Thursday, April 30, 2015


These were swimming round the light fixture at our conference dinner tonight (Pez, in downtown LA).  I'll come back - for fish (not that the non-fishy things that we banqueted on were anything other than delicious, particularly some little flat mushroomy patty items) and cocktails.  But o, the noise.  Is it age?  (don't answer that).  It was bouncing off the walls, and I have horrible earache, and couldn't hear anyone until the place started to empty out, and they couldn't hear me, and overall I had the most gloomy sense that my sensitive hearing apparatus was turning me into my father.  Please just bring me a tortilla outside if you see me ever approaching his standard of I-cannot-take-noisy-restaurants crankiness.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

the strangeness of neighbors

A slightly blurry image, to be sure - but there again, I wasn't expecting to be stopped at the lights and have Dave, our next door neighbor, roar up beside, and past, me.  He's a perfectly pleasant older man (by which I guess I mean about ten years older than us), but we rarely see him or his wife - though we hear him when he yells at their dachshund - "WILLIAM!" - when the poor dog isn't doing anything more offensive than barking at us.  But he's not at all the type that one expects to see riding a motorbike, wearing shorts and flip flops, and with an orangey-yellow furry cover to his helmet.  I can't decide whether this improbable head-piece - complete with little round ears - is meant to turn him into a teddy bear or P-22.  Roar, roar.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

obscuring identity

I was faced with a dilemma today.  I'm very much in a clearing and sorting mode - in my office, at home (at home, maybe it's really, still, unpacking that should have been done two years ago).  Buried deep in an office drawer I found this - thing.  A couple of years back the College's magazine did some kind of feature on me and other relatively new arrivals.  All of us were illustrated by - well, drawings. The person responsible for the article thought that this would be more original than photographs.  She took the photos in which the drawings - all of them awful - were based.  And then, by way of thanks, we were sent the originals, framed, and then wrapped in bubble wrap.  Not only is mine unflattering, it doesn't even look like me at my worst - that is, it looks like an unflattering, and weirdly colored image of someone else (although, in fact, I don't mind it at all in the obscured version that I reproduce).  Somehow, though, I can't quite bring myself to throw myself away.  I guess it'll end up buried out of sight again.

Monday, April 27, 2015

california's water challenge

Presumably someone on campus is, therefore, talking about this in a way that goes beyond emptying all the university's ponds and fountains: that's probably been done, in any case, to stop graduating seniors jumping in them in (what was ) the Annual Fountain Run - and in the process damaging and cracking and breaking statues and other ornamenta.  It was probably a symbolic coincidence that when I went up to the top of the carpark to pick up my car after the (excellent) Art History undergraduate honors symposium that a large grey heron flapped very, very slowly overhead, looking, presumably, for water.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


It's back!!  Sunshine!  Not that it wasn't wonderful to see some rain, but coming up the stairs into the dawn this morning; plants on the top landing table silhouetted in the golden rays, was a pretty cheering sight after the last few chilly grey days.  No, I know absolutely that one shouldn't complain. But still, I like being able to celebrate our 1929 Spanish iron work in outline mode.

yes, April

When I put my calendar together for 2015 (always something that I do too close to Christmas, never manage to line up well in advance as I mentally plan in some idealized version of a platonically perfectly organized life) I managed to have, as my image for April, some blossoms on a rain soaked garden table.  This - at the beginning of April - didn't seem right at all, at least not in LA (I don't think that it was so troubling in London, say).  But today - rain! - and here's an actual leaf on today's rainy table top.  Vindicated!

Friday, April 24, 2015


Today, at long last, I took a whole lot of stuff to be framed - some photos, including three albumen prints; some drawings; some prints I've bought in various places - one long-postponed task completed!  The whole shop's walls were completely covered with possibilities.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

wild letters

I don't know.  We have arrived at the time of the semester when strange things come and go on campus, some of them possibly art installations, but then again, possibly not.  These large helium-filled letters seemed to have neither minders nor artist statement.  They were anchored to the ground, but kept leaping about wildly (there was wind; there was no sun; it was far more like April in England than in Los Angeles).  And nor did they seem to spell out anything recognizable. So I don't know if they were celebrating, or protesting or waiting to be used in some vast cosmic scrabble game.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

my annual homage

to the jacaranda trees on campus - and off campus.  I still can never believe this beauty: I was shocked when, last week, the LA Times ran a piece about how some people seriously object to the jacaranda, because it drops sticky, sappy stuff along with its blossoms.  I can't, alas, dismiss that as malicious rumor, since some became tangled up in my hair as it floated down from a tree this morning: serves me right for standing underneath it with a camera.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

thoughts on chairing

I've always resisted the metaphor of herding cats.  Our cats are actually quite easy to herd - try closing a few doors and wriggling a cat toy at the end of a wand, and one's done it.  Colleagues, by contrast ... well, I've never tried slowly waving a bunch of feathers at the end of a long string in front of them, and maybe that's been a failure of imagination on my part.  I tend to think, though, that the trope of putting out fires works far better when it comes to designating a chair's role.  Walking past this collection in the middle of campus today, it looks as though the administration must be getting ready to issue the survival equipment for next year's new cadre of chairs ...

