Tuesday, January 31, 2017

more visual solace

If I can do nothing else, I can at least offer something peaceful to look at ... But wait?  What's that, under the left-hand fuschia blossom?  Looks like a bee image?  OK, yes.  It is a bee drawing.  It graces the stopper of Barr Hill Gin (very wonderful, slightly honey-flavored gin).  The fact that the gin bottle no longer needs its stopper is telling, isn't it?

Monday, January 30, 2017

today's moment of respite

comes to your courtesy of a USC bike rack.  It's so hard not to be swallowed by the news; by anger; by shock; by whatever lies the far side of disbelief, and whereas no, not for a minute, do I want to walk away from these feelings of outrage, I do appreciate the few seconds of distraction that can be given by something like this.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

black lives matter

It's not as though we need a reminder (I hope), but this is a wonderfully vibrant aide memoire in our Los Feliz/Silver Lake 'hood.  (It's not really curved, but the magic of blending in Photoshop allowed me to fit in a whole long stretch of fence).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

broken bowl, after rain

This bowl - an old favorite of mine - has been badly chipped (I can't remember how), and relegated to an outdoors life - which is not bad for a bowl, in frostless Los Angeles.  After the recent rains, it's overflowing with water, as we discovered when taking our lunch outside (yes, it was warm enough).  I don't know what the two screws are doing in it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

early morning, multi-cultural LA

en route to a long day's work in LA, today - with a wonderfully eclectic menu of businesses: restaurant y panaderia Guerrero; Tae Kwon Do, Amar Desh Indian restaurant, and BofA ... I don't know where the birds are from, nor exactly what the Chinese signs behind signify, although one of them seems to be advertising a ping-pong establishment ...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

kitchen composition

... although "composition" suggests something of the premeditated about it, and this was a fortuitous moment of early morning light coming through the kitchen window, and capturing a colander, a paper towel, half a kumato, and two tangelos.  Obviously it's a day for hybrids.  We have a tangelo tree in the back yard, and this cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit is extraordinarily juicy (several went into a cocktail tonight, with pear vodka, mint, and ice).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

back in LA

This seems to be a week of pictures from bedroom windows ... happy though I was to be back in my childhood bed (but can I call it that?  It's not actually the same bed, but somehow a much less comfortable one; it's not where my bed used to be; the room itself was made over by my father to use as his office, and now seems to be a faded repository of old detective novels and files of tax returns) ... happy though I was to have my old childhood view (though that wasn't the same: trees have been felled; garages extended; green fibreglass cow installed next door) ... happy though I was to feel back in my old home, it was wonderful to wake up today in LA and see this (very green) view again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

when one needs a drink in the middle of the day ...

... that would be when, sitting in the departure lounge at the airport, you get an email from your cousin saying that your father (who you last saw three hours previously, with your mother - both apparently healthy at the time) is Trying to Contact You.  Of course, I went still, and cold, and tactics started running through my head (can they get my bag off the plane?  can they courier it - well, somewhere - whilst I dash to whatever hospital ...).  And I took five deep, slow, breaths, and called him.  

He wanted to know if I happened to have the password for his modem.

And yes - this was LHR Terminal 5's first class lounge - though I assure you I was flying standard cattle class - all the same, a perk of a lot of flying last year.

And yes - because I am Boy Scoutishly Always Prepared, I did have my parents' modem password.  Arrrgggghhhhhhh.

Monday, January 23, 2017

green cow in freezing fog

The view from my bedroom window this morning - the kind of fog that you hope will lift and reveal a clear sunny day, and that actually gives way to grey dripping trees and icy pavements.  I chilled all the way through - definitely to the marrow - in a freezing BL, and still can't get warm.

Alas, no photo of the truly spectacular sight out there this morning - three grown foxes, all fluffed up like russet raccoons, having a serious fight.  It's one way to get the circulation flowing ...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

this was the pond

on which I learned to skate, in the Big Freeze of 1962-3 - in other words, the ice was a good deal more thick and stable than it is now.  We learned in the good old-fashioned Victorian way, of course - by pushing a chair in front of us, holding onto its back.  It only struck me today that this must have meant that my friend Vivien's mother must have carried a chair all the way here - if not from the street that they lived in, at least from the car (but I can't imagine that we drove for just a couple of streets to get here - indeed, I don't remember that her mother drove ...).  That family must have had some skates ... 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

women's march ... in London!

