Thursday, February 28, 2013


I really didn't intend to replicate the Walter picture, but I'm away with a MacAir and with the wrong attachment for uploading pictures - so that's what I have.  No Walter, though - he's back in Los Angeles, and we're in Austin, which is a strange place, so far - like a pokier version of Oklahoma City, with many more bars.  I'm quite prepared to believe that I haven't yet seen the best of it (since we're only here for less than 48 hours - Alice speaks at a conference tomorrow; I'll wander round/sit in a coffee shop/go to the library - I'd love to look at the Russell Lee stuff in the Harry Ransom Center, but I have been too busy to chase it down before my arrival, and in any (gloomy) case, this might be my only chance to do next week's teaching prep.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

still drowning

Seemingly, this is the week in which I find metaphors all over campus for my state: drowning under emails and meetings and and and.  Though these sodden pieces of paper also appeal ever so strongly to my interested in the discarded, the jettisoned, the useless - stuff that's way this side of trash in the sense of mounds of waste, but that's just been abandoned to its insignificance.  And no - I'm not shooting after some elaborate metaphor there - just part of my ongoing interest in the ordinary and the trivial.

finding the way home

Move houses, and even though you're only fifteen minutes away from where you lived before - and even though you could drive straight back there and go to work via your old route - that somehow won't work.  So - both morning and evening - I've been experimenting with new ways to work and back again.  This afternoon was the quickest yet - up Figueroa, with all the lights in my favor, until - obviously enough - I'm stopped heading up to Sunset.  I do so love LA freeway flyovers - overpasses, I guess one calls them in America - sitting there as cultural icons (think Rayner Banham, think very early Cathy Opie).

Monday, February 25, 2013

drowning in admin

... and that heading to my post says it all: no time to read, no time to think - though mercifully time enough to draw a deep breath and enjoy teaching for 100 minutes, and also to go to a mock job talk.  On the way to which ... submerged in the pool of one of our campus's many fountains was an official form that someone had evidently, and understandably, felt so badly about having to complete that they left it to a watery end.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

oscars night

I'd have done even better, of course, if I hadn't hedged some of my bets ... The shocking thing about an Oscar Ballot is how it brings out my inner, and alas not very deeply hidden competitiveness ... right from kicking myself for not going for Christoph Waltz as Best Supporting Actor, as my secret research weapon,, had suggested I did.  At least, I think that was  Of course I could be found doing my research most seriously, especially around sites that took all kinds of voting variables into account.  Which sites, other than fivethirtyeight?  Ah, that would be telling ... I managed to come third, despite the Waltz  issue, and already am sharpening my antennae for next year.  Curious how very little one's own preferences and desires should be listened to, although I do admit to having an instinct about Brave.  Thank you, Vanessa and Rebecca, for much fun, and for maple bacon popcorn ...

... and yes, that is a large china zebra on my desk: not a sure-fire winner picker with its hoof, but a relic of the Oxford equivalent of a 99 cent store many decades ago - I think he's meant as a cookie jar, and seems to have temporarily lodged in front of my work during this endless unpacking process ...

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Or, do a palm frond or two look better as they turn up in nature, or folded into a foursome?  These are in a glen more or less behind the house: I suppose we could climb over our flimsy wire fence into Griffith Park, but we go the decorous way using road and path.  And then, there are fifty-five miles of trails (apparently) - this is the US's largest urban path, and the trail that we took this afternoon passed (if you exclude the sound of the 5 freeway) into countryside very quickly, below Beacon Hill - on which, apparently, there used to be a real beacon, guiding planes into Glendale Airport.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I was born - a shocking number of years ago - during a snowstorm.  So it's a big shock to me to come out of my (new) house on the morning of February 22nd into the sunshine, and to smell the jasmine that's sitting on the table in the front yard.   Who would ever have thought it  ...?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

applauding tania

Today we celebrated Tania Modleski's work at a session called "Writing with a Vengeance" - it's twenty five years since The Women Who Knew Too Much (on women in Hitchcock's films) was published, and thirty one - ouch - since Loving With a Vengeance appeared.  Left to right: Lynn Spigel, Tania herself, Kara Keeling, and Victoria Johnson.  Victoria hit the nail on the head, I think, when she said that Tania writes so clearly that you think that she's just confirming a thought that you've had yourself.  So what she says seems like common-sense - it's just that, actually, she's said it, and not you.

