Saturday, August 31, 2013

equine decor

Our B&B - sorry, boutique hotel - has a definite identity crisis.  First, it thinks that it's a b&b in an old Regency terrace house - the kind of building that was an establishment back when Mrs Pipchin was taking in boarders.  But it also fantasizes about being a Small Boutique Establishment - hence the elaborate shower (that doesn't really work) over the bathtub (on legs) in the bedroom, and the decor.  Yes, though our room is (mock) pine and white with some extraordinarily hip radiators hanging from the wall, the stairs think that they want to audition for Equus.  And outside (the elegance of Brighton) is a long square, bounded on three sides by crumbling white houses and by the English Channel, and the ruins of the West Pier, on the fourth, with screaming Saturday night drunks loudly taking over the night air.  "Why?" Alice keeps, understandably, asking.  "Because it's England," I tell her ...

Friday, August 30, 2013

walking to dinner and back

Walking to dinner in Brighton (24 St Georges - much recommended) past the ferris wheel, and the pier, and the sunset, and walking back, past variegated antique and curio shops in the Lanes - and then (no pictures) into the maelstrom of an average English drunken city center Friday night.  This country is so very, very unlike the US ... (well, obviously) ... which is something that being at a conference here (at which it's been great to see a number of former Oxford colleagues) brings home, in multiples.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

bank holiday weekend - er - conference time ...

Yes!  I'm in Brighton, England, for the MSA ... on an August Bank Holiday weekend ... complete with bungee jumping (not me, obviously - that PING upwards would be quite a surprising jolt); Banksy (or Banksy-style) mail box with Martin Parr like couple in the corner; the ruins of the burnt-out West Pier, and a roundabout with galloping horses (aka carousel).  So much fun!  I've not been to the British Seaside in years - decades?  Now I guess I'd better put the rest of my powerpoint together ...


... and much more.  This was the most wonderful surprise - a brand new Farmers' Market - where? - on the grass outside my office in VKC!  Outside my classroom!  Next week I shall send out all the students to buy carrots, or strawberries, or boba tea, or whatever, for this must be welcomed, and cherished, and - well, how amazing that this has happened!  All USC people - come and patronize it, on Wednesdays, 11-3!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the compensation for a bad call

A bad call, indeed, this evening - I hadn't thought to check if there was a Dodgers game before driving home (I will be very glad when this season is over and I don't have to wrestle with evening traffic on game nights, or rather, ideally, don't have to consult the schedule to find a better, if technically longer, way home).  But then - I was stuck in traffic downtown opposite the wall of a restaurant that clearly has as its mission the cheering up of commuters who otherwise are doing precious little than absorb a very thorough dose of NPR.   

Monday, August 26, 2013

first day of class ...

I promise you - I asked their permission first: I took a half dozen or so photos whilst they were introducing themselves, with the possibly vain hope that I'll be able to remember some names by Wednesday ... I didn't say that they would (or so it seems) be giving visual evidence implying 'SC's thriving Greek culture.  But still - they look (mostly) happy and alert, which is a relief.  I really love teaching in practice - but oh, the agony of the nervous six hours or so beforehand for the first class of each semester ...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

the quiet before the storm

I'm very glad that I painted my study in contemplative colors - colors that I, at any rate, find conducive to contemplation - because I've needed them today, especially when my computer crashed (once again) and swallowed a couple of hours worth of re-written syllabus.  Re-written?  Why, yes - I'd somehow omitted a week in the middle of October (wishful thinking, obviously).  Yes, indeed, that's Moth bouncing around in the background ... but I think of her as providing Good Energy.  OK ... miles to go before I sleep ...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

foreshadowing fall

I know it's only August, but with only 36 hours - eek - to go before my first class of the academic year, it must, according to some forms of logic, be Fall.  And here are some harbingers - a prematurely orange leaf from the ornamental pear in our back yard, and a mystery fruit.  In some ways, it's not a mystery fruit at all, of course - it's a tiny, tiny, perfect Meyer lemon.  But did it form and fall from the tree that's full of some kind of currently green fruit? - I swear this looked like an orange to me, last spring, but a friend this morning also swears it's a Meyer lemon tree.  Or was it dropped by a passing squirrel?  I'll report at some later date about the identity of the citrus, but for now, it's enough to note that fall will, soon, be heading this way.

