Saturday, April 30, 2011


It felt very good to have a couple of hours of a sunny morning in downtown Durham with no responsibilities - so I walked to Parker & Otis for breakfast (the perfectly wonderful cafe and gourmet and kitchen stuff and wine store that was just round the corner from me all year without my realizing it - for some complicated reason I thought it was a furniture store - a horrible error that led to my inaugurating a local-wisdom list to be passed from one year to the next at the National Humanities Center ...).   Even in the few years since I lived there for nine months, the center has become more salubrious, the warehouse apartments have spread - but there are still a number of unconverted warehouses, including this Liggett and Myers one.    

And here's an image of a sign on its side that is quite extraordinary: 1948, and are we commemorating fallen war heroes?   No.   Are we yet commemorating those who have died from inhaling cigarette smoke?   No - of course not.   We're celebrating the millions who smoke The Cigarette That Satisfies!

And here's - now that I'm back in NJ - the picture that I wanted to post yesterday ...

Friday, April 29, 2011

all the queen's horses

Ah, alas, this isn't at all the picture that I wanted to post.   I intended to write about The Royal Wedding, indeed (though I hadn't anticipated that I'd be in a hotel in Durham NC with FOUR wedding parties who are sharing the space with five seminar participants), and I had taken, I thought, the perfect picture this morning, of the early morning sunlight streaming in on some still-to-be-packed things in the basement, including a copy of one of my favorite history books: Daphne Machin Goodall's The Foals of Epona, about the history of British horse breeds.   Only ... my camera must still be sitting in the front hall (together with other useful things, like my toileteries bag) - so dislocating was the experience of coming back from a cancelled flight yesterday, and heading back out again today ...

... though of course, that meant that I could watch It on BBC America.  And my favorite part, by far, was the horses - Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays pulling the carriages (the former not an actual breed, but the catch-all name given to the grey horses bred for the Royal stables), and the black horses of the Household Cavalry.   When I visited the Household Cavalry barracks with a Pony Club outing many decades ago, we were shown how the horses were trained to cope with crowds - so it was with some incredulity that I thought that I saw a loose one out of the corner of my eye ... but yes, there it galloped, having deposited its rider ...

As for the rest of it - hard not to think about the symbolism of Hats, whether it was Beatrice and Eugenie looking like - well, what?  Deer?  Medusa? or Samantha Cameron getting it entirely wrong and not wearing one.   Other than that, it was the Ruling Classes at play - apart from various foreign dignitaries, the only people - rephrase that: boys - of color seemed to be in the choir; and the only identifiable non-straight couple were, inevitably, Elton John and David Furnish (though one could speculate about some of the choir and the clergy ...).   I felt that all I'd been saying in the second half of the semester about Multi-Cultural Britain Today was - well, true of the Tube, but hardly worked for the new Mr and Mrs Windsor's nuptials.   All the same, I watched; and all the same, yes, I did find myself tearing up slightly, twice.   So what were these telling, symptomatic moments?   Once when the camera moved to the Queen (masquerading as a daffodil) standing stolidly whilst everyone else sang God Save the Queen; once when the Lancaster Bomber droned loudly overhead in the flypast.   From which I deduce that I am sentimental, but not for this particular wedding, but rather for a kind of version of England that really belongs - oh, probably back in the 1950s: what moved me was how historical my own past seems.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

last class ...

Really, the world turned apocalyptic as I walked away from my final class ... the sky darkened, and a few minutes later (luckily I was already at the station with time to scuttle under cover) the heavens opened.   This, of course, might have served some version of the pathetic fallacy very well, but wasn't propitious - I then spent several hours in a crowded Newark Airport before my flight was cancelled, with no prospect of getting out today to Durham NC - so there was no celebratory drink in fun company at the meeting I was supposedly attending, so I retraced my tracks, and will try again tomorrow, in order to tackle the question of What Can Reading Do?

