Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Video Blog - SF Flower + Garden Show

I think I'm finding my way at video editing. Still very much in the experimental stages of using iMovie and my point and shoot, but this one's got titles and a sound track. How's that for high tech. Lemme know what you think...all feedback would be appreciated.

While this is nowhere near the production quality of my Santa Barbara TV show (Garden Wise Guys with Owen Dell) it keeps me off the streets.

This segment is footage from my trip up north a few weeks ago. Although it might look like I was driving in a perilous manner, my eyes never left the road and my fingers never left my hands.

Friday, March 27, 2009

? and the Wisterians

Perhaps you remember the band ? and the Mysterians from the 60s? I hated them and their hit tune 96 Tears. First of all, the tune sucked moldy eggs. I like the song now, as a sort of "historical snapshot" of all the kinds of music that coexisted on the "rock and roll" AM airwaves. But the tune brings up painful memories of "greaser bands" who played this tune, kicking our asses at the Teen Center Battle of the Bands in Van Nuys, CA. "Greaser band" was our derogatory name for bands that didn't do "sophisticated" music like Beatles, Hollies, Association, etc. - you know, vocal harmonies, more than three chords. To each his own.

But I digress. Here's an excerpt from my heavily researched article on a mysterious vine that grows along Santa Barbara's Highway 101.

I'm not sure which I saw more of this past year—political ads warning that Barack Obama was an Islamic, communist foreigner or public service announcements about the switch from analog TV to digital. It made me wonder just how many people still get their daily dose of media from an antenna on the roof.

More at my column at In the Garden of Ed(en) Edhat.com

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Swore I'd Never Do This

I’m breaking one of my own hard and fast rules. I’m posting pictures of my indoor plants on my blog. No offense to some of my loyal readers, but I generally eschew blogs from cold climate shut-in gardeners who revel in their Christmas cactus blooms and feel compelled to post a few hundred pics of them everyday whilst wistfully longing for the snow to melt and the crocus to pop up. As an aside, I also don’t care much for knowing what your cat vomited up this week or what’s going on at your quilting club. Call me a snob, but my plate spilled over long ago and I can only process so many blogging bits.

But I walked into my soon-to-be-laid-off-from office this morning and one of my hand-me-down orchids is gloriously blooming on the magical window ledge. I say magical because everyone in my building grovels in amazement at the ability of orchids and other shaggy plants to be resurrected in this space. Whenever a plant goes into cardiac arrest at their workstation, I receive a visit from a coworker asking if I can breathe life back into it. They figure that because I’m a landscape architect, I have a dusty tome of mystical incantations that bring plants back from the dead. I threaten to turn them into zombie plants that will stalk their cubicles at night, sucking the xylem and phloem from their languishing plants, but haven’t actually followed through.

What they don’t know is that my horticultural prowess is just the good fortune of having a great southeast exposure and the ability to detect when a plant is getting dry (lift it up – if it’s still heavy, it’s wet; if it feels light it’s dry). I also occasionally remember to put a few crystals of that hideously blue Miracle-Gro in the water once in a while. I know, I know – Miracle-Gro is just more petrochemical poison, but I had someone hand it off years ago and I’m too lazy to track down a good organic product. Hey, the same 6 oz. can has been serving me for a decade so what’s the harm.

With no further ado, I give you my window sill plants. No, I haven’t named them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Ego Needs Viagra

It is with great pleasure, pomposity and (need a word with a 'P', hmmmm...) pistachios that I announce the on-line episode of "Garden Wise Guys: The Big Picture." Ooops, forgot to put a bunch of exclamation marks at the end of that sentence, and now I've gone too far, so I'm going to skip it, and besides, I haven't had my morning coffee yet and the reach with my pinkie finger is too risky. Onward! ouch.

I co-host Garden Wise Guys on the City of Santa Barbara's own cable channel. Owen Dell, author of the just-released Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies (at his website) is the co-host and co-writer, and all-around fabulous and brilliant dude. We've had the quarterly show on the air going on our third year and this episode shares all the ideas of sustainable landscaping in an Ebert & Siskel meet Mystery Science Theater retrospective mashup, to explain the big ideas. We got to wear tuxedos and pontificate from the gloriously restored Granada Theater in downtown Santa Barbara. We also got our asses thrown out (and wait for the outtakes at the end - mucho fun).

The episode runs about an hour, so get a soft cushion for your chair, a stiff tumbler of your favorite adult beverage (or tea, if you prefer) and prepare for fun. We even have a cameo appearance from our rubber chicken mascot, Dirtrude. That's her in the middle, Owen on the right.

If you make it through the whole episode, please come back here and let me know what you think. My ego is a frail thing.

But enough about ME. Let's talke about YOU. What do YOU think about me?

Fast Action at the Garden Show

I met a very wonderful lady at the SF Flower & Garden Show this week. Eugene, Oregon's Jayme (pretend the y is an i and pronounce it) Jenkins' blog - "Nest In Style" - has great design and product information for people whose garden and landscaping style swings toward the contemporary/hip side of the scale.

She posted this too-groovy-for-words YouTube video on the making of a garden show. Enjoy, then click your way around her blog. Tell her you came from Billy's blog.