Friday, August 23, 2013

welcome back ...

It's the Annual Art History Welcome Back Breakfast.  I'd just been talking about the upcoming (watch this space) Department's Facebook site - and realized that maybe it would be a good idea to have a few images to put on it.  But this was the only one in which at least some of the company looked as though they might be enjoying themselves.  This might have been because we'd just had an utterly baffling presentation from the Business Office, in which - if I understood correctly - we were told to save money in case we weren't paid in January, due to a systems change over - unless we were a grad student, in which, for some other reason, we mightn't be paid in December, either.  Surely we can't have been told that?  There was also a scary "short version" of how to claim expenses under yet another system, which seemed to run to three pages of small print and interlinked boxes.  I can't have been the only person starting to nurse a headache at the end of this.  But - yes! - it was, indeed, great to see everyone again!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

dramatic cactus (or: thought, perception, sensation, and inexhaustible historicity)

This looks likes snowdrops on steroids.  And I should have included something to show the scale, because it could be mistaken for something as delicate as snowdrops, or lilies of the valley.  But this is a substantial part of a two-foot-or-so spike of flowering cactus - one of the best surprises in the garden that we came home to.  The plumbago is still flowering spectacularly in the background - as it's been doing for months.

All of this is a way of saying, I guess, that it's a huge pleasure to come back from work to find this all.  Actually, it was probably as great a pleasure to find that the books that I badly needed were possessed by the library, and available, but that's less easy to illustrate.   MSA paper well underway, remarkably.  We'll see whether or not I still feel the same way by, say, Sunday - writing about how flash photography shifts from the sensational to the ordinary in the scope of 40 years, by way of some documentary interiors - yet how it nonetheless continues to make visible the sheer ordinariness of an interior, throughout.  I feel I should be able to push something further than that, and resist the temptation to fall back on Jacques Ranciere's rather good chapter on photography in his new Aisthesis in order to support what I have to say.  But I love the way this chapter concludes, so I may not succeed in resisting: The objectivity of photography is the regime of thought, perception and sensation that makes the love of pure forms coincide with the apprehension of the inexhaustible historicity found at every street corner, in every skin fold, and in every moment of time.  Maybe I should start with that as an epigraph?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the morning commute

It's back to Los Angeles!  It's a little segment - not a very picturesque segment - of my morning commute!  It's an early forerunner of the ferris wheels that start turning in the fall; it's palm trees, decidedly bent by the wind; it's a car that - this being a busy morning street - was drawing up alongside me at the traffic lights.  The rapid transition into admin and teaching, teaching and admin, never ceases to take me by surprise ...

cardinal and gold

The garden of La Posada early this morning - sunflowers standing against tall spikes of Hopi red amaranth - a plant used for dye.  It was only this evening, having downloaded this, that I realized that I'd unconsciously gone for the cardinal-and-gold juxtaposition, the soon-to-be-ubiquitous-once-again school colors.  

The best images of today went unphotographed - the bulge in the back of the sofa, in our room at La Posada, which we realized was Bitzi, who'd somehow climbed inside the whole thing in order to avoid being re-carriered and taken back to LA (however, if you push against a cat hidden in a sofa for long enough, eventually it wriggles out again); and our First Tomato of the season, which we'd eaten before I thought to commemorate it.  Completely delicious - it's a shame that so far, it's the only one on the huge plant ...

Monday, August 19, 2013

last leg

... or maybe Last Toe, since one of Alice's seems to have crept into the right hand side ... Sitting drinking margaritas in front of the rail tracks in La Posada, Winslow, and wishing - unoriginally - that we didn't have to confront meetings, classrooms, a ratcheting up of correspondence (actually, that started today, with a vengeance), and all the rest of it.   A quiet week in a library would go down very well with me, right now, although, as ever, this is an ideal stopping place on the - what is it? - 860 or so mile drive, with the kitties, and just about all of our container plants from this summer, constituting our major luggage ...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

clouds, raindrops, rainbow

A very simple sequence from this evening, that sums up, quite succinctly, how hard it will be to head for home tomorrow ...

