Monday, August 31, 2009

rainbow workplace

Truly, I'm very happy to work in a place that - for at least one day a year - has its entrance festooned by rainbow balloons.   I owe this image to Rhea Ramey, who posted a picture of the arch to Facebook (ah, that's a giveaway - how can I claim to have been heads down in a hard day's work if I was checking FB?) - I think I'll claim it as an instance of FB's ability to alert people to instantly available photo opportunities around them.   The occasion was RU's pre-semester Student Activities expo - lots and lots of tables trying to entice students into joining societies, publications, etc etc etc.   The Oxford equivalent, a million years ago, was known as Freshers Fair, which had a quaint, olde England, merrie village green air to its name. FF, of course, quickly multiplied to FFF - the first week of Michaelmas (i.e. fall) term - also known as Fuck a Friendly Fresher.   But I digress...

o.k., for a harried Chair trying to concentrate inside the building, the step dancers and the belly dancers and the gospel singers and the rap and the general noise on stage was, perhaps, a little wearing (I was tied to my office, waiting for some bumpf for a meeting tomorrow).   And if I hadn't been tied down in various adminny ways, it would have been much more fun being outside taking pictures of Rutgers' diversity.   Because that's what did come across - every few minutes or so, when I slunk over to a window to have a look at a new act outside - the only real homogeneity was in the ubiquity of Rutgers Red.   This is a color more flattering on almost anyone but me (although, admittedly, a Rutgers rainbow pin goes very well with almost any outfit, since it clashes without effort).

Sunday, August 30, 2009


... that is, waiting for the train on New Brunswick Station platform (heading into NYC; escape from NJ for an evening); waiting for the semester to start; loitering in the pale evening light of summer's early end.   I kept waiting for the two men whose silhouettes I was trying to capture to move round into even better positions - especially the one on the left - and instead, shortly after this shot, our train rumbled in, and that was that.   So there's a further subtext - waiting for the perfect shot, when one isn't actually stage-managing the people in a shot, is a very uncertain way to spend one's aesthetic time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

under wraps

We are doing our best to exorcise our house of its gloom - as I explained to a colleague the other day, it's not a depressing house (or we would have high-tailed it out of here), but it sometimes seems a rather sad house - the kind of house that one hears gently sighing to itself.   And there may be nothing we can do about this - we can't rewrite its past (which is pretty much unknown to us).   However, having it painted - all the parts we haven't already painted ourselves, and repainting the living room (that an awful painter called Jerry had left a sickly lemon yellow) has been a huge improvement.   Somewhere under the plastic wrapping is our furniture, which looked less as though it had been carefully enclosed by Christo than that it was fighting to breathe.   But the image of these covered sofas and cabinet, table and lamps, suggests, I'm hoping, a benevolent aura trying hard to establish itself.   And it's also a visual meditation on how strange the familiar looks when muffled under wraps.

Friday, August 28, 2009

not flowers, again

... though I could claim that the purple, green and white was some kind of homage to early C20th suffrage culture... But I won't.   And even though these came from Highland Park's Farmers' Market - where  Alice went whilst I was slaving over a hot Chair's desk - this is not yet another FM post.   For this is, in truth, a celebration of our living room fireplace.   All this week the living room, A's study, and the downstairs cloakroom (? a britishism - maybe a bathroom, though there's certainly no bath - our painter calls it a powder room) have been most excellently painted by Judy Wood of ArtistHand Painting.   And at last we are Free Of the Dreadful Red Brick Fireplace, which might have been an authentic 1930 period piece but was somber and depressing.   That discreet alcove, moreover, was a mirror - most inexplicable - previously we hung something over it, and now there'll be the challenge of whether to do so again or disguise it.   It's not easy to take fully flattering photos of any of it yet, though, since the lights are still covered in protective plastic, and outside, it's dark wet green gloom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Inevitably, I left something behind in Santa Fe (probably lots of things, but I haven't discovered most of them yet), and one of them seems to have been my Nikon battery charger.   So I ordered another, which rather surprisingly was not only a super-bargain price, but came with a spare battery, a European (though, alas, not UK) plug adapter, and a mini-tripod with bendy legs.   This may not hold the Nikon - I doubt it - but I screwed on my little Canon point and shoot and pressed the shutter experimentally at whatever was in front of it on the kitchen table.   See above.

