Wednesday, November 30, 2016

campus, late fall

On campus today for various reasons, some of them very pleasant - and my thanks to all of you who were there too!  It was one of those still, sunny late fall days when everything looked golden and tranquil (that's a complete illusion, since it's the last week of classes, and students everywhere are saying I Am So Tired or moaning quietly with their heads in their hands).  I meant just to take a quick picture of the studious ladies on the fountain, and hadn't been paying attention to other elements - hence the statue that appears to be holding up the top of the picture frame - but in the end, the unintended elements seemed to work as a compositional whole.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

morning shower

Yes, you're right: that's Walter Gomez inside the shower cubicle, on the shelf at the back.  He has a thing - shall we call it a fetish? - about licking my damp feet and ankles.  That's all you need to know.

I realize, of course, that very little - well, no - incisive political commentary accompanies my pictures of cats, or flowers, or berries.  In part, that's because of a sense of overwhelming inadequacy.  In part, it's because it would be a far stretch to get from Walter in the shower to Tom Price and Obamacare. But there is a way in which I see FTBL's deliberate, recurrent emphasis on the ordinary, and on attentive looking, as political, in the widest sense.  That is, it shouldn't be interpreted as escapism, but as a reminder not to take the everyday for granted.  We need to use it as a continual spur to recognizing the precarity of the environment, and of the daily lives of some of the people whom we live among and care about (and, yes, of our own).

And immediately - here's the problem.  I don't have the knack of writing about this, however deeply I care about it - because I care so deeply about it? - without sounding sanctimonious.  But know that feelings of anger, of apprehension, of fear, of a desire to fight, lie behind every apparently innocent picture of a fluffy grey cat.

Monday, November 28, 2016

lilies; test-tubes

Our neighbors in Santa Fe have a particularly attractive vase made out of test-tubes.  This times last year, I was trying my hardest to find a very similar one for part of Alice's Christmas present.  Mssion wasn't quite accomplished - this was the closest that I could manage.  One can, however, put it in a straight line (not advisable, with cats ...), or make a zig-zag, or various other shapes, or clump it all together ... it's most versatile.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

winter berries

- at least, there's a whole bush of these looking pretty seasonal at the bottom of the garden.  It's the time of the year when I start to look through the year's photographic production for a Christmas card pick, and for calendar photographs.  This is never an easy task - the calendar, in particular - given the number of different factors in play (i) my own favorite images (ii) not having too many of the same type or the same place (iii) finding stuff that's vaguely seasonly appropriate for each month (iv) finding stuff that I hope all recipients will like - I know, I could tailor-make each calendar, at no extra cost, for each person, but I like the idea of having an annual artifact that's uniform (v) not including pictures that my father, in particular, will sniff at, and say " what's that?" "why?"  My arty pretensions slam up, head-on, against the taste of recipients ...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Los Angeles street art

This is a particularly endearing juxtaposition - a hipster wearing a hoodie, and apparently texting (or chasing Pokemon, or whatever); some gang lettering with a vaguely-cherub-like small boy sitting on top, head miserably in hands, and then some old-style images and lettering on Cheetahs, a club that (I quote its website) has been offering Adult Entertainment since 1994.  The same website shows a lot of pole dancing, women in glittery underwear and thin chains, and one woman apparently holding a margarita tightly between her buttocks.  I can think of other and far more savory places where I would choose to put mine.  We were coming back from brunch at Go Get 'Em Tiger - recently a pop-up much closer to us, and now a permanent coffee house in Los Feliz on Hollywood, and very much recommended.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I know it's a Californian visual cliché, but I do love bougainvillea against a plain wall - this was from our walk this afternoon: I think it's on Cromwell.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


No, not our own, but the front garden of the friends (not on FB) with whom we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner: so much gratitude for being invited into their extended family; for amazing food; it being warm enough to sit outside; the company of some great dogs ... actually, this was intended to be a picture of Alice standing against some bougainvillea, so I could express all the thanks in the world to her for existing, but it was (a) a strange angle, and on a hill, and her legs looked as though they had shrunk, and (b) her eyes were closed - and her arms stretched wide - so instead of a capacious, expansive gesture, it looked as though we spent Thanksgiving playing Blind Man's Buff.  Oh well - see for yourself ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

not going too well ...