I coped, as ever, with the emotional impact of something by refusing to think about it, so I was very glad indeed to have the weather be dramatic on my behalf.   But it's been a great treat to have had two great classes this semester - both graduate and undergraduate.   And now ... apart from grading ... I may actually be able to think about research again ...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

an experiment

Well, we'll see, but I'm not optimistic.   My turn to provide sustenance for the grad class tomorrow.   My last class at Rutgers, too ... so you'd think I'd attempt something tried and tested.   But no.   I became obsessed with making dulce de leche cookies, ever since I found that one can buy condensed milk that's already been boiled slowly in its can to make the necessary substance.   But then what?   I did, indeed, find a perfectly serviceable, or so I thought, recipe that involved condensed milk.   And ... eggs.   I simply don't understand American cookie recipes (as I've remarked before) - I think that I am used to eggless cookies that are more like shortbread.   Here is one tray full, with chopped pecan nuts; there's another, that came out of the over shortly afterwards, with chocolate chips, too (not all the class are chocolate eaters).   But ... they taste like American cookies.   I think the best thing about that fact is that I'm unlikely to gorge myself in any way, but I have no idea what they will seem like to anyone else.  I should have gone for Plan B - the Royal Wedding Fridge Cake (no, I am not joking - and here's a wonderful article on the topic by Rachel Cooke, one of my erstwhile students in Oxford ...).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

what's wrong with this picture?

Yes, I know.   That's what happens when one thinks that one's being efficient, on a boiling hot afternoon, when frat parties are developing in the houses round about, and when the squirrels have started to jump around with incredible energy inside my office walls (presumably the fleas have started to bite harder, given the sudden summer weather?).   For I have decided to file all my notes and paper properly (or throw them away) - yes, all - starting with the very solemn essay that I wrote when preparing for Oxford entrance on a very solemn George Eliot pronouncement: that "if art does not enlarge men's sympathies, it does nothing morally."    Since I have to prepare some remarks for a roundtable on Friday down at Duke on "What Can Reading Do?", it's very tempting to start there ...  But this is all going to take a very long time - even when I recklessly throw out - for example - some very unpromising looking Shakespeare teaching notes from the late 70s.   I keep getting distracted by things that it would have been very useful to know that I possess - like an inspired seven sheet set of notes on She that would have come in handy two weeks ago, if I'd known that they (a) existed (b) had been able to find them.   And that, of course, is the kind of motivation that's pushing me forwards, because at this rate, I could float right through to retirement without ever properly getting this stuff in order ...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Bunny

Maybe I was wrong about the non-availability of Easter Eggs - walking away from dinner, on Easton Avenue, I passed a whole window of them in Thomas Sweet's, a shop that I've never been in, and think it improbable, by now, that I ever shall.   Can this be?   A store that makes and sells ice-cream - among other things - within easy strolling distance of my office?   Of course, with this year - then this semester - then this month - coming up, I've made continual vows about all that I would do - all that time that I planned to spend in New York, for example, and I've probably been there less than in any year that I've been in NJ.   So I'm rather shaking my head at my inability to consolidate my acquaintance with even my most immediate surroundings ...

Sunday, April 24, 2011


as in: Happy Easter.   Easter seems to be so much less of a big deal in this country than in England, and not just because most of our HP neighbors celebrate Passover - no public holidays surrounding it; no hoopla about what the weather's like, or the Big Holiday Get-Away, and certainly very few chocolate eggs in the shops.   Indeed none, in Whole Foods (which was, however, open - people at least take note of Easter in that all the malls are closed).    

I can't remember where this particular marble egg came from - Florence, I think, but when?   It can stand for a number of items in the basement (yes, I've spent most of another day down there) which I like, which I even feel sentimental about - but about which I have absolutely no idea about their provenance.   This seems odd to me - my mother can tell you where everything in 20 Hillside came from, it would seem - and who gave it to whom, and when, and if it was a present from my great-aunt's French pen-pal's family, and so on.   And I can't do that with nearly enough objects - at least, not ones that go back thirty years or so.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

jersey city

Even on a dank grey afternoon, Jersey City had considerable allure - one emerges up this super-modern escalator onto the banks of the Hudson, staring across at Manhattan (a view that I thought unbearably cruel when they brought us there on the Rutgers Bus Tour of New Jersey for New Faculty, as though taunting us with the fact that NJ looked at NYC - but wasn't actually There).  Maybe the weather - the dankness, the greyness - accounts for my migraine, though, which was already settling uncomfortably into place, and which is making it too uncomfortable for me to write more ... except to say that today, I truly understood the attractions of the place.

