Thursday, March 31, 2011

fishy snacks

I couldn't really take the pictures that I wanted to take today - the (almost) new H-Mart in Edison - the Korean superstore - has rather too many No Photography signs.   So I couldn't sneak a quick shot of the fish swimming round in their tanks, or the row upon row of packets of glassy looking noodles.   Indeed, I very much wished that I'd thought to look at a recipe book before going, because there were endless, countless opportunities of New Things, and I couldn't begin to guess what most of them were.   I'd only gone in there, supposedly, for some garlic (easy) and some rice cakes.   Rice cakes.   You'd have thought they'd have been easy to find.   Every type of rice that one could dream up.   Sweet rice snacks.   Savory rice snacks (of which these fishy/wasabi concoctions were just a very tasty example - I think they are Japanese).   But ordinary rice cakes?   I know they have them in parts of South-East Asia - I've bought, eaten (and shared unwittingly with large cockroaches) exactly the kind of rice cake that I had in mind in Indonesia.   But alas, they don't seem to be a Korean thing - and since I am determined, absolutely determined, to make it through the rest of my time in NJ without visiting the Highland Park Stop and Shop ever again - I've managed since last May, so why wreck it now? - I am making do with these, and other very pretty soy-flavored large rice crackers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dark Side of the Moon

What's that object, going round and round in the foreground?   Yes!   It's a vinyl record!   It's Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, with Richard and Jenny in the background, two of the three students presenting on it today - Kyle, the third, is off-camera to the right.   For today we did Presentations on the cultural significance of an artefact or person or product or something from the English 1960s or 70s - an excellent set of presentations on "A Day in the Life" (and the Beatles and Sergeant Pepper as a whole), the Rocky Horror Show and glam rock more generally, Princess Diana (complete with a once-rare Princess Di Beanie), the Notting Hill Carnival, Druids, and, indeed, Dark Side of the Moon (with, I believe, Monty Python, Carnaby Street, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and second wave feminism still to come).   

But oh - it's so weird having one's own cultural history relayed to one ... Jenny had interviewed her boyfriend's parents about DSM, and they said that it was music to get stoned to (I could have supplied that information without too much trouble) - and, even more usefully, that it was Cool music, and that yes, there was a divide between Cool music and Uncool Music, and the Beatles - for example - weren't exactly cool (this was a valuable corrective to the overuse of the word "everyone" by a lot of the presenters ... "everyone" was NOT glued to the TV for Princess Diana's wedding, for example ... some of us were at "not the Royal Wedding" parties).   Most scary of all, in relation to Pink Floyd, still, was the revelation that "people in those days didn't have Facebook or Twitter, so they communicated through music."

Improbably, I have a photograph that I took when I first heard Dark Side of the Moon ... I was travelling in Europe the summer before I went up to Oxford, and we were on the Greek island of Skyros (famous for its tiny ponies, and a monument to Rupert Brooke, who died off-shore), and walking down to a distant beach, and heard the most amazing music ... being played by some German hippies in a VW bus, who were camping under a mulberry tree dropping ripe mulberries, and powering their record player from the bus's battery ... and listening to it this afternoon, once again on that scratchy vinyl, brought it all back ... I was so very grateful for the power of material culture.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The kitschness of it!   The self-mocking, self-congratulatory slogans all over Terminal 6 these days, punning in a chirpy way on SoCal life - as here: "Renovations are like the Paparazzi [Just Ignore Them].   I do look forward to whenever they finish, and put some decent places to buy food back again ... 

At least I made it to the airport - the part of Figueroa where I can usually rely on getting a cab at a cab rank was coned off for some kind of filming (cue: black limos, self-important hip guys on cell phones, etc etc), and I had to wave wildly at anything moving and yellow that was out there in the traffic, but with success.   Constant re-routing for film crews; the white vans with catering; the police cars blocking off where you want to go - it's a very endearing form of traffic disruption (except, of course, when it isn't).

