Saturday, March 30, 2013


I'm not entirely sure why I went around the art museum at the University of Utah this morning taking pictures of hands (after, that is, visiting the ostensible reason for going in the first place: a show of images of/by Native Americans in the C20th, many of them around Taos pueblo or on Navajo land).  This top image is a hand right at the bottom of the frame of a Portrait of a Woman, 1639, by a Dutch artist, Pieter Dubordieu.  My camera didn't, evidently, like this new obsession one little bit: this is the second point and shoot I've had give up the ghost on me in the last four years, with the shutter fragmenting and, fundamentally, giving up the ghost.  Bah.  Unsurprising, I guess, given that I carry it everywhere and give it a pretty hard work-out.

Friday, March 29, 2013

global warming

This afternoon I went for a drive up into the mountains, which would have been spectacular if it wasn't for all the new construction that spreads greyly over a lot of the flatter bits of mid Utah - much the same oversized sprawling blight that one gets in Colorado near Denver, and that houses people who then consumer water.  And more water.  And, even though it's spring, and even though the Park City ski resort has had around 215 inches of snow this year (which sounds a lot, until you consider that the 20 year average is 367 inches) there wasn't actually a whole lot of run off happening.  These pictures were taken at the Jordanelle Reservoir - which was only constructed in 1995 - which really dramatically shows how low the water level is.  The whole surreal dried, yet spongey once-muddy surface looked like the setting for some post apocalypse movie.  Don't let anyone tell you that global warming is a myth ...

In the whole long drive from Provo to Heber City to Park City to Salt Lake City (Whole Foods!  Salad!), and back to Provo - no Interstate driving involved, out of exploration-curiosity - I saw one house flourishing a big rainbow flag, and no liquor stores until the one I located when I was back in Provo (and, admittedly, took the advice proffered by Google).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

room, view, etc

Admittedly, I left the house at 4.30 this morning - had I been even a little bit later, I might have remembered the device that one needs to download pictures into a MacBook Air.  So ... here's a very generic iphone picture of the view from my room in Provo, Utah.  The first thing I learned today was that Brigham Young University is in Provo, indeed, not Salt Lake City.  No wonder the English Department had kindly rented me a car ... 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I was scanning a couple of images for an article this evening, before the volume editors sent round a hit squad.  I'd failed to notice that Walter Gomez had stuck his paw under the lid ...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

freedom of speech

I was deeply depressed as I crossed campus this lunchtime en route to the ATM, since there was a solo guy sitting on a chair wearing a large sandwich board proclaiming HOMOSEX IS A GOD DAMNED SIN.   I wasn't just depressed at the sentiment, or at the fact that he was spoiling the aesthetic and affective view on campus, but because no one was challenging him, and this reminded me all too strongly of my dear former student Lauren, who, when we had the Holy Ranter on College Avenue, at Rutgers, proclaiming such stuff, organized a same-sex kiss-in in front of him.  I miss her spirit, so much.

But when I returned - just a few minutes later - there was a guy with a hastily put together home made placard, saying "Pay No Attention to this Fear Monger.  Be Your self.  Be Happy."  That, in itself, cheered me up.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Sometimes, days are so long and tough going that it's just great to get home (eventually) to a young cat doing very silly things.

more street art in silver lake

It's been six weeks or so since we actually lived on Hoover Street: it felt very strange parking there today and walking around the old 'hood (actually, we were going to buy some cheese from the Cheese Store, and very good cheese it was, too).  So it felt as though I was catching up on street art - here, both relatively sophisticated, and gang tagging, all on one wall ...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

painting the house

I'm pretty much convinced that the house will look a lot better if it's painted a kind of Italian ochre, withe mid-green paint work: I'd like it to look warmer, and less Imposing - if something can indeed look imposing, when it's currently the shade of old lady baggy underwear.   The trumpet tree, meanwhile, albeit looking a little droopy here, has hugely enjoyed its move (in other words, today was largely spent in unpacking and tidying and gardening, and trying to pretend that spring break wasn't galloping to a close).

