Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Portraits from our yard: episode 7

with 28 comments

Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei) grow on all four sides of our house. What appealed to me about the one in our back yard shown above on July 22nd was the way two Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) have flanked the trunk this year. That let me make a vertical “sandwich” of green-brown-green that thoroughly filled the frame. On the technical side, let me add that I took the picture from a distance and used my macro lens as a regular 100mm lens for a change. Below is an Ashe juniper in our front yard whose corrugated trunk always gets my attention. It, too, nicely fills a frame, with the corrugations offering countervailing horizontal elements to the predominant verticality of the image.

◊       ◊

And speaking of verticality, we hear a lot from activists about “white privilege,” but those ideologues are whitewashing the real problem: it’s not white privilege but height privilege. Tall people can reach things from high shelves without needing a stepladder. Tall people can see over the heads of others in crowds and theaters and stadiums. Tall people get to be on basketball teams. Getting the short end of the stick are non-tall men. According to an article on more.com,” a study… published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that in the U.S., a six-foot-tall man makes an average of $790 more per year than his shorter peers do.” Women on average have a preference for taller men. Psychology Today reported on a study showing that “Men were most satisfied with women slightly shorter than them (about 3 in.), but women were most satisfied when they were much shorter than their male partners (about 8 in.)” On and on it goes, and it’s a real downer.

As an American man only 5’5″ tall, I get short shrift every minute of my life from a society poisoned by systemic heightism and toxic tallicity. According to an online height percentile calculator, I’m in the 8th percentile of American men, so I should have to pay only 8% of all the taxes I’m subject to. It’s also clear that reparations are owed me. I don’t want to seem vengeful, so it could be something as small as $1,000,000 for each year I’ve endured the degradation of being short. Every institution that caters to the public should have a safe space with a low entrance and a low ceiling where no tall people are allowed to enter; nobody’s gonna lord it over me there, no siree. A “bigger warning” should be posted everywhere I’m likely to encounter tall people. Whenever I’m waiting in line, all taller people ahead of me should have to relinquish their places and go to the end of the line (Get thee behind me, Satan!). In months that are shorter than the maximum 31 days, baseball’s seventh inning stretch should get replaced by the seventh inning scrunch.

Tall people who sell short on the stock market are committing altitudinal appropriation; only short people should be allowed to sell stock that way. In baseball, the player now known by the slur “short stop” shall be referred to instead as the “second-and-a half base person.” People who use the s-word in saying horrific things like “I’m short on cash” or “When I was asked for an answer I came up short” or “I suffer from shortness of breath” should immediately lose their jobs, be banned from all social media, and have to abase themselves by undergoing height-sensitivity training on their hands and knees.

Our state and local governments should require tall people who own businesses to paint a big red T on their storefronts; BLM and Antifa rioters would be allowed to vandalize, loot, and burn down only buildings marked with that big red T. And speaking of which, alongside BLM we need a new organization, SLM, for Short Lives Matter.

Even our justice system is infected with institutional tallism: don’t judges sit on a platform that raises them above everyone else? We must recognize that the word Court in legal matters is a dog whistle to height supremacists, who know that court means ‘short’ in French. Similarly, supreme comes from the Latin word for ‘highest,’ so our most authoritative legal institution must have its name changed from the Supreme Court to the Ultimate Tribunal.

In short, it’s high time society stops selling short people short!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 7, 2021 at 4:37 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I love the texture in those pictures!


    August 7, 2021 at 9:31 AM

  2. I suspect you are not a fan of Randy Newman’s Short People 😃😉

    • I take that song as humor, so it’s okay with me. I attended a concert of his in Austin in the 1980s but I no longer remember if he sang it then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2021 at 2:10 PM

  3. Yup. Short people must have had an awful time coming here on those slave ships and being whipped on plantations. And how many were redlined , not being awarded mortgages for their shortness. How about walking while short in upscale neighborhoods where people don’t believe you own a home. Or someone calling the cops because a short person asked them to leash their dog. Society does play favorites no doubt and you as a Libertarian should respect people’s choices for mates but comparing being short to the experience of African Americans through the decades is ridiculous. I am sure it is meant as humor but the comparison is not. As a Jew you must see that what the Nazis did is not comparable to shortism. Neither is racism comparable. I am just under 6′ so have not had anyone yell “Hey shorty” to me but I have been in my past targeted as a Jew, even stoned once. I really don’t think your little treatise here is humorous.

