Plant: Nepenthes “Miranda”

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

Price: $250

Shirt Price: $200

Enclosures: “Biovocation” (2021)

The Trota system is already full of wonder and danger: its primaries are two very small red dwarf stars locked in an orbit of less than 1 AU, and tidal stresses on each other trigger intense ultraviolet flares that blast the rest of the system. Even with, or because of, that cosmic contact juggling act, the six worlds orbiting that circus attraction have remarkably stable orbits, at a healthy distance from their dueling parents, with one of those worlds supporting and encouraging indigenous life. The other five have their own mysteries, but Trota 2 is the main reason for citizens of the Weave to visit the system, even if most leave shaking their heads or comparable appendages.

Trota 2 would be an exquisite world for commerce and recreation: at roughly twice the size of most of the rocky planets of the Weave, it was first assumed in initial remote presence surveys to be an example of a Big Planet, with a near-standard gravity due to a relative lack of metals in its crust and core. The survey AIs coming in closer discovered that Trota 2 had much more than the typical share of metals ranging from iron to uranium in its core, with an average gravity of approximately 5 standard pulls. Because of that massive spinning dense core, Trota 2 also had a magnetic field on a par with many gas giants, and the core also powered a plate tectonic conveyor across the planet never seen with any other rocky world. Plate tectonics meant extensive vulcanism, and vulcanism meant a high enough level of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere to give enough of a greenhouse effect to give temperatures conducive to carbon/water life at its extreme distance from its primaries. The large amounts of carbon and water on the planet’s surface was even more conducive to life, and Trota 2’s oceans and surfaces were just rolling in it. On the surface, literally rolling: the severe gravity encouraged animal and plant analogues resembling water-filled mattresses, stretching and tumbling, slowly moving as much to feed and reproduce as to avoid pressure necrosis.

Trota 2 also boasted two indigenous intelligent forms, both with sufficient civilization and technology to make them valuable members of the Weave. They couldn’t leave their world because their structures failed spectacularly in either the additional pressure of acceleration or in an absence of gravity, and their preferred conditions were at worse fatal and at best debilitating for most species, so very healthy trade and commerce was conducted through remote presence. Weave visitors allowed the local species to explore areas of the planet too dangerous for them to stay, particularly those with excessive amounts of radioactives-bearing lava, and 20 standard years after the initial system survey (6 years by local chronology), explorers came across a mystery that shook the whole of the ten galaxies comprising the Weave.

Considering the wealth of otherwise rare and industrially interesting minerals on Trota 2, particularly near its south pole, the fact that visitors had arrived at the planet before the Weave arrived was no surprise, and that they used remote presence themselves. That the visitors used remote presence robots for exploration and mining also elicited no metaphorical eyebrow-raising, or that they had built a series of robot maintenance and shelter stations across the whole of the world, or that the last station had apparently been constructed about 5 million years before the evolution of the current intelligent species. It wasn’t even a shock that the leftover constructs were highly sophisticated, with many features that later became standard for Weave remotes. The surprise was that although the remotes and their support system, later traced to a mostly-destroyed orbital station on the outer edges of the system, suggested a civilization with a major presence across its home galaxy, nothing about the sites, from hardware to traces of genome material or its analogues, corresponded with that of any species either currently within the Weave or archived archaeological evidence.

The mystery deepened about 200 standard years later, when a separate remote survey encountered an infant civilization in a galaxy abutting Weave space. That civilization had barely developed orbital space travel, but the species’s form matched the Trota 2 remotes, genome comparisons showed that this new species shared both genome structure and transmissions with the remote builders. Even the labeling on the remotes’ support bays had connections to several of the new species’s main languages, but with odd conjunctions and transpositions that would have been gibberish if presented as such. The biggest problem was with time: this civilization was only thousands of years old, with no evidence whatsoever of the technology to construct or operate the remotes, travel to the Trota system, or deal with Trota 2’s environmental conditions. Worse, they showed no sign of previous civilizations that could have done so, so the question remains: how would a species only recently able to build and maintain orbital habitats around its own planet be able to travel across at least a 10 million light-year distance and install extremely advanced remotes on Trota 2, 5 million years before it became a distinct species, and then leave no intervening trace whatsoever, either in space or in time?

As Weave explorations of Trota 2 continue, so do the questions. One of the biggest involves the effort by the remote builders to leave the remotes ready and fully functional, even if the actual interface is inaccessible at this time. At what point do the builders return to Trota 2 to continue their work?

