A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If you Love Your Cabbage Palms

I attended (and spoke briefly) at Palm Disease Update presented by Dr. Monica Elliot, Professor of Plant Pathology and Associate Center Director of the Ft. Lauderdale Research & Education Center of the University of Florida. While Dr. Elliot covered several topics, I was most interested in Texas Phoenix Palm Disease, which is killing Cabbage Palms in Manatee County (ironically around Palmetto). For more on this phenomenon, see an earlier blog. But I ended up with new insights about why pruning cabbage palms is ill advised. 

Here's my take: In my opinion, the only fronds one should remove are ones that are completely dead, the color of a manila envelope. And I'm not even sure why anyone would spend time and energy doing that.But removing green or yellow fronds has several negative effects. 

1) The palm tree is able to remove nutrients from the aging frond. Removal before they are completely dead deprives the palm of these nutrients. 

2) The dying fronds can serve as barometers that let plant specialists interpret nutritional deficiencies or disease. Removing these fronds can complicate diagnosis. 

3) In addition, taking fronds with still-living tissue wounds the plant. Any wound is a potential entry point for insects or disease. This problem is magnified in palms, which lack the wound healing capacity of dicots.

4) Removing green fronds reduces the photosynthetic capacity of the plant. Few people would contemplate taking a third of the photosynthetic surfaces (leaves) from something like an oak, but many don't bat an eye about taking ten green fronds from a cabbage palm. This reduced capacity weakens the palm and can cause pencil-neck, a narrowing of the trunk. 

These first four points all contribute to weakening the tree, the opposite effect most people want in a home landscape. 

5) Some overprune to what has been called the "hurricane cut". There is no rational reason for this. If you had a hundred species of trees on your property, the last tree that might need pruning to survive a hurricane is the cabbage palm. And Dr. Elliot suggested there may be evidence that "hurricane cut" actually makes palms more vulnerable. That make some sense because the growing tip "sword frond" is more vulnerable after severe pruning.

6) Finally, it takes only seconds to pick a fallen frond off the ground. Just about anyone can do it. Removing live fronds requires far more time, the use of sharp instruments and frequently, ladders. All this increases costs and risks. Landscapers must be laughing all the way to the bank, because they are charging top dollar for dangerous work that is completely unnecessary. Cabbage palms are self pruning. The fronds fall off when they fall off and in the meantime contribute to the full spherical head that typifies the species. And who wants to be calling an insurance agent or making a trip to the emergency room to solve a problem that could have been avoided with the simple application of patience and gravity? 

The photo on the right shows a young over-pruned palm.  (My version shows the image with strange color.)The circles identify 21 fronds with some green left in them. Let's assume there are only 4 comparable cut fronds on the other side that we cant see, for a total of 25 missing leaves. At the top we see only a few left, maybe five. That means 5/6  (83%) of all the leaves have been removed -- a devastating loss for just about any plant. 

Check out some of these other sources.

If you don't love your cabbage palms, keep pruning. Eventually they will grow to reflect your antipathy.

Lies, inuendo, dirty tricks do the job for county GOP

That's not a Jono Miller blog title. [I prefer innuendo with three 'n's. ] No, that's the headline on a story on the front page of the November 12 edition of the Pelican Press. Reporter Rick Barry provides an introduction to the shameful behavior of the local Republican leadership in the most recent election. The article is backed up with an editorial with an equally damning title: LIES, SLEAZE DEMEAN SARASOTA, THE PROCESS & GOP.

Let me be clear -- I made a lot of mistakes in my first run for office. Some were mistakes in etiquette, some in strategy and tactics. I should have worked harder and earlier on increasing name recognition. I formatted my donor envelope poorly. I have trouble remembering names. I never scheduled an interview on WENG. Etcetera. On and on.

But I campaigned hard for three hundred days, gave up half a year's salary and sunk over $20,000 of my own money into the campaign because I knew it was not a position I was entitled to, but rather something I would have to work for.

And I get it that Carolyn won. I'm not contesting, challenging or otherwise protesting that reality. Within hours of her victory I posted a blog acknowledging her win, noting its historic importance, celebrating the increased diversity on the board and wishing her Godspeed. I stand by all that.

So this is not about who won, the destination. It is about the route, how we got there.

And let's be perfectly clear: I am not starting this conversation in the wake of my loss. This is not about being some sort of "sore loser". It is about being a sorely abused candidate.

My objections began two months ago on September 14th with my blog entry Fresh Lies served on a Bed of Tossed Data: The Politics of Desperation.

Then I attended the Tiger Bay luncheon on September 18th and stepped up to the microphone to ask if the leaders of both parties if they had any standards of behavior they expected of their candidates. Not so much, it turned out.

That was followed on October 4 with the blog Mason campaign: Off Track and in the Mud?

Then it was off to USF on October 8th to hear Stephen Carter speak about Civility in Politics and Society. Again I went to the microphone to as what rules of thumb should be employed in determining when appropriate negative campaigning lapses into inappropriate dirty campaigning. If I understood Dr. Carter's answer, he recommended imagining what my mother would think and considering if it served to erode the political process. I took his advice.