This is very true of my experience with Loving With a Vengeance, which was hugely influential on me when writing The Woman Reader - it helped vindicate writing about women's reading at all, and certainly their reading of non-canonical texts.  I guess I was less sure about the stuff on television (though I used it in my feminist theory lectures, back in the mists of time - it's a little shocking to realize now that I had no idea at the time how ground-breaking it was working on such a topic).  I certainly hadn't the remotest idea that I would ever end up in a department with someone who was a founding mother, so to speak, of the kind of claims that I was trying to make ... so I add my voice to the chorus of thanks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

another new neighbor

And, at the end of the garden this morning ... Yes, this is exactly where the coyotes were sitting last week.  No, I don't think that they are compatible forms of wildlife, in the long run.  But I don't want to think about bad things happening to this little Mule Deer.  Look at those ears!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A strange assortment of things lined up in a row: a fallen camellia blossom, floating in a little water in a cereal bowl that's inside an old green dish; a cat birthday card from my parents to Alice; a blue bowl containing the few remaining oranges from the hoard that we brought over from 962.  It's great to have a big counter (so what does one oil all that wood with) on which to array things ...

Monday, February 18, 2013

camphor tree

This is not at all what I'd intended as an image today, but - post CAA addled, I can only assume - I found this evening that there'd been no memory card in my camera, earlier.  So I went outside into the slightly dank night and stood under the camphor tree - such a long exposure that in fact the dark sky has revealed all the reflected urban light that's up there.  To the eye, wandering around the back yard at night and trying not to trip over the camphor tree's roots, it looks very dark - but no.


Really a very sweet little dragon, hanging around on the side of a building on - oh, maybe 59th and 7th, something like that - it was far, far too cold to look and remember in NY this morning, with a vicious cold wind coming round buildings at one ... 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

illegible in the city

It's impossible to tell the status of this hoarding poster: a real appeal, torn away since no longer missing? An advertisement for an event or show, now past?  A satiric take on the "missing" genre, now defaced?  For the original girl in the poster is also defaced, or obliterated, disguised behind a checkerboard of the kind of blurred pixelization used to disguise minors or the innocent - I mean, what use would this actually be in helping to recognize someone and track them down?  Or does the whole artifact, tears and all, constitute an installation, a commentary on the illegibility of all faces of those who are lost in the city?  [there certainly seem to be many more panhandlers than in previous years, and I'm not even counting the woman who, putting on makeup for free in Duane Reade, turned to me and asked if I was often told of my resemblance to Barbra Streisand?  Er, no.]

Friday, February 15, 2013

searching for coffee

in the watery canyons of NYC.  Luckily there is a *$$ on every street corner round here, because I had all too little time before I actually started a long, but excellent day's interviewing.  And after we were under way, doubtless expensive pots of coffee could be, and were, ordered by phone and delivered to the room, where we all leaped on them, and now probably won't be able to sleep, ever again.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

spring approaching

... and even though, as yet, there's nothing like that huge outburst of blossom that will hit in a couple of months, it's a big pleasure to be back east and witness it.  This was on 56th St today - just after I'd eaten too much oriental-ish lunch, so very stylistically suitable.  There's otherwise been a lot of sitting in the interview suite - more tomorrow! - which was improved by company, but truly is a pretty dismal anonymous corporate beige and gold space.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

looking down

Let's see if tonight's hotel experience is any better than last night's fiasco with the waterfall that came through the bathroom ceiling.  Initial impressions aren't promising.  I thought that the room was next door to an elevator shaft, from the sounds - but the elevator itself is a long, long way down the hallway.  Mystery.  Meanwhile, the heating/ac grumbles away as though it's about to give up.  This is the 42nd floor, and even I, who doesn't suffer from vertigo in the slightest, thinks that it looks a long, long way down.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

descending on nj

New Jersey looked uncompromisingly grey and polluted as I descended on it, so the only thing to do has been to mock tin-type it,  And then it was that time of day when trains don't stop at EWR, because they're too busy rattling commuters home from NYC.  At least that trash dump opposite the platform at the airport has been cleared away ... Seeing friends, though, more than makes up for the environmental hazards of the state.

Monday, February 11, 2013

new neighbors

Sunbathing, in the early morning, at the end of our yard: two very uninvited coyotes.  This is why our kitties are not, and will never be, outdoor kitties.  This couple look very sleek and completely at home.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

the storage unit

A grenade?  A boxing glove?  No, we're at the storage unit in Glendale, waiting for some trusty movers (again! but these are local ones with a van and at least one rock band between them) coming to take away half the things from our storage unit and bring them back here.  There are still a lot of boxes of books there ... and to think that I did such a major cull back in NJ.  I was taking a photo of the soulless hallway, and Alice stuck out her hand with one of the wooden balls that form the feet of the sofa that's now in my study.  I am extremely attached to this sofa.  I bought it in 1985 or 6, and it's actually a not-too-uncomfortable sofa bed, in a grey-green color, from Habitat, and is remarkably unstylish, and bears the claw-ravage marks of several generations of cats - and I'd miss it dreadfully if I did the sensible thing and decided that the time had come to wave goodbye to it.  It's not even the world's most comfortable sofa.  But it's my sofa, and it gives me a whole lot of pleasure to have a study, at last, that's big enough for it, and to have it (and other old dear pieces of furniture) keeping me company.

catching up (3): the morning view (Saturday 9th)