Monday, March 28, 2011

stopping motion

The last few days in Los Angeles have been extraordinarily frenetic, which is both enormously fun and exhilarating, but also verging on the bewildering - how is it possible to be so wrapped up in an institution (its internal politics, rifts, wrangles, debates, plans, plots, and generation of ideas) before one's even arrived?   Part of the answer to that, of course, lies in the fact that this is when one starts planning next year's events for real, and that's why I'm here.   And part of it is the energy of the USC campus, endlessly kinetic, even if a lot of that energy is propelling itself towards one on a skateboard or on a little pink bicycle with flowers round its basket, or setting up some camera equipment, or is in a band playing "Don't Stop - Don't Stop Believing" outside at lunchtime - at which point one looks around and expects Tony Soprano to drop dead, and then thinks - no, that's back in New Jersey.

But it's going to be important to know how to grab some quiet, as well.   I took 2 minutes just to stop and look at this sculpture - called "generations," it seemed optimistically to embody the spirit of endless giving to the university (and there's lots of that around, I'm glad to say) - but I'd rather think of it in terms of thought gestation ... Best of all was actually spending some time in the Art library, which, o miracles, had a catalogue of a NY exhibition that I needed - on paper arts - and that is currently retailing on Amazon for around $486.    

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Faced with the prospect of eating this for lunch, I truly didn't know what to say.   Not this alone, I should say, for there was also a particularly delicious cheese and avocado and green chile omelette, and some fruit salad - but this bacon?   Or, rather, "bacon"?    I have happily eaten soy strips masquerading as bacon in the past, but they weren't trying, in such a kitsch and belligerent way, to mock bacon's very reality.   This confection reminded me of some dolls' house furniture that Gran once gave me - at least, I think it was Gran - who else would have handed it over? - that smelt strongly of baked flour and water paste, and was painted in an equally garish and improbable way.

These artificial rashers didn't, in fact, taste at all bad - so long as one didn't look at them.   Their presence was a real education in the link between appearance and appetite.   If you're ever faced with such a culinary experience yourself, I recommend, strongly, capturing them in a corn tortilla and covering them up - at which point they become surprisingly palatable.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

the shortest railway in the world

Supposedly the shortest, anyway - Angels Flight, just outside my window - all 298 feet of it.   Olivet and Sinai (that's what the two cars are called) have been going up and down between Hill and Olive - on Bunker Hill, Los Angeles - since 1901.   Only ... things get re-invented: the Flight closed in 1969 when the area underwent "urban renewal" - i.e. had its heart and soul and old houses torn out - and in fact was relocated half a block south, re-opening in 1996.   Then there was a nasty accident in 2001, and it was closed until March last year (Wikipedia is extraordinarily expansive on all of this).

I feel that this is fall-back tourist photography: having spent the day at a forum on contemporary art and how to converse across its various moving parts (artists, critics, curators, journals), I need more time to get my thoughts in order about the ways in which such conversations work, or don't.   But I was certainly left in no doubt that they matter.

Friday, March 25, 2011


At least, perhaps not exactly fishing, but in the early daylight, when it was still drizzling, a man - at least, I think it was a man - dressed in a great deal of white protective clothing (though not quite at the nuclear decontamination level) stepped into the pond water feature outside my hotel window and started fishing out - well, not a lot.   What might people have discarded there on a Thursday night, anyway?   Old beer cans, useless lottery tickets, drunkenly discarded shoes?   Not much, one would have thought, given last night's heavy rain.   It's not like the time when, back in around 1977, I was staying in a very cheap pensione in Rome that just happened to overlook the Trevi Fountain - certainly one of the best hotel room views I've ever had (now, I see, looking at its website, the relatively chic looking Hotel Trevi - I doubt the management has hung onto my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude that I inadvertently left there).   And digging out an image with which to make a link, I hit on one covered with school parties, which reminded me that, indeed, I'd been there myself with a school trip in 1969, and had bought Gran a lace handkerchief or two from a little store on the piazza (probably made in a factory in Treviso, but I thought that I was proudly carrying home something authentic and artisanal).   At night, they turned the Trevi fountain off, and street people would jump in and gather up the handfuls of coins that tourists had thrown in during the day ... this may not apply, however, in downtown Los Angeles ...

