A few notes in passing, in no particular order.
• I'm lying when I say that: I would like to disclose that my current net worth is two billion dollars. I am worth two billion dollars because I value my brand at two billion dollars. My other assets are intangible. Yes, of course I am aware that TOP Editors for the past 40 years have all released their tax returns to you, the readers of TOP, as a gesture of accountability and transparency. I'd like to release my tax returns too, and I might do so in the future, except for one thing, which is that I'm lying whenever I say "I'd like to release my tax returns" and "I might do so in the future." And to all those people who ask why I have 80% of the value of my home mortgaged and a car payment when I'm worth billions, it's because I care about and approve of kittens and puppies.
• Testing, testing: In car news, the top-secret, not-yet-released prototype 2017 Camaro, heavily disguised, was spotted at the Burgerkingring in Germany (it's a famous racetrack). It had been sent there for testing. (The reason cars are now tested on racetracks is because most consumers do their driving, almost all the time, on long, twisty, roads with no stop signs or stop lights, no speed limits, and no right-angle turns. The reason American cars are sent overseas to the Burgerkingring is because we have no racetracks in America.) Later, the top-secret, not-yet-released prototype 2017 Camaro crashed. But no one reporting this exotic fact bothers to answer the burning question I had: does that mean it flunked the test? (Note: nothing was damaged except the 2017 Camaro prototype itself and the 2017 Camaro's reputation, and no one was hurt except for some stoogelings and underlackeys in the PR Department back at Chevrolet headquarters in Detroit.)
• Chimps Editors needed everywhere, Dept.: From an online audio equipment review encountered entirely too late at night:
The Phantom is an improvement over the 2.2 because it is more dynamic, has more bass power and somewhat smoother highs. Sound staging is also improved to a noticeable degree. Comparing the two arms is like comparing a chimpanzee to one of Dian Fossey’s silverback gorillas. Sure, they are both members of the Great Ape family, but the gorilla is more powerful, stronger, and heavier. It can make a forest home with large branches and break small trees. In contrast, a chimp uses leaves and twigs. The sound of the Phantom is more grounded and better able to communicate the power of music.
Okay, this is my fault for reading tonearm reviews online before going to bed. Doing such a thing felt like a waste of the limited time the Lord blessed me with, even to me, even as I was doing it.
• Why? Here's why: Nope, sorry, still not releasing those tax returns. Why? Because you're not interested, which is why you keep asking.
• Weather news: Either this Spring is very unusual, or I have inadvertently (well, half-vertently) landed in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The changing light-and-cloud show of the weather has been amazingly gorgeous.
Chlorophyll production began in earnest here about six days ago, when the biggest trees acquired a barely visible rime of spring-green frosting. Since the go-ahead signal, budding and blooming has been proceeding apace. I have to admit, however, that I am somewhat scared of plants. The painter Edgar Degas was said to have been disturbed by plants, by their chaotic flourishing, fractal variety, and chromatic perfusion. Personally I'm not frightened of them in an "omigod run away" panic-mode way—they are, after all, tethered by their roots, and not likely to chase me, as I remind myself on occasion, anxiously—but they're fundamentally mysterious to me and I never know what they're up to. I find them difficult to demystify because I can never identify them reliably. They are hard to trust. Some people claim to know what is safe to eat; I don't know what is safe to touch. Bringing plants into the house seems rash.
When you buy a new house, you inherit the plants that adorn the property. I discovered last fall that I have an apple tree, for instance. This Spring I girded my courage by watching several tutorials on YouTube, and pruned it. I am hoping the apples are edible, or at least juiceable.
But I am in a new area, and I don't recognize many of the plants. Even some of the weeds are so unfamiliar that I had to ask the previous owners whether one particular type was, in fact, considered a weed. (It is.)
Many of the unknown plants seem benign. Some, however, seem suspicious.
For example, consider this alarming fellow. I have no idea at all what he is. All I know is that he's twice as big as he was last year, and he's sending tendrils both into the sky and snaking along the ground at a frantic rate. When I garden nearby the little tendrils do seem to reach and grab for me. My impulse is to swat them away like bugs. Yes, I know he is rooted, but he seems capable of rather flagrant, and also somewhat sneaky growth, and my bedroom window on the second story is only about 40 feet away....
I know it’s banal to talk about the weather, but the day we had two days ago was amazing. It was raining steadily when I woke up and I thought okay, rainy day. But no, halfway through the morning a classic high pressure system moved in and dried everything out—beautiful sweet clean pure cool air and brilliant billowing clouds, cool and windy. After lunch I drove to the grocery store and it was still gorgeous when I went in, and I bought no more than a couple of dozen things, and remarked to the checkout clerk, "beautiful day out there," and she said, "sure is"...but no! When I stepped outside again the sky had abruptly clouded over again and was completely overcast, with a churn of high clouds of variegated mottled grays with ragged edges like torn paper. Once I got home the sky wetted the ground again, gently.
Later still I looked up from my computer and saw a fairytale sky…clean cerulean blue, with a touch of deep cobalt as if deep space were faintly showing through, and processions of cottonball white clouds scudding swiftly along in the atmosphere. Near "Bluff sunset" (when the sun descends behind the high Bluff across the lake to the West), Butters and I went out to fling the ball (which we do four times a day, and he’s always lobbying to make that five). The sky by that time was a clear, cloudless, unblemished blue from horizon to horizon, and the razor clear yellow light of the setting sun on the budding trees, slanting in nearly sideways, was so lovely I couldn’t take my eyes off the land. Finally the Bluff covered the sun and shrouded the whole outdoors in somber blue-gray, and the moon was high in the sky just beginning to brighten.
• Positive confirmation via independent corroboration: "I can certify that Mr. Michael Johnston is absolutely and unequivocally worth two billion dollars. At least two billion dollars. I have seen the financials myself. All sorts of financials. The best financials." —TOP spokesman John Barren, sitting in Mike's chair on Mike's porch typing on Mike's computer
And there you have it, from an independent source. That's proof.
"Open Mike" is the anything-goes editorial page of TOP, often off-topic, which appears on Sundays.
UPDATE Monday: With the possibility that my plant is an invasive species, I've contacted the Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Yates County and left a message for the Invasive Species Specialist, whose name is Emily. This is a world I know very little about, so it's just the sort of thing I would investigate, because I stand a good chance of learning something. I'll keep you posted. ...Well, assuming there's anything at least moderately interesting to keep you posted about. —MJ
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
John Hufnagel: "That plant you've pictured is indeed a weed "Oriental Bittersweet," and it's common on the East Coast. It will produce tiny odorless flowers and will take over your entire yard given enough time. It grows ferociously fast and will climb any tree, fence or deck. Unless you have a need of such qualities (such as a living barrier), you'd be better off getting rid of it. You'll have to be very persistent to do so."
Mike replies: Eeek!
robert e: "There's a great deal we don't yet know about plants, because we have only asked a limited set of questions about them. In part because they're too familiar. Maybe if more of us were weirded out by plants (which is to say, recognize their mystery) we'd pay more attention, and learn a lot thereby, because they're clearly up to lots of things that we just haven't noticed before."
Alan Carmody: "Re 'I have inadvertently...landed in one of the most beautiful places on the planet': You have. The play of light can be amazing, especially in these months, as the cold front moves back and forth and is broken up into swirls and eddies by the landscape and the local lake effects. It doesn't hurt that it all happens in picturesque hilly farmland. Visually and topographically speaking, the Finger Lakes can be more like England than New England is."
Paul Van: "Is it sad that my first thought was 'Graham arm...'?"
Mike replies: The tonearm that makes its forest home of leaves and twigs, yes.