Jayme and I will be guest blogging at each others sites. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Excited about the SF Flower & Garden Show

No time to write anything Pulitzer-worthy, so let me just say that I'll be driving up north for the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show on Wednesday and heading home Friday for a King Bee gig.

The show slipped south a bit to the San Mateo Event Center. I'm excited about this big show, especially because it's the last one (unless a new promoter wants to resurrect it). If you're going to be in the bay area, check out this link. Or if you find yourself with a free weekend, come on up.

I'll be posting some blog entries from up there, time permitting. New design ideas, new products, new people - ha cha cha!

Hey: Did I mention that I'm retiring from my 22 year job as city landscape architect for Santa Barbara? The SF show will be a great place to expand the ole network.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Would Someone Please Make Those Planets Align?

I don't know what's worse--plant janitors (can't call them gardeners) with no understanding of sustainable landscaping practices or the owner who pays them and lets them get away with all sorts of heinous acts. In this week's column at Edhat.com I explore why the buck keeps getting passed around.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Why Would Anyone Watch This?

I was out at my favorite wholesale nursery (San Marcos Growers) shopping for some plants for a landscape staging job. A former client's putting their house on the market and we're cranking up the curb appeal. Anyway, my Nikon CoolPix S10 has a video function so I tried it out, loaded it to YouTube as an experiment and just trying this out for future projects.

Let me know if you make it through the entire minute and ten seconds.

YouTube direct address

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bourdain Does Bourdain / Zappa Plays Zappa

This past weekend was such a thrill. Friday night Lin (my spousal support unit) and I sat enraptured and shedding tears of laughter at Anthony Bordain's talk in Santa Barbara. He's currently best known for his Travel Channel show No Reservations and regaled a packed house with a bit of biography, a rant or two about the FoodTV current line-up and his lust for travel and food. Everyone in our home has read most everything he's written, including two crime novels delving into the dark world of NYC restaurants and the mafia - bloody good stuff (and don't ever order fish on Mondays).

I was a bit surprised and disappointed that he didn't recognize me in the audience back in row W. I had a brief encounter with him about two years ago when my family was vacationing in NYC to see Spamalot. We were on a mission to find a great slice of pizza a few blocks from Madison Square Garden and he was walking toward us carrying his dry cleaning. Actually, I didn't notice him but Lin tipped me off. I doubled back, did a 20 second praise, prostration and shoe licking and after being begged to stop, allowed him proceed. I'm guessing that the stage lighting on Friday night might have obscured his view of me. Plus, I've grown a goatee. That would explain it.

Can I top that? Hell, yeh! Saturday night at the Majestic Ventura Theater (actually, they should have named this former 1928 movie palace The Majestic Ventura Theater As Long As You Don't Visit the Upstairs Mens Room, but that's for another posting). My big brother, David, introduced me to the brilliant world of Frank Zappa's music, twisted world view and troubling cover art in the late 60s and I've been worshipping the guitar strings he stretched ever since. Frank died of prostrate cancer in '93.

Many people only associate him only with some of the novelty pieces he got some notoriety for, but there's a deep core of highly sophisticated, challenging works that brought me to another musical plane, especially his orchestral works, performed by the likes of the L.A. Philharmonic, under the baton of Zubin Metha in 1970. I even wrote a blog entry a year ago about pushing the limits of landscape design, entitled 'What Would Zappa Do?'.

I recall deciphering the odd rhythmic times he employed, working for hours to perform along with his recordings from my drum set. Didn't even get close, but my ears grew and some synaptic connections got linked up that still serve me today. So imagine my delight in hearing his son, Dweezil Zappa and seven other virtuoso players take dad's compositions apart and put them back together.

I've heard some amazing performers, from Hendrix to Carlos Santana to the Majavishnu Orchestra and sat in front of the drum sets of a few greats, like recently departed Louis Belson. But nothing prepared me for two hours of the most stunning performance I've ever witnessed - Zappa Plays Zappa. Each band member deserves to headline their own act, but taken together the experience was mind blowing. Frank was, in my humble opinion, the finest rock-based guitarist ever. He had all the skill of the fastest guitarists on the rock scene, but unlike 95% of them he actually had profound musical ideas to express. In my humble opinion most legendary "guitar heroes" could fly up and down the neck of their git-box at the speed of light, but when the smoke cleared, they hadn't really said anything. Just a bunch of hot licks strung together in no particular relation to each other. Dweezil has channeled his father's spirit and musical prowess, effortlessly coaxing brilliance from his instrument.

I could go on and on, but I just needed to praise and thank Frank's son for exposing a couple of new generations to his pop's brilliance. And I have to reserve a few words for Joe Travers, the drummer. I thought Keith Carlock, recently of Steely Dan fame, was everything a drummer could be, but Joe fried my brain. Speed to die for, rock-steady drive, and the ability to groove like mutha on some of the most complex time signatures you could conceive. I'm considering running all my drumsticks through a shredder and putting them to use as mulch.

Gotta go - just had to flush this out of my system. Back to garden-related stuff next time. I'll be attending the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show the week on March 19 - should be some interesting observations and images. If you're anywhere near the SF Bay area, do attend. This is the last year for the event - poof, gone.