It was terrific marching in London today - terrific because of the size of the march (100,000, they said - so large that the rally in Trafalgar Square had to be cut short, since the police wanted us to leave ... apparently we'd brought central London to a halt ...).  I was wonderfully positioned - I joined the march about halfway along its route, once my conference panel was over (!), which meant I could duck in near the front, and therefore could see and hear once I was in Trafalgar Square.  Very good spirited; lots of children; lots of speakers stressing the importance of women's rights of all kinds - I was especially impressed by a group of refugee women, and by Yvette Cooper, the MP (and shadow Home Secretary) - but above all by a sense of global solidarity.  Yes, I'd like to have been with friends in LA, or DC, or wherever, and yes, I've had a warning about exceeding my international data usage on my cell ... (how could I not send pictures home to the US?) ... but it was truly great to experience this - by serendipity of conference planning - in the UK

Friday, January 20, 2017

waking up this morning ...

It was beautiful this morning in Wimbledon - a thick frost on the ground; a clear blue sky - and I looked out onto the garden from the room that I've been sleeping in - well, on and off - since 1961, and everything seemed very quiet and peaceful...

Oh, come on: let's try that again.  It was still dark when I got up - got up finally, because I couldn't stop myself checking the news all the way through the night (what did I expect? that Trump would keel over with the stress of it all?  That a missile would land on DC?), and in any case, I was just so worried about what's going to happen.  Trump's speech - and no, I couldn't prevent myself watching it, mitigated a tiny bit by doing so on BBC, with bemused, horrified, cynical, wry bits of commentary accompanying it.  It was certainly not  a speech addressed to me, as a non-citizen of the US, and it didn't exactly encourage me to race for citizenship (unless I should do so immediately, so I don't get deported when I demonstrate).  And in any case, I couldn't sleep for anxiety about the paper I'm giving tomorrow; anxiety about my parents; anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.  I was, let's just say, grateful for the sunshine here, and deeply glad that it rained on the Orange One's parade.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

tradition, revived

For a long time, every time that I returned to spend a night at my parents, I'd post a picture of the little vase of flowers left in my room.  I'm not sure what caused me to lay off that practice - maybe they were missing once or twice, and then I was apprehensive that they mightn't reappear ... But here they are, against a dark and frigid night.  Flying late out of LA, so that it's already getting dark by the time that one's exiting Heathrow, does some strange things to one's sense of what day it is.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trojans vs Trump

Trojans vs Trump has a pleasing alliteration to it - a good banner to have at our Solidarity Rally, organized by faculty, addressed by faculty, to assure students and others that we stand with them on immigration issues in particular, but in general against all forms of hate speech, macro and micro aggressions, and so on.  Here's Tania Modleski, kicking us off, and the numbers grew - it would have been wonderful to have had thousands, but those who were here heard a stirring set of short speeches and readings (I read part of an Adrienne Rich poem, and started off by saying that I'm a documented immigrant deeply aware of the privilege I bear by virtue of my skin color).  And as Michael Moore is saying on TV as I type: many of us are saying that this is going to be bad, very bad (and when did he stop wearing a Rutgers baseball cap?  I miss that ...).

A close-up of the banner, more crowd - and below, a participating dog, with matching socks on its human.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the astute eye

will note that one of the very first things that we did on arriving back in LA was to hang the chile wreath from our NM front door onto the door here (that'll give any super-curious raccoons a nasty shock).  The sympathetic reader will understand that the fact that we have to leave again at 7.15 a.m. (Alice is teaching; I have to go with her in order to go onwards to a conference in London) will mean that all correspondence, rational thought etc is suspended until tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

not the best travel weather

Pretty though this is, it wasn't exactly what one hopes to see when one opens one's front door before starting a long drive ... but all was fine, and indeed, the picturesque snow and fog had started to lift and melt before we were truly packed up and on the road ...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

photographing fish - the easy way

These fish were golden, illuminated, and above all not swimming around.  In the window of Luca Decor on Canyon Road, these beautiful lamps are by Lara Fisher, and their fiber paper skins are embellished with different words and images - very subtle, very seductive.  These beautiful, expensive lamps ... I would love one, but, well, imagine what kind of angling the cats would engage in ... On the other hand, they are a great deal easier to photograph than the kind that wriggle and slide and duck around in water.  I'm sure, once again, that they're calling out to my inner Piscean.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

jammin' at 41

A Santa Fe reunion today, with 6 members, I think, of Carleton College Class of - well, mostly '72, including the one - Alice - who left for the more historical pastures of Macalester.  Most of them (so I'm not entirely sure why I'm billing it as a reunion) have been in and around here if not quite ever since, then at least much of the time - in Santa Fe, in Dixon, in Soccorro.  So our living room was rocking to a variety of sounds ...

