Saying Farewell To Mr. Okra, New Orleans's Musical Produce Seller
The New Orleans icon Arthur James Robinson, known better as "Mr. Okra," passed away last Thursday at the age of 75.
Driving slowly through New Orleans' neighborhoods, Robinson sold vegetables the way other vendors dole out ice cream. Except he did so from a distinctive, decorated truck, emblazoned with the words "Be Nice or Leave" and packed to the brim with produce. His friendliness and familiarity, as well as his impassioned chant reverberating through a loudspeaker ("I have strawberries, I have grapes, I have spinach...") made him a beloved local celebrity.
Robinson's career as Mr. Okra began when he sold produce with his father as a young man. His father, Nathan Robinson, had started out selling from a pushcart, later trading it in for a horse and buggy. Back then, it wasn't unusual for street vendors to sell shellfish, baked goods, and produce. Arthur Robinson turned out to be one of the last produce vendors to still hawk his wares around the city. Despite his Mr. Okra moniker, Robinson's favorite things to sell were fruits such as cantaloupes and peaches.
Vendors using music or chants to sell food is a dying tradition. Even before Robinson's death, people had taken steps to honor and immortalize him. A photograph of Robinson and his truck is currently displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. His voice lives on in recordings, too, as a toy called "Mr. Okra in Your Pocket," and also in songs that incorporate his unmistakable voice.
Mr. Okra's legacy will continue through his daughter, Sergio. After years of riding in the truck with her father, she had already taken on much of the business as his health worsened. Which means that the streets of New Orleans will be hearing Mr. Okra's song again soon.
Reimagining How Plants Began to Take Over the Planet
In the history of Earth, one of the most crucial developments, in the billions of years of the planet’s existence, was when plants evolved to colonize the land. So much followed from this one big move: rising levels of oxygen, layers of rich soil coating the ground, new habitats for animals to explore and make home.
But there are giant gaps in our understanding of land plants’ beginnings. Only a scattering of tiny, early land plants have been preserved in the fossil record, and although scientists know of four major groups, they have had trouble puzzling out the order in which they evolved.
“Our understanding of where these plants sit in the tree of life is a bit of a shambles,” says Philip Donoghue, a professor of paleobiology at the University of Bristol.
Early land plants can be divided into four major groups—liverworts, hornworts, mosses, and vascular plants. Those first three can be grouped together as bryophytes, which tend to be small and scrubby and reproduce via spore. Vascular plants have veins that can carry water and minerals to different parts of the plant. The relationship between these four big groups, though, has been a mystery. Did vascular plants branch off on their own evolutionary journey? Or, perhaps, did a shared ancestor of liverworts and mosses split off from the shared ancestor of hornworts and vascular plants?
In their work, Donoghue and his colleagues considered seven competing versions of this plant family tree, each consistent with existing evidence. But based on their analysis of genomic evidence from algae and the four major land plant groups, they were able to narrow down the possibilities to three options. According to their results, liverworts and mosses make up one branch of early plant life; their work also suggests, though, with less certainty, that hornworts are part of that same branch.
Those results cut against some existing ideas about how early plant life evolved. Often, liverworts, which are extremely simple plants, have been thought of as a more primitive form of early plant life, that presaged more complicated mosses and vascular plants. But these results indicate that liverworts actually evolved to become more simple—that the common ancestor of all four plant groups was a more complicated organism than previously imagined.
Whatever order these plants evolved in, though, the second paper suggests that they developed in a relatively short amount of time—within a handful of millions of years. (That counts as "short" in this realm. “It’s all relative,” Donoghue says. “Half a billion years ago, it’s all within the fumes of statistical uncertainty.”) In the PNAS paper, the researchers describe their efforts to pin down a timescale for early land plant evolution, by combining data from plant genomes and the fossil record. No matter which of those seven evolutionary scenarios the team considered, they found that land plants branched off as early as the mid-Cambrian era and vascular plants branched off in the late Ordovician or late Silurian periods, sometime approximately 440 to 420 million years ago.
“The branching events probably happened very close to each other in time,” says Donoghue. “It doesn’t matter how you resolve the tree. There’s been quite a lot of evolution happening in a short space of time.”
