Friday, November 30, 2012

behind Caillebotte

If one has to be stuck in traffic, one might as well be stuck behind an attractive van ... I was particularly happy to see Caillebotte's Les raboteurs de parquet (1875) wrapped around this van: I bet Monsieur C. never thought his strapping laborers would end up gracing the vehicle belonging to a hardwood floor company in Los Angeles ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


At last, I'm getting round to scanning a whole lot of old slides - the idea (yes, I know it's already late November) is to put together some kind of iBook for my parents - largely pictures taken before I was, say, fourteen - and there are all kinds in the stash that I carried off (with permission) earlier in the year from Wimbledon.  And some make me cry - one of my father, when I was about eighteen months, and he was - what? - thirty two-ish.  And there are others that are of moments, or places, that I can't remember at all - they are the strangest, since many of them are, broadly speaking, familiar - and I've attached memories to them - because prints were made of them, or whatever.

And then there are some that have crept in from later years ... here I am, round about December 1980, designing my Christmas card for that year.  I wish I'd realized at the time that I'd look back thirty two years (really?  surely not?  really ...) later, and think that I was cute ... The most striking thing to me, however, is that this is BC - Before Computers.  It's not just that I'm drawing with a trusty Rotring pen - it's the Letraset sheets to my left.  Remember Letraset?  Did it exist in the US?  Kind of transfer letters, where one had to press hard on the back of a semi-translucent sheet, and hope that the black stuff didn't flake off, and that one had worked out the spacing properly beforehand ... I'm more than amused that the only really identifiable books on top of my desk are Terry Eagleton's Criticism and Ideology, and John Berger's About Looking, and Linda Nochlin's Realism.  And - look! - real live index cards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Full moon rising, as I left campus this evening ... I wish there'd been something to rest my camera on, so it's a little blurred.  The haziness, though, isn't due to shake so much as it's a product of the slightly clammy air - supposedly there's rain on the way tomorrow, which means that all of those carefully purchased, posed, staged, plumped up, inviting cushions in the conversation pit outside the back door will have to be rounded up and stowed ...

Monday, November 26, 2012

luminous light

This is the very bare, violently pistachio colored wall of a school that I pass on Vermont every day - and proof that late afternoon sunlight, at this time of the year, will make a couple of spare clumps of grass and the shadow of a tree look completely beautiful.  If you're looking at this, try moving your head around - on my screen, at least, the colors shift a surprising amount according to the angle.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Yes, this is pink - I can see why it says so (even if I'd be more inclined, myself, to call it a deep cyclamen).  But I don't really understand its presence (on a half-boarded up store front in Los Feliz, where we went looking for a fishmonger/butcher that turned out to be closed due its extensive, and probably well deserved Thanksgiving break), and still less do I understand the graffiti.  For the graffiti - "GOAIS"? - I keep trying to make it read "goats," but it doesn't, really - also seems to be in matching pink, and really, it's improbable to think that local gangs, even in hipsterhood, go around armed with color-toning cans of spray paint, waiting for just the right shade of sub-Picasso pasting to appear.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

paint store

Before we sell this house, we'll need to do some cosmetic painting, especially outside.  This may, of course, also be an excuse to visit our favorite paint store, Jill's Paint, in Atwater, which manages to be superbly stocked, and friendly, and quirky, and animal-filled, all at once.  It's a store that instantly makes one want to repaint everything.  They even seem to have taken some of their own products and talent to the wall outside.  Quite why chicks, I don't know - and there's something very Easter-y about this, which is totally inappropriate to the time of year, since colored lights are starting to flicker on and off among the palm trees.

Friday, November 23, 2012


One of the reasons why we are getting round to the idea of moving is the smallness of my study.  Whilst I totally appreciate that I'm lucky having a Whole Room as a study, it couldn't be thought of as an expansive one - here I am, sitting at my desk, with the study door closed, taking a picture of myself reflected in the mirrored closet doors the other side of the corridor ...

I can't resist a picture of Walter Gomez, growing into a fine figure of a young cat.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

tail; paws

Things to be thankful for: beautiful light even in late November; tails; paws.  Visible here - Bitzi (aka DandyLion's) tail, and LucyFur's back legs.  Invisible (but I am no less thankful for) - Alice (not that she has paws or a tail), Moth, and Walter Gomez.  Also invisible - and for which I am not one little bit offering up any thanks - is the very loud party that's going on opposite - we've been back for the length of for or five tracks, and have so far had Hotel California (fine, and curiously quaint and apposite); some Bowie like music; a couple of generic Hispano-rock numbers, one rap song, and now some very nasty Hispano-electronica, going Loca Loca Loca rather too often.  There are reasons not to be too attached to N. Hoover St.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