Saturday, March 23, 2013


My bag back today was very heavy: not, alas, with garlic, but with - among other things - Deborah Madison's new Vegetable Literacy - a whole book about vegetables!  I can't wait! (whether to read, cook, grow) ...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

empty bottles

Not, to be sure, the result of an ill-advised Spring Break binge, but the view when we took a whole lot of bottles (and indeed, cardboard and old paper and such) down to the local waste transfer station.  For whatever reason - well, I wrote Waste Management a letter on the topic a while back - the reason is that the nearest bottle recycling facility is in Oklahoma, so it's expensive to get them there - we don't get bottles picked up with our regular recycling here in Eldorado, so we store them up (olive oil and Honest tea just as much as wine, honestly) in the garage, as though we're hoarders, and then periodically, when we're in need of some truly serious procrastination, drive them a few miles down the road to a suitable receptacle.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

spring break

There's nothing remotely spring-like (though I'll come back to that disclaimer) about this picture, and nothing much break-like about it, either.  But then there's nothing break-like about SB.  I'd thought that I would catch up on a whole load of admin, but of course, it carried on germinating and spawing in my in-box.  I'd vowed that I'd get all my slide shows done right up to the end of the semester - an ambition that I started to downgrade to "next week's slides" - and now I'm thinking that they might not exactly leap into being until the weekend.

But wait - what are those dark silhouettes in the foreground?  Yes!  Daffodils!  If daffodils are here, surely that first, faint sniff of a breeze of the semester's end is wafting forward?  At the very least, much though I miss the kitties, it's great to have a few days away so that we can put out flowers, without Moth deciding that they are some wild new plaything.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

waking up to a llama

There's really something very comforting about waking up underneath a llama hand puppet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

eldorado indians

Eighteen months ago, I wrote about the installation that appeared outside La Tienda, the locally run and oriented gallery/shopping/gym/eatery complex in Eldorado - that makes it sound less endearing and more glitzy than this community oriented enterprise actually is.  The lifesize plywood figures are by Thom Ross, originally belonging to a more compositionally staged installation on Ocean Beach in San Francisco based on a photograph of 100 members of Buffalo Bill's Wild West who paraded there in 1902.  In Eldorado, now - to quote Ross - "they appear as curious riders who have materialized in the sagebrush to be seen as each viewer wants to see them.  The issue for me is not one of right or wrong, good or bad, but rather how does both our collective memory and our personal interpretation allow us to see what it is that the figures represent."

In June 2011, they were quite startling.  But now they - or those that are left - have weathered a little, and are blending much more obviously into the scenery.  I went and took a whole lot of photos today, because I want to use them to open up a paper I'm giving at Michigan in May on the Indian becoming "ordinary;" on transatlantic familiarity from the mid 1880s to 1905 or so.  It seems to me that they work as a wonderful visual analogue to the process whereby an image - let's say the version of the Indian put over by Bill Cody - draws on and becomes the stereotype, which becomes so familiar that it becomes the cliche, or maybe, better yet, the Bourdieu-ian/Bartheian doxa.   One just gets used to them ...

... and the politics of the past can even, evidently, be re-appropriated ...

Sunday, March 17, 2013


That wasn't meant to happen.  I inserted my camera's picture card into the reader, and it swallowed all the pictures - I guess reformatted the card? - anyway, wiped it.  No tragedy there - I download it every day into dropbox, so I didn't lose anything, except, most probably, a rather dull picture of some abandoned chairs (it's been too long since I posted an Abandoned Chairs picture) from this afternoon's blustery walk.  One of my never-fulfilled sequence projects was to take a daily picture of my working desktop - I think I started, but felt very self-conscious about what I was or wasn't revealing - but this evening (late, no time for staging) I just pointed the camera at - well, what gets revealed is a surprising and atypical set of things floral: a British Red Cross card showing some roses (that was from my parents, at Christmas); an unused Christmas parcel tag (signs here, indeed, that I haven't been here for nearly three months ...); a strange pen with a pansy at the end that I bought in the art museum in Raleigh NC.  The rural theme is continued through my John Deere pen and brush holder (almost certainly something the tin caddy wasn't designed for), and a contemporary wood engraving of a swan.  I've just picked that up, and hiding behind it is a postcard of Samuel Palmer's The Lonely Tower, which would have been a far more probable thing for me to have foregrounded if I'd given this image any thought.  I'm shocked to find the painting (in the Huntington) is c.1880: it's so very strange to think that Samuel Palmer could, possibly did, ride the London Underground.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

the sumo tangerine

I don't normally eat fruit on the floor - the positioning was a simple matter of light and angle.  Imagine it's a counter top.

I first saw these grotesque yet homely knobbly citrus fruits in Whole Foods in LA a couple of weeks ago - looks as though they're on a national marketing drive.  I'll add to their publicity (no commission! though donations from the Sumo Marketing Board will be put to good use, like buying another half dozen of them): they are extremely juicy and tangerine-y.  And the picture's also a reminder of how good it is coming to Santa Fe and reconnecting with very simple things, like our china.

