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TROUT UPDATE 2014 — No such thing as "PC" or "pachanot"  

Hell hath no fury like Trout after a thumbs down book review
Back in 2005 San Pedro book writer "Trout" was outraged by my thumbs down review. To get revenge he created webpages insisting that the San Pedro I grow and sell, the same ones pictured on his book cover, are NOT real San Pedro—they must be "pachanots."

Over the years his anti-San Pedro propaganda misled many newcomers visiting various cactus blogs. They, in turn, unwittingly spread his malicious misinformation.  Trout & friends have tried to convince people that the San Pedro pictured in his book are the really the wrong ones (not pachanoi, but pachanots).

But recently a calm, intelligent individual refuted his absurd pachanot campaign. Read this excellent essay that says it all: Trichocereus Pachanoi 'Predominant Cultivar'
The color photo on the cover — is the true San Pedro! Take cuttings of it for an endless supply of genuine San Pedro. It really is that simple. The Chavin Indians knew this 2,500 years ago.

Why is Trout so confused? Read his quotes...
Fish for dinner!
Trout fully cooked — his assertions about "pachanots" and "Backberg clones" were his petty nonsense. They are the real San Pedro after all... More...

An explanation of the context within which I wrote this review

I was a student at the School of Visual Arts (NYC) in 1970. One of the writers for Goodson-Todman Productions asked me to be a contestant on their TV show "To Tell The Truth." The person we were pretending to be was Isacc Bonewits [...he graduated from the university in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in Magic, becoming the first and only person to have ever received any kind of academic degree in Magic from an accredited university]

The contestants get together for an afternoon meeting to learn about the person they will pretend to be. Isaac gave me and the other guy, an attorney from New Jersey, copies of his thesis with which the University of California granted him a Masters Degree in Magic. You have to remember that after Woodstock and the turbulent 1960's things were very liberal and experimental. So UC Berkeley let Isaac write his own ticket; he created a degree program in Neosatanism.

Ok, I'm getting to the point. We took his "Magic Masters Thesis" home with us to study —in order to help us fake out the panel by knowing details about Isaac. The next day I saw the lawyer backstage before we went out in front of the audience. He was outraged at the "piece of crap" thesis Bonewits had written. I had to agree it was a strange, disorganized mess of different colors of copy paper badly stapled into a pile. I never forgot the attorney looking at me in disbelief saying "This is crap! How did a University give him a Masters Degree for this? If I had turned in anything like this at my college I'd have been flunked!"

That is how I felt when I first obtained the Trout Notes on San Pedro. The work was as undisciplined and messy as the Bonewits papers. When I wrote this review I had finished a career as a technical writer in Silicon Valley to retire away from the crowded madness of the Bay Area. I immediately saw that the book was one of those "self published" arrangements where the printer does not change anything the author submits. There was an obvious lack of any professional level copy editing.

Let me give you a context for appreciating the need for an editor. In James Michener's biography he mentioned working with his editor at Random House for a year on a finished manuscript. That is the process by which you transform raw manuscripts into well organized, highly readable books. No such effort was made with San Pedro. The writing is dreadful.

Photo editing
The photos were similarly a great disappointment. As a visual artists I used to edit peoples Kodak pictures in those long gone days when you were handed a thick stack when visiting someone's home. "Here! Look at our vacation photos! Look at our baby photos!" And I would start dealing them out in piles "What are you doing!?"  I'd explain that one pile was duplicates, another contained the underexposed, blurred, or totally uninteresting ones, etc. Now here is the interesting thing—the reaction to my sorting out the "good pictures" from the trash was never well received. "Oh no! Don't get them out of order!" they'd complain.

To me it was better to save 10% of the most interesting photos than to inflict that huge stack of bad ones on visitors. But I learned that non-professionals don't edit their writing or their images. They think everything they do is perfect. When I was hired as a contract writer for corporations I had to rewrite some very difficult medical and scientific procedures. I still remember Boston Scientific giving me the authority to do so without having a particular cardiologist fight to leave his words alone. To him you could not touch anything he wrote. But in the end I edited his coronary catheter calibration procedure into one any technician in the EU could follow without ambiguity.

Exposing charlatans
The last aspect of the context in which I found Trout's San Pedro so miserable to wade through came from my friend Tom, who was once a writer for Atlanta Monthly. He was a wild guy! Bored with life as a Ph.D. he went back to college at age 40 to take pre-med at Brown. After medical school and his internship he became a fun loving psychiatrist. And to think I picked him up one night hitch hiking in Berkeley trying to get back to UCLA. Anyway, Tom was loved by his readers but hated by the venues, directors, and actors he reviewed. Tom used to say that it was his job to expose charlatans and bimbos.