The focus may (literally) be on the lilies, but, yes, that is an empty cocktail glass in the foreground.   Shaken up together: pear flavored Grey Goose vodka, pomegranate juice, one fresh lime, and ice cubes.   Yes, I know it's only Thursday.   Yes, I know the semester hasn't started yet.   But it was a long day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

unhatched chiles

So how many people in Princeton, NJ, are going to know quite how intrinsic a part of this season are Hatch green chiles?   But even if the seasonal significance is recognized, these are rather startled and naked looking chiles, because one's used to coming across them being charred in large roasting drums in parking lots up and down Cerrillos Road (and between there and, indeed, Hatch, in southern NM): the smell, as much as the taste, belongs to this time of the year.   (That being said, the best ones that I bought this year, at the Farmers' Market, in fact came from La Cienega, and there are just a couple left in the freezer, for omelettes, or - this year's invention - putting on cauliflower cheese.   Unfortunately, these are a long way from being roasted - and if I were going to roast a chile, it would be one of my own, happily transplanted to the deck here after their forcing experience cross-country in the back of my car.

But - in choosing to write about these unfortunate chiles, I'm also displaying a photo that's an example of self-damning evidence.   For in order to take it, I clearly was not managing to Boycott Whole Foods (or see the FB page).   We completely deplore John  Mackey's comments, and want to point out that we previously went and bought a good deal of grocery staples at McCaffrey's (and I can't find out, in a quick google search, anything about their politics, though they are to be commended for their hiring of people with disabilities as part of a conscious policy).   But if one lives in Highland Park, and has (apart from the Friday farmers' market here) only what we've labelled Stop & Moan to go to, and if our weekly box of organic vegetables won't start coming till next week ... does this constitute a temporary extenuating circumstance?   No.   No, I know it doesn't...   And we didn't even buy any chiles, though I can now see that this was a total bargain price...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

web based

This web is, of course, metaphorical - including the little broken strands.   They indicate the impossibility (still) of getting our Verizon router to route anything.   This is frustrating...  It also stands for, necessarily, the convoluted round of meetings and correspondence and emails and phone calls that mark this pre-semester week, enmeshed with awkward extras like actually pulling a syllabus together.

This was a real web, of course, shimmering incandescently (that sheen was on the spider's rope itself, not on the lens) in our back yard this morning.-, looking, for that matter, as though it was mimicking the grooves of a 78 record hanging from the tree.   It raises the question of whether a web can ever not be seen as metaphorical, given how over-determined it is both through information technology allusions and close acquaintance with Middlemarch - both when it comes to organic community, intellectual mutual imbrication, and Eliot's snarky aside about Rosamond's romantic imaginations as she traps Lydgate into "that gossamer web - young lovemaking."   One is thus reminded, therefore, that webs - like this one - tend to have a predatory spider at their center, and that's the scary thing about treating this as a metaphor: what's out there, waiting, scheming, and hungry?

Monday, August 24, 2009


and Santa Fe has arrived in NJ - the sun first having been back to Los Angeles for a while, first.   Another technologically challenged post - for still no internet at home (I am scavenging possibly useful cables from  the Chair's office).   It would be very useful to have this up and working (understatement) - sorting this out (and that has been Alice's task this afternoon, not mine - I just engaged in futile Verizon-waiting) has taken up time that could profitably be used for other things - like thinking about or reading about or even taking photographs, rather than dealing with technology suppliers on top of what's already the nightmare of pre-semester.   Rant rant rant.   Not the intended function of this blog - but a usefully spent five minutes from the point of view of emotional catharsis...

sunday's drive

was yet another 500 miles - which at least allowed time for some chiles to ripen...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

on the wire in: this is the view from our room at the downtown Hilton, St Louis (yes, we occupied one room, despite paying for two - though an extra shower always comes in handy: for the full narrative drama of this one, see yesterday).   As avid followers will know, I've been taking a view-from-the-room-in-which-I-wake-up-in photo everyday this year - and this unpleasantly sharp looking piece of Devil's Rope (not that this is exactly barbed wire, but I love the name) was stopping evil people from climbing up the noisy ventilation shaft and into our window.   The full view includes the shaft itself, and the tall brick wall opposite (for this is, seemingly, what one gets when checking in with four cats in St L.).   But if you want to know what the traveling menagerie looks like...

