Beautiful ringing of the changes on synonyms for reject, in the sense of veto, in Sarah Vogelsong’s “Churchill Downs faces tough election night in Virginia:”

… voters decisively defeated both measures. Almost 59% of Manassas Park voters rejected the Rosie’s referendum, while almost 62% of Richmond voters nixed the casino project — a stark contrast to the 51%-49% split on the casino in 2021 when Urban One was the plan’s sole backer. (emphasis added)

Willing suspension of disbelief

Ben Davis’s rejoinder to Devon Rodriguez.

… we should think of his social media posts as part of his practice, to be reviewed in and of themselves. These are, after all, not just how he got famous; in some sense they are what he is really famous for. And they are in many cases clearly staged….

Artists’ personal stories have long been part of how art is marketed, from Vincent van Gogh to Frida Kahlo, but in those cases, the artists’ paintings attracted interest first, and the biography became part of its legend as its fame grew. Today, personal biography and narrative are more important than ever in the gallery—most art comes equipped with some kind of story. But social media gives an added twist: Hordes of people can feel as if they have a relationship with a painter like Devon Rodriguez without ever having had any direct experience of his painting at all.

(via Kottke.org)

IMO, for empathetic, unguarded, photo-realistic images of passengers on the subway, look to Walker Evans’s photographs.


Sarah Ruhl’s reduction of Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s gender-fluid time-travel novel of 1928, picks out key episodes and characters from the life of the titular 300-year-old would-be writer. Plucky Orlando (the adaptable Mary Myers) is ringed by a chorus of four, each of them playing an important personage in Orlando’s journey from inchoate man to established woman. Most remarkable among them is Alan Naylor’s comic turn as Queen Elizabeth (now QE II, of course), a screeching parrot in a red wig of a color unknown to both nature and the laboratory.

Ruhl’s text cleaves close to Woolf’s, so for instance we hear the memorable image “Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground” of the Little Ice Age section. That strategy can sometimes work against the momentum of the play, as when the chorus is reduced to simple narration (albeit physicalized) of the transitions of Orlando’s world.

Costume designer Kitt Crescenzo has put all four chorus members (male and female) into modified farthingales, an effective choice, and Sasha’s furs are quietly sumptuous. Orlando’s womanly headgear of the 19th and 20th centuries was a bit unstable at Sunday’s performance.

  • Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, adapted by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Nick Martin, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington

Ohio 2023: 2

My field trips in Miami County focused on county parks where I might donate a bench in Mom’s memory. There was much dodging of drizzle and driving through rain.

from Maple Ridge endfrom the middleThe twin parks of Stillwater Prairie Preserve and Maple Ridge are linked by a swingy suspension bridge for foot traffic…

true to its name… over the Stillwater River. I didn’t get much time in either park, but the former has some extensive grasslands that look to be quite delightful in season. I did spot some Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) fruit in the woods edging the prairie and stream.

Charleston Falls, in the southern end of the county, is also rather nice, but the falls on this October day were just a trickle.

In nearby Champaign County, Cedar Bog (actually a fen, and there is lots of interpretive material explaining differences) Nature Preserve offered lots of Northern Whitecedar (Thuja occidentalis), well-demarcated Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), and a mystery forb.

More or less on my way home was the E. Lucy Braun Lynx Prairie Preserve in Adams County. Braun described the xeric limestone prairie openings as distinctive, and worked for their preservation. A signature species, Great Plains Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum) showed itself within 20 meters of the parking area. I also found a gentian-like wildflower, quite plentiful in spots, Agueweed (Gentianella quinquefolia); Cobb, Farnsworth, and Lowe helped me identify a really cool fern sharing space with Ebony Spleenwort on a huge limestone outcrop, Common Smooth Cliffbrake (Pellaea glabella ssp. glabella).

Ohio 2023: 1

car 338 boardingcar 325 departingThe first leg of my Ohio road trip brought me to Cleveland and environs and, after much negotiation of time slots, entailed lunch with Aunt D. and dinner with long-lost girlfriend C. In between meals, I had some downtime so I rode the Red Line out to the airport and back. I was a little surprised that the rolling stock was rather light and that power came from a pantograph, but since the Red Line runs in its own ROW, most people would call it a subway/metro/rapid transit. Non-rush hour trains consisted of only two cars each. The West 25th-Ohio City station is looking rather scruffy; there seems to be some confusion over how to spell “Windermere.”

pleasant surprisedownstreamIn the morning, I took a quick loop at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a surprisingly vigorous water feature. At right, the creek looking back upstream in the direction of the falls.

pathology 1pathology 2I found my first clear example of Beech Leaf Disease, which has just been found recently in Virginia. Close by (and perhaps related), an infestation of Beech Blight Aphid (Grylloprociphilus imbricator). You really need a video to fully appreciate these tiny sap slurpers.