... and if anyone wonders why I know all the words to the Stones' "Mother's Little Helper," let me take you back to my school - that is, when I was about 13 - and we somehow convinced our hapless, despairing music teacher, Miss Harris, that it would make an ideal entry for the Junior School Annual Folk Song competition.  Since we spent a lot of time in Singing - a weekly class - the rest of the year learning "Early One Morning," and "The British Grenadiers" and a dreadful song that started "Cuckoo cuck-oo-oo/Our joyful rover/At last you're o-o-o-ver/The ocean blu-ue," this was, shall we say, not quite in the expected mold.  We didn't win the contest.

Friday, January 13, 2017

photographing fish

Photographing fish when close up - and when they're not shadowy shapes among the weeds - seems to be a surprisingly hard task.  Maybe I should have used a camera - maybe my iPhone - that doesn't like to work with subtle focusing ability, because trying to capture something that's (a) underwater and (b) that's moving is quite a challenge - one I didn't succeed in meeting.

Yes - back at the acupuncture clinic, but to pick up Alice after her appointment - no way I'm going near those needles for a while, after this week's headache from hell ...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

telegraph wires

Telegraph wires cutting into the clear day (well, evening): this is decidedly symbolic for me, since I'm pushing ahead every minute of the day that I can, and then some (mercifully, my head is no longer hurting) to finish my last bits of book revision, smoothing, polishing, and wondering why there are occasional, mysterious missing footnotes (inevitably, to obscure publications that I don't remember ever having seen) - BUT.  But I have had to pull away, and start writing a paper that I have to give in a week's time, at a conference about the telegraph, and coding (I'm nothing to do with the coding part ...).  Rather, I'm talking about Robert Dudley's water colors and illustrations to Russell's The Atlantic Cable, and how to represent distance, and effort, and space. I came to the realization when I was showering my aching head yesterday that these are news pictures explicitly about being able to transmit news, but I have no idea where to take that insight.  Still, I'm a quarter through ... (these wires are on Rodeo Road, in Santa Fe - I had to dash into town to do some errands ...).

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

sending myself a flower

I can only presume that yesterday's acupuncture has released all kind of toxins that I wish that it hadn't, since I have a completely stiff neck and a headache from hell.  So despite the fact that's it's a day when I can barely dare take an hour off work, I'm taking the headache and me off to bed in a darkened room.  With a flower.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

the comfort of fish

There's something deeply calming about these fish (at the Southwest Acupuncture College, in Santa Fe).  Whereas the ostensible purpose of my visit had to do with my re-flared-up rotator cuff (I suspect the relict of a long-ago ski injury - it's certainly been painful enough of late to prevent me from even contemplating the fresh snow up there), it also calmed me down ... well, maybe it wasn't just the fish: maybe it was the spiking, and the being prodded with burning incense, and the foot sauna - the wonderful foot sauna.  Who knew that my shoulder was quite manifestly attached to so many other parts of me?  But I'll give the fish some credit, too: being Piscean, I always think they help a good deal.

And calmness, concentration, focus ... all lasted into this evening, when I succumbed to weeping in front of the TV at watching Obama's farewell speech, which had all the strengths (the high-mindedness, the inclusive rhetoric, the forward-looking-ness) and all the weaknesses (the high-mindedness, the inclusive rhetoric) of his presidency.  Not I think that these are bad things, of course, and yes, he did talk about the importance of democracy, a free press, and the rest of it.  But something with just a little more partisan bite, given the sheer inconceivable awfulness of his successor, wouldn't have come amiss.

Monday, January 9, 2017

evening lights

In our environmentally-responsible little 'hood, we're very careful to regulate lighting so as not to pollute the sky - with the consequence that on a clear night, one can see more stars than one would ever believe possible.  So there are strict rules about when to take down one's holiday lights, and I may, indeed, be transgressing them by now.  On the other hand, this tree trunk of solar-powered blue pin pricks are only visible for a few hours before they dim.

In other news - when I went outside to take this picture, I found the downside of the rapid thaw, the warmed-up day - every single gopher in Eldorado had decided, it would seem, to aerate our back yard. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017


A very happy effect of light - no Photoshopping required, for LucyFur's portrait today.  (Or - in a day spent book-revising and image ordering, if it wasn't a photo of melting snow, or dawn, or a sunset, it was going to be a cat, wasn't it?).

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Frost, snow, and an Owl

At the start of the day, thick frost on the already snowy dead tumbleweed.  At the end of it, a Great Horned Owl sits on a tree - these are the most wonderful owls that are the size of a cat, with big feathery tufts that look like ears, and go hooo hooo hoooooo at each other (although I didn't see, or hear, a partner this evening).  Admittedly, it's some way away, and this involved a telephoto lens - but it's pretty cool.  I've never taken a picture of an owl before.