It's back to Holiday Inns etc after this (currently in the University Inn, Athens, Ohio, with one declared feline and a back door).   And here is LucyFur behind the curtains.  

When I stopped being mind-numbed from driving 500 miles a day, I'll start writing about photographs as photographs again...

Friday, August 21, 2009

road warrior

... at the Big Cabin truck stop off I-44 in Oklahoma.   Yes, I know it's a truck stop, but it had ordinary gas too, and I was starting to get worried, having seen nowhere to stop for a while.   This, however, is an unmissable figure - one of the few noteworthy sights of the day, apart from a couple of school buses from Georgia with all their signage in French (Écoliers; Arrêt, etc. - completely inexplicable - nothing retrievable through googling apart from one shot on Photobucket of the same phenomenon...).  It must be 40 feet high, at least [quick on-line check - 46 feet, on a 5' plinth].   Other than that - megachurches; lots of advertising hoardings blank or to rent; trees.   And we hit St Louis to coincide with a Rams game, and had (no relevance to the previous piece of information) to pay for two hotel rooms (+ exorbitant pet charge) rather than one, since the people behind the desk at the downtown Hilton could count kitty carriers.   Don't, oh reader, ever try smuggling in two extra cats here.   The hotel staff are impervious to charm.   It'll be back to (sigh) the Six Flags Holiday Inn next time, where we once coincided with an Airedale show.   Of course we are all in one room.    

The best moment (I stray away from the photographic) of today came when we were packing up in Oklahoma City - friendly bellhop and cart to hand - and a frazzled woman come charging into our room, saying Housekeeping? Housekeeping?   (for I am standing with the window-cleaning pole in my hand).   No, I say, we use this for getting the cats out from under the bed.   Frazzled woman smartly turns on her heels, and starts to harangue Hispanic maid in corridor about her needs...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

on the road again... convoy.   Here we are checking in with each other at Clines Corners, at the end of 285, just before joining I-40.   And yes, I am carrying two pots of herbs across country (there are some chiles, geraniums, and petunias in the back, too... behind the four cats, a color photo printer, a large number of books that didn't quite get read this summer, and so on.   It's frustrating driving at speed after the slow drive out in the spring - no chance to stop and take pictures of the same abandoned villages, rusty silos, etc that I pass every time on this route and always regret not having paused for.   But even if one didn't have four furry companions, this is not the kind of behavior that counts as car convoy etiquette...

Oklahoma City tonight, where the charm of C. Vivian Stringer when the Scarlet Women were in town back in the spring impressed itself enormously on our (also charming) bellhop - who understandably wondered why we were carrying a long handled window cleaning pole.   We explained that it was to get the cats out from under the bed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

kicking the hoof that feeds you

Not there has been a great deal of cooking at 41 Cuesta today, other than a spectacular dish of peach cobbler, thanks to Santa Fe Farmers' Market and Roxie's humans' recipe [culinary note: since, curiously, one of the few gastronomic aversions I have is to almond essence, I substituted some dots of almond butter, which worked extremely well].   This was in part due to the workmen, who have started energetic and noisy work on a new portales and wall outside; in part due to the fact that this is our Last Night, so of course we ate at Harry's (Indian Market Green Chile Stew, and cheese enchiladas.   We are Not Happy at missing Indian Market, but Alice has to go to her Orientation Session - how six hours could possibly enable one to make sense of Rutgers, I can't imagine - and I have three  million meetings - all on Monday).