We're trying - slowly, slowly - some Cat Reintegration.  This morning, we tried putting LucyFur in a burrito ... sorry, I mean a Kitty Halter.  The tiger stripes are aesthetic irony.  This was meant to calm her down.  I wasn't intending that calming effect to involve rolling over on her back on my keyboard.  (Oh, yes, and later in the day - ignominious contraption removed - she was back under a cupboard, hissing at Moth.  Sigh.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

which city?

Well, of course, it's Los Angeles - or to be more precise, a building in West Hollywood, seen from Santa Monica Boulevard.  But I love the fact that this could be mistaken for all kind of southern European cities, or central or south American ones: it reminds me of the sense that I had when I very first visited, in the late 1980s, that this was more southern European in appearance than so much of the rest of America (I was reading Rayner Banham at the time, and so of course was also highly alert to the mutability of LA, to the fact that in architectural/urban essence, one can choose one's own city, and choose or re-invent one's own identity, too).  I didn't know it at the time, but it's really no surprise that I ended up here ...

Monday, November 21, 2016

urban gardening

Outside one of our halls of residence, on campus: these tall planters, with lots of herbs, arugula, lambs' lettuce etc. sprouting out of them.  I'd love to possess a whole forest of these ... I'm not sure whether an enterprising USC gardener took, drilled, and mounted some PVC pipes, or whether one can buy this exact type (a quick Google didn't produce any obvious sources - certainly not at this height - but I'm sure they exist).  And they would be gopher proof!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A wet night in Los Angeles

This is the view from our front door this evening: that illuminated globe - no, not some miraculous lunar apparition, but the light by the gate to the street.  Rainy days in LA are very special - not just because of their rarity; not just because they alleviate the drought - they allow one to mimic winter behavior, and curl up on a sofa (with sweater; with cat), and feel that one's pulled up the drawbridge. That's a rare (but necessary) luxury.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"you can't go away again"

"You can't go away again.  Me - Moth, that is - says: you absolutely can't.  And I know that your case is still in the front hall, and I don't like that one little bit.  So I'm sitting on it."

Friday, November 18, 2016

global warming?

Somewhere down there, at the very top of Newfoundland, is a large hole in the ice.  Five hours or so later, walking into LAX, I felt terrifically sad that I'll only have, most likely one more time coming back into the country and being greeted by the airport portrait of Obama.  You can join up the dots of my thinking.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

not quite a scary clown

Not quite a scary clown - but not quite not, either.  This is on a wall on Kean Street - between Covent Garden and Kingsway - and what seems deeply uncomfortable to me is that it's opposite the back gate to a school.  I think it would give me some very freaky nightmares.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

King Lear - and Glenda Jackson

I am so very glad to have seen Deborah Warner's production of King Lear, at the Old Vic, with Glenda Jackson as Lear (and with a spectacular storm scene, with some eyeball-wincing flashes: do you think I can count this as research?).  Jackson was extraordinary, and it was to her and Warner's credit that one - well, I - very quickly stopped thinking about what it might mean to have Lear played by a woman, and saw the play as about an elderly person losing their power and their mind.  To be sure, one could develop some kind of critique about patriarchy, and patriarchal attitudes, not necessarily inhering within male bodies (and there were lots of bit of male bodies on show, from buttock-mooning to Edgar's penis - indeed, male bodies were generally presented as slightly ridiculous and posturing).  But what hit hard was the pathos, the pathos, the pathos of the final scene (and Jackson is, of course, herself 80 - she can look very old, especially when being wheeled, slack-jawed, in a chair - but as she sprang back to life for the curtain call, and the standing ovation, she looked a very young and yoga-supple 80).  But it was also a production that let one see the closeness of tragedy and farce, which resonated almost too much, after last week.  I didn't care for all the casting - Edgar's voice increasingly irritated me, and unlike almost all the other actors he seemed to have no feeling for language; Cordelia was one tough cookie - which would have worked, if she hadn't over-acted in a stylized, gesturing kind of way that reminded me of all the over-rehearsed moves I learned for my drama exams when a teenager.  Overall, though, it was stunning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump, transatlantically

Here's another example of transatlantic horror and disbelief at what went down last week.  The New European, for those of you who, like me, couldn't place it, is - to quote its web site - "a pop-up newspaper for a zeitgeist moment in British political and social history. The New European is not aligned with old political divisions but with an enthusiasm and love for Europe; a new quality paper that gives voice to the values of the 48%."  After a diet of internet news and "news" that has left me feeling as though I've been binge eating something full of saturated fats and white sugar, it's quite wonderful to encounter a real, print, "pop-up newspaper."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rumpy Trumpy

