Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A classic cover from Time: November 8, 2004

The joy of houseplants?

There are times when the simplest of tasks becomes far more complicated than it should be. So it was last Saturday when I headed to our neighborhood hardware store in search of a large bag of potting soil.

The task at hand involved transplanting a pot-bound Dracaena into a much larger container. I found some potting soil down cellar, but I didn’t think I had enough to get the job done, and I didn’t want to shift gears in mid transplant to run out for more. 

So I headed to the hardware store in advance. A big-box home-improvement store might have been a safer bet, but I like to shop in the neighborhood whenever possible.

The store only had small bags of potting mix on display, but the clerk invited me to visit the basement with him in search of potting soil. After we negotiated a seemingly endless series of stairs, twisting hallways and multiple storage areas, we finally entered a locked room in the very bowels of the store. I half expected to find catacombs.

Alas, there were neither human remains nor bags of potting soil in this subterranean den. Grass seed, fertilizer, topsoil, more potting mix, but no potting soil.

“Let’s go outside and check there,” the clerk said. The store piles mulch and paving stones and other seasonal supplies at the edge of the parking lot during the warmer months, but I didn’t realize some of this stockpile stays put throughout the winter as well. Sure enough, there were several pallets of stuff out there, but our methodical search turned up no potting soil.

Finally, we arrived at the last pallet. There, buried under mounds of snow, were three large bags of potting soil. Partially frozen potting soil. Potting soil that wouldn't be usable for a while.

We cleared the snow from the top bag and the clerk carried it inside to ring it up. Only then did we notice that the bag was torn in at least two places, probably because it had been stored outside for so long, and through all kinds of weather. The clerk used a stapler to patch up one hole, and several pieces of tape to close off another one.

By this point, it was obvious that the bag was not only frozen but muddy and wet. When I told the clerk I was going to go home and change coats before hauling my purchase out to the car, he offered to carry it out for me.

I quickly moved the car closer to the door, but as I waited, there was no sign of the clerk. So I parked the car and headed back inside, only to find the clerk applying still more bandages to the bag’s wounds.

With the patched up bag on board, I finally headed home, changed my coat, lugged the damp and dirty bag into the house and propped it up in the entryway to thaw. Heading upstairs, I then moved the Dracaena from the old pot to the new one, only to discover, in the end, that I already had just enough potting soil on hand to get the job done without opening the new bag.

Maybe I should stick with African violets, or some other compact plant that won't outgrow its britches.

And now, a few words from . . . J. M. Barrie


The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Tom Toles

Monday, February 8, 2016

A classic cover from Gourmet: February 1951

Columnist Peggy Noonan does New Hampshire proud


When the New Hampshire primary draws near, it's fashionable to deride the Granite State’s prominence in the presidential sweepstakes. Critics allege that the state is too small, too white, too homogeneous, too traditional, too unrepresentative of the nation as a whole to deserve so much attention and, arguably, so much power.

I worked in New Hampshire as a newspaper reporter for four years a lifetime ago; my stint included the 1980 primary campaign. Say what you will about the state’s supposed shortcomings, but as Peggy Noonan pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal column, New Hampshire voters take their role in the process seriously. Very seriously. And for that they deserve our respect. (If you have a WSJ subscription, you can read the full column here.)

“Every adult in New Hampshire seems to go hear every candidate at least once,” Noonan wrote. “They listen and take their measure; they give it the most precious thing they have, time.”

Granite State voters “believe they are the winnowers,” Noonan wrote. “Their function is to get the Reasonable Possibles, put down their marker on their favorite, and then throw it to the South.” The voters of New Hampshire “have complete democratic confidence. They’re not shy. They’re doing due diligence.”

I loved New Hampshire way back when, in part because of the phenomenon that Noonan describes. And every four years, I'm proud to be reminded that I once called the state home.

And now, a few words from . . . Ernest Hemingway


There is no friend as loyal as a book.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Stuart Carlson

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A classic cover from TV Guide: November 30, 1957

Stop the world, I want to get off!

And now, another unanswerable question (or two) from a very confused guy who's just trying to make sense of it all from his perch up in the cheap seats. 

When an environmentally-conscious (and PR-savvy) supermarket reserves a row of parking spaces for low-emission vehicles, and posts plentiful signs to that effect, why do the owners of monster pickups and humongous SUVs insist on parking there? Is it, as with all human failings, Obama's fault? A testosterone-driven act of defiance? A misguided libertarian statement? Are these motorists frustrated militia members who can't find a federal wildlife refuge to seize? Maybe they're well-meaning people who, although illiterate, passed the driver's-license exam by greasing someone's palm?  Whatever the cause, is there a high correlation between such behavior and support for Donald Trump's presidential aspirations? I think I know the answer to that last question.

And now, a few words from . . . Claude Monet


Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.

Editorial cartoonists: keeping the legacy of Thomas Nast alive

by Tom Toles