The point of all this is to make the point that in all things quality matters.  Doing a quality job on this subject was not achieved. It is as poorly written as the Bonewits thesis. The photos remind me of those thick stacks of baby pictures—badly composed, redundant, poorly exposed, uninteresting, etc. San Pedro was a subject that could have become a book worthy of the spirit of the plant itself. They say the Jesuits taught the Indians about St. Peter who held the keys to Heaven. They told the Jesuits there was a plant that also held the keys to Heaven. My point is that Trout's San Pedro lost those keys.

I agree with that attorney back in 1970. If I'd turned in work like this in college I'd have flunked out.

Verne Robinson, 2014

The book:
Trout's Notes on San Pedro & Related Trichocereus species
A Guide to assist in their visual recognition; with notes on Botany, Chemistry & History

Written, compiled & / or edited by Keeper of the Trout & friends

(Sacred Cacti 3rd Ed. Part B) © 2005 Mydriatic productions; a division of Better Days Publishing

[no ISBN located on cover]

The review:
July, 2005
Trout's pompous1 notes more like a sink full of dirty dishes
1) pompous
• Characterized by excessive self-esteem or exaggerated dignity; pretentious: pompous officials who enjoy giving orders.

• Full of high-sounding phrases; bombastic: a pompous proclamation.
Photo confusion
Trout's notes on the Tomato?
What if Trout wrote a tomato book? Imagine 900 B&W photos of sickly plants in 6" pots; cross pollinated by unknown parents.
I think Bob Ressler's color images are far more useful than anything I found in Trout's book.
Different species or different variety? Neither--both are pure San Pedro. Left one a young column grown in shade; right is more mature column grown in full sun.
San Pedro do not branch above ground?
One person angrily emailed to ask how I grafted branches onto my San Pedro.

He should stop eating them long enough to allow the plant to mature into something larger than flowerpot size.
A book that endeavors to make its subject confusing

First of all you need to realize that the author is using the pseudonym "Trout" or "Keeper of the Trout". The sample of Trout's text (below) from the introduction is typical of the author's paragraph length sentences. His or her (No gender is associated with "Trout") poor writing style is reminiscent of pompous academia. He or she admits to being confused and then proceeds to prove why you, too, should be confused. Trout's approach is so messy that I find it useless. This is a book to throw out, not to study.

President Roosevelt once said "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" in this case "There is no confusion but confusion itself." What is there to be confused over? The picture on the cover is a San Pedro. Unfortunately everything inside the book cover is Trout's effort to spread confusion. To quote Trout:

Typical pompous Trout paragraph-length sentence

"The following work should not be viewed as any sort of authoritative declaration concerning the taxonomy of the pachanoid-peruvianoid Trichocereus species, but rather it should be seen as a overview of what readers may encounter in horticulture accompanied by some verbal and visual guideposts that MIGHT be of value to the reader who, like myself, is foolhardy enough to attempt navigating through this section of what often seems to resemble a taxonomic analog of the Sargasso Sea." [Trout, intro]

Take the Trout out

The book needed a professional editor to prune Trout's weedy prose, a professional photography to replace the collage of amateur snap shots, and a graphic artist to lay out the book as a professional level work. Lacking these essential elements it may be regarded as a huge kitchen sink full of dirty dishes. If you enjoying viewing hundreds of poorly photographed, small backyard or flowerpot sized specimens, grown in bonsai conditions; if you don't mind tiny text that lectures in the manner of the sample above, well—then this may be the book for you.

Mongrel dogs and other cross breeds
Hundreds of neglected or cross bred Trichocereus suspected of having a drug content fill the pages. Reminds me of the mongrel dogs one finds at the SPCA. The only color photo in the book—on the cover—is a true San Pedro! All you have to do is take cuttings (clone) that plant and you will have an endless supply of ones with identical properties. But growing from seed introduces unknown parents that may have mixed.

Making a metaphor with the tomato; seed catalogs list hundreds of favorite tomato varieties. These have been developed by selective breeding over many generations. Some types are known to be over 100 years old. Plants are specifically grown to produce next years seed supplies. Yet, despite well known characteristics, growing conditions can make even the huge beefsteak mature at the size of a walnut when water in withheld (a technique called "dry farming.") Growing conditions dramatically change the appearance of a plant as any bonsai practitioner knows. How else do they fit a tree into a table top sized miniature?

Seed obtained from hand pollinated plants
When a professional farmer buys seed of known varieties, then grows them under proper farming conditions the end product is highly predictable. This requires purity of the seed; which is why the flowers are covered with paper bags to prevent stray pollination and are hand pollinated. Contrast this with Trout's approach; where are these people getting their seed from?

