May 9, 2020

Not phrenology. Phenology.

Phrenology is the pseudo-science of studying bumps on the skull ("When the forehead is perfectly perpendicular, from the hair to the eyebrows, it denotes an utter deficiency of understanding").

Phenology is...
... the study of plant and animal activities and when they occur each year. Phenology is a real science that has many applications. In farming and gardening, phenology is used chiefly for planting times and pest control. Certain plants give a cue, by blooming or leafing out, that it's time for certain activities, such as sowing particular crops.... Indicator plants are often used to look for a particular pest and manage it in its most vulnerable stages. They can also be used to time the planting of vegetables, apply fertilizer, prune, and so on....
We were worried that we were going to have a freeze last night, and Meade said to look at the lilacs. They're an indicator plant. If they're opened up, then we would not get a frost. Those within earshot all thought — But how does the lilac know the future? I was going to the Arb, and I made sure to photograph the lilac:

DSC_0007

It's indicating that there will be no freeze, and sure enough, there was no freeze. The lilac knew. There was a lack of lie in that indication.

Another thing about yesterday: It was the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' "Let It Be." That includes "Dig a Pony," which has those lines: "You can celebrate anything you want... You can penetrate any place you go... You can radiate everything you are... You can imitate everyone you know... You can indicate everything you see... You can syndicate any boat you row..."

John Lennon wrote that song, which he called "a piece of garbage." Wikipedia says it has a "multitude of strange, seemingly nonsense phrases which were strung together in what Lennon refers to as a Bob Dylan style of lyric." I don't trust these putdowns. That's a way of speaking to the press (a Bob Dylan way by the way). But "Dig a Pony" — with all its "-ate" words — does feel like Bob's "analyze you, categorize you, finalize you, or advertise you...."

I'm willing to believe you can celebrate anything you want, penetrate any place you go, radiate everything you are, imitate everyone you know, and indicate everything you see.

Look! There's the lilac, telling the truth again.

I left out "syndicate any boat you row" because that's getting into metaphor. Genius lyrics tells me "syndicate" is a British way to say "incorporate," and, at the time, The Beatles were turning themselves into "Apple Corps."  To get back to phenology: "When apple trees shed their petals, sow corn."

ADDED: That link on "it was the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' 'Let It Be,'" goes to my son John's post at Facebook. John states a preference for the song order in a later version of the album:
The joyously driving "Get Back" is moved from the end to the beginning (in contrast with the original album's first song, "Two of Us," which is beautiful but wasn't a particularly exciting way for a rock band to kick things off).
I said:
"Two of Us" is seared into my head as the way this thing begins. Nothing else feels right. But then, I always listened to side 2 of "Abbey Road" first, making it begin with "Here Comes the Sun." I like the quiet, hopeful beginnings. I guess the notion of "side 2" doesn't even make sense anymore, hasn't made sense for the last quarter century. And yet, I still have my 50 year old LPs.

I could do without John (Lennon) yelling at the beginning. "'I Dig A Pygmy' by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf-Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats!" That was Phil Spector's choice, I'm reading. Is it racist? It's always felt ugly to me. But now I'm reading that "Deaf-Aid" is a Britishism for hearing aid, and that "Doris gets her oats" means Doris is getting regular sexual intercourse.
That "I Dig A Pygmy" business begins the album and goes right before "Two of Us." Only later in the album do we reach the song titled "Dig a Pony," which doesn't really have a pony in the lyrics. It's just John (Lennon) announcing "I Dig a Pony" before beginning the song. It's Phil Spector who is responsible for editing in these spoken-word bits.

ALSO: I edited this post to change the song title to "Dig a Pony." I'd had it as "I Dig a Pony," but now I'm seeing on Wikipedia that "Early American pressings of Let It Be mistitled this song as 'I Dig a Pony.'" I take issue with "mistitled." The album that was bought here in America the day it came out 50 years ago and that I've kept all these years has the correct title in my world.

In any case, the original Beatles title for the song was "All I Want Is You" (rhymes with Bob's "All I Really Want To Do" (quoted above)).

And Phil Spector is in prison.

38 comments:

robother said...

Apple core!
Baltimore!
Who's it for?
Yoko!

Fernandinande said...

If they're opened up, then we would not get a frost.

If they're opened up, then it's not cold. If it's not cold, you're less likely to get a frost than if it is cold.

But how does the lilac know the future?

It doesn't.

Meade said...

"It doesn't."

But you don't know that.

Meade said...