Friday, January 6, 2017

bird bath

In weather like this - frigid; snowy - I am so happy that we invested in a heated bird bath (hint: all of you in chilly climes should have one).  The last couple of weeks, it's been largely full of robins, with a few finches trying to squeeze their way in.  About ten days ago, for a couple of days, it was outrageously crammed with a murmuration or so of starlings, who were migrating through Eldorado and felt the need for a warm refreshing dip.  Today - one of our favorite bluebirds.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

under investigation

This wasn't exactly the photo I'd planned.  I snipped off some very dead stalks of a trailing geranium from a garden pot, thinking to photograph them on a white board - and maybe draw them - but anyway, make use of their folds and tendrils and convoluted dryness.  But just as I was setting up - well, here's Moth.  Not much goes on that she doesn't want to know about.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tewa Lodge

I've been meaning for years to make a record of the Route 66 motels on Central in Albuquerque - here's a start, with the Tewa Motor Lodge.  This is one of the earliest on this stretch of the Mother Road - it opened in 1946, and apart from other features has, at night, a truly magnificent neon sign, complete with flashing arrow.  It was hardly a day for photographic exploration - by the time I left Alice at the airport, the sky was darkening with clouds the color of bruises, and the light falling.  But I had a huge spur to my intentions when I saw that the double story Desert Sands is no more - just a huge heap of rubble, and a bulldozer.  I checked - it had three fires in six months, and there was no money for repair or renovation.  Many of these motels are, after all, if not exactly the equivalent of Skid Row, not that far removed - many of them are cheap residential accommodations rather than vacation destinations - it's real Breaking Bad territory (and that certainly makes photographing them daytime work for me, neon signs or not).  But they retain terrific architecture and signage - so watch for more.

You want a wonderful, period-renovated, old-style Route 66 motel?  Go to the Blue Swallow in Tucumcari.  I've only stayed there once - on a drive out from NJ - and I loved the place to bits.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

mirroring light

My nose is super-glued to the grindstone, going through Flash! one last time - one last time before copy-edits and queries, that is - and so (apart from a daily brisk walk) I've been pretty much stuck to my desk.  In turn, this means that I'm extra-aware of everything in the room that often I don't really see - like this mirror.  And because I seem to write a lot about light reflected off shiny surfaces (so much, indeed, that I've been happily deleting my repetitions), I'm ultra-aware that it's not just camera-flash that does that, of course, but lights of any kind, creating, in turn, bleached blind spots in the middle of any attempt to photograph them.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

in memoriam, John Berger

John Berger's death today hit me far harder than that of - I was going to say other celebrities, but maybe I mean other notables, who've died in this last year.  His writing back in the 70s taught me that I was a naive reader of paintings (to say the least); his principled commitment to the ordinary and quotidien - well, anyone who reads this blog will know my adherence to careful, appreciative looking.  I want to think through the kind of impact he had on a form of localist ecocriticism (his influence on me, here, meshed with the later writings of Raymond Williams).  But I wasn't going to fall into what's now a photographic cliché of the gnarled hand, and there weren't any peasants or apple orchards or pieces of French hillsides around, so it seemed far more appropriate to observe, and create, and appreciate the fleeting - in this case, a very bare bough outside my study window.  I'm so grateful for the intellectual impact that Berger had on my thinking, my sense of aesthetics, and indeed, in some hard-to-define way, on my emotional make-up.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

new year; new dawn

A new year dawns: not, judging by this light, with a great deal of optimism.  But it's Year 9 of Forms Traced By Light, so I'm wishing my blog a happy birthday.  I'm committed to keeping it going for this year and next - after that, who knows?  But I certainly want to write about the daily practice of taking a photograph and writing about it - it's a compulsion, a duty (to myself), a pleasure ... and today, for once, a source of insight ... I'm putting the finishing touches to Flash!, and one of my arguments about flash's unique quality is that when one sees it reflected back - from a window pane, or shiny car or police van (I was sourcing a picture of a mob arrest in the late 1920s in the Chicago Tribune, this morning), it's quite unlike regular photography, in which one doesn't really expect that the light used to take the picture will ever become self-referentially visible.  Well, what about the sun? Er, duh?  And the sunspots that one gets through a lens, when one doesn't have a lens hood on.  I think I need to do a bit of rephrasing - I'm surprised no one has pointed out this fallacy in my argument before.