This is an Indian - not Native American, but Asian Indian - tin horse who stands between our kitchen and dining room here, propping up a small tin retablo of St Pasqual, the patron saint of kitchens and cooking.   Conventionally St P also comes with a cat, but this particular little icon didn't have one.   It's coming back to NJ with us, and will be part of our scheme to get 113 looking like the Most Desirable House ever.   Or we're moving...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

10K Waves

Ending our summers in Santa Fe with a trip to 10,000 Waves is something of a ritual.   It says something about the onrushing semester - the mound of chair-related administration, the fact that it's mid-August and our courses haven't exactly been is a state of refined readiness for weeks, etc - that we have already vowed that next summer, we are going to book up well, well in advance for a day of private hot tub, massages, wraps, you name it ... the day after we roll into town.   This evening we contented ourselves with soaking in the Waterfall Tub.

Ten Thousand Waves is in part so wonderful because it's both completely non-south-western, and quintissentially Santa Fe - meditative - that is, meditation-inspiring - and alternative/wacky (in the sense of finding a Japanese spa in the middle of the high desert, complete with hot stone massages, salt wraps, and yes, I did once have a nightingale-droppings facial ...) and yet surrounded with pine trees and aspens and humming birds.   I wish I'd taken a tripod up with me - I'm sure its three-pointedness could have been made to serve some meditational or sacred function - because the Japanese lights and banners and silhouetted plants merited it.   As it is, this just gives a sense of the path down through the pines to the carpark - Alice standing somewhere in the gloom - with the steps, if not the lights, looking as though they've escaped from a Greek island.

opera boxes

Yet somewhere else where one isn't allowed to take photographs, it turns out, is inside the Santa Fe Opera House.   I can understand this when the opera is happening, but when one's waiting for it to start, before the orchestra is even tuning up...?   However - this is the view of the view behind the stage, and the boxes are the basis for the set of La Traviata.   They start off as tombstones - Pere Lachaise, maybe? - since the performance began with Violetta's funeral procession, one could be in no doubt as to what is going to happen to her - even if she hadn't been coughing in a fetching manner in Act 1.   In Act 2, they are very much in the background, like skyscrapers - suggesting that V and Alfredo's country retreat is really very close to town.   Act 3, they're back to providing a party setting - this time with mirrors, giving odd and very Caillebotte-like angles of the backs of women's dresses and men's polished shoes.   And by Act 4, they are definitely funereal, shrouded in sheets (all of this acting up to very effective minimalism, so that the singing really mattered - and Natalie Dessay, in particular, was quite wonderful as Violetta - both her interpretive singing and her acting.     As ever, part of the whole treat in going is the setting - this time, for once, it was a superb production as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

encore orange

I'd intended to take an evening shot of hummingbirds, who tend to come to their feeder in dusk, and sit on nearby branches, silhouetted against the sunset (I'm clearly getting into valedictory mode).   Hummingbird feeder fitted out with fresh sugar syrup, camera ready.   One hummingbird makes a quick visit, and I'm so excited that I take a slightly too blurry shot.   Finito.

So I'm driven back indoors, and back to more orange Farmers' Market booty.   Dahlias.   I can't claim that they are my favorite flowers (imported from Mexico to Europe in the late C18th, bred  instantly by flower fanciers into lots of different colors;  having way back been used by the Aztecs ceremonially and as a medicinal plant; subsequently employed as a source of pre-insulin relief for diabetics; and their tubers tried out to see if they could be a substitute for potatoes in the disease-ridden 1840s).   But they are cheerful, and Orange, and since Alice's favorite color is a deep orange, they were purchased, and if they hadn't been sitting on the dining room table I guess it would have been the stripey tomatoes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Marigolds were hanging in long chains at the Farmers' Market in Santa Fe today (with a very south-western willow tree dream catcher behind them).  These are a Nepalese tradition, symbolizing peace, and I was thinking that I'd write about them in the context of Woodstock, 40 years on (not that I was all that aware when it was happening, back in England, but I saw the movie at an illicitly young age, shown at the Granada cinema in Tooting Bec, South London, which had (incongruously) a magnificent Wurlitzer organ, originally from Sacramento, I find.   Since 1973, the Granada seems to have been a bingo palace.

