Monday, March 30, 2015

found art

In the photo, something can be seen that hadn't been apparent to me earlier: this is a piece of glittery scarlet and gold ribbon, and this screams USC!USC! at the top of its little synthetic lungs.  But that doesn't explain the masking tape running along the concrete.  Sometimes, though, little casual pieces of dropped decoration manage to make the most boring surfaces both lively and full of an illegible narrative.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


I have a long-standing prejudice against nasturtiums, because we used to have them in the garden when I was very young, and they were the flower that were guaranteed to contain earwigs.  I didn't like earwigs, at all.   But they seem to be all that I can grow by way of wild flowers, apart from poppies, despite all my enthusiastic seed-bombing.  However, the nasturtiums flourish, and I especially like this variation on the common-or-garden (and quite possibly earwig-filled, even though I rarely see this creepy-crawly in the US) orange variety.

a slice of pyramid

Never mind that today's volleyball tournament wasn't actually in CSULB's Walter Pyramid, but rather in a sticky gym without a/c - it's still a pretty fine pyramid.  And a very pretty, but apparently human-less campus.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

watts towers

I've been wanting to go to the Watts Towers ever since I came to LA, and have never quite made it, until today - terrific spiraling structures, begun in 1921, covered in mosaic from broken tiles and plates, and shells, and bottle tops.  Finished in 1954, they were lovingly, obsessively put together by an Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, one can't help but wonder if he hadn't seen a Sant'Elia drawing or two.  But there really is nothing like them.

So three million thanks to Robin for taking me there as part of a (very very) belated birthday celebration.

We were very lucky with the light;

although it's probably impossible to take a dull picture of the Towers ...

and then we headed off to Hermosa Beach, where just a minute after Robin had befriended some children, a whale started puffing up spouts of water just offshore.

Ah, LA ...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

spring season

How come I've never noticed these volleyballers outside the Pharmacy before?  Since this was built - and therefore these were probably carved - in 1926-7, all I can deduce from this is that women players weren't 6'2" back in the day.  Let's see if they look snappier than this in Long Beach on Saturday, at LBSU's spring tournament - I'm intrigued to find that the volleyball courts there are in the Walter Pyramid, which is one of only three true pyramids in the US - the others being the Luxor one in Las Vegas, and that strange arena in Memphis (so - I'm dressing up my planned day watching WVB as an exercise in architectural inquisitiveness?  Good try).

poppy, with cricket

The poppies have flowered!  They are shining orange on the hill that constitutes a whole lot of our back yard.  This one has a particularly fetching cricket on it.  Most likely they'll bleach and fade in the 90 degree heat that's coming our way in the next few days, but this is a true sign of (Californian) spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

a high standard of graffiti

I used to think of Rutgers bathrooms as providing a high standard of graffiti: USC - not so much. Either the janitors have more door cleaning demanded of them, or our undergrads are so hi-tech that they no longer carry writing implements around with them.  But this evening, I dived - dove? - into a bathroom at the foot of VKC on my way back from a Chairs' Dinner - and was rewarded by this. Radicalism, Joe Hedges and Chris Sacco style!  It's the antidote to an earlier experience: an enthusiastic u/grad walking backwards and herding a flock of local - maybe 10th graders? - and expounding on the wonders of the university.  She extolled the virtues of the Wednesday Farmers' Market - silence.  She mentioned the 24 hour Starbucks - and a cheer went up.  Consumerism and commodification had clearly done their dumbing and numbing work - leaving them all too probably deaf to the messages on bathroom doors ...

Know History

More wisdom from USC's EdMonth.  Know History, Know Self.  No History, No Self.  Not to mention "self education is most important."  I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

during spring break

... this bloomed.   For years, Alice has admired my mother's constantly flowering orchids, and refused to believe her formula of benign neglect.  But this year, she followed her advice: put them in a poorly-lit spot, barely watered them, didn't feed them (actually, that sounds more like abuse than benign neglect).  But lo!  Regeneration!  And very wonderful to come home to.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

more bagging

Not to be outdone by Walter Gomez, Mothy is making her bid for transportability.  There was a terrible noise this evening that wounded just like someone letting themselves in the front door with a key: investigation proved that this was in fact Moth getting into a Whole Foods bag.  Doesn't she realize that it's hard to leave, and to wave a temporary farewell to skies like the one on our walk this afternoon?