Friday, April 22, 2011


It's just a discreet little dagger-pin in my lapel, but it has great symbolic resonance.   I use to wear it last year when chairing meetings in the English department; and I decided it could do with an outing today ... I've hardly been to official departmental thingies this year, but I made an exception for the Honors students' presentations and awards ceremony today - I wouldn't have missed them.   But one never knows who one might run into ...

... though thoughts of Surprise Encounters dropped out of my mind in the middle of the presentations, not because of the presentations themselves (though images of Girl on Girl action were distracting in one way, and a slide of Very Cute Flying Squirrels - quite arbitrarily added onto the end of a powerpoint about Mrs Dalloway - in another).   No - I remembered, mid-afternoon, that I'd left the oven on, trying to dry out some damp-damaged books that I'd found on the basement floor (now, where did that particular flood come from?).   And images - not just of charred books, but of the whole house burned to a cinder - rose up in front of me.   And then it struck me that indeed, Fahrenheit 451 doesn't have that title for arbitrary reasons, and if that's the temperature at which paper burns, a copy of Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic should be quite safe at 150 degrees.   Of course, I could always buy another copy - but I love this one.   I remember reading it in Italy in 1981 or 1982, in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, whilst a little crowd of Italian high school kids sat on the grass, playing the guitar and singing along to "Blowing in the Wind" - and it still has a dried flower in it from that afternoon.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

tent city #2

This speaks for itself.   And its message was amplified a little later in the day, when I met with a student about their final paper - a student who's been mystifying me a little this semester, since they are clearly very smart, but at the same time I've had a hunch that they've been under-performing.   Turns out that they've been taking 18 credits, AND working flat out waiting tables - fees went up, of course, 10% this year; parents "not willing" to help out; landlord has just hiked up rent 30% - which he can do, it would seem, because of a loophole in the original contract saying that he was letting the apartment at a 30% discount.   Youch.   It saddens me that it's so hard to get to know all but a few students here, except in a superficial way in class - and as soon as one scratches the surface, stories like this emerge, and the stories sadden me, too.   And they really, really offer very eloquent testimony about why we really must stop putting fees up - they are already so high for a state university.  And yet, the state - even if, at present, they haven't taken a sharp scythe to this year's Higher Education budget - seems to have its ears sewn shut on the issue, and, indeed, the commissioner on Higher Ed stated again, today, that he wants to see the cap on fee increases removed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

tent city '11

I so like it when Tent City erupts on Voorhees Mall: it means that classes are nearly finished, that spring is really here, and above all that there's a feeling of utopianism abroad (so very different from the post-Rutgerfest fallout: my students today were horrified by the event - massed drunkenness and gun shots and vandalism and general mayhem - which they had all, or almost all, attended - and pointed me in the direction of various videos on You Tube showing the fighting.   And showing, I might add, the number of people who seemed to be standing watching the fighting and filming it on their iPhones ...).   

It's Utopianism in the sense that I think Morris is imagining in News from Nowhere (which we're discussing in the grad class tomorrow), which effectively is very localized, but is aware of its global context.   No one's going to imagine that anything much is going to get changed on a huge scale by Tent City - but living by its own principles, and offering up social and political awareness of all kinds is a great thing to have outside of Murray Hall.   And this tent even manages to combine Rutgers Red with some tentative Christmas decorations, sparkling away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Remarkable Bottle

I took this picture at my father's request: he wants to send the image to Guinness Breweries, to thank them ... apparently when recently clearing out under the stairs (and believe me, there might be all sorts of finds in those dark recesses), he found a little cache of 4 bottles of the 1982 Guinness Christmas Special brew.   And apparently it was quite exquisite, like old port.   Hmmmmm.   I have only my father's word for this, and have my doubts.   All the same, it's a good piece of 29-year old packaging ...

Monday, April 18, 2011


I have absolutely no idea who this small girl may be.   We went into another tropical hothouse today - this time a rather steamy tent, next to the Natural History Museum, where there was a Butterfly exhibition - hundreds of huge ones, fluttering round, and perching on people.   We were the only two people there, I think, without small children - I turned round at one point and found this girl standing next to me, with the appropriate expression of solemn wonder at the large blue butterfly on her arm.

