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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 2:35 pm 
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For those who are interested, here is the story behind Penelope and the olive tree. Her husband Odysseus has been away for 20 years (on the Odyssey, no less!) and she has waited faithfully for him all this time despite a profusion of suitors. Upon his return, she is unsure that it is really him, and wants to test him to see if knows a secret that would be only known to her true husband - the nature of their marriage bed. She asks a maid to move the bed, knowing it to be impossible, but wanting to see if Odysseus knows as well. He passes the test:
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He came from the bath looking like one of the immortals, and sat down opposite his wife on the seat he had left. "My dear," said he, "heaven has endowed you with a heart more unyielding than woman ever yet had. No other woman could bear to keep away from her husband when he had come back to her after twenty years of absence, and after having gone through so much. But come, nurse, get a bed ready for me; I will sleep alone, for this woman has a heart as hard as iron."
"My dear," answered Penelope, "I have no wish to set myself up, nor to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I very well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail from Ithaca. Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed chamber that he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and put bedding upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets."
She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said, "Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living, however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for it is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands. There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house, in full vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them, and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter's tools well and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by cutting down the olive tree at its roots."
When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly broke down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his neck, and kissed him.

From Book XXIII of The Odyssey, translated by Samuel Butler.
(Emphasis mine.)
Best regards,
Carl


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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 3:27 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
Michelle,
I am sure you are aware of the fact that if you like this tree, you will have to apologize to the high priests of bonsai.
(just wanted to warn you of the risks)

I answer to no man... ;)


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 3:01 pm 
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Michelle Gray wrote:
Attila Soos wrote:
Michelle,
I am sure you are aware of the fact that if you like this tree, you will have to apologize to the high priests of bonsai.
(just wanted to warn you of the risks)

;)

Hi
I agree but I wanted to ask-
Who are the high priests of bonsai?
What about these "high priests" give them authority to dictate what bonsai can be?

I have noticed even in Japan some people seem to talk about traditional people as if they were some kind of dictators telling everybody what to do in terms of how to make trees.


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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2005 4:35 pm 
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Tadashii Aizawa wrote:
Who are the high priests of bonsai?

Hi Tadashii
When I used the term high priests, I was making a sarcastic reference to the people who vigorously defend the traditional definition of bonsai and are against any innovation. These gentlemen had some success in the past creating good quality bonsai and think that they've earned the right to attack others who have different ideas. They are self-appointed high-priests.
My message to them is that it is all right to dislike non-traditional bonsai. We all have preferences as to what we like. But it is not all right to condemn something for the sole reason that it's different. There has to be a more valid reason for that.
Tadashii Aizawa wrote:
I have noticed even in Japan some people seem to talk about traditional people as if they were some kind of dictators telling everybody what to do in terms of how to make trees.

I Japan the circumstances are very different from the West. In Japan, bonsai has two , fundamentally opposing (and equally valid) meanings:
On one hand, bonsai means tradition. It has a cultural undertone, specifically representing many ideas deeply inbedded in the Japanese culture. It is part of the Japanese identity.
As such, it is bound by many clearly defined rules (as all traditions around the world are). In order to preserve tradition, these rules have to be respected, otherwise the tradition is lost. Defenders of the old tradition have a very valid reason to fight for preserving this wonderful cultural inheritance.
On the other hand bonsai is also an artform. And art, by nature, is not bound by any tradition. It thrives on innovation and creativity. People who don't care much about tradition, but believe in the free spirit of the art, have every right to break free of any tradition.
So, here lies the eternal conflict between art and tradition. They are both good and they will always oppose each other.
The solution is to respect each other. Each of us can choose which side to belong to.
As a Westerner, I don't see any reason to defend the Japanese tradition. I admire it and sometimes I choose to follow it, but not always. I could just as well follow the Chinese, or other traditions if I wanted to. To me only one thing counts: artistry. Luckily, the vast majority of bonsai rules address the issue of artistry, and very few are cultural-specific.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 1:18 am 
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Nick Lenz (who I met for the first time last Friday) passed along the following remarks about Penelope (who I also met for the first time last Friday).
Enjoy - I did.
Carl