Technical note: taken in Hipstamatic, and then manipulated as a quad-tone in Photoshop.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

perpetual motion

Certainly, one gets a different perspective from 36,000 feet than one does from the ground: other than that, I feel, by this stage of the evening and with 3,000 more miles behind me, as though one of these days soon, I'll be very glad to stand still in one place.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

invisible cats

I have been putting together my tentative half of a syllabus for a course on the Visual Arts and Invisibility - and hence reflecting on the representation or imagination of what isn't there.   What's very patently not there in this house are the cats (except via Skype from Santa Fe).  I keep imagining that I see one of them, out of the corner of my eye; or I wonder if their litter needs changing; or I think I hear one of them - but no (there's a lot of all too visible weather this evening, though, which is probably responsible for some of the odder sounds).

Invisibility covers all kinds of ghostly things, and I found it decidedly spooky that when I thought I'd opened this image in Photoshop, it just wouldn't make itself seen.   I had to exit PS and enter it again, as though it was deliberately and maliciously acting out my train of thought for the last couple of hours.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

inside the silo

Yes, I did indeed sleep right inside the old Quaker Oats silo.   I thought that my room didn't have an external view - I hadn't realised that it actually looked over the foyer until this morning (one could see nothing from the room itself other than industrial pipes - no egress to those cute little balconies).   Indeed, I dare say I could have asked for a Room with a View - but I'm glad I didn't, for once.   One obvious thing about Big Silos is that they tend to be next to railroad lines - and the one in Akron was a peculiarly busy one, I realised this morning.

I think that I may have worked silos out of my system for a while.

Monday, March 21, 2011

art deco cinema

Some of the time, it seems crazed not to head down the Interstates all the time - but I do have this weakness for the big cross country roads - today, the 24 and the 30, across Illinois and Indiana and into Ohio (where I am staying INSIDE a silo - the old Quaker Oats silo in Akron, now the University Inn, and, it seems, extra student housing, too ...).   And the rewards, other than being stuck behind farm machinery, are great: witness today's cinema, in Watseka, Illinois.   This was designed by Louis Skidmore, who was the architect for the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Center in Chicago, and opened in 1931, declined during the 60s and 70s, closed in 1998 - but in 2007 was bought by a former music teacher, Charles Gomez, who's restoring it as much as possible - I wish I'd had the time to stop properly, for there must be a whole lot of stories there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie theater, Main Street USA (and another silo)

More movie history!   This is the cinema in the street that runs through the center of Marceline, MO.   And who came from Marceline?   Walt Disney!   In her The Place You Loved is Gone, Meliessa Pierson remarks in passing that Disney regarded the Main Street of his home town so quintessentially main street USA that he based the Main Street in Disney World upon it, returning to Marceline with a crew that took  photographs and film of it in order to recreate it - or recreate it with embellishments, it would seem, because the faux Main Street's little cinema looks nothing like it.   The Uptown Theatre was built in 1928, and Disney came back and did various things with local children there - but now it just seems to be an occasional theater - a Talent Show is coming up in April - with a B&B above it.   But knowing this, and seeing that it was just three miles south of where I was driving, I couldn't resist a look ...

Marceline's Main Street was - if a bit sprucer than many - indeed, fairly typical ... that is, of such streets today: insurance agents, a number of stores to let, a dusty jewellers, a couple of "antique shoppes" - that is, with pyrex dishes and flyblown evangelical pamphlets from about thirty years ago, and some "gifte shoppes", with plastic rabbits and plastic flowers, getting ready for Easter.

I wish I'd managed to see in time - and therefore stop the car - and take a picture of an amazing sign outside a rundown motel, somewhere in the middle of Missouri - it promised KITCHENS THAT SLEEP UP TO EIGHT PEOPLE.