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12″ x 18″ x 12″ (30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x 30.48 cm)

Plant: Pinguicula gigantea

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, ABS filament, found items.

Price: $150

Shirt Price: $125

The Aftermath: March 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour

If any one good thing came out of the kidney stone of a year that was 2020, it’s discovering that that increasing the number of Triffid Ranch events in a month doesn’t “dilute the brand” or similar MBAspeak. If anything, the sheer enthusiasm of new visitors to being able to come in and roll around in the plants for a while was intoxicating, and I suspect that the enthusiasm will only increase as immunization levels increase and people feel safe about attending events again. We aim to please at this: the rest of March and most of April will be packed solid.

As far as upcoming indoor shows are concerned, the regret is that they won’t be happening through the rest of March. That’s because the Texas Triffid Ranch hits the road over the next three weekends: March 20 starts off with a show at Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas from 10:00 to 4:00 pm, followed by the big Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Fair Park on March 27 from 10:00 to 6:00, and then by a trip out west to Justin, Texas for the Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on April 3 from 11:00 to 9:00. After that, because of a long weekend with the Plano Music & Arts Festival on April 17 and 18, the timing for the big Manchester United Flower Show at the gallery depends upon how badly the big ice storm in February put everything into extended winter dormancy. Right now, based on what I’m seeing in the Sarracenia pools, it may have to be spread out between Sunday, April 11 and Sunday, April 25, just so everyone can see the range of blooms within plants. As always, keep checking back to verify, because as we know from last year, all sorts of things can happen.

In conclusion, many thanks to everyone who came out Sunday, especially the people with understandable anxiety about leaving their residences and risking going out. Your faith in us is incredibly appreciated, and we’ll keep working our best to make a Triffid Ranch open house as safe as possible. Heck, thanks to you, the gallery is the cleanest it’s been since it opened in its current location, and that’s something that needs to continue.

Have a Safe Weekend

Sunday marks the latest Carnivorous Plant Tour before the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants start waking up: admission is free, masks are mandatory, and several new enclosures will be ready for public view and discussion. With luck, this will be the start of a long and very productive show season, because we have a lot to make up.

Have a Safe Weekend

And so the 2021 Triffid Ranch show season starts the way the 2020 show season ended: in the middle of March, just in time for Daylight Savings Time. This Sunday’s Carnivorous Plant Tour kicks it off, but it’s definitely not the last.

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #24

(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.)

Installment #24: “Aside from THAT, Mrs. Kennedy…”

Originally published February 22, 2021.

Well, wasn’t last week fun?

Right now, for anyone raising any sort of plants in North Texas, we’re not exactly happy campers. If the freeze had only lasted a day or two before returning to normal temperatures, we would have been all right. If the weeklong subfreeze hadn’t come with the world-famous statewide blackout, most of us would have done all right. As it was, though, both indoor and outdoor plants suffered alike, especially in houses and apartments where the temperatures went below freezing. Everything from daffodils to wheat fell before the cold, and we’ll probably still be cataloguing the damage by summer. 

Right now, the urge to give up is understandable. From this end, the freeze killed aloes, dragonfruit cactus, and hot pepper bonsai that were just about ready to show in the upcoming porch sale season, a Buddha’s Hand citron tree that had been a fixture in the greenhouse, and very possibly killed a Rio Texas Star grapefruit tree that I grew from seed in 2002. (As with up here, the final analysis of Texas’s citrus industry may take months, but it’s not looking good.) The freeze was brutal to native cactus, with everything from prickly pear to horsecrippler barrel cactus turned to mush. The only good side was that the freeze didn’t hit after fruit and nut trees, from peach to pecan, started to bloom. Even a jade plant at the gallery right next to the front door might not make it. At this point, all you can do is wait to see which plants and which portions of plants are still alive and which just pretended to be as they thawed out.

The urge is understandable, but resist it. Resist it with everything you have. You may mourn later, but right now, you have to give your plants a chance, and this goes for everyone facing weather-related plant horrors.

The first thing to do right now is observation. Brought in your favorite succulent and kept it in the garage, only for the garage went way below freezing? Your window-loving ficus chilled to the point where it lost most of its leaves? The last leaves on your Venus flytrap burned off? The best thing you can do right now is back off, make sure that what’s left is getting appropriate light and moisture, and leave it alone for a bit. Over the years, I’ve had plants that I was certain were goners after a weather-induced trauma, and was just about ready to dump into the compost pile when I spotted new growth. Sometimes, this takes weeks or even months, so just keep watching. If a plant frozen in February isn’t showing some kind of growth in June, the odds are pretty good that it’s permanently dead, but before then, it really could be pining for the fjords.