Spotted this evening, on the London Tube.  And this raises the question of the part played by humor in the normalization process.  Does this have the same paradoxical, Bakhtinian effect of reinforcing power as other forms of the carnivalesque?  Or is it rather - as I want to think, even if this is the Evening Standard, a belittling, a deflation of the orange pomposity?

passing through Oxford

A couple of hours in Oxford - and I've been away long enough, and have spent so little time here since my mother no longer has her flat here, that I've started to see it with tourist eyes, or rather, perhaps, see it, and not just take everything as familiar.  Of course, it's full of ghosts, everywhere - so many layers of my past - and therefore not always entirely comfortable (although terrific, beyond terrific, to see old friends).  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

England - in all its diversity, history, and wackiness

My intention, today, was to go to the Scrambled Messages exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery (about the Atlantic Cable).  I didn't check whether it would be open ... it was closed for the Lord Mayor's Show, an occasion I've never witnessed before.  I thought it was pure ceremony - Lord Mayor of London in their coach, lots of members of worshipful companies and guilds, variegated aldermen - that kind of thing - looking like the Logsdail picture below.  I hadn't known about the large number of charity and organizational floats (here HIV/AIDS support groups high-five the spectators); the old tradesman vehicles.

And yes, there was plenty of this sort of thing - albeit not entirely predictable (here we have some women military riding side-saddle);

here some horses who want to go more quickly than their foot companion;

here some more military women waving cheerleading thingies.

In bands, not everyone is arranged for height.

I'm impressed by a couple of our combat troops, carrying two comrades over their shoulders for the duration of the 2 mile route.

Then there are a lot of very different occupational groups;

the Lord Mayor, of course;

and - only in England - a team of drag-queen grannies, doing formation dancing on segues dressed up as shopping carts, and wearing sashes saying "welcome to Yorkshire."  Apparently Granny Turismo are quite a thing ...

Friday, November 11, 2016

a ghostly past; an apocalyptic moon

It feels very good, but very strange, to be back in a country that doesn't face the prospect of President Trump.  It usually takes me about ten minutes of being home, or "home," in the UK before I start chafing, and remembering why I live in the US.  Today, I felt warmly affectionate towards a very great deal - and yes - I know - Brexit Brexit Brexit.   Partly, I think, this had to do with running into an old friend, whom I've known for over fifty years - it was good to share political angst transatlantically.  At least, despite their (or my father's, certainly) Brexit views, both my parents are Trump-loathers, and my mother quite passionate about anti-HRC sexism.  I needed the quick injection of the long-term familiar, with its illusions of stability - but, as the above image suggests (the upstairs windows of a bridal store in Wimbledon Village), it's all dim and ghostly, too.

And then, walking back after my dose of fresh air, this apocalyptic moon ...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

painting our diverse city

Seen from the Flyaway bus en route to LAX (alas - or I'd be out demonstrating with other faculty and students at 6 p.m.): a new mural going up on one of the underpasses, celebrating - among other indefinable things - our Latinx heritage, our African American heritage, what looks like our Olympics bid (and heritage), and - well, not quite what sure what else.  But it looks like another great display of the City of Angels' pride in its multiculturalism.  The message is clear (so was California's choice of Presidential candidate, to be sure).

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

therapy dog

One of today's surprise - very surprise - bonuses was two departmental meetings - one in Art History, one in English - because the feeling of being among, and with, really lovely and supportive colleagues was very precious, and much needed.  "Stronger together" took on a different, sadder resonance today.  The afternoon meeting had the extra consolation offered by a colleague's dog (Pip was wearing black, like many of the rest of us), who wandered around licking hands, and offering very necessary support.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

on Election Eve, from our house to yours

I think that our curb-side sign should say it all - but in case there's any doubt, and you haven't yet voted, and you're eligible to do so - GET OUT THERE AND VOTE.  After an early evening watching the streaming of the Philly rally, and then an hour or so of MSNBC, I was feeling extremely upbeat.  Shifting channels to CNN - well, back to teeth grinding and anxious twitching.  I've even just seen a pro-Trump ad - a superPac ad - on tv which, in southern California, is a bit like seeing an ad for ice melter and snow boots.  So - WE'RE WITH HER.  GO VOTE!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

heading to Phoenix airport

Let's just say that this was a very bright and glittery outfit for early on a Sunday morning.  Since the person is sitting down, you can't quite get the full effect of their shiny purple lurex mini skirt, nor the tall platform-soled shoes, nor, indeed, the fairly plentiful tattoos.  Alas, they weren't a NAVSA attendee - I was thinking, this year, how sober-dressed, how professional so many people looked, and I'm not sure what to make of this relative sartorial caution.