... oh, and that also illustrates the excellence of the new oilcloth table cloth ...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

the bounty of the farmers' market

... last trip of the summer .... so really, I didn't feel as though I could buy much, though I went to say goodbye and thank you to my favorite goats' cheese stall, It's All About the Girls - run by two women, and purveyors of wonderful green chile goat cheese for the last decade, who are now hanging up their goat tending crooks.   And I could admire, of course, the kale, and the flowers,

and the stringing together of marigold garlands,

and tomatoes, and carrots, 

and pom-pom dahlias, and more tomatoes,

and a new large metallic rooster,

and onions,

and, bizarrely, a toy mouse selling beets.  Why?

Friday, August 16, 2013

end of the summer ...

Table laid, ready for the neighbors to come round to dinner ... (that verdant lawn?  It's our tumbleweed jungle).  Torn in two directions, between hyper-efficient pre-semester admin etc beckoning on the one hand, and a last hurrah of having the time to marinate sautéed eggplant (in red vinegar and chopped mint - much recommended) on the other.  Alice's purchase today of sunflower oil cloth is the perfect New Mexico table cloth ...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

back in NM

for four more nights - though very much Back At Work.  Re-united with the cats, and re-united with skies and space ...

the end of the road (or a pause en route) (road trip day 11, and home)

We're back in LA - for a night - but not before stopping at Hearst Castle.  I'm sure everyone's tourist pictures of it are the same - but truly, it's magnificent ... especially the Roman Pool, and the other swimming pool ...

... the whole place reeked of Heliogopalus, at the very least - Italianate Renaissance meets ancient Rome meets 1920s cinema meets ...

... Italy on steroids.

with half of Early Modern Spain inside, and some Ancient Sculpture decorating the outer terraces.

Oh, and the drive there was pretty stunning, too.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

sybaritism (road trip, day 10)

Our last full day's vacation, in Big Sur, with little to do other than stroll round the grounds (that's low cloud over the sea, below us); 

walk through the woods,

and eat dinner on the spectacularly beautiful terrace.  Actually, I wrote two thirds of a conference paper, too, which is sybaritism of a highly specialist kind, but - when one thinks of the semester howling and rattling towards us, is a true pleasure that may not easily be repeated in the very near future.

Monday, August 12, 2013

sunshine! (road trip, day 9)

The day started in Mendocino with - yes - no fog!  This was the view from our balcony.  And then (the b&b breakfast not being something we wanted to repeat - what is it about tired, burned-out, people-jaded b&b owners?) - we went into the pretty village for coffee, and met this very handsome inhabitant,

who (and knowing how handsome he was against a background of amaryllises) was very friendly indeed.   

We're now in Big Sur, and waiting for some Pleiades to appear.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

more fog, more flowers (road trip, day 8)

Yes, it's still foggy.  Mostly foggy, that is, until the evening, when we had low clouds and a small strip of sunset bright near the horizon.   But this didn't stop us admiring all kinds of vegetation and fantasizing about our back yard (not that LA has the same dampness as here).   I'll offer up, too, Alice on the top of cliffs in a state park, looking like something out of the 1930s (reciprocal pictures of me make me look like a tap-dancing gnome - no sharing) ...

... and different bits of small island and rock loomed out of the - yes - fog.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

rainforest through redwoods (road trip day 7)

We started the day in a wonderful B&B in Port Orford, OR - the Wildspring Guest Habitat - and ended it in Mendocino.  There are a lot of winding roads and redwoods between the two -

and, yes, after a while, magnificent though they are, one redwood starts to look very much like another ...

Friday, August 9, 2013

limited visibility - Cannon Beach to Port Orford (road trip day 6)

It was a misty - or sea foggy - or cloudy - drive down the coast today - here's an overlook, complete with lighthouse.  And now that we're in a delightful small cabin in the woods - rain forest? - it's pouring with rain.  Back on Cannon Beach this morning, it was just a light thin sea mist - into which the bicyclist disappeared ... It's all extremely beautiful, and here in Port Orford, quite wonderfully quiet.