Friday, March 15, 2013

flying saucers

There were some strange things happening in the sky east of Santa Fe today - maybe one can attribute them to the preternaturally hot weather, but I wasn't the only person that I saw taking photographs of these weird meteorological formations.

It's Spring Break!  At last!  Not a moment too soon!  Even if I suspect that most of the break will be spent catching up, it's still break.  Way back when I taught in Oxford, I never realised the luxury of those eight week terms ...

Thursday, March 14, 2013


This beautiful structure - made, so far as I could see, from sheets of corrugated semi-transparent plastic neatly tied together at the corners - was sitting outside our architecture school today.  I'd love to be able to commission one for the back yard (maybe one could grow tomatoes in it?).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


It'd a ridiculous new piece of edible USC kitsch - a thank you for participating in a half-day conference called After the PhD (as in: is there life after ...).  Even if I don't go wild about over-sweetened milk chocolate, I much appreciate the gesture.

sheep's milk

This seems suitably bucolic, given the view from the back of the house.  It's a plaster bas-relief that I bought many years - decades? - ago from an antique shop in the Portobello Road: I haven't a clue about its origins, but I've always found it very peaceful, and not least in its current incarnation on shelves at the back of the living room, glowing in the morning sun.

Monday, March 11, 2013

an apple for the teacher

Who knew that it would be so much fun going to dinner in a sorority house tonight?  Thank you to the sisters of Tri Delta (especially Nirali!) for inviting me to their scholarship dinner ... and for the elaborately dressed cupcake to take home ... For those of you who get the reference, it was rather like going to a student guest night at St Hilda's (and in all kinds of ways made me very nostalgic for a certain side of Oxford, overcooked brussels sprouts and all - we always knew our students as people so much better there than seems to be the case in the US).  I was very impressed by the Associate Dean from the Business School who gave an uplifting speech about, basically, fighting for one's dues in the workplace as a woman.  But most of all I just got a kick at being inside such a mythic - to me - institution ... If I'd been a US undergrad, would I have tried to get into a sorority??  Part of me thinks my sceptical, suspicious, maverick self would have run a mile.  Part of me knows that my helpless urge to Be Popular might not have been able to resist it.  I reminded myself that I was, indeed, very happy to be part of the St Anne's Dining Club - set up to mimic the elitist dining clubs to be found among undergraduates in men's colleges - with never a thought about its own exclusivity, because we thought, didn't we, that its existence was a proof of our feminist credentials ... which just shows how good we were at twisting logic.  I wonder if Mary Jacobus remembers being our first guest?

I got, too, an extra kick of household tradition through knowing that Alice's mother had been a Tri Delta.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


really, nothing could be more British than these stamps - Jane Austen and sheep.  Somehow, looking at them spread out on the kitchen counter back in Wimbledon this morning, they seem like a good metaphor for trying to bridge distance, too.  it seems a long way away.  Time to sleep.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

brief visits

This has been the most fleeting of visits back to Wimbledon - time enough, evidently, to show how an iPad can be used to take a self-portrait (yes, it does help if one keeps one's finger ENTIRELY out of the picture ...).  Even if the ostensible purpose was the belated celebration for my mother's 90th, I'll pause to note that my father doesn't look too bad for 89.  I, rather oddly, look as though I've been rolling in soot.

And there was just time to go to Cambridge for lunch and back (nasty clammy grey damp day, with the fens at their least attractive), where I encountered this wonderful devil wrestling a Red Army soldier - or whatever it might be ...

Friday, March 8, 2013


The highlight of today was going to the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery - all kinds of good things, from Dan Flavin through Nancy Holt to Jenny Holzer to James Turrell to a fabulously disorienting piece by Conrad Shawcross (eeeek: to think that I met him before he went to art school).  But - and not just from the point of view of Flash!, though it will certainly find its way into the book - may even open a chapter - my favorite installation was Olafur [now, that's a good name for a cat]] Eliasson's Model for a Timeless Garden.  This was in one of the pitch black rooms, and consisted of a long table/bench on which were - oh, maybe fifteen or twenty little, different, fountains, which were all frozen, as if into ice, by the array of strobe lights in the ceiling above them.  In other words (though this was never stated), they were mimicking the effect of lightning on a fountain that supposedly made Fox Talbot think ... aha! .. I could use rapidly flashing light to stop motion and photograph it ... 

