Tuesday, June 26, 2012

halifornia dreaming


Believe it not there are a few intrepid business owners here who post signs in their window displays that actually use the word Halifornia to mean Halifax. Now I wouldn't have you believe anything is particularly bad about this nice little city that's generally very well cared for (a 13% sales tax rate and high property taxes do wonders for the various municipal services) but California it is definitely not. I spent more than 17 years living on the west coast of the US and had enough chances to see that fabled state to know this city is nothing like that place. Look wherever you like and you won't find a movie studio, a Hollywood starlet, a Golden Gate Bridge, or a Disneyland. No grape vines either. Nevertheless, when the summer sun shines it's a pretty enough place as you can see from the picture above I took one afternoon last week (zoomed a bit); the very next morning we awoke to mist so thick I couldn't see the balcony rail from three feet away.


Here's another one taken from the same spot this morning and what we have here is a genuine Atlantic fog and not the smog that often obscures LA. California is a lovely state that has its share of man made problems while Halifax (and Nova Scotia in general) simply don't have the kind of climate and landscape to attract 36.5 million people. In fact the entire population of Canada at 34 million is noticeably less than that figure. Perhaps those store owners should just show a bit more honesty in advertising and change their signs to say Halifog. Then again, that might not encourage tourism.

I came across an interesting story on the BBC this morning about the world's first multinational corporation and its monopolization of the spice trade:

Just as corporations today seek to monopolise plant genes in the developing world, the Netherlands United East India Company (Voc) set about seizing total control of spice production. In 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish, the Dutch introduced a policy known as extirpatie: extirpation. All clove trees not controlled by the Voc were uprooted and burned. Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorisation faced the death penalty.
On the Banda Islands, to the south - the world's only source of nutmeg - the Dutch used Japanese mercenaries to slaughter almost the entire male population. Like Opec today (and Monsanto etc.?), the Voc also limited supply to keep prices high. Only 800 -1,000 tonnes of cloves were exported per year. The rest of the harvest was burned or dumped in the sea.


Somehow, little Afo managed to slip through the net. A rogue clove. A guerrilla plant waging a secret war of resistance. Afo would eventually bring down the Dutch monopoly on cloves. In 1770, a Frenchman, appropriately named Poivre, stole some of Afo's seedlings. This Monsieur Pepper took them to France, then the Seychelles Islands and, eventually, Zanzibar, which is today the world's largest producer of cloves. A clove tree planted from the original seeds still stands today half way up a volcano on Zanzibar where it grows as a symbol of the ultimate folly of empire - and the stubborn refusal of nature to be controlled.

Maybe I'll like cloves better from now on.

16 comments:

marja-leena said...

Lovely scene that first one but yikes, what fog! The tourism business seems to be getting out of hand! And this history shows that business practices haven't changed much, gotten worse instead, I think. Now every time I have cloves (love it!) I will think of the history. Wasn't it the spice trade that also resulted in the discovery of North America?

jams o donnell said...

Halifornia sounds a bit like bad breath! As for VOC and the BEIC (British East India Company) I bet modern multinationals would love a fraction of their power

susan said...

When I awoke that other morning my first thought was to take a picture but there would have been nothing to see. It's quite amazing to watch it roll in.

You're right about it being the spice trade that led to the discovery of the Americas. When the Ottoman empire came to dominate the Middle East including the old overland routes, the Europeans set sail to find a better way around.

susan said...

There was a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland called Ptosis that always made me think of food poisoning.

I'm sure you're right about the power dominance.

Life As I Know It Now said...

what a delightful history lesson you have given me :)

Rob-bear said...

Thanks for the spicy story about cloves and all.

Halifornia? I don't think so. Haligonia might get some traction. But I'm not sure why anyone would use it. Great pic of the fog, btw.

Randal Graves said...

What's wrong with fog? That's prime spooky noochies. And I hope you're not suggesting that humanity has always been rife with diabolical knuckleheads.

susan said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it :-)

susan said...

It was a good one, wasn't it?

Halifornia is a silly word, not suitable at all. The fogs we get here are spectacular in their density.

susan said...

Who said I don't like fog? It's an especially good time for cemetery strolls.

and.. yes, it looks that way.

linda said...

hmmm. i had no idea. and i adore cloves. they find their way into most everything i ever bake. or DID bake. GF does that to you...

that is a lovely park when it's sunshine and green grass. the grass is very very green there.

the fog photo does actually look like "my" Calif. we are often, in july and august, engulfed in a fog bank because we are higher up, i presume, tho they were engulfed before me lower down! in fact you cannot see across the yard to the trees.

of course everyone who comes to the state comes dressed for THEIR summer to discover ours is not quite what they expected. heehee... maybe i am a tad anti-tourist? when i can't get through town on a sat. afternoon and go to the drugstore without lines a mile long for candy bars and coke, well, no, don't much like them coming to town for the dumb chili cook-off created just for them...

i did go off on that didn't i! xoxox

susan said...

I thought that was pretty fascinating too.

Yes, this place can be as beautiful as anywhere I've ever lived and I don't mind the fog - most days. When we lived on the hill overlooking Portland there were many days when the whole city below us was covered in fog. As you well know, after that it usually climbs uphill before leaving.

I understand your feeling about tourists but we can usually avoid going to the place where they congregate. The fast food stalls at the harbor usually have most of them waiting in line :-)

You can go off as long as you like whenever you like.
xoxoxo

Lydia said...

I love cloves and will never use them again without feeling "in the know." Thanks for the great info. The two photos are just wonderful. Can you share them at a local news station's website (the way they do in Portland)? What a pictorial commentary on the changeability of your weather.

Happy 4th of July. Evidently, Crow is not alarmed by the fireworks the way dogs and cats are. We'll stay close to home to be here for our pets, as I'm sure the neighborhood will be a'poppin'!

Lisa Golden said...

In honor of this bit of history (which pleases me to no end), I'll smoke one of those clove cigarettes I've been keeping for a special occasion. I don't smoke anymore, but this is a good reason to indulge.

susan said...

That was a wonderful story, wasn't it?

Yes, they have that weather picture thing here too but I'm far too lazy to send them pictures :-)

I hope your pets weren't too disturbed by the explosions and I hope you had a great holiday.

susan said...

I hope you enjoy a puff or two. I wonder if you can vape cloves?