Or maybe you do. Here, let me check the bumps on your head.

Browndog said...

Not fair. You guys got leaves on trees, and all kinds of cool stuff. Yesterday I went to Home Depot and was out in the garden center in a blizzard.

Bill Harshaw said...

If the implication is the unopened lilac blossoms won't freeze, it's wrong. Had a lilac bush by my childhood home in upstate NY, blossoms froze the majority of years.

Scott said...

Maybe I'm not noticing, but lilacs don't seem that popular in New Jersey. We had lots of lilacs around our house in St Paul growing up. I miss the smell.

Meade said...

"Not fair."

Clearly we are Mother Nature's favorite.

But I'm sure she loves you too. It may be a tough love but, hey, it beats the alternative.

Lucid-Ideas said...

@Meade

What's the alternative? Wait...

never ask a question you don't want to know the answer to, lucid, never.

chickelit said...

Lilac is one of those plants that don't do well in Southern California and I miss them. My mom had a large lilac bush outside her bedroom window. We rarely entered our parents' bedroom as kids, but you could stand outside and smell the fragrance that wafted indoors.

chickelit said...

There is a lot of rich word history in the stem "phen," including the chemical term "phenyl."

madAsHell said...

There's an osprey nest in a nearby park. The osprey migrate up, and down the west coast. They return to the Seattle area around April 15.

The next 10 days-2 weeks are very busy. The male expresses his vitality be breaking dead boughs off nearby trees, and adding them to the nest. Yes, it is VERY impressive to watch.

The egg sitting vigil starts around May 1. This year I'm watching to determine when the eggs hatch.

Last year, it was a brood of three.

The young will generally fledge during the month of August. The breeding pair will keep the empty nest until about September 15, and then head south.

Speculation........It seems that we have a second osprey nest in the area, or more accurately, I've seen osprey contesting in flight. No it wasn't breeding activity. The eggs have already been laid.

I'm guessing these times are latitude dependent.

P.S. Watching a bald eagle chasing an osprey for prey in the talons? That's impressive too!!

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

It's always the birds and the bees with nature and rock and roll.

Roger Sweeny said...

Phrenology is indeed a pseudo-science that was very big in early Victorian times. But it had some positive impact historically. Phrenology located "the mind" in "the brain" and said that various attributes were localized in certain parts of the brain. In some ways, it was the beginning of neuropsychology.

Meade said...

"We rarely entered our parents' bedroom as kids, but you could stand outside and smell the fragrance that wafted indoors."

This literally brought tears to my eyes.

tcrosse said...

Block that metaphor!

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Live Eagle Cam.

rhhardin said...

Plants know the future by filtering the past. When to bloom follows a complicated algorithm based on recent weather.

rhhardin said...

Chicory is open only in the morning, then closes up.

Wince said...

The lilac knew. There was a lack of lie in that indication.

"I like you, Tony. There is no lying in you."

paminwi said...

“Certain plants give a cue...”
We visited a vineyard in Italy (years ago) and we were told they plant rose bushes at the end of rows of vines. They said if the rose bushes had parasites they had time to protect the vines from getting the same parasite. It sounded reasonable to us.

Susan said...

My lilacs don't even have buds on them yet.

It was 21 degrees last night.

I have lots of daffodils in my garden. I can tell whether we are going to have an early or late spring based on when they start blooming. Usually they bloom the last week in March. This year first bloom was April 21st.
Late spring. Sad.

Jupiter said...

"Plants know the future by filtering the past. When to bloom follows a complicated algorithm based on recent weather."

You know that how?

Dave said...

I think wild onions sprout based on day length.

My wife of 28 years divorced me during the middle of a move. I am mentally ill, and I continued to help her move to our new house, and once she had all of her and my son's things in place, she put me out on the street. I lost a lot of things, but I kept a few things.

Here is something I kept, apropos the 50 year anniversary mentioned in this thread.

https://proclasseslive.com/let_it_be.jpg

I got that from my mother. I miss her.

Bill Peschel said...

The relationship between plants and insects I find fascinating. How do they communicate? How does a plant know to display a leaf of a certain color, to attract the insects that are drawn to it.

I find it difficult to believe that evolution has something to do with it. Plants don't put out a rainbow of colors. Plants can't cycle through the color spectrum. And some plants don't use color, but scent or some other signal.

Mind, I believe in evolution, but it has a way to go to explain behavior like this. Easier to believe a controlling intelligence is behind it, that there's an oversystem like Gaia that links us.