Of course, one wasn't allowed to take any photographs, of anything - or I (and doubtless many others) would have stayed there forever (and, nb, one really has to book in advance - I didn't realize this, and was very happy to snag one of the few tickets going - perhaps a piece of good fortune resulting from the fact that the weather was wet and vile beyond belief).  But there were lots of light-themed - well, lights - in the gift store ...

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Bedroom windowsill, 20 Hillside.  I'm delighted by the snowdrops - this is my delayed visit back for my mother's 90th - postponed by a month because of my parents' flu (the visit, that is - not much one can do with the birth date itself) and - presumably in part because of the season, too - I always associate snowdrops with my mother, since they're her favorite flower.  Goodness, I'm tired - my photographic eye is very pleased to have a familiar photo ritual to fall back on, and I just hope I don't suddenly decide to wake up at 1 a.m. for hours ...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ready to kick a.....

I guess that sitting in the Admiral's Lounge in LAX is exactly the kind of place where one DOES register headlines on TV like Russell Crowe claims he saw UFO ... I would love to sink into a mindless novel, but instead of which, I'd better answer a day's worth (and probably more) of emails. Still, these boots, from Austin, signal my intent ...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

orchid and fish

This photo is looking back at me with a kind of self-mocking irony, since it's so radically different from what I'm working on this evening - a class on photography of trauma and atrocity for tomorrow.  It's the first time that I've taught this material - not that it hasn't come into classes on documentary, but this, pace Sontag and others, is considering head-on what it means to look at completely shocking, shaming images - famine, and lynching, and Abu Ghraib.  Or what it means to have non viscerally shocking images censored.  I'll be interested to see where the discussion takes us ...

Monday, March 4, 2013

battersea power station

This might have been my favorite Christmas present this year.  My father has taken to buying me a handful of greetings cards from the local Wimbledon bookstore (a very good present indeed - for some reason, British greetings cards seem to be vastly preferable to US ones), and this is Battersea Blue III - a linocut by Paul Catherall.  He's a contemporary printmaker (interestingly, wrongly, I'd thought this a 1930s image).  So I've just rushed on line to see if I can buy a print.  Of course, it's sold out.  I'm musing over his Flatiron image - since I love that building so much - but it doesn't have the same Londonny resonance as this, alas.  Perhaps I'll just frame the card ...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

temporary office

I had a NAVSA planning meeting in mid-town that went on until around 4 p.m., and a job candidate dinner in Santa Monica that began at 6 - what better thing to do than drive to the beach, and use my car as a temporary office.  I might have no time to speak of to catch up with admin - but at least I can make my feeble attempts whilst looking at the ocean.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Smile - look here - wait for flash!

This armoured carrier and its notice - Smile! Look here! - Wait for flash! does very neatly every bit of work one could ever want done about equating Flash with violence.  I encountered it at the Texas Independence Day Parade in Austin - which was officially about Texas's declaring its independence from Mexico, but has morphed into a strange amalgam of decessionist desire and patriotic fervor.

The painted horses had some very patriotic bandages.

The marching band played.

Behind them were the Vietnam vets

and then, very strikingly, there were a whole collection of Vietnamese floats, feeling grateful to have been liberated by the Americans, 

... and the Plungettes, a marching/cheerleading troupe, who aim is to show that Republican Women Can Have Fun.  Er, yes.  But they put on an impressive show, whirling along behind a truck blaring out GOD LOVES TEXAS.  It was a quite extraordinary cultural spectacle.  I had to be reminded - so foreign was it - that it wasn't exactly as though Texas is currently demanding independence from the US - but the idea of Texas Independence Day certainly seemed to carry a double ring to it.

And, as if that wasn't enough, here's my favorite picture among the ones that I took yesterday ...

Friday, March 1, 2013

you know you're in Texas when ...

... you encounter an establishment with this name.  Alas! I still can't find a means, right now, of downloading all the photos that I took in Austin today, but I may sneak one into tomorrow's posting - this is taken with my iPhone, fearing that this might be the case.  I spend a good three hours in the Blanton Art Museum today, feeling bemused that doing such a thing is actually My Job, even though I never seem to do the things that are Truly Fun that have to do with it.  Then (as the note that I left Alice, who was a-conferencing) said, I went in search of ice cream (score!) and cowboy boots (score!).  Back to LA tomorrow, much refreshed ...