We'd just come from The Cult of Beauty - the big Aesthetic Movement exhibition at the V&A, complete with the Aesthete's tea-pot (and the original huge poster drawing for the stage production of The Woman in White.   Plenty of familiar stuff - it was especially strong on furniture and costume and other decorative materials.   I felt that I was being brought face to face, in much of the design, with the originals that lie behind about forty years of doodling (cf the dinosaur background, a week or so back).   After this, the exuberant natural design of butterfly wings was a very apt corrective.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

tropical house

... or rather, the doors out of the Tropical House in Kew Gardens, which were full of bluebells and tulips and flowering fruit trees - we'd missed the daffodils, but were there at just the right season for nesting swans and moorhens ... It is such a long time since I've been, and have been meaning to go back for years (I suspect that the last time I was there was 1972, and, indeed, during daffodil season, with Mark Holloway and Robert Collingwood and Mark Sutton-Vane, and I remember reading Sartre - Nausée, indeed - on the train on the way home and thinking - yes!   That's it!   He's nailed it!   That's how life feels!).

And even before that, I'd written a short story in my O level English Composition exam set in the tropical house, with a chase scene set among the branches of the tall palm trees, with the pursuer and the pursued (I cannot for the life of me remember the circumstances) hurtling up the white spiral staircase, and along the galleries, and down again.   And all of that was before they'd managed to breed the amazing jade flowering vine, or - outside - constructed the slightly nervous-making swaying treetop walk, or renovated the little brick house with the Marianne North paintings - all of which were highlights of today.   And indeed, I'd forgotten whole chunks of it, including (oddly, for me) the fact that there's any water in it, anywhere.   So in many ways it felt like an entirely new place, which I hadn't totally expected, and was a real reminder about the fickleness of memory.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Alice startles a horse

... at least, the horse seems singularly affrighted, but maybe it's just offended by the lack of a carrot on the outstretched palm.   It's a very long time since I've been to look at the Parthenon frieze - possibly not since I did a school project of Greek horsemanship, complete with the points of the horse, and the bridle, all labelled with their proper nouns in classical Greek.   Most of the rest was lifted relatively wholesale from Xenophon.

One great thing about a conference at Senate House is that one can slide out at lunchtime, have lunch, and see some marble horses, centaurs, lowing cattle, naked riders, and other pieces of beautiful sculpture belonging to the Greeks, and head right back inside again to listen to, and talk about, destroyed books.   And look at book destruction, too - whether in sculptural or video form - the true delight of today's conference was having conceptual/book artists there as well as conventional scholars, including Ross Birrell and Nicola Dale -huge fun meeting them both.

Friday, April 15, 2011

clocking in

This fine figure of a woman, with greyhound - I imagine she's Diana, since she has a quiver on her back - sits on top of a clock in my parent's living room.   It's one of the very many pieces that they bought in the late 50s/very early 60s in the Cumberland/Scottish borders.   I rather think that this one came from Langholm - at least, I remember my mother and I leaving my father to go and bid in a sale room, whilst we went off to explore the local playground - one of those ones with bleak grey asphalt to match the bleak grey weather, and one of those solid ? hexagonal roundabouts that used to be ubiquitous play-furniture in such locations.   But here my memory starts to wobble - did I graze my knee coming off the slide?   Or was I - impressionably - overhearing my mother and another woman in conversation about how dangerous she - the other woman- thought the slide to be?

Clocking in, anyway, very late.   Suffice it to say that the plane should have left Newark at 9.20 p.m., and eventually heaved itself into the turbulent air at 4.30 a.m.   I need to sleep ...

And no - for those who follow the ritual - no flowers in my room to photograph, alas.   But Alice, who arrived at the right time (coming from NM) says that my mother intended them, but got distracted ... so don't read between any lines.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

o sunny day

... which it is.   And o that I were sitting in the sun eating watermelon, not having a PowerPoint crash on me when I press "save" - after lots of fast, pre-conference work - meaning that I will have to trust to my parents' internet connection to be non-temperamental tomorrow.   Am I in a mood to rush to EWR and get on a plane?   No.   