Clark said...

"John Lennon wrote that song, which he called 'a piece of garbage.' Wikipedia says it has a 'multitude of strange, seemingly nonsense phrases which were strung together in what Lennon refers to as a Bob Dylan style of lyric.'"

There is a great, rambling essay by the pianist/composer Busoni in which he suggests that composers write their best music in free passages, transitions and such, when they are unconstrained by form. (This probably only works with composers who have honed their craft by working within forms.)

"Indeed, all composers have drawn nearest the true nature of music in preparatory and intermediary passages (preludes and transitions), where they felt at liberty to disregard symmetrical proportions, and unconsciously drew free breath." [Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music, Ferruccio Busoni.]

Fernandinande said...

But you don't know that.

Well, yeah I do know that, because you can change the plant's future to something it didn't indicate.

It would've made sense to have made that comment about the original false statement.

Big Mike said...

Here in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley it really did get down to freezing last night. So much for living in a southern state.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Phen's Law:

Plant and animal life cycle events arent really believed to be influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors

Christy said...

Spread pre-emergent weed killer on your lawn when the forsythia is in bloom.

Lilacs are over here in the East Tennessee foothills. I've been not getting around to pruning them for a week or so.

RNB said...

Beyond phrenology is 'phrenotherapy': Adjusting one's personality by modifying the bumps on one's skull. With a hammer.

Dave said...

Meade is right. You can't truly KNOW anything. If you can prove otherwise, I'd enjoy your exposition, but I doubt you can do better than Kant, and I am not persuaded by his argument.

Also, you might consider that Meade was just joking, and perhaps consider responding in kind.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Phenology is phenomenology, but with consequences.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Jupiter: I suspect rhhardin was expressing a hypothesis in a metaphorical way (sorry for all the Greek, I'm not so good at it myself).

The idea, I think, is that plants behave as though they have complex and sensitive mechanisms to optimize their response to the environment, including the recent weather; in a sense, this is almost self-evident, since they do optimize their growth habit, size, blooming time, leafing out time, etc, etc, in a highly variable way, depending on where they are. This is readily apparent if one pays attention to the plants around him from year to year, and compares them over time, and those with what he sees in the same species in a different place, over time. They can't walk, after all.

Nature has had a long time to tinker with this via natural selection. Kind of makes sense, right?

rhhardin, as is often the case, tends to be concise to the point of being gnomic.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Bill Peschel: "I find it difficult to believe that evolution has something to do with it. Plants don't put out a rainbow of colors. Plants can't cycle through the color spectrum. And some plants don't use color, but scent or some other signal."

At this point, the behavior of both the plants and the insects are both hard-wired, so to speak. The plants and insects evolved together, their current relationship (adversarial or beneficial) is all part of that. A bug born today that can't see the color it's "supposed" to be able to see will go hungry and not live long. Similarly the orchid that needs a certain kind of moth or fly to be able to get inside of it to carry the pollen it needs, will not set seed if it is a variant that the moth or fly cannot get into (or out of).

It is interesting to note how bright some flowers appear in infrared light, when they do not look so brilliant to us. Bees, and other pollinators, can see in the infrared. Those flowers look bright to them, and that's what counts for the species involved.

All of the above of course goes for chemical signals (odor, nectar) and no doubt others we have yet overlooked, in our impatience.

The relationships are endlessly subtle, intricate, and beautiful. Nature has been at this for a very long time, and we haven't even been 300 years trying to sort it out.
People didn't even have toilets in their houses back then.

I am content to marvel and enjoy what little of it I can understand and see.

Iman said...

I Dig a Pony is one of my favorite Beatle songs from their last years. One of the first bass lines I learned as a teen. Also love to watch their Rooftop performance of that one and a few others off the album.

Rick.T. said...

“Growing Degree Days (GDD) are used to estimate the growth and development of plants and insects during the growing season. The basic concept is that development will only occur if the temperature exceeds some minimum development threshold, or base temperature (TBASE). The base temperatures are determined experimentally and are different for each organism.“

If you want to get serious about horticulture, you need to understand and be able to calculate the above.

narayanan said...

Dave said...
Meade is right. You can't truly KNOW anything. If you can prove otherwise, I'd enjoy your exposition, but I doubt you can do better than Kant, and I am not persuaded by his argument.
---------------===================
then how do you know whatever it is that Kant said.

I have to say Kant readers are prime examples of the Gell-amnesia-thingy some guys bring up often.