Friday, March 20, 2015


Come Sunday, it's going to be very hard leaving Alice and los gatos here in New Mexico when I return to the last six weeks of the semester.  Walter Gomez seems pretty confident that this isn't going to be allowed to happen: he has already tucked himself into my bag.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


A cold, dank, foggy morning that left all the trees dripping with moisture - and then quite heavy rain this evening.  If this isn't the Spring Break weather that I seem to have left behind in SoCal, it's certainly very, very welcome to hear precipitation in these parts ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I wasn't remotely tempted to buy this shades-of-Bambi night light from Casa, the delightful and full-of-surprises furnishings and tchotschkes shop just buy Ohori's coffee (after all, I already have a similar owl from there, and really, this is just a bit too kitsch).  But it makes a good picture - I started scrabbling in my bag for my camera the minute I saw it.  No, dear shop keeper, I was not rummaging around for my glasses, as you sensibly surmised.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

a spring break challenge

So ... how many robins can one fit in a bird bath?  Seven here, one on the ground, and a lot more in the trees.  I think it is, or soon will be, migration season.  I'm glad to provide a watering station.

I know these look nothing like English robins - indeed, these are a kind of thrush, and the robin redbreasts are old world flycatchers, and not the same genus at all.  But I didn't realize quite how different until I protested against Alice singing "When the red red robin comes bob-bob-bobbing" one more time.  My protest wasn't so much about her voice (how could I vocalize a complaint, when she and I vie for the person you'd least want in your choir?).  No - it was because the song was unseasonal.  And then, a bit more digging around revealed that whereas I think of robins as Christmas birds, turning up on Christmas cards together with holly berries, in the US they're harbingers of Spring.  As in ... "when the red red robin ..."

Monday, March 16, 2015

not yet spring

not quite yet spring, at any rate.  But the temperature hit the 60s today, and the bare branches look terrific against the deep blue sky ...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

relaxing in New Mexico

This is how we all want to be spending Spring Break ... Moth, anyway, seems to have got it right ...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

evening light

Back in NM!  Our back portales in the evening light.  What I can't depict is the blissful quiet - I can feel decompression already starting to happen (yes, it's only for a week, but a week of Spring Break sometimes comes at absolutely the right time).

Friday, March 13, 2015

checking in ...

Back in Winslow, where La Posada still, on the outside, looks as though it's set up for Christmas.  That lone figure?  That's Alice, pushing a trolley down the carpark, ready to be loaded up with the four cats and our overnight bags, and some kitty litter and trays, and a wand with feathers on the end to try and entice them out from under the bed in the morning (although actually, we've found that the ironing board is the best of all weapons for that ...).

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The view from our living room may not look like this for much longer - the temperatures are due to hit 90 this weekend, and without more rain, our back yard - and beyond it, Griffith Park - will start to turn tawny brown again.  But right now, this is spectacular testimony to the fact that it's rained this winter, and that is true cause for rejoicing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

sunset on melrose

Today was a long, long, long, long day.  I can only think that everyone (else) is trying to clear their desk before Spring Break.  To cap it all, the sky turned the color of strange scrambled eggs (this image doesn't begin to do justice to the weirdness).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

less a photograph than a rant

This is the exit to my work car park (indeed, not a bad view ...).  The lights have just turned red: in thirty seconds time or so they'll change again, and by then the small flock of students will have swelled in numbers, to include all kinds of hazards - such as the young woman on a bicycle, today, who rode in front of me checking her cell phone and carrying a lacrosse stick.  It's not just that it's hard weaving a way through the human obstacles: it's that it's very dangerous.  Please, USC, will you build a footbridge, or something, before someone gets squashed?  (and yes, I know that there was a horrible accident just up the street involving USC student pedestrians the other day).  It's only going to get worse when the University Village gets finished in a couple of years.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