Penelope
I asked Candy not to post Penelope because it is a play-party piece, not intended as bonsai art. That it is admired and coveted by so many visiting perverts can only attest to the notion that skills acquired in the pursuit of excellence are not easily abandoned on trivia.
She happened this way: A buddy and I explored a large Adirondack lake, got boomed at, got poured down upon, and found nothing to collect. On the way back, we just had to stop at the lawn statuary place that has made me grimace so many times in the passing, one direction or the other. And there she was, reclining on her concrete and lichen couch, a copy of a marble by a classical sculptor across the CT river in NH from the late 19th century. Not quite as bad as the Greek gods petting bunnies or the trolls with expanded genitals or the cute cuddly concrete pit bull puppies, she was a must to perpetuate the notion of rural kitsch.
In the direct rays of the sun, her lichens began to dry and exfoliate. She needed an umbrella. So I planted one. I did have in mind the memories of giant Cambodian Buddhas covered with jungle trees and gleefully set about the task, pursuing the image of a fig (Greek appropriate) tree as well as that of the wicked suitors manipulating the sensuality of the waiting but doubt stricken wife of a long term wanderer. It was pure giggle producing funk.
This was a short term piece as it only took the larch 4 years to develop to the stage of the first photograph taken, the one posted. It is more impressive with a pornographic scale factor figurine. Most important, rounding a corner and spying Penelope pushes a broad smile onto my face, otherwise discouraged with national political news.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 10:55 am 
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I can't stop admiring Nick's knack for storytelling. It's just amazing how he puts those words together (:-)


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 11:14 am 
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Ah, so now we know. This tree will always raise a smile now, after the classification of "visiting pervert".
Regards,
Richard.


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 12:27 pm 
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Richard Fish wrote:
Ah, so now we know. This tree will always raise a smile now, after the classification of "visiting pervert".
Regards,
Richard.

This made me smile as well, having been (I assume) the most recent pervert to visit and delight in a first-hand encounter with Penelope.
Best regards,
Carl


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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 1:20 pm 
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Carl Bergstrom wrote:
the most recent pervert to visit

I hope you didn't touch her..


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2005 2:38 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
Carl Bergstrom wrote:
the most recent pervert to visit

I hope you didn't touch her..

Touch her? You've got to be kidding. I know what happened to Antinous!
-Carl


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2006 1:28 am 
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Attila Soos wrote:
On one hand, bonsai means tradition. It has a cultural undertone, specifically representing many ideas deeply inbedded in the Japanese culture. It is part of the Japanese identity.

Yes Attila you are right here. But, this is not Japan and never will be. Could this be true American bonsai? One may never know. In my humble opinion this is a real work of art. The combination of the sculpture and bonsai, makes me say "Wow".
-Paul


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 8:54 pm 
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I think you need to realise, Paul, that there is more to the world than America, perhaps? The world is rapidly becoming an homogenous community, where American clothing, European furniture, German cars and Asian food are assuming roles as transcendent exemplars in their respective fields.
Whether or not there is an "American" bonsai matters little to the afficionado outside of America. There is bonsai, albeit with some regional nuances and differences related to regional species but that's about it.
It's a bit like people who insist on using common names for trees that have different names in different countries. You need to base those observations on the internationally accepted Linnaean classifications.
Nick Lenz, to the casual observer, appears to be a very capable bonsai grower and stylist who also displays an iconoclastic streak when it comes to the things he does for "fun". It would make no difference whether he was Chinese, Polish, Russian or Innuit. He's good at traditional bonsai and the application of its techniques and he's good at pushing people's buttons, with his radical penjing-style compositions.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 9:43 pm 
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Hector Johnson wrote:
I think you need to realize, Paul, that there is more to the world than America, perhaps?

Oh yes, Hector I do know there is more to the world as America. After all, without the rest of the world, namely Japan, China, and India where would bonsai be today? Would it even exist?
Hector Johnson wrote:
Whether or not there is an "American" bonsai matters little to the aficionado outside of America.
I agree somewhat to this statement. People are often looking for a definition to the term ?American Bonsai? and in my opinion, Mr. Nick Lenz is the definition. I have heard this term used many times before, from Europeans and Americans. Therefore, maybe it does matter. I am not in the position to say for sure.
Hector Johnson wrote:
He's good at traditional bonsai and the application of its techniques and he's good at pushing people's buttons, with his radical penjing-style compositions.

He most certainly is. His creations are in most cases beyond words. Radical is what the bonsai world needs, in my opinion. Enough with the ?traditional? or ?classical? bonsai, let us shock the world.
-Paul


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:18 am 
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I have noticed that whenever people talk about the origins of bonsai they often refer to Japan, China, India, and even Egypt, yet they leave out one important country in my opinion.
That country is Iraq.
I always pause for effect here...

Seriously, think about one of the old Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which certainly had container grown plants and trees. Considering that Babylon, at that time, was a center for trade and it's gardens were renown throughout civilization at the time, it is very possible that the origins of bonsai started there.

Will


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 1:00 am 
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There is equally good argument to be made for the cultivation of plants used in Ayurvedic and herbal medicine traditions in India, Will.
However, Babylon could certainly be a contender.


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