the urban jungle of Phoenix

One last piece of Phoenix wall art - which doesn't adequately represent the excellence of the 2016 NAVSA, nor, for that matter, the terrific art gallery, which I was so very glad to have made the time to visit.  The galleries included a wonderful exhibit of innovative and experimental contemporary photography, much of it with an environmental bias that fitted extremely well, as it happened, with some of the most exciting strands of the conference.  Onwards to NAVSA's 2017 iterations, with many, many, many thanks to this year's Sun Devils organizers.

Friday, November 4, 2016

another Arizonan wall

It's another wall in downtown Phoenix!  There are a good number of murals hidden up alleyways, it would seem (clearly, I don't want to speculate about the possibilities for murals along that great big wall that will never be built - whichever party wins - along the Mexican border).

Thursday, November 3, 2016

walking the phoenix streets

... in search of a little gizmo to put an SD camera card in so that images can be transferred to my computer - not, it would seem, the kind of thing one can buy in downtown Phoenix (yes - I thought I had one safely packed ... but no ...). Indeed, one can purchase very little, unless it's Starbucks coffee, or a lottery card (I exaggerate - there's also an Urban Outfitters) - not even a CVS.  But pounding the sidewalks, I at least (courtesy of my cellphone) can offer you a club frontage.  But not, alas, this morning's stormy clouds, reflecting in shiny office blocks ...

I'm with her

Yes, my feet are tired - I was standing on them from around 3 p.m., half an hour before the ASU athletic field opened, with lines already snaking around several blocks.  And HRC was late flying into Phoenix, so it was a long evening ... 

She was inspiring.  Compared with her TV debate appearances, she was really fired up, passionate, gesturing, thoroughly into it with every cell of her body - whoever maintains she's not good with a large crowd (maybe 20,000 there, they were saying) is completely wrong.   She even managed to make very familiar stump speech lines sound as though she was saying them very freshly.  And the Arizona-specific parts were seamlessly interwoven (some good speechwriter at work, there) - inviting us to imagine the horror of Joe Arpaio as Trump's head of Homeland Security, for example; giving a large shout out to the Navajo Nation and the Gila Valley Indians - Pimas, that is - and above all, to Latinos.  AND - I've never before heard a politician give a check-in to university faculty before!  And to LGBTQ people.  And to the importance of not denying climate change, and sustainable energy (I wish we'd heard much more from her about this in the campaign, but better late than never).   She didn't disguise her loathing for Trump, his dishonesty, his complete unsuitability as a role model, his lack of tax paying, his failure to make money even from running casinos, his treatment of women.  Indeed, one of the things that struck me most strongly about the whole crowd, women (some of them self proclaimed nasty women) and men (some of them bad hombres) was the huge enthusiasm for Hillary as a woman - a sense that this was a fully embraced feminist moment.

Gosh - whoever thought that coming to a NAVSA conference would have this as a highlight?

And, as Hillary herself said - you don't want to wake up next Wednesday morning saying - oh, if only I'd done more.  But tonight - and I'm sure it was a long long day for her - she couldn't have given an ounce more.  It was terrific.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

portrait varietals

This woman was a quite magnificent sight on the light rail at Phoenix Airport. All in black - including the elaborate saddle bag - including (almost invisible against the dark window) a fascinator, it was impossible to gauge whether she was headed for a very sumptuous funeral (probably with black horses wearing plumes) or to a grand Day of the Dead celebration.  One of the more mystifying things about her was the luggage tag that firmly read Crew.  I would have loved to have had the courage to ask her to pose - but this isn't bad as snatched iPhone images go.

Earlier in the day, I was so happy to be able to go to hear Robin Coste Lewis giving the Visual Studies Research Institute's annual Anne Friedberg lecture - a happy condition of the award of the prize, for graduate travel.  She spoke about this posed photographic parody of Oscar Wilde, "The Wilde Woman of Aiken," about which she's also written a terrific poem (in her National Book Award winning The Voyage of the Sable Venus) - and it was a talk that prompted so many ideas, in so many different directions ... but the Wilde Woman is, ultimately, and challengingly, and intriguingly, no more knowable than the anonymous woman on the light rail, whom I'm extraordinarily unlikely ever to see again ...