That timeline puts the origins of land plants earlier than previously thought, which could have large implications for our understanding of the early history of our planet. One of the reasons that scientists are interested in early plant development is because of the impact plants had on the Earth’s climate. Whenever land plants evolved, they started reshaping the planet and its climate; this is one of the beginning points for models of the Earth’s climate history.
If plants’ geoengineering work started back in the Cambrian period, “all that work has been based on the wrong assumption,” says Donoghue. The Earth in the Cambrian period wouldn’t have been characterized by bare rock and perhaps a bit of pond scum; it might have had a low, floral forest that would have already been greening the planet.
Compared to the elaborate forests of today, these low-lying plant covers wouldn't seem particularly majestic. Their descendants are still around today, in bogs, on rocky cliffs, in damp cracks, and mostly we don't pay much attention to them. But these are the types of plants that transformed the course of Earth's history.
“Most people are unaware of plants outside of flowering plants," says Donoghue. "All the action, all the fundamental evolutionary innovation, are in these miserable, boring-looking plants that grow in places people don’t want to be. These mosses are best modern model for plants that fundamentally changed our planet.”
The Lut Desert, also known as Dasht-e Lut, is an extreme landscape in more ways than one. The hyper-arid desert is one of the hottest and driest places on the planet. Those who brave a visit will soon discover the beautifully strange scenery that make this place one of a kind.
Iran's Lut Desert is often called the hottest place on Earth—though that depends on how you're defining "hottest." To be precise, the Lut holds the record for having the Earth's hottest surface temperature, which can climb as high as 159 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).
In any case, this scorching superlative is not the only thing that makes this region unique. The desert is speckled with gigantic rock formations, some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, salt plains, sinkholes, forgotten castles, and friendly wolves that roam around at night.
Camp outside under the stars and you will feel tiny between the surreal rock formations. Visitors, of course, are advised not to explore Lut Desert in the summer; however beware that in winter and spring the nighttime temperatures drop below zero.
Berlinale 2018 Review: FAKE TATTOOS, Bearing the Marks of a Great Teenage Drama
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Russian Symphonic Black Metal band Infallible releases their debut album "Aeterna Veritas" today. The album was recorded at Crystal Crown Studio and mixed/mastered by Anton Matveev at BlastWave Studio. Aeterna Veritas by Infallible Read More/Discuss on Metal Underground.com
Triverse Massacre a death metal band from the UK, is releasing its new EP "Hades" via Sliptrick Records today. The effort was recorded by Jordan “Red Leader” Embleton at Custom Space studio in South Shields who also mixed and mastered the production. Read More/Discuss on Metal Underground.com
Affasia Premiere Pre-Release Full-Album Stream Of Upcoming New EP "Adrift in Remorse"
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Tech-Death Tuesday: Devour DECRESCENT's Full-Throttle Nightmare Feast Of A Debut, Blackened Bequest
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<a href=/bands/band.php?band_id=419&bandname=Primordial>Primordial</a> have released a video for the song "To Hell Or The Hangman" taken from their forthcoming album, <i>Exile Amongst The Ruins</i>, due out on March 30th via Metal Blade Records. Just like the first single, "<a href="">Stolen Years</a>", the video was directed by Costin Chioreanu and you can enjoy it below. <a href="/events/news_comments.php?news_id=33196>Read more...</a>
<a href=/bands/band.php?band_id=419&bandname=Primordial>Primordial</a> have released a video for the song "To Hell Or The Hangman" taken from their forthcoming album, <i>Exile Amongst The Ruins</i>, due out on March 30th via Metal Blade Records. Just like the first single, "<a href="/events/news_comments.php?news_id=32960">Stolen Years</a>", the video was directed by Costin Chioreanu and you can enjoy it below. <a href="/events/news_comments.php?news_id=33196>Read more...</a>
American group <a href=/bands/band.php?band_id=3442&bandname=Baroness>Baroness</a> is returning to Europe this summer for some club shows and festivals! In June, the band will perform in Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Spain and more. Check out all the dates below. <a href="/events/news_comments.php?news_id=33195>Read more...</a>