Monday, April 20, 2015

orchid tongue

I go away for a few days - and two more orchids come into bloom: orchids that have benefited from the regime of benign neglect recommended by my mother (put in a darkish room for a while, don't give them too much water, don't feed them, don't - well, she didn't actually say don't talk to them, but that was the overall gist of it).  And it's worked.  This one is particularly delicate and beautiful: I have a sense that it's not from the regular TJ's provenance, but was one that we bought at an orchid show at the Huntington a while back.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

dressed for church

This is quite some outfit.  The Parasol!  The Heels!  Those braids.  The colors.  The waist.  People do dress up in DC ...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

variegated DC

Given how much I've published about Hiram Powers' Greek Slave, it's shocking, I know, that I haven't seen her in the flesh - I mean, in the marble - before today.  But there she was, in the NGA, among the display of acquisitions from the Corcoran.  I now see, even more than before, why she was quite so shocking to the Victorians.  There's something about the waxy quality of the marble that makes it very, very like palpable flesh: it's as though one would leave little indentations if one pressed one's fingers in.  It was almost disturbing - I don't expect to be disturbed by the lifelike qualities of sculptured form in that way.  I kept imagining her circling and circling on her automated plinth, which must have added even more to the illusion.

Here's some more marble, lying around in front of some forsythia, in front of a poster for the Piero di Cosimo exhibition (very worth going to).  He was a strange guy (so far as one can tell from Vasari), who painted strange pictures, with rather too many violent satyrs to make one entirely comfortable. And his bodies are always slightly out of proportion - one would think, too, that he had an odd sense of perspective, until coming upon his painting of a palace under construction, at which point it's quite obvious that he has an impeccable understanding of Vitruvian perspective, right down to the horse and rider, in dead center, galloping straight towards the viewer.

Oh, and if someone knows why all these balloons, in suffragette colors, are tied to a lamppost, do tell ...

Friday, April 17, 2015

protest in haiku (and blossoms)

This piece of eloquence was taped to the inside of an elevator at GMU today.

... but the Japanese influence you were looking for was in the form of cherry blossom?  Well, there was one grove of trees down by the Potomac, that had to function as the go-to site for visiting photographers (blossom and trees look very like Samuel Palmer's mysticism to me - I have better shots of the growing thunderheads behind the petals on my camera, but forgot the downloading device - so these iPhone shots will have to substitute ...) ...

but basically, all the blossom was last weekend, and down by the Tidal Basin MLK presides over some browning and tired looking branches.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

sex diff and blossoms

Hmmm - it looks as though my GWU lecture on African-Americans and flash photography in the 30s and 40s had a radical displacement effect!  More than I'd ever bargained for ...

... oh, wait a minute ... I'm in DC, in mid April, and you want some pictures of blossom?  Here you are, then.  I expect you'll get some more, in due course ...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

the view from above

This intrigued me flying the other way yesterday - from ABQ to LA, and now today from LA to DC. Is it a salt farm - or whatever the name is - salination facility?  You would get another golden pic, of the red rocks at Sedona, if the terrible hotel internet hadn't meant that this image took twenty minutes to load - so imagine it (and, since I have a few images still to download and put into my slide show for tomorrow, feel free to imagine my techno terror, too ...).

glass, descending

There's a (relatively) new ceiling decoration at Albuquerque airport.  Quite triumphantly, it seems, at first glance - and indeed at second stare - to have nothing obvious to do with either (a) air travel or (b) New Mexico.  That doesn't seem right, to me.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Big paws

Mothy's, of course.  But at the moment I'm watching the live feed of a rather larger set of paws, belonging to P-22, who is stuck in a crawl space under a house in Los Feliz, and understandably not keen on moving, with what seems to be a media circus round about.  Can't they send everyone away, and just leave a few steaks outside for him to tempt him?  I worry so very much at the best of times about our neighborhood mountain lion, and all the bad things that could happen to him - getting stuck under a house - and then what? - hasn't been one of them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Please. Oh please.

You can't really see her here ... but begging, pleading in the doorway is our little Moth, who would love to be invited out to investigate mice, gophers, miscellaneous migrating birds, towhees, bluebirds, and everything else that she finds so very tantalizing in the outdoor world.  Myself, I was just very happy that the sun came out for a few minutes at the end of the day.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

service dog

Really, I think every flight - especially one as bumpy as that between LAX and Albuquerque this evening - should be plentifully supplied with animals.  This handsome hunk of canine - called Bo Bo (or Beaux Beaux, or Beaux Bo) was sitting in the row in front of me, and was a calming influence on all around.

