NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (12)

By: Annie Nocenti
November 8, 2021

One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of (one of) their nerdy obsessions.

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MOSS

My first job as a tiny tot was to uproot lovely yellow dandelions for five cents a plant. Everyone in suburbia wanted a flawless green lawn. Yellow was an aberration to be yanked out. As a child, something bugged me about this conformity of green. It felt suffocating. Children seem to have antennas tuned to anxiety, they resonate with things they cannot name or articulate.

Immaculate green grass commands other plants and colors to bend, contort, shrink, and submit to its dominion. The perfect lawn has an army of warriors fighting for it, fortified with fertilizer spray guns, snaking water hoses and loud, gas-spewing lawnmowers. Is the environmental wasteland of the manicured American lawn due for retirement? Grass isn’t the problem; notions of perfection are. Neighbors side-eye a messy lawn, along with anything else outside the norm.

During our pandemic year, trapped on my land, moss became an obsession. I bought it, planted it, dug it, transplanted it scattershot across the yard. The covert, damp, stealth nature of moss spread quiet and slow under the grass. I bought eco-seed – fescue grass which grows only to a certain height, then flops over. I planted swaths of it — it resembles a field of little toupées. My fantasy is for moss, edibles, wildflowers and eco-creepers to spread into a maintenance-free lawn that will never again feel the violence of the blade.

How did the greening of America get it so wrong? My grandmother used a scythe to cut the hay in her fields to feed her animals, a century ago. I still have that scythe, once a wide blade, now worn to a thin curve by her labor. I love this scythe, a weapon in an unwinnable war.

I notice buzzcut lawns in film … but only when they’re being mocked. The opening shot of Election, with the annoying spit spurt spatter of a water sprinkler, perfectly sets the scene for an entire film about small protests against the rigors of conformity. The opening sequence of Blue Velvet, with the whitewashed picket fence, waving firemen, then the dive down into a carnage of beetles hidden in the grass, is a tiny rebellion, pushing up under subservience.

Why yank dandelions? They have edible leaves and the yellow flowers beckon to pollinating bees; a fruitful little plant/bee/human ecosystem. Ignore a field, and it thrives with edibles and wild flowers –wild strawberries, echinacea, wild onions, garlic mustard, fiddleheads, morels — a lush, natural symbiotic sweep.

Recently, news stories are popping up, deriding “nonfunctional turf” – the grass along highways, in the dead-zones of office parks, development malls. In-between grass, useless grass. Grass that is only walked on when fertilized, mowed and watered. Grass that needs endless labor for it to exist. Grass is the green of money, of capitalism, the green of envy and greed. Does the weeding, fertilizing, watering, mowing labor needed to attain green perfection guarantee happiness? We are planting ourselves, not the grass. In the end, is rebellion against unattainable perfection healthier? My personal war against lawn monoculture has blurred into a war against conformity – perhaps a turf staked way back in childhood.

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NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Peggy Nelson | Andrew Sempere on NERDING | Blanca Rego on RAIN | Lucy Sante on PSEUDO-AMERICAN PSEUDONYMS OF FRENCH PULP WRITERS DURING WWII | Heather Cole on AMERICAN GIRL | Nicholas Rombes on OLD GEOLOGY SURVEY BOOKS WITH MAP INSERTS | Susan Roe on TIME | Mark Kingwell on SCALE MODELS | Jessamyn West on THE POST OFFICE | Josh Glenn on ARDUIN | Vanessa Berry on NEWSAGENCY AESTHETICS | Toby Ferris on BRITISH/EALING WW2 FILMS | Annie Nocenti on MOSS | Adam McGovern on JOAN SEMMEL | Gabriela Pedranti on ILLUSTRATED BOOKS | Miranda Mellis on DOUBT | Tom Nealon on PAGE EDGES | Mandy Keifetz on KLINGON CONFIDENTIAL (NOVEL EXCERPT) | Eric Weisbard on SUMMATIONS | Kio Stark on LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CLASSIFICATION CODES | Charlie Mitchell on REPO MAN | James Parker on SEINFELD | Heather Kapplow on NOTHING | Russell Bennetts on VIDEO GAMES: MODE 7 | Vijay Parthasarathy on VIRTUAL TRAVEL | Marc Weidenbaum on NERD PROXIMITY.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2022): KUILL | CATO | RAWHIDE | VOLSTAGG | THE APOSTLE PETER & 20 other sidekicks. NERD YOUR ENTHUSIASM (4Q2021): TIME | THE POST OFFICE | ARDUIN | DOUBT | SUMMATIONS | & 20 other nerdy passions. SWERVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (3Q2021): WARHOL’S WALT WHITMAN | 70, GIRLS, 70 | TYRAEL’S MIGHT | SHIRATO SANPEI | THE LEON SUITES | & 20 other never-realized cultural productions. FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2Q2021): DARK SHADOWS | MANNIX | GET SMART | THE ADDAMS FAMILY | I DREAM OF JEANNIE | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) TV shows. FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA AND THE PRINCESSES OF POWER | DRAGON BALL Z | & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Enthusiasms

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