The second thing to do is triage. Get a good pair of shears or scissors, clean them well with isopropyl alcohol, and keep them on hand. In the meantime, go over the whole plant and note what looks dead, what looks iffy, and what looks all right. Don’t start cutting until you know for certain what is alive and what is dead, and don’t be afraid to wait a few weeks to make sure. When you’re certain it’s not coming back, though, prepare to remove it. Among other things, this allows light to reach otherwise shaded areas and encourage new growth.

The third thing to do is propagation. Exactly what to do with each plant is way beyond the scope of this newsletter, but unlike us animals, most plants are perfectly good at growing a full new plant from a single snippet, and you might have to go to that option. Yes, you lost the main portion of your plant and it might take years for that chunk to grow back to former glories, but you still have that plant. (This may be my only option with my grapefruit tree: cutting scions off the trunk and rooting them separately.)

Ultimately, though, all I can do is quote Canada’s answer to Doctor Who. Losing plants in a situation such as last week’s doesn’t make you inattentive or neglectful: if it’s the choice between saving your plants and yourself, you’re a lot more important. It’s not like we can cut off your fingers and grow new yous by propping them up in a flowerpot, right?

Other News

Since all of the plants that survived last week’s freeze are going to start emerging over the next month, it’s time to start up spring video presentations, particularly as the sundews, flytraps, and pitcher plants start blooming. Naturally, teachers, museums, or anybody with an audience of interested bystanders looking for something different are welcome to send an email to discuss setting up a unique virtual experience. (Now is also a great time for print, online, television, and/or radio interviews, too, because things might get a bit more exciting as the growing season gets going.)

Shameless Plugs

Those who remember the zine explosion from the late 1980s through the late 1990s might recognize the name “Joey Zone” from both his distinctive magazine covers and his regular review columns in publications ranging from Factsheet Five to Science Fiction Eye. Joey’s real talent, though, was collecting huge packages of cultural ephemera from all over and sending them to friends and correspondents: the occasional Triffid Ranch packages of books and other goodies were named “Joey Boxes” in his honor. After many years of getting on him about setting up an online presence, Joey Zone Illustration just went live, and while it’s obviously not complete (among other things, it’s missing a certain column header from the long-dead Film Threat Video Guide), it’s definitely a long walk through zine history.

Recommended Reading

Books on carnivorous plants are considerably more available than they were 20 years ago, as the groaning reference bookcase in the gallery attests, but they’re still uncommon enough that it’s a treat to come across a new one. Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Natch Greyes is yet another reason why you’ll probably never see a Triffid Ranch book on the subject: what’s the point of writing a book that’s just a rehash of what better writers and researchers have already shared?

Music

It’s been nearly 20 years since the lead singer for the band Betty Blowtorch died in a car crash in New Orleans, and we’re all the lesser for it. The band’s first album, “Are You Man Enough?”, came out right at that point before the disintegration of the music industry monolith that controlled airplay in the United States, and streaming services now give a chance to imagine what would have happened had they survived the crash of the major labels and radio station syndicates of the 2000s. At the very least, after this week, the song “I’ve Been So Mad Lately” is a perfect gardening song while I’m sifting through the damage from the storm: it certainly isn’t safe for the day job.

Texas Triffid Ranch Show Season 2021: Continuation

Naturally, any discussion on Triffid Ranch events over the next three months is obsolete the moment it’s published, but 2021 is determined. The original plan was to start outdoor events at the beginning of April, and then I got a notice of acceptance for the Boho Market at Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park on March 20. That’s running from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and if the weather holds for this time of the year, it’ll be yet another reason to visit one of Dallas’s most interesting parks and see what’s going on in downtown on a Saturday. (This has personal significance: 25 years ago, I lived in downtown Dallas when the sidewalks rolled up at 5:00 pm every weekday, the last bookstore in downtown shut down the week my ex and I moved in, and you couldn’t even get a newspaper in downtown on a Sunday. A quarter-century later, and the change in downtown Dallas since then is a delightful shock, and I’m proud to assist with helping to make a place to go to and not a place to go from.)