On October 24th I hit the keyboard again with HELP WANTED: CIVIL ELECTION ENFORCERS.

Which was followed with a supporter's letter Jono Miller Supporter Objects to Negative Ads Against Miller.

So long before the evening of November 4th, I was "on the record" speaking up publicly or writing about inappropriate campaign behavior. I did so no less than seven times before anyone knew the outcome of the election. In addition the publicly accessible blogs, I sent emails to the Civic League and some of the Republican supporters of Carolyn expressing my concerns PRIOR to the election. 

So for me this is not a week-old story but a two month-old story.


As far as I am concerned the election is settled. The behaviors of the candidate, local Republican leadership and Civic League prior to the election are not. So I'm not challenging the outcome but perhaps figuratively (and in some cases literally) what one might call the income of the election.

I appreciate the intent of Rick Barry's article. It dealt with a topic at least one writer at the Sarasota Herald Tribune was unwilling to pursue. Not really newsworthy, I guess. 

And while I think Rick's characterization of Carolyn was a little harsh (and I fear the editorial may have inappropriately resorted to journalistic paralipsis, if not proslepsis) I believe he raised several issues that must be aired and resolved. 

Our civic process here in Sarasota has sustained a grievous wound. It has been there awhile and after each election, we wrap it with a another layer of reassuringly sterile gauze while the underlying infection festers. Eventually, two or four years later, the putrescence seeps through and we add another layer, telling ourselves that this time we are on the road to recovery. But down deep we know that's not true. We need to unwrap this thing, expose it to the light of day, remove the necrosis and do what is necessary to really promote healing. If we don't we will lose the limb, if not the body politic.

The Pelican Press has taken the lead in exploring these issues. It remains to be seen if anyone else thinks this topic is worth the ink. I can assure you that there is more out there that is not merely newsworthy, but crucial to establishing both civility and a working two party system in Sarasota.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Unconditional Surrender

If art is supposed to get people thinking and feeling, then we are extremely fortunate to have J. Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture based on Alfred Eisenstadt’s famous photograph of nurse Edith Shain (or Greta Friedman or Barbara Sokol) being kissed on VJ day. It’s a great match for Sarasota, because unlike some of Seward Johnson’s works this piece speaks directly to the many veterans and citizens here that remember the end of that war. Personally, I’m very grateful that the allies prevailed over the axis powers, and not simply because it enabled the man who was to become my father to return alive to the states. 

It is interesting to compare the memorable iconic image of the Second World War with the Vietnam War. They were, for the most part, posed, if not outright staged: the Betty Grable’s pinup shot, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at Malta; MacArthur wading ashore at Leyte, and raising the flag on Iwo Jima. 

The two most memorable images from Vietnam were snapshots: Nine year old Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked down a road and South Vietnam’s national police chief executing a Viet Cong in the middle of a street. We’re not likely to see any giant sculptures of that sort. 

So we are blessed that the photo was taken of the kiss, yet saddened to realize that there is probably no comparable statuesque moment marking the end Vietnam conflict (perhaps cutting down the tamarind tree at the Saigon embassy so helicopters could evacuate?) nor, as President Bush observed when commemorating the 60th anniversary of VJ day: There will be no “VJ day” in the war on Terror. 

Although I was not born when the photo was taken, it has intersected with my life in two ways. 

First, VJ Day (August 14th in the US) was my father’s birthday. So every year we were celebrating both my father’s birthday and VJ day. 

Secondly, when I would vacation with my parents as young teen on Martha's Vineyard, an old man with a heavy accent would show slides of his photographs some evenings. I wasn't too interested until I learned he had taken photos of Sophia Loren. I recognized the Life magazine covers he had shot of her. It turned out he was one of the world's best photographers, a man known at the Menemsha Inn only as "Eisie”. It was Alfred Eisenstadt -- the guy who took the photograph of the sailor impulsively (opportunistically?) kissing the nurse in Times Square on VJ day. The photo the oversized bayfront sculpture is based on. And while Eisenstadt’s shot four exposures of “VJ Day” it was not posed or staged. 

I’m happy to let others decide whether it should be a temporary or permanent addition to the Sarasota, but I have three observations to share about the piece.

First, while I like the vista of it coming down 41, I wish it was set apart more with less background clutter.

Second, while I like the giant scale, the shift in point of view is very unfortunate. If you look at the original photo or Seward’s life-sized recreation (shown in Times Square), we are focused on the kiss itself – the heads of the participants. With the giant version, the closer we get, the less the kiss is visible and we’re basically left looking up the nurse’s skirt. That’s not the point of the piece. If it is, we should opt for Marilyn Monroe on the subway grating instead. Ideally I think we would look across at if from some height to reestablish the original point of view, although it is hard to think of a place in Sarasota where that might work.

Finally, while I love the photo and like the sculpture, I hate the title. For those whose don’t get the connection to Emperor Hirohito’s Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War, the sculpture must seem to be about the nurse’s unconditional surrender. No doubt Johnson intended the play on words. But it seems to me that misses the point – her “surrender” to a kiss from a stranger was completely conditional – it would not have happened on August 13 or August 15. The kiss was conditioned by the euphoria of the end of the war. For me, Seward’s title coverts exuberance into submission.