But I was googling Marigolds to check out their symbolic resonances, and found that they are also known as a flower of the dead, especially in Mexico, where they are employed in Day of the Dead celebrations - or should that be commemorations? - and in the middle of doing this learned the very sad news that former English department colleague (before my time, but his eminent legacy resonates still) Richard Poirier has just died.   So rather than musing on peace and love and tie-dyed t-shirts (plenty of these for sale in Eldorado's Artisan's Market yesterday afternoon), I offer up these flowers by way of wishing a peaceful safe passage to a very distinguished soul.

Friday, August 14, 2009

smile, please

Somewhere, on Yong Soon's camera, there is a picture or three commemorating today's lunch at Real Food Nation (which was as good as ever - top marks to the peach cobbler) with an excellent table full of people, including May Stevens (inducing the perennial problem of how ever to act normally with someone whose work one admires inordinately much but whom one's deeply in awe of when meeting for the first time).   It also put us - well, Yong Soon - in the politely petitioning mode of finding someone to take our photograph: the guy who's been working at RFN all summer seemed very happy to oblige... very strange to be at the other end of the process, when - especially traveling with a decent camera, and when alone - I'm often asked by people to shoot them against whatever scenic backdrop is to hand.   Here, we were actually posing against the band-aid colored faux adobe (actually, it's a fairly old building, formerly a gas station - it may not be faux, but I suspect so) of RFN, because of the light.   And of course, the young guy is pretty much in shadow, as we would have been, if silhouetted against the view.   But this image contains something I've been tracking all summer: the progress of the herbs and lettuces in the beds outside the front of the restaurant, mysteriously un-chewed by rabbits.   But I think a solution may have been found: there are marigolds and nasturtiums planted round the edges, and apparently these are so delicious that they may well act as a barrier.   Next summer's experiment?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

relics and remembrance

This is one of the shrines at the back of the Sanctuario de Chimayo, north of Santa Fe - a lace curtain  with rosettes, some feathers, tiny crosses made of straw and paper and string tied together, crosses on the stone base made of stuck-on chewing gum: all of them little acts of remembrance for individuals, or relics with some other private and indecipherable meaning: the subjects of prayers or hopes or memories.

And in the background is one of the two friends whom we were taking up to Chimayo and to Taos today, Yong Soon Min - wearing her 1932 tee shirt.   Why - people kept stopping and asking us, here and in Taos - why 1932?   So Yong Soon tells them, and hands out her card:
I am wearing, close to my heart, one year of the 77 YEARS
since Japan established the first Comfort station in 1932.
During Japan's military advance in Asia, over 200,000 women
were coerced into sexual service for Japan's military.   Those
who survived and are still living await justice.
In demanding that the Japanese government accept
unequivocal official responsibility for this war crime,
I wear a year every day.
This picture, therefore, sets up a wonderful dialogue between practical/aesthetically conveyed activism - in a form that invites, indeed demands interaction and conversation about the past, and the need to acknowledge and make reparation, and the kind of engagement with the personal past that is highly private: something existing between an individual, their memory, their conscience, their god.   Given that the Japanese do practice formal visual memorialization (I'm thinking of all the paper cranes, for example, that roosted on a tree near the World Trade Center site back in late 2001), this does make one wonder what individualized forms of accepting responsibility for establishing or organizing "comfort stations" may have found their way, unknown, into public spaces.