And here's the Silo of the Day - from Waterville, KS.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the saddest sign in kansas ... ?

My mission for today (other than driving from Santa Fe to eastern Kansas) was to take some photos of grain silos (see below ...) and grain elevators - which didn't go entirely according to plan: I had a very clear mental picture of one particular old, rusting elevator by the side of the railroad tracks, and by the time I'd reached it, it was pouring with rain, with a dull light that made all of central Kansas look like Minnesota.   If I'd fiddled around with a tripod, well, maybe I could have made a good, gloomy image - but as it was, it didn't look enticing enough to get out of the car.

But here, in Hugoton (pop. 3, 708 at the last census; founded 1885 and originally called simply Hugo, in honor of Victor Hugo: that's improbable, but true), is a sad, abandoned cinema.   The whole of Main Street looked as though it's going under (though relatively speaking, with a median family income around 50K, probably due to the natural oil in the area, it's not startlingly poor).   The cinema is actually owned by Showplace Video next door: it's been for sale since at least 2005, although it seems that very recently the town council has been discussing buying and renovating it.   Originally called the Rusada, it was built in 1948, a rather late Boller Brothers venture (they were also responsible for the Lensic in Santa Fe, and the KiMo in Albuquerque).    Indeed, rather than grain elevators, I think it would be most fun going round and documenting these, though a sad number seem to have been demolished already ...

Here's the Elkhart silo.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Use for what?   Oh, I know that there's probably some mundane explanation for this sign, propped up outside Real Food Nation - probably it signalled a door for entrance to the eatery at the time that a whole chunk of it was taken out by the driver who took the term "drive through" rather too literally.   But as it stands, it's a wonderful example of an empty signifier.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Another early-morning kitchen image - and very much in the tradition of Vermeer-influenced photos (cf Tom Hunter's work) - though there's no legal notice, no fringes-of-urban-poverty here, merely Alice looking meditatively into a teapot.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Almost certainly, our kitchen in New Mexico wouldn't pass the decluttering test - just one small corner reveals a bunch of garlic, a spatula and its shadow, a potato masher, and a shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, by Goldie Garcia, who produces superlative kitsch glitter-and-plastic-sealed earrings, magnets, car charms, pins, and little shrines set in wood, all with shiny stars and rhinestones and other embellishments.   I first came across her stuff at Spanish Market in 1994, and have accumulated a fair number of her small pieces since then.   The garlic is from the Farmers' Market a summer or two back; the masher is largely intended for mashing avocados into guacamole.   Tonight, though, there was indeed mashed potato, making the top layer of my buffalo herder's pie - a take on shepherd's pie, of course, only using ground bison and lots of chile.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Hanging from the ceiling in the Grove cafe, in Albuquerque (where we'd gone to rescue Alice's car - it had been sitting a long time in airport parking) was a very pretty and light mobile - this photo makes it look rather more substantial than it is, since it's made of silk, and is suspended on the lightest of threads.   Indeed, there's a whole flock of them idly rotating up there.   So I fantasised about getting one for my new office (ignoring various factors - like the little problem that I haven't yet decided what color to paint it, despite carrying around an increasingly bulky set of color charts), and wondered where they might be found.   A small amount of internet sleuthing reveals that they're by someone called Jan Carson, from Colorado.   And when one clicks on "find a store" ... what emerges?   The fact that no store in Los Angeles seems to stock them - but one in New Jersey does: Through the Moongate, in Highland Park.   There's a deeply ironic message to be located there, I'm sure.

Monday, March 14, 2011

nearly home ...

... that is, this is written from Home - or Home 2 - but this is taken where one knows that one's getting close, turning off I-40 to take the 285 up to Eldorado, and celebrating this mammoth Route 66 relic, the Clines Corners gas station, restaurant, and gift shop ... started by Roy E. Cline in 1934, and then moved in 1937 when Highway 6 was renumbered 66 and moved slightly north to where the edifice now stands.   We were entertaining ourselves yesterday with reading out the brochure produced in Oklahoma and enumerating all the Route 66 attractions: today, minus a guide (though I have various ones sitting futilely, on this occasion, in my office back in NJ), we were more struck by the Fuck Obama graffiti on various burnt out and otherwise wrecked old gas stations and houses along the roadside - not at all an encouraging sight.