Cuttings bypass the problems of seed
It would be of no value to anyone to publish a book with 900 black & white photos of tomato plants grown in back yard flowerpots that had been cross bred with unknown varieties. Cross breeding cactus, and buying unlabeled cuttings from Europeans who cross bred them, etc. is an exercise in confusion compounded by cramming what should be tree sized plants into flowerpots. Only cuttings from plants that are "true specimens" will result in a perfect propagation of the true type. Trout seems to think that every flowerpot grown cacti that look "different" must be a unique variety. Where are the outdoor grown mature specimens? These are columnar cacti that grow naturally to be over 12 feet high—so why is the book dominated by flowerpot specimens? What would an apple tree look like if it spent its life trying to grow in a flowerpot?

Cactus eaters
Perhaps the "Trout problem" is caused by the behavior of mescaline eaters who snap off every column to consume it for the drug content. These are people who cannot allow a specimen to mature without eating it. Thus they constantly seek catalog sources for anything that might provide more biomass to sustain their activity. After a while they are photographing small budding tips that form on their numerous root bound stumps in flowerpots. Trout may spend the majority of his time focusing on flowerpot specimens because his circle of friends do not have mature plants growing outdoors.

Back in 1987-89 I started my San Pedro farm from cuttings of "true to type" plants imported decades previously by a botanist directly from Peru. See the cover of Trout's book? That is the true San Pedro and that is what I have propagated for 17 years. Mine have never been crossed with any other variety.

I know the location of several mature San Pedro specimens in large outdoor stands growing around San Jose, Watsonville, and Ripon California. Separated by a distance of 100 miles, but in similar climate and of similar age (decades old), it is easy to see these are all the classic San Pedro. They are identical plants. I can spot them as readily as most people can identify a robin or a bluebird.

From these identical stands I have cuttings that may grow slowly, have a yellow tint, and bear long spines. Or they can grow tall, thin, with short spines, and have a darker/bluish shade. The difference? Full sun versus partial shade. The difference is all in the growing. Whether it is in shade or full sun, in a flowerpot of in the earth—its all in how you grow a plant.

Shopping at Target, ebay & Europe
Trout may be obsessed with imported seeds and cuttings; obtaining from catalogs what would be called in statistics "convenience samples". In other words he or she is taking whatever is for sale instead of obtaining a cutting from a mother plant that is "true to type". But when one has obtained a "true to type" cutting then one simply grows it by taking additional cuttings...a process of cloning it to produce thousands of identical plants. From 5 tips in 1987 I have produced many tons of San Pedro. In Trout's case hundreds of rogue samples of "biomass" as he calls it are purchased from any available source. My favorite in the Trout book is a photo marked "Purchased from Target, unmarked." (Not in Trout's book is my favorite ebay scam— a guy selling cuttings of a non-trichocereus cactus by calling them "San Pedro Peruvianus" and the fooled buyers leaving positive feedback.)

People who buy from ebay sellers who falsely identify the species, or buy European seeds & cuttings without documentation of the mother plant deserve the confusion they inflict upon themselves. If you collect garbage then you end up with a collection of garbage; and Trout has produced a 900 black & white picture version of that collection.

No confusion here
What is Trout so confused about? This is San Pedro. But Trout confuses himself — read his quote —
"There are layers of ... confusion including correctly labeled, mislabeled and unlabeled plants,... through an indeterminate number of university-funded cactus collection expeditions ... from commercial outlets and a myriad of private Trichocereus collectors ..." [Trout]
(below) Cuttings from the same plant growing only 150 feet apart. Trout might call these separate "subspecies". Hopefully this image proves the point that growing conditions greatly determine the appearance of the plant.
What could be...if you wrote a professional level book on Trichocereus?
What if someone traveled to the home of the Trichocereus in South America?

They could create a book based upon standardized field photography:

1) only mature, "in the earth", specimens would be photographed with a person standing next to it for scale, plus a color calibration card,
2) close ups of limbs & tips with scale object/color calibration card,
3) detailed photos of each specimen's flowers,
4) details of areoles, spines measured with a ruler, etc.
5) overview shot of area to show percentage of full sun the specimen receives,
6) notes on the elevation where each photographed specimen is growing, explanation of climate with annual rainfall, soil analysis, etc.


A chapter on each main variety such as: T. Peruvianus, T. Pachanoi, T. Bridgesii, T. Cuzcoensis, etc. Standardized close up photos of each variety's cross section, areoles, spines, side view, tip view, spine color, flower details, seed, etc.

This is what you would expect to find in a text book or professional field identification guide.