traveling greenhouse

I've done a lot of traveling today - not all of it as pleasant as driving down Route 27 to see Emily and to take her the largest flowered hibiscus I've ever seen: these blooms are like the soup-plate eyes of the dog in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy story.   I tried taking pictures of cumulus clouds causing the plane - after I'd deposited the rental care and boarded my first flight - to bounce up and down, but they just look like boring clouds seen through a grubby window.   And I don't have the energy left to take pictures of Perseids - but yes, I was just enough awake to see a magnificent low one sweep past to welcome me home to Eldorado.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

the writing's (not on the) wall

It's the first in what will probably be a long line of Campus Oddities as the new semester hurtles towards us like a tumbleweed down I-25.   This stray blackboard (greenboard?) is lounging around outside Scott Hall - maybe it was originally attached to the wall, but I don't remember noticing it... The miracle is that it hasn't yet been defaced - a couple of dates (03.18.05) and the strangely Oxfordian "official quad corebook" - at least, that seems to be what it says - and a few arabesque like swirls.    It also looks like a demolished mock soccer goal in a gym - or maybe it just symbolizes a blank slate.

Monday, August 10, 2009

chilled hands

There!   I knew that putting these in the fridge would be the thing to do (for, as I suspected, in the sudden heat that's overwhelmed NJ, the hands were rapidly losing their soapiness and developing an unpleasantly slimy surface).

It strikes me that I've taken rather a lot of photographs this year (some of which have made it onto this blog, but plenty that haven't) of artificial humans or parts of humans: shop window mannequins, museum dummies - some realistic, some stylized - and now these hands.   The more realistic - or the most human-like, whether through pose or expression or faithfully molded detail, the better, and I can only think that this is because of the pleasure of the uncanny, the unheimlich, the this-is-almost-normal-but-it-so-very-much-isn't unsettling quality to them.   In turn, I think this represents some kind of desire to subvert the realism of photography - or at least to make one think twice about what one's looking at, to think about how the more-or-less obviously false can look real (though honestly, I don't really want people to think too hard about whether or not I have a bag of severed tiny hands in my fridge, competing for space with the almond butter and blueberries and cans of diet coke...).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

waving, drowning?

Unpacking.   One never quite knows what one will come across - I bought these tiny hands a little while back, thinking they'd surely come in useful for some photo project or the other - and haven't used them until now - not least, because I haven't had much occasion to do any creative thinking involving, well, hands.   And these prosthetics are just a few centimeters high, and are MADE OF SOAP.   I think maybe I should put them (in a plastic bag, first), in the fridge - I am scared that they will melt in the NJ heat and 88% humidity.

What I would really like to post today would mean coming into my office at the dead of night, because of the lack of internet at 113: wildlife!   Last night, sitting on the deck with dinner/glass of wine/candle, I saw, first, a kitten-size baby skunk, then Mamma Skunk, then five adolescent gambolling raccoons... The work on Flash! that I've been doing of late (o.k., when I've been doing it...) has been about Flash and violence - it's amazing how many fictional criminals in the inter-war period are trapped on film by setting off apparatus that was originally intended to photograph wild animals or owls...

saturday's new mexico kitsch

I thought that I was wonderfully well prepared yesterday morning - picture taken on sun hitting chile lights and boot on a post in our kitchen (admittedly, a more Mexican than Santa Fe-an boot, perhaps) - high kitsch - definitely not New Jersey.   I should have downloaded and written up right away - but was scuttling out of the door, banking on their being plenty of time to do this at Albuquerque airport.   In theory - in practice, a very very long security line.   And the other side, I had one other priority, admittedly, to get a Santa Fe BLT (with green chile and guacamole, on green chile bread) from Comida Buena - I don't know what it says about my habits that I was actually Recognized there by the woman taking my order.   And then we boarded.   And then at IAD, there was allegedly a Boingo hotspot - but it wouldn't come up on my computer.   And by the time I was back in NJ (where we don't have internet at home till the 24th), it was 9 p.m., and I didn't really feel like coming into my office.   So.   The image is more nostalgic, posted a day late, than it would have been 24 hours ago... 

Friday, August 7, 2009

bathroom still life

Restaurant/cafe bathrooms are one of the great unsung sites of unexpected, serendipitous beauty - not the ones that have been carefully designer-arranged to within a whisker of their individualized lives, but ones that have been treated as alternative spaces for experiments in decor, for the paint or textures that are bolder than elsewhere in the establishment, for windows (usually opaque) with unexpected shadowy leaves and branches showing through them; bathrooms that are repositories of strange autographed photographs and tiny etchings and bits of folk art; that are dark turquoise or dark purple or some other color left over from the 1970s.  