new art in old places

Back to the Huntington - not for wandering the gardens, this time (although it's impossible to walk anywhere without walking past the most wonderful trees and flowers.  And, rather oddly, a big burly Santa, who seemed to be on his way somewhere) but for more meetings, and then a very brief visit to the Gallery - in the Mansion - to check out a couple of the Victorian paintings and the Arts and Crafts room - in part with an eye on next fall's teaching.  There was also their First Ever Exhibition of contemporary art - paintings and sculpture by Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow.  The thick swept oil paint on the fairly small paintings - reminiscent of wood grain, reminiscent of leaf veins, reminiscent of how I once upon a time drew a comb across a thick gummy surface to produce marbled paper - produced images that were ok - I thought rather safe and unexceptional, but pleasant enough; the sculptures, which were for the most part modeled on everyday objects that were undergoing some uncomfortable metamorphoses, were more interesting.  Both worked best when they were juxtaposed with older art and furniture rather than being left, slightly scared and out of place, in a room on their own.  It was good to see the space being used for some current work, though - so much potential for echoing form and color and turning one's gaze back to the more familiar collection.

the memorial dashboard

I was very worried, before taking my car in to be serviced today, that some assiduous mechanic would wipe clean the paw marks on the dashboard - where Emmett made his last exploration, back in the spring, on his final car journey to the vet.  They're a poignant reminder each day - and, I suppose one might say, a mawkish, even Victorian memorialization, but I can't bear to clean them off.  Luckily whoever cleaned and tidied the car couldn't bear it, either - and I know the dashboard was cleaned, because the plastic lizard was moved.  Yes, that is indeed a plastic lizard - when I took an alt pro photo class with Christopher James a few years back - a totally wonderful experience - we were all given lizards at the end of it, and told to display them, so that we'd recognize that yes, elsewhere in the world there are people who enjoy, say, doing albumen prints.  Only I've never seen another one, even at the Eastman Museum in Rochester, where I had high hopes ...

Monday, November 19, 2012

more peaceful than yesterday

So much quieter than Hollywood Boulevard!  I actually managed to get to the library today ... to the Huntington, where I had a couple of meetings, and yes, sat in a quiet space full of books (it's Thanksgiving week, and this is the first time I've made it to a proper library to do anything more ambitious than check a reference or borrow a volume).  And then I went to look at the restored/renovated Japanese garden, which seemed to have many more bonsai trees than before, and ginkgo leaves - a couple have fallen here, in perfect orange slight disymmetry, on the raked gravel - and a great deal of calm, apart from the large russet brown hawk that swooped through, probably looking for young carp.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

tourists on Hollywood Boulevard

Today the Intro to Visual Culture grad class went to Hollywood Boulevard (armed with some theoretical reading, some guidebooks, some iPhones with downloaded apps, and an assortments of cameras).  Not to mention a bright pink fanny pack, and variegated forms of sneakers.  We clearly Passed - hustlers were continually trying to sell us tours, or bus rides, or give us sample sizes of hot chocolate.  It would have made for a better anthropology field trip ...

...but we looked at The Stars, and noted the visual symbols that told us if they were theatrical, or cinematographic, or from the golden age of radio (and mused for how long a radio microphone would be a readable symbol).

We took tourist photos ourselves, of course (this is Grauman's Chinese Theater)

and posed for pictures, in the places where one's meant to,

and admired the pictures we'd taken.

We dutifully put quarters into a slot so that we could look through a telescope - visual prosthesis! - at the fact that they're painting the Hollywood sign (reference back to the class where we read a chapter of Leo Braudy's book), and we noted how the whole Hollywood and Highland tacky shopping center (complete with white elephants referencing D. W. Griffith's Intolerance) is set so the sight lines direct us straight to the sign (note the red Aids ribbon on the church tower).

We looked at (and listened to) other tourists, who weren't necessarily having as good a time as we were.

We looked at really awful Christmas ornaments (as a pun on Holly - wood, this is terrible) - they do, however, often enshrine the importance of visual culture to the associations that attach themselves to Hollwood.

Or, year-round, you can by as Oscar for your best cousin, or grandpa, or girlfriend, or - more mysteriously - accountant, or dentist.

Or you might prefer to purchase underwear - for women

or for guys.  We didn't like to think what these said about the act of souvenir gift giving.

More classily (thank you, MacKenzie), we went to the Roosevelt Hotel with its swimming pool that has a David Hockney fresco at the bottom (which has fairly recently been renovated).

and we ended up outside a garden apartment complex from the 1930s on Sycamore, complete with tiles illustrating scenes from Don Quixote.