Friday, April 10, 2015

toast, dinner, and Gordon Brown

Today swerved in a direction that I wasn't expecting when - having been invited to a small USC dinner celebrating the fact that Gordon Brown is teaching an intensive course for our International Relations department for a couple of weeks, and, indeed, having been asked if I'd give a toast - I found that I'd been placed next to him at the dinner table.  He was terrific - both to talk to one on one (all my Labour activist past bubbled right back to the surface) and then in the more general comments and discussion that followed dinner (and toasting).  Indeed, he was quite inspirational about the global need for more education, for all kinds of reasons (from human rights, to security, to health). I'd read his book before preparing my (2 minute!) toast, but luckily everything that I'd prepared to say about him being principled, about him always recognizing that there are human stories behind economic statistics, about his sense that globalism is about shared moral values, and not just about the circulation of capital (etc) was born out by the very sincerity and strong, quiet presence of the man himself.  That was some evening - thank you, USC.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Traveler - up close and personal

Traveler - our USC mascot - was not someone I was expecting to see just outside my office when I was heading home this evening.  Why, I don't know.  Is he trotted out for "Explore USC" days, so that he can meet prospective students and their parents? (an event that had earlier found me sitting and answering questions on a panel that was rather incongruously situated on the set of a production of Grease).  But surely I'd have encountered him before, if so?  In any case, it was quite wonderful to look at him close up, rather than cantering down the sidelines of the football field when USC scores a touchdown.  He's extraordinarily fit, and handsome.  It was strangely domestic having him just by one's workplace, rather like the time I brought a pony into the kitchen at 20 Hillside (quite why, I can't remember).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

repurposed cinema

How, alas, the State Theater on Broadway has faded - once the primary Loew's showcase cinema.  It opened in 1921: there's a very informative piece about it - and its heyday, and stars, and about all the money that was spent on it - here.  And here's Harold Lloyd in Never Weaken (1921): that's the cinema being built in the background ...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

small lilies

Sitting working at home (Alice is home for a few days; she needed to borrow the car) - I always find this hard on a weekday (give me my office, a library, an airport - I just find it hard to settle at home, in term time.  I'm sure the little calla lilies helped (it was actually a productive day, albeit mostly chair-stuff).  But why should I find this so hard?  I'm sure it's partly the Oxford, always-work-in-one's-room - or in the Bodleian - mode.  But over and beyond that - I think it's that I always really enjoyed going to school, and barely ever missed a day - apart from around the time of Princess Alexandra's wedding, in 1963, when I had measles.  How do I remember that?  The doctor came round - yes, they did house calls then - and remarked with surprise that we were the only household he'd been to that day that wasn't watching the Royal Wedding.  This was, of course, hardly surprising at all, since we didn't have a TV.  So yes, staying at home - I guess at some level it must make me feel as though I'm under the weather, or worse ...

Monday, April 6, 2015

drawing owls

Truly, when I start drawing owls (or any other kind of wildlife) in Chairs' Meetings, it signifies not an onrush of wisdom, but the fact that it's getting near the end of the semester.  My tolerance for hearing such phrases (from the new Business Officer) as we are "moving into more specialization in a matrix structure" diminishes hourly.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Sometimes, one just glances up at a building - this one's on Western - when one's stopped in traffic, and sees some exquisite moulding that's just sitting there, part of a desire to beautify even the most ordinary of commercial buildings with apartments above them.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

miscellaneous wild flower

Perhaps someone can tell me what it is?  When I optimistically strewed the contents of packets of California Wild Flowers into what's turned into our meadow, I forgot to keep the packets themselves, which might have been helpful.  And yes, it is that pink; and yes - for just a few more days - it is that green ...

Friday, April 3, 2015

dancing in the springtime

This was the view from my window at USC late this afternoon, where these dancers reminded me - somewhat incongruously, I admit, and without a tambourine - of the dancers in one of the magnificent Simone Martini frescos in the Palazzo Publico in Siena.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

inside another library!

I'm really stretching things this week - the Getty Research Institute library is a whole step up from the stacks at USC.  But with a paper coming up in a couple of weeks, exceptional moves were called for. I'll pay for it tomorrow, in terms of admin - but it was great escaping today.  It made me so very grateful for the current Art History administrators, Beth and Tracey - I can actually leave the office in their hands, without danger of chaos.  Or at least, in the certain knowledge that I am unlikely to learn of any chaos.  Indeed - these are administrators who actually encouraged me to take a day and go to a library.  Unbelievable.  It has been so long since I was inside the white curves of the GRI that it all felt extremely strange, but two books that I've been wanting to get my hands on for ages were on the open shelves, and I treated it all like a taster of leave.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

inside a library!

There have been days, this semester, when I thought that I'd never see the inside of a library again. But I managed to make it into Doheny today, to check a couple of page numbers and volume references, and very reassuring it was, too, to sit on the floor and write in the little bits and pieces that I needed.  No, I know this isn't research, exactly.  But it's a start.  There is - there will be - life after chairing ...

oil. with hands.

Sometimes, just occasionally, I get to the end of a long long day and realize that I'm imageless. That's because I didn't think to take a picture of my computer screen, or the left-over seminar cheese that was my lunch, or of the inside of my car.  By the time I noticed that there was a large orange globe of a sun in the sky, I was half way down the carpark, and all I could see were trees.  But sometimes, again, the lack of an image forces me to look about me - one of the original aims, after all, of Forms. So here's an olive oil bottle, complete with a ghostly reflection of my little pink hands.