And every time I look round the house I see things like this, which are going to be very tricky and delicate to pack (rather like me, in my current state of mind).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

call to action

... and off in the background, on this totally gloomy grey New Jersey day, wends a very respectably sized body, off to Old Queens and Richard McCormick's office (at least, by the look of it, his outer office), where he managed, more or less, to deliver a message in return ...   (thank you L!!)

The most cheerful thing in sight were the colors of these economic equivalencies - which are collected together with an amazing surrealist logic.   $24,000 could pay for 13 students to study for 4 years at the Sorbonne (which may be true, but would also reveal that some universities have classes even larger than Rutgres); $18,000 could buy you 3,636 Fat Sandwiches (if you're insider enough to get that one, you probably are shuddering at the thought); $15,000 could buy 231 Expos Textbooks (are they really $65 each?   Really?  Ouch); $12,000 could buy a 75 foot yacht.   Now, that last one I don't believe, unless it were a termite-infested old tub.   But is that a dig at someone?   And, whilst we're at it, $12,000 could buy ... how much square footage in the renovated/expanded football stadium?

I was truly happy to see such a great turnout.   It's things like this that tug at my heartstrings, or whatever gets tugged at on Voorhees Mall, when I think how very few days on campus I have left before heading off to an institution with, ironically, so very much more money to give out to students in economic need.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

a trip to Rite Aid

Rite Aid in Highland Park, that is, to buy some shampoo.   It's the kind of store where one isn't sure whether the toy cars on display are vintage models, or have simply been there a very, very long time.   I'm sure the former - but they still look just like the ones that I used to race, together with Andrew Pemberton, the whole long length of his parents' house - or at least from the kitchen threshold to the living room threshold, a corridor which had a tricky, Brand's Hatch like kink in it.

Today's trip was enlivened by the clientele, especially a cheerful but decidedly strange middle aged man with a dog on a leash.   He was told that "pets aren't allowed in the store."   He took no notice - and then started to get very agitated when he thought that the store staff had called the sheriff (as if they could be bothered ...).   The dog looked confused, but whether this was because she was with him, or because she was half pit-bull and half greyhound, one couldn't tell.   What was certain, though, was that the line waiting behind the guy at the check out took his part (the usual HP sedition against toxic store employees), asking about her breed, complimenting her beauty, and generally making them both feel at home.   The aggressive store personnel seemed to melt away ... but on my way out, I could see why: they were bearing down on a man in the wine section who was taking down some bottles (Rite Aid in HP, because it sells kosher wine and spirits, has a liquor license, which is one of the few good things going for it - maybe the only one) - and he had a large cigar in his mouth.   Good luck to them - he also was wearing two hearing aids ...

Monday, April 11, 2011

in color

I was in the middle of an honors dissertation defence today, in my office - an excellent dissertation, by Catherine DePalma, who was writing about the importance of giving a formal analysis of documentary photography (looking especially at Sander, Lange, and Cartier-Bresson), and not just considering the impact and import of the subject matter - and the topic of color in documentary work and street photography came up.   I mentioned a comment made by one of the photographers whose work I saw at the Museum of London street photography exhibition about how difficult it can be to shoot street photography in color, since it's so dependent on the sudden, fortuitous moment, and if the color doesn't work, one doesn't have an image, however strong the composition may be.   I hypothesised, though, that there are some days when one's consciously thinking / looking in color, some in black and white - and at that moment I turned my head, and saw color exemplified: a pink and orange curly bracelet that I bought in some distracted moment at the Zimmerli, and that's hanging from my purple desk lamp.   So I had to hope that the light would still be strong and clear when the session ended ...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

dinosaurs in the groves of academe

Another day, another corner of the basement - and I hit paydirt: five folders full of letters, cards, and drawings and doodles from the 60s through to the mid 80s.   Evidently I've been interested in book destruction for a long while - look at the adorable little 'saur on the right-hand side, chomping her way through an overgrown bookcase.

