funky love

I am completely, totally obsessed with a woman for the first time in my life.   Her name is Lois, and she is rare and beautiful – nearly six feet tall, fat-bottomed, enticingly unpredictable and on the verge of becoming something so magnificently foul that you cannot help but be drawn to her.

Lois: Amorphophallus titanum (pic courtesy of The Houston Museum of Natural Science)

[view the object of my affection live here.]

Lois is a Corpse Flower housed in the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s Cockrell Butterfly Center.   The name says it all, but when Lois finally blooms, the fragrant odor that will emit from her is comparable to a rancid stew of the stankiest things nature has to offer (think cooked cabbage, hot garbage and decaying flesh.)

Native to Sumatra, plants like Lois flower very infrequently in the wild and even less frequently in “captivity”, so this is admittedly a big deal.  Lois has lived in H-Town for six years with nary a bloom, but now she is the center of attention, having grown 33.25 inches since July 1.  Her progress has been meticulously (would you expect any less from a museum?) tracked on flickr and the Beyond Bones blog.

The online community’s growth has mimicked Lois’, as evidenced by the crowd-sourced get-funky-soon playlist, active Twitter feed, and the divalicious CorpzFlowerLois on Twitter and Facebook.  Demand to watch Lois live is so great that Rice University offered tech support for the constantly-crashing streaming video.

I am thrilled that the museum is getting so much attention.  Now open on a 24/7 schedule until Lois reveals her malodorous charms, throngs of people  are waiting in line to get a glimpse and hopefully be (un)lucky enough to catch a whiff.

Corpse Flower in full bloom. Not Lois.

I will continue to stalk watch Lois from afar, envious of those who are privileged to meet her face to funk.

See the Corpse Flower at HMNS! [Amorphophallus titanum] from HMNS on Vimeo.

EDIT: Erin B. at HMNS wrote an amazing blog about Lois’ unexpected impact and the power of community.  Thanks for the shout-out!

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the giving season

There is always an increased push for charitable donations this time of year. Many nonprofit organizations, hoping to tap into the spirit of giving (and desire for year-end tax deductions), roll out their most imaginative and warm-fuzziest campaigns in order to coax a bit of yuletide cheer from their potential donors’ holiday budgets.

  • The American Red Cross’ concise Gift That Saves the Day campaign is completely on mission and earns points for delivery on multiple platforms.
  • Charity:water encourages donors to pass on giving Dad his 1,000th consecutive holiday necktie and “use the money to build a well instead.”
  • Head to to donate the funds you would have spent on gifts to BRAC, a development and aid organization for families in Africa and Asia.
  • With Heifer International you can purchase live llamas, sheep or honeybees in lieu of the traditional Christmas ham.
  • Save that “sorry, no change” excuse!  The Salvation Army offers three ways to donate this year: the classic kettle– now with credit card readers–online and via iphone application.
  • Crowdsourcing the donation of five million dollars via facebook sounds awesome in theory, but Chase Community Giving definitely shanked the execution.  So much has been written, blogged and tweeted about this that I’m not sure I can add much to the conversation.  I’m still trying to figure out how to spell a D’oh!-like slap to the forehead.  In the meantime, Beth Kanter offers a very thorough timeline of the still-developing fiasco.

The intersection of commerce and charity is nothing new, but the potential for such partnerships has heightened with the introduction of social media tools into development and marketing schemes.  While there is  evidence that this approach nets positive short-term results, Angela M. Eikenberry offers her take on the long-term costs of cause marketing.

The jury’s still out for me, but I’m interested to see how this philanthropy will advance in 2010.


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