We did a lot of looking ...

diving on Santa Monica


I've wanted to take a photo of this neon diver on Santa Monica boulevard for a long time - but the traffic doesn't usually oblige by stopping in quite the right place.  Today, however, not only did the lights oblige, but for whatever reason she was only, and strikingly, half-lit, plunging out from the tiny fairy lights that wind their way up the tree trunks.

She's one of a set of four neon lights that went up on Santa Monica in August 2010 - part of West Hollywood's celebration of having been a city for 25 years, which they decided to celebrate by revering Route 66.  It turns out that she's the only one that isn't an original - she's a replica of a sign that used to grace the Virginia Court Motel in Meridian, Mississippi.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

half time

A few members of the marching band came down to the sidelines at half time in tonight's volleyball game to entertain us - or at least to try and keep our anxious spirits up.  After last night's rout of Stanford, tonight's game against Cal (Berkeley, to those outside the US who aren't familiar with that little sporty abbreviation) was a nail biter - but we did, in the end, win in the fifth set.  I'm not sure that my nerves can take much more of this season ... but at the same time, I have been so deeply grateful for it as a preoccupation that - this time last year, say - I couldn't possibly have guessed would come my way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

wheeling round

I do like having a Ferris Wheel on campus ... it made it onto our Christmas card last year, and it's very tempting to use an image of it again ... It was turning round and round as we headed off to the volleyball match (*we beat #1, Stanford* in an amazing if spectatorial exhausting game).  It's very curious, watching things that were quite sensationally different (like wrapped up statues, and a tiny part of a fun fair on campus) a year ago, coming round again ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

it's been worse

It's hard not to read the graffiti and the ad for the radio station in some kind of tandem, even though the billboard has managed to be up for a good few days before it was written on. I guess that all that bright blank yellow space was just too tempting for words.  Or rather, it invited words: spanto2tone.  I think - so far as Google can take one into gangs and graffiti - that this is actually celebrating/commemorating/signing two different people.  It also seems as though Spanto, at least, hails from Venice (that's Venice, CA, not the place that's been shockingly 70% under water last week), and maybe 2tone as well.  So that's quite a trip eastwards to sign themselves in.

I like the typewriter script, let alone the downbeat nature of the message.  And I like it in Walker-Evans-y black and white ...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

all wrapped up

It's that time of the year again!  Cross-town rivalry with UCLA!  Assaulting each other's mascots, or their avatars!  Here's Traveler, in statue form, the white horse who canters up and down the sidelines whenever USC makes a touchdown, and now covered in plastic sheeting.  

Monday, November 12, 2012


This is a very hastily grabbed shot of the moment when one knows that one's not only back in Los Angeles, but that the Flyaway to Union Station has (a) arrived and (b) is leaving the airport: in other words, here are the fluorescent, light-changing pillars that stand outside, like a clump of neon paleolithic fossil trees.  It's hotter and much, much noisier than New Mexico here ... Much reading up about New Media - for tomorrow's class, and then the seminar with Johanna Drucker afterwards: this is, of course, visual evidence of simple mechanical program-driven pixel-shifting, thanks to Hipstamatic ...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

winter ...

... is definitely on its way, here in Santa Fe. It will be strange to return to balmy Los Angeles.  I do like the cold ... on the other hand, since I see that it'll be around 14F first thing in the morning, I wish that I'd already run the trash bin down the driveway, rather than waiting, as I usually do on a Monday, until the crack of dawn.  Why I suffer from the delusion that around eleven at night I might get inspired to - say - clear out the kitchen cupboards, I can't begin to imagine.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

another november sunset

I suppose, technically, one could get bored with the sunsets and skies here, but it's hard to imagine.  It was a wild and stormy day - rain and a hailstorm in the morning - and much of the time (apart from going on a bone-chilling walk this afternoon, and having a graduate supervision) I've been settled down, working away.  I might even manage to get written what I came here to write ... imagine ...

Friday, November 9, 2012


Anyone reading this in Santa Fe will fully understand why that word merits an exclamation point.  I've seen more rain today, I should think, than I saw all summer.  I was truly delighted, too, that all the beautiful aspen trees haven't yet lost their leaves.  Here, I'm parked outside my hairdresser, about to discover that he and his partner's consignment business is burgeoning in a back room, and some client had just brought in some Eileen Fisher clothes ... this is being a profitable trip for reasons other than writing, which, to my amazement, I was able to do all morning, only pausing occasionally to put out the odd smoldering office fire.  