But when did I draw this?   I suspect it was during a departmental meeting at Bristol - the squared paper (I was doing a lot of research in Italy at the time) gives it away, and the sentiment would certainly fit.   It will be carefully filed away, now - so far as one can call plastic crates - a crate a decade, which is a remarkably tidy way of organizing one's life - filing.   Today I managed to cull all the old clothes that were lurking in bags and cases (and culled most of the bags, too - the vaguely usable ones quickly disappeared from the kerbside, I was pleased to find) and restricted myself to one crate of Memory Clothes.   Some of the rest (destined for Goodwill, probably) represent extraordinary exercises in bad taste; some I find it hard to believe I could ever have fitted in, even at my thinnest - and why, in the 90s, did I evidently fall in with fashion's craze for trimming everything in cheap lace?   Presumably in a desperate effort to suggest to my students that I was far, far from being some prehistoric throwback ...

Saturday, April 9, 2011


One of the very many house-selling strategies that we employed was buying some blinds for the kitchen window - to conceal the impression that we're looked over by the apartment block next door (I spend so much time observing cats, and indeed humans, in it that it rarely occurs to me that a prospective purchaser might have been worried at this happening in reverse).   They also conceal the medium sized tree that appeared outside the window late last summer, and that almost as quickly died.   I can't say I like blinds, or shutting out the sunshine - yes! - it was a sunny day in NJ! - so I pulled them up today, and a shaft of sun instantly hit a fallen carnation that's resting in a wine glass.

Friday, April 8, 2011

personal contact

Today's offering as I slowly, slowly clear out the basement (nothing as dramatic as yesterday's find: 156 pages of an unfinished novel that I'd completely forgotten about.   Before you get over-excited, I'll warn you that the title is "Derry: A Welsh Pony."   But it's not bad ... ). From roughly the same vintage comes Know the Game: Netball, produced by the All-England Netball Association, priced 2/6.

Ah, I did love playing netball ... I was never outstanding at it - good enough to make the under 14 and under 15 teams, if I tried very hard (and other people had sprained their ankles or were off sick, I suspect - I was one of those reserves on the sidelines desperately, desperately hoping that someone would fall over and graze their knee, or that someone would be playing so badly that I could have a chance to show quite how amazingly I could play ... ). I was either Goal Shooter or Goal Attack - the only two players on a team of seven who are allowed to shoot at the goal, and I would practice my shots in afternoon break, endlessly, and then at home in the evenings, using a rusty homemade netball post that my father welded together.   It's very curious now watching basketball (you can't bounce the ball in netball; can't run patting the ball down the court; can't - evidently - do much in the way of making contact with other players), because even though the rules are somewhat rougher and different, my muscle memory is still there - I still feel that my arms and shoulder knows how to get the ball through that hoop.   

Thursday, April 7, 2011

patching it up (or: early Pinter in Union St.)

An unbelievable sight outside my office door today!   A workman, plastering and painting some holes in the wall.   The dialogue went something like this:

KF:   Oh, wow, amazing!   You're mending it!
Workman:  Yup.
KF:   That's great.   It's been looking so awful up here.
Workman:   Yup.   Got a problem with the roof.
KF:   So ... have they mended it?
Workman:   Nope.
KF:   But ...
Workman:   I was just sent up here to paint it.
KF:   Ummm - will you be able to paint the stair ceiling, too?   That's where the water has really made a mess.
Workman:   Will if I have enough paint.
KF:  Oh, I do hope that you do ...
Workman:   They'll pull all these houses down, soon, anyway.
KF:   You think so?
Workman:   Yup.   Cost too much to repair.   Cost too much to heat.
KF (trailing away):   Well, I'm so glad that you're doing this ...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the aesthetics of phone book destruction

This abandoned phone book is lying on the porch of an empty house on Mine Street, and I've been eyeing it for a week or two, waiting for the right kind of light ... having been working hard at my paper for the Book Destruction conference in London in ten days time, I look everywhere for examples of former books that have either been treated creatively, or that just make a good image in their own right ... this is reminiscent of the soaked and dried work of Cara Barer and Jacqueline Rush Lee, of course - both of whom I'll be talking about.   But it also led me to a wonderful dress made entirely of old phonebooks - 750 pleated pages from them - by Kelly Murray, from Indiana, which manages to be pretty, and witty, and a far, far better thing to happen to a phone directory than the fate that met the one above.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The sheep oven glove has emerged from a drawer, back in Cuesta Road, and is now hanging in the kitchen.   Slowly my old totem animals emerge - there are a number of sheep around the house there, and going through airport security today, I was very proud of my socks - bought yesterday in Eldorado's pet store - which have green and red and blue horses galloping over them.   Re-reading New Grub Street for this week's grad class on the plane - I'd remembered it as bleak, but not quite so unremittingly cynical - I was glumly struck by the pragmatically ambitious Jasper Milvain's description of the sort of journalistic writing "in which one makes a column out of what would fill six lines of respectable prose" - which seemed like an all too apt description of someone trying to spin out a description of an oven glove at 1.30 in the NJ morning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

