So there I was, dear reader, saying the nicest things about Margaret Marks. And now I discover, to my dismay, just the vaguest trace of irreverence in her posts (1/2) re John Cage’s 4’33”, implying that she secretly possesses seven heads, ten horns, various crowns, and upon her heads the name of heresy. For what better than a piece that can be performed by anyone, that provides automatic free updates reflecting changing soundscapes, and that reminds one of Thoreau when he writes:

I listen to hear the voice of a Governor, Commander-in-Chief of the forces of Massachusetts. I hear only the creaking of crickets and the hum of insects which now fill the summer air. (Slavery in Massachusetts, 1854)

Here’s a rollover before-and-after photo of one of my favourite fungi, Clathrus ruber, called ornate stinkhorn or whiffle-ball stinkhorn in English, gita de bruixa (“witch’s vomit”) in Catalan, and encountered on this walk and, I believe, also endemic in California:

Clathrus ruber

Although Clathrus ruber is merely extraordinarily repulsive rather than poisonous, one should always take mycologists seriously, given the weaponry at their disposal. John Cage seems to have been a very fine one. The University of California at Santa Cruz conceals the Cage (John) Mycology Collection, there’s an interview with Steve Sweeney-Turner here in which Cage explains the relationship between mushroom hunting and his brand of Thoreauvian individualism, and, finally, there’s a lovely recording of him getting up to some mushroom business here.

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  1. Ah, I’m relieved to see the Cage connection. I thought for a moment you were calling me a whiffle-ball stinkhorn (unlike, as you say, your erstwhile nice remarks). It’s a great interview – though I don’t think I’ve ever seen the laughter written out as ‘Ha ha ha’ – important, of course. One expects to see LOL nowadays.

  2. Lol is Dutch for fun but the word seems to have gone out of fashion at the same time as LOL has been gaining adherents among Dutch internauts.

  3. I’ve been lurking a bit here because I’m coming to C soon. Can you recommend a mushroom book?

  4. Ramon Pasqual’s Guia dels Bolets dels Països Catalans (Pòrtic Natura, 1999) is very good. If you want to see any of the edible varieties you have to be very quick off the mark because gangs of hard-faced men drive their jeeps up into the woods and systematically strip them. There’s a lot of money to be made with mushrooms, and I suspect that the taxman doesn’t see much of it.

  5. (You’ll need to be able to read Catalan, but if your Spanish is OK that shouldn’t be a problem with this kind of stuff.)

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