A lily for Barry

Barry will know that I can't possibly see a calla lily - let alone one growing in our own garden - without thinking of him.  So this - the first of the season - is dedicated to him.  It was also the first evening of the year that we've eaten dinner outside, on the balcony - the clock change has made it warm and light enough to be outside at dinner time.  Spring, therefore, is (at least in Southern California) quite definitely here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

sunday afternoon walk (and more horticulture)

This is what a spring weekend looks like in Los Angeles ... a walk on the beach, following a walk down Abbot Kinney, in Venice, where as always there are many compelling things in shop windows, including these bulbs growing in water and shells.  Every time that I come over here, I can't understand why I don't come more often: this just goes to prove the curious large-village qualities of LA, where one has one's own neighborhood, and tends to stick curiously close to it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

the aesthetics of raninculi

I'm musing on these two images of raninculi - at least, I suppose that's the plural of raninculus. Raninculuses?   It's a question of Spot the Difference.  The top picture is taken with a very upmarket Nikon + expensive lens.  The lower one is taken with my iPhone.  Yes, one can tell the difference, in very obvious terms, if one blows them up large - even in the pixel-lite form that I always reduce things to for posting on line (if anyone writes to me to ask reproduction permission, they get a larger resolution version) - the top one is infinitely more precise.  But the fact remains that the composition is better in the lower image, and - thanks to the iPhone's ability to focus precisely on just one small spot in an image - so is the gradation of focus and (imprecise) detail.  One can spend happy hours analyzing the technicalities of one's own work, when really one should be commenting on a graduate chapter ..

Friday, March 6, 2015


Nobody warned me that the worst part of a colonoscopy was how bad you feel afterwards - this may, of course, have everything to do with me waking up half way through and them realizing that (ever fascinated by things visual) I was watching along on the close circuit monitors.  They knocked me out again, I think.   But having the right kind of company helps (I include, of course, Alice in her capacity as valiant driver and caregiver) - both Walter Gomez and LucyFur have been most sympathetic ... ok, back to sleep ...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

californian wild flowers

Since when is a nasturtium a wild flower?  However, here is the first little triumph - I threw out handfuls of wildflower seed in little seed bombs all over the back yard right at the start of the rainy season - I think we can safely call it that this year - and here are the first (and for all I know the only) blooms.  Everything has to be cut back, for fire regulations, by the end of April, so roughly there's another six or seven weeks during which other things may spring up.  This does, however, encourage me ...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

a 100% of students

USC's EdMonth continues, with an outdoors teach in (yes ... this is what campus looked like today - the library in the background ...): 100% of students have a story to tell.  That's probably why I enjoy teaching so much, when I think about it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

artificial spring

Seen on the dashboard of a USC Facilities little electric truck today - a bunch of artificial flowers, cheering up the vehicle no end.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Nothing says Springtime quite as strongly as daffodils.  On Sunday, my parents showed me a jug full straight from their garden; these, admittedly, are probably from Gelsons (I have a few daffodil bulbs in place - no flowers, as yet).  The streets are full of pink blossoming trees that I've been meaning to look up for ages - it turns out that they're pink trumpet trees, second cousin to the regular gold/yellow trumpet trees.  And they're relatives of the jacaranda - two months to go before they're back!  Who says there are no seasons in LA?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

another bug picture

I'm sorry.  You really didn't want that, did you?  But what you were meant to be seeing - morning faint sun on the snowcapped peaks visible from the living room window - beautiful beyond belief - just didn't translate well into an image.  I don't know why not, but here, instead, is the Thing that Alice found the cats playing with in the middle of the night, and despatched.  My morning task was to identify the corpse.  Not, thankfully, a cockroach.  Not, even more thankfully, a scorpion.  No - it's a Dark Jerusalem Cricket - a critter that has the distinction of being light, rather than dark; never having been found in Jerusalem, and not being a member of the cricket family.  It can bite, if provoked - but is otherwise harmless.  So now, if you find one, you know.