The Cactus Patch
Volume 17       May 2014      Number 5

The Famous and Not So
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 18th March I heard Niall McCann at BC.  He describes himself as an explorer and has a TV show on animals around the World.  I found out why I don’t attract the crowds he does.  His first picture showed him lying next to a row of crocodiles.  I have been that close, but with a fence between us.  Next he showed himself standing nude next to an elephant seal.  I don’t think I’ll even try to imitate his “style”.

On the 22nd our Goldenaires choir sang for Margaret Southwick’s 80th birthday.  As competition we heard a young mariachi band.  Her husband Dick sang with our choir -- for the last time, as it turns out.  He was at our rehearsal on the 9th of April, but died on the 12th! He was 88.  He had taught music at Kern Schools and was known for his composing.  Most of all we shall miss him as one of only three tenors in our choir.

On the 29th of March, of course, we had lunch and a garden tour at Steve and Lola Fullers’ in Shafter.  It was a very enjoyable outing.

On April Fool’s Day we heard Jane Goodall at BC.  I have long admired her research on chimpanzees and was sorry to miss her in 2007 when we traveled through Canada by train.  We saw an announcement that she was speaking, but our train left the afternoon just before her speech. We were some 2000 strong when we sang happy birthday, even though we were two days early.

I was disappointed in the book “Seeds of Hope” which was launched that night and which does not live up to her earlier work.  It contains a lot about her early life, a bit of “gee whiz” plant lore and a great deal of  pro ecology diatribe.  I am greatly in favor of protecting our environment, but I think she has gone overboard. Her anti genetic modification is probably the worst of this.  She draws an artificial line between plant breeding and modern gene insertion.  She starts the chapter with a statement that this is probably the most controversial in the book, and she is right. Half way through she admits she does not have the expertise to evaluate some of the statements!

We did not go to Fresno for the FCSS meeting as the speaker was one we’d heard before and the subject was growing succulents in Northern California. (Been there, done that, no t-shirt.)

On 4th April we saw the film Ai Weiwei about his dissent in China.  He convinced me there is some good in social media!  But I still think the balance is on the evil side.

On 5th April Peter Matthiesson died.  It just happened that I was reading his book Sal Si Puede on Cesar Chavez at the time.  I wish I had known he’d been in Kern County.  I would have tried to meet him.  I read his book The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972) when it was new and wrote to him pointing out that the gymnosperm Podocarpus was not limited to East Africa.  I still have his polite reply.

On the 6th we heard the Bakersfield Winds.  I play clarinet (and played oboe as well at BHS), but I was astounded at the varieties of clarinets we heard.  Some, such as the low C bass and the contrabass, I had never even seen before.  Perhaps it is a good thing they are uncommon.  The zebrawood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) from which clarinets are made has become extremely rare in Tanzania. Perhaps this is why bassoons (which Lora plays) are generally made from rosewood  (named for its color, not for any relationship to roses).

Incidentally, the zebrawood is also called ebony, but true African ebony is from Diospyros mespiliformis and is used for carvings.  Attached is a photo of Makonde carvings (southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique).  Zebrawood is related to American persimmons.

On the 8th, of course, we were at the BCSS pot luck.  The garden was looking great-an advertisement for water-wise gardening! The weather was good and justified our change in the month.  I hope we continue with this, although with the yoyo temperatures lately it’s hard to make predictions.

On 9th April we heard Arlo Guthrie at the Fox.  We had heard him at Carnegie Hall in 1974, but then the star was the late, great Pete Seeger.  The back up this time was a local group of little note.  Polly commented that the music was not what she expected, but she was remembering Pete.  Most of the songs were from Arlo’s father Woody since this was a part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Grapes of Wrath.

We had planned to go to Fresno on the 12th for the FCSS garden tour, but Alice had to have seven days of medical treatment, so we ended up staying home.

On the 18th I celebrated another birthday with free breakfast at Denny’s, a song at our Silver Sneakers group, lunch at Freddy’s and dinner at Cactus Valley.  Cactus Valley put a candle on a flan and a hat on my head and sang. We also saw “Stand Off” at the Fox, a very confused police case in Northern Ireland.  This ended Flics for the season.

Bruce(L) and Margaret(R)

Lunch at Steve and Lola Fullers’

Bruce and Jane Goodall

Makonde carvings

Bruce at Cactus Valley

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