counting cats

So ... how many cats are there in this picture?   Emmett, of course, sitting on top of a bedspread that's been laid out to dry (after being washed, to rid it of cat fur, among other reasons).   And then ... almost directly underneath him, Lola, just visible on the floor on account of her little white muzzle and white paw.   Almost invisible, next to her, is her Crying Sock, the infamous elderly object from which she is inseparable, carrying it around in her mouth, most days, for some time between 2-20 minutes, yowling (kitten? prey? identity problem?).   For two days this weekend, it was lost (you should have seen us, upending the garbage and hunting through it, with masks on our faces) ... eventually it emerged, hidden in the folds of the bedspread.   Two cats, then?   No, three ... there's LucyFur on the chair nearest the camera, curled up on the seat, but doubtless with one eye on the back yard, waiting to make her chattering noise at towhees.   Only at towhees?   Yes, plus squirrels, in New Jersey and Los Angeles.   Another feline mystery.   Bitzi, as usual, is hidden under the bed in the far room, out of harm's way, just in case we wanted to molest her.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


It was an extremely windy day today - gusts up to 60 mph, tumbleweed rushing east to Kansas, window frames rattling, cats running around the house like mad things.   But how to photograph wind?   Jeff Wall's "A sudden gust of wind: after Hokusai" is just too obvious - its stylization works as a riff on the Japanese print, but there's no way in which anyone else could ever again imitate all those flying sheets of paper.   A flag flapping hard against the flagpole at the Agora would have needed a short video to capture its violence; the dust storms blowing between here and Albuquerque would have come across as, simply, brown distance.   So I resorted to the empty-for-winter humming bird feeder, blowing fiercely against the stormy sky.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


One of the two commercial areas in Eldorado is called La Tienda - "commercial" is a hazy word, here, since although there's a restaurant and a brewery and a music performance space and a gym and a furniture consignment store, there's also a for-charity second hand bookstore, an art space, and so on.   All the stores here are locally owned, and there's a huge amount of support for community events (the Friday farmers' market takes place in the carpark, too).

Today the art space was the site of an exhibition by local weavers - some of them very impressive, although I have to say that most impressive of all was one artist who seemed to have countless strands of fabric woven into her own hair into a complex fashion (sadly, though I stalked her down, I didn't have a flash, and the picture is seriously under-exposed).   But the stars of the show were on the outside of the exhibition - the suppliers of the raw material - a couple of alpacas, from down the road; Sophie the angora rabbit, with adorable long black ears (without a flash, indoors I resorted to my iPhone - this is the Manga setting on the Dynamic Light app - note the spinning wheel in the background), and then Sammy the miniature horse.   Not a pony, a horse, his person emphatically said, which is a little confusing to those of us who think the difference is a matter of size - 14 hands 2 ins at the withers - but anyway.   And I have to say, I've seen smaller miniature equines - Falabellas are certainly smaller - but he was certainly doing a good job at putting up with people who didn't quite know what to do with four hooves.   I haven't a clue who this woman was (and she has the expression of someone who is very dubious about having her photograph taken) - so maybe this counts as a form of street photography?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hold On

Another one from my Occasional Series of Airport Workers - this one on the AirTrain at Newark.   Yes, it was another airport, and two more flights (thank you, airmiles).   The better-than-consolation-prize is being back home in Santa Fe for the weekend with Alice, the cats, and - today when I arrived - a temperature of 82.   "Hold On"?    I hadn't seen, when I stole this picture, that that's what the little red neon sign says - but it seems an apt enough slogan with which to get through the remainder of the semester ...