A mystery: 28

The Southwest Virginia Historical Museum in Big Stone Gap is a mini-Smithsonian in the sense that it’s a collection of artifacts that someone once found interesting and/or valuable. (What I found most interesting was the red oak woodwork throughout the mansion.)

mystery mark in situmystery markIn the collection is a set of china from Minton. A gift from Queen Victoria to her Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (27 February 1868 – 1 December 1868, 20 February 1874 – 21 April 1880), it came into the possession of Campbell Slemp. All of the pieces are marked with a monogram formed from a pair of interlocked B’s, topped with a crown and bearing the motto HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE. So far, so good, appropriate to a monarch. But what about the linked B’s? Who dat? They don’t fit Victoria nor Disraeli, as far as I can figure.

VNPS 2023 plus

The following weekend, I transitioned from the skinny western end of the commonwealth to the bulgy eastern end for the Virginia Native Plant Society 2023 annual meeting. And I picked up four more state parks: my 20-park pin is in the mail.

looking for that kingfisherBeginning with Belle Isle SP in Lancaster County, on the Mud Creek Trail, I found that recent rains have plumped up the above-ground fungal activity. The prettiest mushroom I found was ID’d as Peach-Colored Fly Agaric (Amanita persicina).

From the parking area, the first part of this trail traverses the edge of a working corn field, as I found to my slight dismay when a very large piece of equipment ran through to process the standing brown stalks. But the edge was good for lots of Verbesina, which meant some nice pollinators, like this late Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius). The trail winds down to Mulberry Creek, which empties into the Rappahannock.

Friday and it was on to York River SP and the Taskinas Creek Trail. I found a rather birdy spot and got identifiable photos of Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) and four warbler species (only three of which I considered iNat-worthy), perhaps most interesting among them a juvenile Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)—I never would have figured this one out without photos.

I came within steps of disturbing the first Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) that I’ve ever seen in life. (I am mildly amused that five different iNatters have confirmed the ID. I can hear them now at the keyboard: “Are you sure you saw a copperhead?”) Even the binomial of this snake sounds dangerous. I was so fixated on keeping my distance from this fellow that it never occurred to me to be wary of possibly more individuals in the area. This one looks like an oldish juvenile. It is written, “Unlike other viperids, [copperheads] often “freeze” instead of slithering away, due to [their] habit of relying on excellent camouflage, rather than fleeing.” That’s exactly what this bad boy did.

Crossing the James on the Jamestown-Scotland ferry (20-minute ride, lunch break waiting for the boat), I hit Chippokes SP in the afternoon. More farmed fields mixed in with natural areas. On these two weekend trips, I’ve turned up a few day-flying moths, like this Chickweed Geometer Moth (Haematopis grataria). My brain is too full to learn any of them properly.

A fluffy pine that looks like Longleaf Pine to me, but iNatter jimbean ID’s it as Sonderegger Pine (Pinus × sondereggeri). I’d like another opinion.

One more state park on Saturday: Machicomoco SP, on the eastern shore of the York. Sporadic drizzle and showers. Soybeans in the middle of the loop road, and just a short braided trail down to Timberneck Creek, but some common seaside species, a confusing composite that turned out to be Spanish Needles (Bidens bipinnata), and a moth (moths again!) masquerading as a beetle: Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis).

The rain cleared off for the afternoon with Gary Fleming at Grafton Ponds Natural Area Preserve. This bit of the Coastal Plain has some similarities with the karst landscapes of Lee County, in that there are pools that dry up seasonally, but whereas the soft, soluble stone in Lee County is just under the thin soil layer, at Grafton there’s up to 40 feet of sediment overlaying the Miocene shell-marl. Gary showed the group a Verbesina that isn’t yellow, Frostweed (Verbesina virginica); the two remaining Pondspice shrubs in the preserve; Pityopsis graminifolia var. latifolia; and what he believes is a first York County record of Flax-leaved Aster, or Stiff-leaved Aster (Ionactis linariifolia).

Last stop, and conveniently on the way home: a walk in the Dragon Run preserve in King and Queen County, held by a private non-profit, the hike led by Maeve Coker and Kevin Howe. We didn’t get down into the swamp (small disappointment), but there were some nice things to see. More mushrooms, including the gangly Beech Rooter (Oudemansiella furfuracea) making a connect-the-dots to its host tree. And another first county record? Oval Ladies’ Tresses (Spiranthes ovalis).

My takeaways: I’m still hoping for a better-performing point-and-shoot camera for closeups, and I should check every patch of goldenrod and Verbesina for pollinators. Even if I’m impatient about ID’ing the goldenrod.