And I've been able to clear space to read - today and yesterday it's been Kate Hayles's excellent new book on the Digital Humanities and their interface with Traditional Humanities, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis.  Although I launched into this because I (rather improbably) have to be the respondent at a talk on Big Data and its representation on Tuesday, it's actually also proved very useful in thinking through some of the joins in the piece I'm writing right now on The Social Life of the Senses in the C19th and early C20th - partly because of what it has to say about attention, but even more so because of the references it gives to work on how the brain processes sensory information - so fast that we're conscious of very little of it.  That's no surprise, and nor is the fact that some of this information goes into our unconscious: what interests me more is the fact that there's stuff that we process through our neural pathways, thus training our neural pathways - and this stuff inhabits some other realm, the nonconscious.  Which is how we change and adapt, without knowing that we're doing so.  I know this isn't news to other people - indeed, at some semi-conscious level (let's try that for a further realm) it's not news to me (and Megan, if you're reading this, I know this is exactly the kind of stuff you're working on, and you would be quite right in thinking I should have taken it properly on board) but this feels like the first time I've read something that patiently and lucidly takes me through the steps of understanding it.  Or, more to the point, maybe I've just had precious little time of late to read and think ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

home ...

... or it would be, if Alice and the cats were here too.  I've escaped for a few days of being a hermit and writing.  If that sounds idyllic, remember that such escapes are frequently born from complete and utter panic at writing deadlines.  And if I work well to deadlines, normally, that ability is canceled out by panic.  So here I am, in complete New Mexican quiet, planning on getting up early, and putting fingers to keyboard at dawn.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

trojan zombie

No, I don't understand this one.  He was sitting - with his trident - on a float somewhere near the FedEx and USPS place on campus, looking fairly jolly, but not contextualized in any way.  If it had been early on November 5th (but it was the 7th) and in England (but it wasn't), I might have concluded that it was a guy - that is, a stuffed and dressed dummy, not a male person - getting ready to be burned on top of a bonfire for Guy Fawkes night.  If, on the other hand, it'd been a few days earlier, I might have thought that USC had had some Day of the Dead procession, with this zombie-like being riding in mocking triumph.  As it is, I think it's just one of those baffling things that one encounters on a campus.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Three million cheers!  And I can remove my bumper sticker in the morning!  (and the other one, too  the one that reads "Cats Against Romney.")  A huge sigh of relief.  It just remains to be seen how Prop 30 fares in California, but this is the really big deal.  We're not going to wake up in 1950 tomorrow (though, as I type, CNN is reporting that the Romney campaign isn't yet prepared to concede.  Bah - bad sports on top of everything else ...).

Monday, November 5, 2012

fresh air

On a November day when the temperature hit 95 degrees, who can blame a cat for seeking fresh air at the window behind my desk?  An adult cat, that is, because despite the mesh beyond, I wouldn't trust one of the adolescent kittens there.  And LucyFur was glad of some space from Them.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

serendipity versus purpose

So I went out hunting one particular piece of new street art this afternoon, and failed to find it - or failed to recognize it (less probable) or didn't look high enough (more than possible), but I found plenty else that was diverting.  Here - just outside the 99 cent store on the base of a lamppost, was a slightly cracked perspex ball apparently containing some kind of clockwork mechanism.

And here is a wall of miscellaneous art, just about where I was looking.  The "vote Romney" spray is particularly well positioned.

And here is a lovely set of fading faces, on a wheelie bin.

And here a different wheelie bin, which, like Vote Romney, will be indelibly datable to 2012.

And here's a decoration flying from a tree above Hoover Street,

and here, somewhat closer to what/where I was looking for, is a discarded mattress - which to anyone from my Visual Studies class will take us straight back to the use of an abandoned mattress as a site for graffiti earlier in the semester.  This one is somewhat more poetic.  

Taken as a whole, today's haul (and this is only a part of it - but it represents that which may be the most transitory) made me think about the differences and connections between documentary (which is what, in effect, I was setting out to do - me, a camera, a purpose - and the serendipitous, the chance.  Probably my favorite image, qua image, is the ball (I keep trying mentally to turn it into this year's Christmas card, but think its appeal might need to much explanation or justification) - but I could never have predicted its appearance in front of me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

against the Ducks

I would love to say that I'd been present at a Famous Victory - though nothing will ever beat being at the game when Rutgers beat the then #3 Louisville in 2006 - a game that led me to believe that miracles can always happen in closing seconds.  But no miracle today.  Those Oregon Ducks are very, very good.  It's so hard to take photographs at football games where one's bag is checked to see that one's not bringing in an SLR (or guns, or alcohol, or whatever).  So strange being at a game in hot sunshine, after those freezing cold New Jersey ones with wet snow blowing sideways - here we were in serious danger of sunburn.

And Walter Gomez is in serious danger of getting the bad cat of the year award, tiptoeing through the orchids, looking for trouble.