Maybe tomorrow, despite the large number of mounting-up errands, I will actually be able to do some reading and thinking, after what seems to have been a shockingly long time?   After all, I have four whole days here, before I get back in the car - leaving Alice and the kitties here - and drive all the way back again ...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oklahoma City in mid-March is dull and grey with a thick drizzle coming down.   It's emphatically not a vacation spot, as this Soviet-style architecture suggests.   Emmett, however, has not the slightest difficulty in making himself at home in a nameless hotel - one in which we know from previous trips and well tested experience that we can smuggle in cats, straight from the car parking structure into the elevators and up to a higher floor, without them ever passing within sight of the front desk.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

driving westward, day 2

Eventually, we arrived in St Louis.   Because of our snow-evasive southern detour, it was around 700 miles driving today (and you might well wonder why we didn't carry on going down I-81 and join the 40 - this has everything to do with usefully, or non-usefully spaced decent hotels where one can stay with 4 cats ...).   The Omni, here, always welcomes them with open arms - ah, KITTIES!   We, on the other hand, just needed a very strong drink.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lucy's mice

On the road - between Highland Park and Santa Fe: stop one.   We're in Roanoke, Virginia - we'd planned to take a more northern route, but snow was forecast, so eight and a half hours of heavy truck traffic, here we are.    Luckily we pack comprehensively, for all possible feline needs: here's a bumper pack of little rattling mice for LucyFur.   The weird thing about this Residence Inn is that it is identical - at least in the living room - to the last one we were in, in Columbus Ohio - right down to the same layout, the same pictures - impossible to tell if the cats have deja vu, too ...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

state identity

Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to have the car serviced before driving it across country - to its home, one might say, since it was purchased and registered in New Mexico.   But.   Lexus of Edison have removed a whole chunk of its identity by replacing the fascia - or whatever you call the thing round the plate itself - that said Santa Fe at the bottom, with one that says Edison.   What makes it even worse (as if replacing NM with NJ wasn't bad enough) is the fact that the annual registration sticker is half obscured and therefore probably illegal.   Sure, the old surround is in the trunk.   But this is totally unwanted branding.

Ah, symbolism ... Tomorrow morning we round up the cat pack and drive them westwards.    Maybe, we think, a catless house will appeal more to our elusive buyers?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

another dawn

... this time a New Jersey one, and I didn't have to move from my bed to do it.   I was, of course, woken up as usual by the scrape of branches against the roof, and the thud of squirrels landing and taking off again: they (see top left) are extremely active currently, both making baby squirrels, and eating the tree buds.   Squirrel sex, indeed, is a very silly activity, since they don't seem to have any sense what position, direction, or angle would work best.   They clearly haven't watched the 1959 film of Look Back in Anger (which we watched in class today), with Mary Ure doing a deliberately over-twee squirrel imitation.   So common a sight are squirrels leaping around in the early morning here that the black and white cat opposite (see bottom right) has turned his back on them.

Most common reason given, apparently, for people not wanting to buy this house?   The fact that there's an apartment block next door.  Not much that we can do about that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

frosty morning

It does, by now, seem faintly improbable that this was London's suburbia this morning - a thick hoar frost, and as I took a cab to Heathrow, past Wimbledon Common, I so wished that I could stop and rush around with a camera - there was a yellow sun rising, and a thick band of fog that started about two feet off the ground and then went up for another eight (at the same time, I was immensely grateful that it was paralysing the City airport and the Woolwich ferry, and not anything to the west of London).   Very beautiful and uncanny.