This is the bathroom at Tesuque Village Market (it doesn't seem to have its own website: this Frommer's review is pretty accurate - it's a good enough place for food, though not exceptional, but the site is wonderful and villagey - a different, more rural side of Northern New Mexico, despite all the mega-wealthy homes around in the leafy valley there; close to the Flea Market; the old (Hispanic, Anglo) village merging into the pueblo.   What this photo doesn't show is that above the oddly metallic, rust like part of the walls are sage bundles tied together with colored thread into little figures - somewhere between corn dolls and Zozobra (for they would, indeed, be good to burn to get rid of evil thoughts and feelings at summer's end).   It's a bathroom that's artily decayed in appearance (this picture leaves out the carefully curved metallic lights on the walls, which are positively NYC) - albeit a small and slightly uncomfortable space in which to crouch for photographs...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

not about gooseberries

This was originally going to be a post about gooseberries - the raw and the cooked - several punnets of very small ones, scooped up in Whole Foods (hope they didn't leave too big a carbon footprint), and turned into a dessert that was some kind of relative of a trifle.   Very English.   But our dinner guests arrived with a spectacular sunset and rainbow (the image here doesn't begin to do justice to the luminosity of the photo on the ordinary screen - I am getting increasingly frustrated with the numbing and deadening properties of blogspot ... I will see if Wordpress is similarly afflicted, at this rate).   So gooseberries were trumped, both by the elements and by the company - also not nearly glowing enough, so far as their coloring goes, but looking very happy (and Barry and Suzanne didn't even yet know about the dessert that was in their future).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

sculptural newsprint

One sure sign that a home isn't occupied in Eldorado is the old copy of the Santa Fe Monthly left sticking out of the small tube that's on every mailbox.   This publication used to be the Eldorado Sun, and I have no idea why it changed its name, except, possibly, to increase advertising revenue.   Nonetheless, almost all the ads are still Eldorado ones - including homes for sale, and fortuitously, as I took this photograph, the wind just flipped over some of the torn pages displaying just such realtors' images.   The abandoned periodical goes along well with the tumbleweeds sprouting tall in driveways.

This is also, though, a homage to Cara Barer, who takes the most beautiful pictures of old books set against absolutely black backgrounds, turning them into intricate sculptures, showing, she says, she says, “a common object” in a state of flux.   She links this in with the ways in which we research and find information today – the ways in which we look for evidence –  seeing these as also being in evolution - so through her pictures, she says, she wants  “to raise questions about these changes, the ephemeral and fragile nature in which we now obtain knowledge, and the future of books."   I'd really hoped to buy one of her prints and hang it on my Chair's office wall, but lack of any funds, so far, for the task of chairing means that this isn't likely to be a project carried to fruition any time soon.   But this image, apart from sharing in the recognition that mutilated print takes on its own beauty, is quite different from hers in that it's found in the wild, so to speak - no deliberate soaking or dipping in dye here; no hairdrier blowing the pages into manicured disarray; no hint of adhesive.   I'm not sure, to be honest, without checking, about the adhesive, but I do know that her book sculptures are studio pieces before they're photographed, whereas this particular rolled up assemblage of newsprint has been catching my eye as it transforms in nature, getting more and more battered by sun and wind and monsoon downpours.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

morning light

Luckily the light coming into the kitchen at an early hour this morning made everything that it hit golden and/or translucent (in a way that highlights the mysterious process through which images that look positively luminous on the computer screen flatten out when they are uploaded onto blogger: sometimes, like this evening, I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to correct for this in Photoshop's Curves, but can never manage to get it right).   For the rest of the day (96 degrees outside, head bent down over a hot computer trying to run a department, write a chapter on sensationalism, and read a promotion case for another university) was conducive, alas, neither to looking nor to thinking about the visual...