This is a very good view to wake up to from one's bedroom window.  That overgrown tree in the foreground is the huge camphor tree - the little ones come as bonsai trees ... - which is invasive, and has poisonous berries, and has a root system that's crumpling up the elderly terrace - and, damn it, has very pretty blossom.  What to do ... ?  Those strange dots on the right?  They are targets on a children's golf range ... otherwise, all one can see is Griffith Park and the hills beyond ...

catching up (2): the rainbow (Friday 8th)

Although we never wanted to see another moving box by the end of these two days, it seemed very auspicious to stand, surrounded by them, in our new home, marveling at the view, and seeing this out of the window ...

catching up (1): the router (Thursday 7th)

Memo to all friends who may ever think of moving: after taking pictures of your router and modem so that you know how to put them together again, pack the router somewhere close to your person, and take it to your new residence personally (that is, if you are doing Time Warner, or whoever's, job for them, and performing your own (re) installation.  Because otherwise, it will disappear when you're not watching, and could have sworn blind that no mover was anywhere near the room in question, and will be packed up into an anonymous brown box with very, very many identical relatives.  Hence the unprecedented hiatus ...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Tomorrow is moving day!  Or moving day #1.  Quite how I'm going to manage moving mid-week in a week that already seems endless and crazed, I can't begin to imagine,  But everything (that includes the neighbors' house, to the left - ours actually drops down from this, the entrance level) was looking wonderful very early this morning, when I went over to sign off on yet another expensive chunk of replacement sewer pipe.  Our back yard now has what looks like several very deep graves dug in it (something of a relief to see that the soil looks rich and fertile, ready to grow - grow what?  Much planning to come.  At the moment, it really needs a herd of hungry goats to be let loose on it, but the nearest rent-a-goat set of lawnmowers that I know live in Eldorado ...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

...because the night ...

Here's a long line snaking back to get in to see Patti Smith this evening at USC.  Our Visions and Voices program brings in all kinds of excellent speakers and performers - for free - but this was surely the stand-out event of the year.  Or, as I said on my way out, it was giving the students a sense of what it was like in the seventies.  Or was meant to be like.  In point of fact, one was never that close to the stage, let alone seated.  One was a long, long way back, somehow shorter than everyone else, with a bad crackling sound system with feedback, and suffering from mildly stoned paranoia that maybe one's period had started and that one shouldn't be wearing white pants.  Instead of which, one now gets to sing along, demurely, to Power to the People (probably the deep ironies of this choice of anthem resounding through an auditorium at USC weren't lost on PS).  About eight songs in all - maybe nine - and a conversation with Josh Kuhn, who managed to be laid-back, informed, amusing, self-effacing, and to bring out the best of PS's iconoclasm.

Monday, February 4, 2013

new living room

An early morning trip to Shannon Road to open the gate ready for the guys who are coming to mend the sewer pipe ... the living room was looking particularly lovely in the morning sun.  And sitting at the kitchen counter - oh, sorry, the walnut butcher's block island - doing teaching prep, I saw this wonderful huge white flower - aka a folded paper kitchen towel, catching the light.  If I'd tried to create this image deliberately, I can't imagine that I could have achieved something quite so serendipitous.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

new front door

It's our new front door!  And yes, you can look through the front door, down the hallway, through the dining room, and that's the edge of our garden/Griffith Park.  We're moving in more slowly than was possible shifting home from New Jersey to California - it's a great lifting of pressure to be able to load wicker crates into the car, drive fifteen minutes, unpack, and drive the little crates back again.  The serious guys with vans arrive on Thursday, and there's a chance we'll be ready for them (that's ignoring everything that has to be done between now and then - like teaching, and meetings ...).  Todays' most ridiculous moment was not being able for a while to work out how to turn off the waterfall.

Meanwhile back at Hoover, fifty shades of orange.  The cats are, by now, beginning to realize that Something is Going On.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

more things not to miss about Hoover

For everyone who says - but how can you bear to leave your lovely house? - I'd say: but the street is tiring.  The house opposite has a mock yard sale every week - "mock" mightn't be quite the right word, but it's not a yard sale in the conventional sense of people moving or trying to clear space: I've got no idea where their stuff comes from, not least (see below) a framed picture of Princess Di.  The other half of the house is getting a considerable makeover - the whole place has been termite-tented during the past couple of months, and all the chewed wood taken out, and now all the windows are being replaced (think jack hammer; think the radio on loud, today).  So this may signal a definite upswing in the 'hood.  What never ceases to amaze me is that these little houses opposite are indeed older than this one: they date back to 1919, and this one to 1925 - and our new house is a definite youngster, at 1929.

Friday, February 1, 2013


We're not in, yet.  The house sale didn't record until around 5 p.m. today - by which point Alice was already off back to campus for conference-related activity.  The keys arrived at our house around 7 this evening ... and we're going to be getting up very early indeed, since we can't wait to go round there and let ourselves in ...