Monday, March 7, 2011

street photography

Today, I escaped from Wimbledon for a couple of hours to go to the London Street Photography exhibition in the Museum of London (the new, or new-ish, Museum of London, that is - I remember the old one in Kensington Gardens, and chief among that, the scale model of the Fire of London.   There's probably something much funkier and multi-media to represent that now - I didn't, alas, have time to go to the ordinary history galleries.

The exhibition is excellent - street photography from the 1860s to now - the new stuff included a video with various current practitioners talking about their approaches, which was in some ways the most inspiring part.   And it was full of people - quite something, for a Monday morning - a combination of the relatively elderly ("oh, look - that could have been me - only they didn't really have urchins in Blackheath") and the art students.   I can't imagine that I was the only person rushing inspired out of the door to start shooting - as usual, quirky shop window, but also a follow-up to yesterday's phone boxes ...

... this Police Call Box is just for show, a historic artefact, the notice on it tells us, suggesting that we go off and use a public payphone.   But of course, the real reason for its obsolescence is walking past, clamped to this guy's left ear.   And yes, after hearing about people's shooting practices, I did lie in wait till just the right subject came along, as I did this morning, walking to the station: I just wanted one figure to balance the peeling and depressed facade of the local community centre (named after Cyril Black, a peculiarly loathsome Tory MP here when I was growing up).   I was very struck by one of the photographers - I think Matt Stuart, but I should check - saying how unforgiving color is for street photography.   If you have a great shot, but the color is wrong, you don't have a photo.   Here, the color is great ... but I was more after desolation than packed action, so I was hardly in danger of ruining anything.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

feats of balance

I'm continuing in the spirit of looking around me for things that really haven't changed in - oh, dear, this time, in something like fifty four (plus) years ...  This is the telephone exchange on Wimbledon Ridgway - a listed building, I gather, though I've not been able to make the internet cough up an actual date of construction - maybe the 1930s?   In any case, it's been there as long as I can remember - at least, as long as I can remember walking.   Because when I was very, very small I used to love walking along this little  wall - especially the bits where it went a bit higher, because then I thought I was truly brave.   And then we went up to Cumberland in early 1958, and when we returned, in 1961, I was amazed how tiny the wall seemed (though I still, occasionally, surreptitiously, scampered along it).   Now, it's as though the ground has risen up and nearly swallowed it - although empirically, of course, that just can't be.

Unlike the King of Denmark - one of the two pubs at the top of my parents' road, which has been shuttered and sad for a few years, and which has suddenly (so far as I'm concerned) disappeared into a flat sullen wilderness of clay and smashed red bricks (which has been the occasion for this sudden rush of Taking Photographs of the Few Remnants before they vanish ...) - unlike the King of Denmark, I don't think that this exchange is in any danger of imminent demise.   But the phone boxes ... ah, they are indeed a potentially vanishing species, and are clearly not treated with much respect (not, indeed, that they ever were ...).

Saturday, March 5, 2011


These are British doughnuts, in the window of the bakers at the top of Wimbledon Hill - still, despite all the odds, and despite being next door to a branch of Le Pain Quotidien - yes, Wimbledon High Street is nothing if not post-upwardly-mobile - still somewhere where workers will go and buy their bap (aka a kind of flat roll in which to put limp lettuce and ham, or whatever else constitutes the lunch sandwich), or pasties (oval meat and potato pies, roughly speaking) or, indeed, doughnuts.   It's now called, in vaguely optimistic aspiration, "Wimbledon Village Bakery," but it used to be Gravestocks Bakers.  I've been walking around (more on this tomorrow) trying to think what's still here, by way of shops, that I remember as a child, and the baker's is one of the very few establishments that's still the same.

I can't remember when I last had a British doughnut - maybe when hungry and desperate at a conference?   But I can still remember the fatty puffiness of it - both lighter and greasier than a US standard issue doughnut - no hole visible, but you can bet that when you've bitten into it, and some loose icing sugar has blown up onto your nose, that there will be some sweet red jam in the center, coming from no identifiable fruit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

flowers. Wimbledon.