And in other developments, the fates of Texas Frightmare Weekend and the Deep Ellum Arts Festival keep intertwining and catching my nose hairs in the loom. Both the Deep Ellum Arts Festival and TFW were cancelled and rescheduled due to COVID-19, and shortly after getting into the reserve list for the Arts Festival, the Arts Festival was rescheduled…for the weekend of September 10, the same weekend as Texas Frightmare Weekend. Since carnivorous plants and the Heisenberg Principle don’t mesh, this means picking one or the other, and the Triffid Ranch booth has been a stalwart at Texas Frightmare Weekend since 2009. The good news is that I’ve asked my application to be considered for the April 2022 Deep Ellum Arts Festival, so now it’s a matter of waiting. At least that gives plenty of time to work out a new tent arrangement for next year: I have IDEAS.

Finally, the post-COVID plan for the next couple of years was to reestablish the plan to take the Triffid Ranch outside of Texas, at least for a few days at a time. Last year, the plan was to crash New Orleans for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo. For 2022? Chicago in September for WorldCon. This may consist solely of bringing enclosures for the art exhibition and volunteering for lectures and presentations, but they’ll be much more welcomed than my presence at a WorldCon 20 years ago. (For most of my long-dead writing career, the general sensation of being invited to speak at a WorldCon was best described as “How Anton LaVey felt the last time he was invited to the Pope’s bat mitzvah.”) It’s either this or the IGS garden center show, and it’s a tough call as to which one would appreciate my dressing up as Freeman Lowell more. After all, we have to keep up appearances.

As always, the current lineup for Triffid Ranch events is up and online: at the rate things are going, the planned Porch Sales may not happen for a while. This isn’t a bad thing, and this Sunday’s Carnivorous Plant Tour is still going. For those who can’t make it, the Thursday evening Twitch feeds are becoming a regular thing (with plans for regular Saturday feeds as well), and they’re going to get very interesting as all of the temperate carnivores start to wake up. Catch you then, whichever one you choose.

Texas Triffid Ranch Show Season 2021: And so it begins

As it turns out, the 2021 season begins the way the 2020 season ended: with a LOT of activity. We’re still seeing reschedulings, rearrangements, and a lot of “do we risk waiting another week in the hopes that the show can run?”, but a combination of mask discipline and ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations gives hope that we’ll see the bare beginnings of an outdoor show season through the rest of this year. That’s about all we can do right now, but at least we can start talking about having events again.

To begin, no matter what else happens, last year’s outdoor Porch Sales were so popular that they’ll start up again in 2021, as soon as the outdoor carnivores such as the Venus flytraps start waking up from their winter dormancy. Whether they’re an every-Sunday thing honestly depends upon the show schedule, but they’ll definitely run every weekend that we’re not at a show, and as things become safer, we’ll also move them inside the gallery if there’s risk of bad weather. During the summer, we’ll probably alternate between holding them inside and outside, just because an indoor show can run much later in the afternoon without everyone bursting into flame. Either way, the outdoor shows will continue until the beginning of November, and then everything HAS to move back indoors.

To start out the season, we’re going to stick to home for the first event: the next Triffid Ranch Carnivorous Plant Show, in conjunction with Caroline Crawford Originals jewelry, greets the beginning of Daylight Savings Time by opening the doors from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on March 14. As always, admission is free, and masks are mandatory.

The first away-from-the-gallery Triffid Ranch event of 2021, though, will be with an old friend: the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo runs in Fair Park on Saturday, March 27 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is $10, and please note that tickets must be purchased in advance, as no tickets will be sold at the door. Also note that the Oddities & Curiosities crew will be VERY vigilant about mask discipline, and both vendors and attendees have to keep them up over the nose or find themselves evicted from the show with no refund.

The week after, it’s time to fire up with another old friend, this time in a new location. If you haven’t heard already, Texas Frightmare Weekend, one of the largest horror conventions on the planet and a Triffid Ranch favorite since 2009, just had to reschedule its 2021 show from the beginning of May to the beginning of September, but founders Loyd and Sue Cryer tested the possibility of outdoor shows at their Frightmare Collectibles location, and we’re on for their first outdoor show on April 3. (Purely coincidentally, that weekend coincides with the 39th anniversary both with my getting the distinctive scar on my forehead, from a sheet of plywood caught in a dust storm, and my watching my first midnight movie, so I choose to look at it as auspicious.) The Frightmare Collectibles show runs from 11:00 am to 9;00 pm: admission is free, masks are mandatory, and bring lots of cash because we’ll be just two of many vendors with items you won’t find anywhere else. (At the very least, for those who appreciate barbecue, the artist at last November’s outdoor event deserves that title, and I know exactly where all of my money is going even if nobody else is hungry.)