Here's a wineglass full of stems from outside - a pink willowy blossomed tree that shouldn't be growing on our land at all, ideally, because it sucks up water, and some Mexican Hats; and a begonia.   The begonia is a gift from our hairdresser, or more precisely, from the hairdresser's boyfriend: they have a sweet practice of giving their clients (their favorite clients? - who knows - but it always makes one feel like a favorite) a little gift on each visit - which can be extraordinarily hit or miss - a wonderful spangled kitsch nailfile on one occasion, a shamrock teatowel on another.   In fact, that would make for a good photo project in its own right...I'll see what I can do in a couple of weeks, after the pre-re-entry chop and color visit...

Monday, August 3, 2009


Here's another item for the "found on the ground" while walking around Eldorado series... an apparently used (note that small adhering wisp of grey fur) mousetrap.   Minus mouse.   Quite how it came to be there ought to be a mystery, though it's trash collection day, and therefore probably isn't.

This is a highly efficient mouse trap - I hope so, anyway, because we have 16 identical ones in a bag in the kitchen, awaiting deployment.   They are sold by Home Depot - our contractors were emphatic that these are far, far better than the ones sold at Lowe's.   Currently, we are using a RatZapper (from Ace Hardware) that at first was extremely effective at Mouse Zapping, but then the micies grew wise and starting jumping over the electric plate for their peanut butter on crackers.   Mice are a real problem here, because of the hanta virus - since ours are very much alive, and not dead (apart from the one that I try not to think about, who died with his/her little mouse paws stretched down through the vent in the middle bathroom), one assumed they don't have it.   But still...   And they are certainly around - DandeLion woke me up at 3 a.m. again, thudding her ginger self against the bedroom window - and there was a small mouse an inch away the other side, climbing up grass for the seed (and no, these are Indoor Cats, in case an obvious solution was presenting itself, because of coyotes, and long eared owls. They are more than efficient when it comes to the very very occasional one that gets into the house.)   So I will have to steel myself for anti-mouse activity, very shortly.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

summer sunday lunch

This couldn't be more perfect as a summer lunch set-up: corn on the cob Mexican style, with chipotle chile powder and lime; tomato and onion salad; arugula and feta ditto.   The thing that looks like a baked potato is actually a small red rock keeping my table napkin in place, since it was starting to get windy.   

It's also, though, a kind of response, down to the naturalistic, non-traditional-food-photography detail of Alice wielding a pepper grinder, to the article in today's NYT about how we might fetishize cooking, celebrity chefs, and cookery shows, but we don't actually cook much at home any more - "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch."   And this article has, in turn, some wonderful staged photographs by Erwin Olaf.   A lot of his recent work has been more digitally manipulated than these seem to be, but they are nonetheless totally artificial - in the stage-set mode of Gregory Crewdson a few years back: here are kitchens that a modern day Miss Havisham might have paused her cooking in, thick with spiders' webs and goodness knows what other rotting and festering impediments to culinary activity.   They are like a nightmare version of advertisements for dream home smart kitchens, so they also function - whether deliberately or not - for every single granite counter topped center kitchen island work space Subzero Pro refrigerator that occupies an unsalable house somewhere out there in realtor hell. So I offer today's picture in homage to simplicity, too. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

looking through the eyes of...

or: how to take one Santa Fe tourist cliche - the Horned Cattle Skull - and try and turn it into something else.   The skull, of course, has been immortalized by Georgia O'Keeffe, above all: one can buy them on line (I should know - I have one, painted in geometric pueblo-style black and white patterns, with feathers where once were horns, and it's stuck in a closet in my office, because I'm rather bereft of ideas about where else to put it.   So much for late-night e-Bay).   Or, indeed, one can purchase them bleached and hanging on trees at Jackalope, a perennially tempting respository of south-western and other forms of folk art.  

I'd actually gone there to buy a glazed plant pot, but found myself taking pictures of skulls: how not, though, make them look like the cliches that they are?   Luckily, after the last two days, I was hell-bent on getting them - on getting anything - in focus, and especially wanted a sense of their rough texture - the orange twine holding them in place was a bonus.   In case you're wondering, a skull would set you back just $40.