Jon Carroll wrote a column about mulch earlier this week. It so happens that I came across not one but two mulch crews on my bike ride yesterday. Mulch is absolutely essential for suburbia to exist, right up there with gasoline and espresso. Ninety percent of it is useless and/or decorative; there’s no reason for a well-established tree to have a collar of mulch rising halfway up the trunk, although it does make mowing around it easier. So finding, say, a teenage maple with mulch piled at least eight inches high at its base is as easy as looking out the nearest window. Over winter mulch will compact, degrade, etc., and in the spring a crew comes around and adds three more inches. Since it only lost one or maybe two inches over the winter, this is a net gain for the mulch pile, and you see some really stupid-looking mulch setups. I’m not a gardener, but my guess is, this can’t be good for the tree. If your feet needed to be wet you might wear wet socks, but adding wet pants is certainly unnecessary, and would be like laying out a welcome mat for pests that like moist, dark places to burrow. But no one asks me. I’m just the dumb lady rolling past on the bicycle.
Anyway, one of the mulch crews I saw yesterday was typical, a bunch of dark-skinned men speaking Spanish. I wondered the same thing I wonder when I pick up, oh, say a small rendering of a stained-glass window featuring praying hands and the “Footprints” verse, all executed in lovely plastic with “made in China” stamped on its base. I think of the sweatshop factory, the miasma of hot plastic coming from the non-OSHA-approved machinery, a life measured out by coffee spoons while this crap goes by on the conveyor belt. I wonder what the person who made it thought of the distant Americans who will display this in their homes. And so I wondered about how mulch is used in the Spanish-speaking world, if the village in Chihuahua or Guatemala or wherever these men came from contains mulch, what they thought when they learned that Americans in one of the wettest places on the planet grind up old trees and heap them up around the trunks of other trees for reasons no one can precisely fathom.
I told myself I was going to think of story ideas on this bike ride, by the way, showing I’m capable of procrastination even in my recreation.
Bloggage: From my ace advertising source JohnC, I know the term for detailed photographic advertising placed on high-rise buildings is a “wrap.” (GM frequently wraps the RenCen; this was for the All-Star Game in 2005.) So. Warner Bros. building in Burbank gets a wrap promoting Madonna’s new album. Worker therein notes that his office seems to be in Madonna’s vagina, more or less. Post gets linked on Metafilter. Hilarity ensues: I used to work there until I got my pink slip. And so on, and on, and on.
GOP operative gives the gender version of the “well, there’s black people, and then there’s n*ggers” defense, here.
One of my favorite newspaper blogs is the Detroit News’ Tax Watchdog, written by reporter Robert Snell and dedicated to the proposition that if you throw a rock in southeast Michigan, you’ll hit a tax deadbeat, and many of them are famous. At the top of the blog today, Anita Baker, on the hook for $481K and change. Bonus: A picture of her Grosse Pointe house.
I also liked this audio slideshow about Red’s Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor, a Detroit institution.
The News is rich this week: I also learned that Sam Wagstaff, the man who discovered, promoted and loved Robert Mapplethorpe, did a three-year stint at the Detroit Institute of Arts as a curator, where he promoted avant-garde pieces such as “Dragged Mass Geometric”: Conceptual art at its highest and most abstruse, “Dragged Mass Geometric” involved two bulldozers lugging a 35-ton slab of granite across the verdant sweep of the museum’s north lawn, with the goal of embedding it in the earth.
And now, off to the gym for Rob’s Torture Class, which I skipped Tuesday for my meeting, which means it’ll be even more torture-ific. Send moral support.