International Carnivorous Plant Day logo
Credit: International Carnivorous Plant Society

(Incidentally, May 5 is the first International Carnivorous Plant Day, with events and activities all over the world, and as a proud member of the International Carnivorous Plant Society, naturally the Triffid Ranch plans to join in. We’re tentatively planning another Frightmare Collectibles outdoor event on May 1, the weekend for which Texas Frightmare Weekend was originally scheduled, and we’re planning additional activities for the weekends before and after May 5. As for the 5th itself, it’s time to pivot to video, with details to follow.)

After that, the Porch Sales start back up, with one significant exception. The Plano Art & Music Festival kindly invited the Triffid Ranch as a new artist exhibitor, so the plants get a much larger audience on April 17 and 18, running from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm each day. Admission is $10, parking is free, and masks are mandatory. If this one goes well, the festival repeats in October, so it might become a regular addition to the show schedule.

Finally, various developments make running regular gallery events much easier than in the past, but mostly on Sundays. That said, we’re very tentatively going to try a Saturday event toward the end of April for those unable to attend on Sundays, specifically for a revival of the Manchester United Flower Show. Expect details in April: right now, everything depends upon the weather, whether or not we have another last-minute freeze or snowstorm, and whether the plants plan to cooperate.

Oh, and one last thing for those who can’t make it to the gallery for any number of reasons. Starting this week, the old Triffid Ranch Twitch channel was dusted off and used for live video, with plans to conduct new videos every Thursday evening (around 8:00 Central Time) and additional videos on Saturday afternoons, so feel free to join in whenever it’s live. It’s also time for more YouTube videos, with channels including debuts of new enclosures and plants, so if you can’t watch videos on one, there’s always room on the other. Yeah, it’s going to be a very busy spring.

Have a Safe Weekend

And here’s where the season starts to get interesting. We’re not quite ready for outdoor events yet (and the temperate plants, such as Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, were definitely thrown into dormancy by last month’s deep freeze), and we won’t have anything happening in person this weekend, but now that the bugs from last year’s Twitch experiments have been worked out, expect video. This is in addition to a LOT of airbrushing while the weekend weather holds. As for next week, it’s time for another Carnivorous Plant Tour on March 14, so it’s time to get ready.

An Important Note About COVID-19 Safety

By now, most of the world knows about Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement about ending the current COVID-19 lockdown and relaxing mandates on both mask use and social distancing in indoor spaces. In response, many businesses through the state have announced that they are continuing to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines on both, and the Texas Triffid Ranch stands with them. Until the CDC recommends that enough individuals have been vaccinated that masks and social distancing are no longer necessary, both will continue at Triffid Ranch events for the foreseeable future. Both indoor and outdoor events will require mandatory masks over both nose and mouth, and anyone refusing to respect this will be asked to leave.

With care and consideration, this won’t be an issue soon, especially based on current reports of vaccine production and distribution. However, both as someone who has lost several dear friends to COVID-19, and someone whose track record of past respiratory distress makes him a prime candidate for demonstrating “anybody can cough up blood, but coughing up urine takes TALENT,” the current mask requirement for Triffid Ranch events is not negotiable, so please don’t. On the brighter side, it’s possible to be both safe and stylish, as demonstrated with the examples above, and we enthusiastically welcome mask wearers at future events. Thank you very much for your assistance and consideration in this matter, and here’s hoping that masks and disinfection won’t be necessary before the year is out.

The Aftermath: The Rescheduled February 2021 Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour

Lots of anniversaries this last Sunday. February 28 marked four years since the Texas Triffid Ranch finished pulling out the last contents out of the old Valley View Center location. It also marked two weeks since the beginning of what’s generally referred to as Ice Storm Uri, and what most of Texas can describe in about 45 minutes of profanities without repeating a single term. Best of all, it marks a solid week of power at the gallery, with the discovery that for many of the plants, a near-week of utter darkness and near-freezing cold set off a growth spurt once the light and heat returned. As such, it was a perfect time to run the rescheduled February Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour: we had lots of rain, but we can deal with rain.

If the delays had any additional benefit, it was the opportunity to finish several enclosures that had remained in various stages of the artistic equivalent of Development Hell, with their being planted this week. (Expect details and backstory this week as well.) Between this and the aforementioned explosion in new growth, the next few weeks, especially with the beginning of Triffid Ranch show season at the end of March, could be very interesting.

As for the next Carnivorous Plant Gallery Tour? That’s currently up in the air, but we’re definitely making plans for a March event, and a few other options may open as shows begin considering opening in the wake of COVID-19 vaccinations. Stay tuned.