    Steve Gingold

    August 7, 2021 at 11:44 AM

  4. I agree wholeheartedly about the compensation for the short. But I think “short” is a humiliating term, let’s call people like us “height challenged”😂

    Alessandra Chaves

    August 7, 2021 at 5:49 PM

    • I’d thought about that term, but the locution “x-challenged,” where x is a noun, is the sort of euphemism some people use because they think they can avoid hurting people’s feelings. I remember seeing a woman on television once who, when she was referred to as sight-impaired, said: “I’m not sight-impaired, I’m blind.” On the other-hand, humorists have had some fun with the x-challenged construction, so if you’d like to be called height-challenged, go for it. Are you aware of a similar construction in Portuguese?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2021 at 7:07 PM

      • Lol in that language I’m called “ baixinha”, “anã”, a”pequena”. Nobody cares about short people’s feelings 😂but note that although I’m definitely short in the USA (I’m 5 feet), I’m not THAT short in Brazil, where I blend in a little more.

        Alessandra Chaves

        August 7, 2021 at 7:24 PM

        • It took me a while to figure out that anã is the cognate of Spanish enana, meaning ‘[female] dwarf.’ My Filipina wife is two inches shorter than you. When I go to the Philippines, for once I’m not far from average height. Some photographs from my visits there show me towering over other people.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 7, 2021 at 8:37 PM

  5. Love these textures… the bark is quite beautiful.

    Eliza Waters

    August 7, 2021 at 6:56 PM

    • That second tree is just outside our garage, so I get to see its corrugated bark every time I leave home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 7, 2021 at 7:08 PM

  6. Doesn’t Virginia creeper . . . creep? I would guess that it would quickly make a mess in or over the juniper.


    August 7, 2021 at 10:00 PM

    • Yes, it does creep—until it finds something to climb, and then it goes up. I’ve seen a single stalk of it climb fairly high on a tree but I’ve never seen Virginia creeper cover a tree the way mustang grape or kudzu can do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2021 at 5:45 AM

      • Now that you mention it, I haven’t either. Boston ivy is more common here, but Virginia creeper does live on freeway soundwalls. It gets quite aggressive and big, but does not seem to want to overwhelm trees that it happens to get into, as if it knows that it needs the trees for support.


        August 8, 2021 at 2:35 PM

        • I didn’t know that Virginia creeper has been planted along California freeways.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 8, 2021 at 3:45 PM

          • It is in around the San Francisco Bay Area, although it may be less common in the cooler climates of San Francisco. Now that you mention it, I am not certain if it is common on freeways in Southern California. Because I do not work with freeway landscapes, I sort of ignore what grows on the walls. I refer to both Virginia creeper and Boston ivy as ‘Boston ivy’, even though the Virginia creeper has a more substantial foliar texture to it, and holds its foliage longer. In Los Angeles, Boston ivy helps to muffle sound (decreasing the echo from the walls), and also discourages graffiti.


            August 8, 2021 at 3:52 PM

  7. I’d never sell you short; the long and the short of it is that I found your riff on an under-appreciated handicap both clever and amusing. Back in 1888, Mark Twain (who knew a thing or two about humor) included this in a letter to Yale President Timothy Dwight:

    “It could not become us — we being in some ways, and at intervals, modest, like other folk — to remind the world that [humorist] is a useful trade, a worthy calling; that with all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it: the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence; and that whoso is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties, nobilities, privileges and all kindred swindles, and the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”

    It’s interesting that you mentioned two vines in the first photo, where I see three, distinguished by leaf size: largest on the right, medium on the left, and smallest climbing the tree. It must be a beautiful sight in the fall.


    August 8, 2021 at 7:20 AM

    • Thanks for “getting” my satire, which I spent a long time on. If other readers appreciated it, none have explicitly said so. I assume not everyone is attuned to the current memes and terminology that I parodied. That’s a great quotation from Mark Twain, all the more valuable to me for not having seen it before.

      I also noticed the third, smaller Virginia creeper stalk, and thought of mentioning it. As it comes close to blending with the larger one at the left, it doesn’t mess up the “sandwich,” so I didn’t single it out. I don’t think we’ve had such obvious Virginia creeper vines on that tree in previous years. I hope they turn good colors in the fall, as you’ve suggested. I’ll be sure to take pictures if that happens.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2021 at 10:19 AM

  8. I do appreciate your satire Steve, and applaud you for it. 😃


    August 10, 2021 at 7:53 AM

    • Thanks, Cathy. I worked at squeezing in as many parodies of woke notions and phrases as I could think of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2021 at 9:45 AM

  9. […] This is not the Winged Victory of Samothrace. It’s a dried-out piece of Ashe juniper “bone” from northwest Austin on March 5th. The corrugations are typical of Juniperus ashei, as you’ve seen on other occasions here. […]

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