It seems to be springtime here in London - or at least trying to be: the temperature is somewhere around freezing.   No point in pretending that iPhone flash photos are any good, for the most part - but, efficient though I was in every other respect, I haven't yet found where I put the little thingy for photo-card downloading, if I brought it at all.   But rather than forgo the ritual of arrival, I'll make do with this.

Reading David Kynaston's Family Britain 1951-7  on the plane - a rather crazy idea of a light book, in terms of literal weight - shocking how familiar so much of it is, even though I've not yet got to the year in which I was born.   It's not exactly analytical, for the most part, but wonderfully full of thick description - which (we'll move to the 1950s this week in my undergrad class) leaves me with an odd feeling that I'm somehow doing revision for a test on the period on material that's lodged somewhere in my brain, but fuzzily.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I was back in an old photographic foraging ground today - outside a frat house, where this fine knob had been abandoned, attached to a rather battered door (such is my house-awareness that I contemplated unscrewing it, wondering if it would look good anywhere around the Unsaleable).  (I am not sure whether that last word has two "e"s in it, or not).   I've done a poor job this semester in teaching my C20th British lit class British slang (curiously, it's turned out to be more literary-oriented than cultural-history oriented, unlike the one I taught last year).   But had I done so, I could have brought in the expression "with knobs on," which curiously isn't an Americanism - the equivalent would be "with bells on."   Why "knobs"?   On-line sources suggest either the tops of bedposts, which doesn't seem very likely, or "penises," which really doesn't make sense, unless one's speaking of some extraordinarily well endowed imaginary dervish.   Indeed, bells would make a whole lot more sense ...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

bathroom light

I have a suspicion - just a suspicion, but the house was lived in by a family that included two boys - that the bathrooms in this house were unspeakably nasty before the previous owner contemplated putting it on the market.   They still are unspeakably nasty, but in a redone, tacky, mid-NJ sort of way, with grey and white geometric or floral tiles (depending on the room), and these horrible lights.  If we were staying here, they'd be the next things on the list (after the worn wood floors, and the mock-tile lino in the kitchen, I suppose) to go.   In the meantime, I am resigned to restyling them via Infinicam.   And yes, from this, one may rightly surmise that there was no interest of any kind in the house today, and that my eyes, when tired of doing teaching prep, wander loosely around it finding things to lament.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Carnegie Lake

One of the many assets of my dentist is his multi-talentedness: not only is he a superlative dentist - the only one whom I've ever allowed near my mouth without tensing up like a fishing line with a salmon at the far end - but he's multi-talented in other ways.   He's an excellent photographer, watercolorist, hillbilly musician (to be honest, I've not heard him perform, but I'd take his excellence for granted, since he's so good at everything else).   Today I was inverted in a room that had a large photograph of his on the wall representing Carnegie lake at sunset - I think more or less from this angle, but minus the ubiquitous New Jersey geese (unfortunately a huge grey heron flew off just as I parked the car).   Admittedly, this would have been a far more interesting image if I'd waited another two and a half hours till sunset, too, but that wasn't on the cards.   Carnegie Lake was built around 1905-6 by Andrew Carnegie, so that Princeton rowers could have somewhere to practice: before then, they'd shared the Delaware and Raritan Canal with commercial traffic, which must have been a little cramped.   It looks very tranquil, always - and exceptionally beautiful when it's frozen, or it's misty - but one would be ill advised to swallow it (or even its fish), because of mercury levels, and pollution from oil and gas and fertilizers and pesticides and - yes - goose droppings.   So even if it looks like a truly idyllic corner of New Jersey, it's true NJ in other ways.

Whilst lying back in the chair this afternoon and thinking of - well, anything other than sharp things being stuck into my mouth, I remembered with a (metaphoric) start that in my haste to get the house ready for another Showing this afternoon, I'd in my haste brushed off a stray cat turd from the living room balcony onto the sitting room floor.   I'd intended, of course, to remove it instantly.   "Intended" was the operative word.   I hope that didn't cost us a sale ...