Friday, September 30, 2011

walking to the library

There really is nothing like the Victorian Venetian Gothic of the Kings Cross/St. Pancras complex.   Indeed, I can't wait to stay at the now-opened St Pancras hotel - and I've just checked: were we to stay there the night before we head off to Paris when Alice is speaking next March, say, it would be affordable ... just about ... for one night.   After all the photographs that I took of it whilst it was still a more or less ruin of Victorian interior decoration - in all its crimson and gilt peeling sumptuousness - I'm excited to see it shinily restored.   

But even without that particular treat, the mere walk from KingX to the British Library is pretty good, and first thing this morning, I wasn't even blasted by the heat wave that made this the hottest September day for over 100 years.   Someone should have told the 93 bus that the weather was warmer than usual: all its heating was on full tilt.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Looking around me on the London Tube today, there's been an exponential increase in the number of people reading Kindles (with just the occasional flashy iPad).   Sure, they still read ordinary paper books as well, but there are many eyes staring at little screens.   This is extremely frustrating - one can't start matching up reader with reading material, or get to know about books that one might otherwise not have heard of (especially important, I might add, when one's doing one of one's periodic raids on British bookstores), or anticipate in advance of a reader how she's going to be weeping in two hundred pages' time, or wonder if they're just reading something because it's a set book, or out of gratitude to the person who's given it them - or, or, or.   In other words, one of my favorite kinds of snooping has been denied me.

And I note this in the wake of reading an article in the NYT at the weekend that was lamenting that the increase in books being downloaded means that one can't snoop around people's houses like one used to do, sizing them up by the books on their shelves - so one has to go for other signs (photos on the fridge?  the inside of medicine cabinets? - that last one strikes me as being a whole snoopy step too far).  The writer linked this in with a greater tendency - she asserted, anyway - to regard reading as a very private experience. But then - another branch of commentary on new media would have it (cf Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains) that we're being encouraged to be endlessly wired and connected and social, and that the kind of immersion demanded by reading is harder and harder to achieve, as our brains get hard-wired into desiring instant news and gratification and updates.   These two seem pretty absorbed ... all the same, I've been feeling a re-visiting of the topic of reading coming over me of late, and I think, down the line, I'm going to be addressing this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


It's so good to find the vase of late summer flowers in my bedroom - "late summer" is a whole lot more appropriate than autumnal, because the weather here in London is quite shockingly hotter than Los Angeles.   Somehow, even having prepared myself through looking at the weather forecast, I didn't quite believe this would be the case, and I'm radically ill-equipped.   It seems like the first time that I've been here for three years when it hasn't been damp and grey and wet.   And here is the cat weather vane mobile from Oxford, and further along the windowsill, two Acoma pots and a china bluebird - all from the flat - and so, most touchingly, New Mexico has come to Wimbledon.

Really, I don't like the tacky and imperfect vignette effect that one finds in iPhoto, but I'm exploring its shockingly limited possibilities.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

save us hillary

Seen by the side of the road on Olympic, near Beverley Hills this morning, this image speaks for itself ... 

[p.s. - I am delighted that my USC laptop, ordered in July, has arrived!   I am less delighted - sitting at LAX - to find that Photoshop hasn't been installed.   So expect a few days of more-indifferent-than-usual images].

Monday, September 26, 2011

Va disparaître

The photographer Eugène Atget used to inscribe some of the pictures that he took between 1899-1927 of old Paris "va disparaître" - "going to disappear."   That, to our horror (and that of the dismal peeling clown face here) is true of the corner of Sunset Junction nearest to us.   A couple of weeks back the three shops - in historic old properties - on the corner closed down, quite rapidly, including a great little store that sold ecologically sound design goods of various kinds, Kelly Green (it's now re-opened in Echo Park).   I should have documented those shops: they've gone.   This wall and rubble will probably be next - all the ground in front of it is churned up by a bulldozer.   And in its place - and I only knew this because I "liked" Kelly Green on FaceBook a while back - are going to be ninety - or is it ninety-four - housing units, in a four story block.

Ninety housing units?   Just about four easy walking blocks from here?   When there's no parking, anyway?   What kind of housing units?   How come we didn't know about this? (oh, easy answer here - we were in NJ, of course, when the planning permission went through).   Time to start giving sneaky sideways glances at - though both of us shudder deeply at the mere contemplation of another move.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

telling you something

... though what might be being communicated is hard to tell.   The walls and surfaces around the Silver Lake reservoir were a great source of street art ephemera today, and hence extremely restorative in what was an afternoon free of Official Commitments - fun (and intellectually rewarding) though those commitments have been this week.   This is in sub-Banksy style, and also is faintly redolent of the early 60s: I guess we're about to hear a lot more about this period, given that today's NYT had a fake Pan-Am luggage label, advertising the new TV shows based on Pan Am in its heyday.    Some of us remember Pan Am very well indeed - it is, after all, only 20 years since it financially went under - and it's unnerving having such recent history marketed as nostalgia.   

I think I'll let Banksy speak for this style (quoted in the catalog to MOCA's 2011 Art in the Streets exhibition catalog, p. 246.   Not that this page - or a whole lot of other pages - is numbered - a mild, diluted act of subversion to match the art that the volume records?   "I prefer to paint on the streets than in a museum," Banksy says, "because if you exhibit in a gallery you have to compete against a Rembrandt, but if you paint down an alley you only have to compete against a trash can.   I guess it's the equivalent of hanging around with fat people to make yourself look thin."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

not entirely orange

If this had been Bitzi on the back of the chair, it would have been an entirely orange picture.   As it is, LucyFur's tabbyness occupies potential orange space.   In other words, after a shockingly busy week - including a fellowship writing workshop all day today - posting pictures of cats is as much of an intellectual activity as I can muster.

Friday, September 23, 2011

downtown dining

One of the very best things about this job is being able to invite out friends from - I nearly gave myself away and said "home" - our former academic home, and entertain them (in exchange for wonderful academic input) in Los Angeles.   Somewhere behind the glasses in Cafe Pinot is Ann Fabian: given that she grew up in Pasadena it's really, of course, a whole lot more her home than ours, but I'm enjoying pretending nativism.  I'm very much aware of this interesting process by which Los Angeles is gradually and slowly mutating from a place that I know very well from the outside to being, indeed, Home.   I mark this by the degree in which I want to get to know it, to master the one-way systems and the weird road junctions; to get acquainted with the history of the buildings that I pass and the origin of the street names; to care about it in a way that caring never quite kicked in - or even came close to kicking in - with New Brunswick.   Today I was back at the Huntington - with Ann - and marveling at the fact that a library in possibly the most beautiful natural library setting in the world is just ten miles away.

pom poms

I spend a lot of my time on the USC campus trying not to be run over by cyclists, or skateboarders, or people on scooters - the kind you scoot on propelled by one foot, not the Italianate motorized variety - or security guards on Segways.   Or, today, besuited students going and talking to potential employers at a Career Fair.   There are still careers out there?   This is a particularly well-dressed bicycle: it clearly has ambitions to be a cheerleader.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

los angeles skyline

The most exciting thing on the way to work today was a huge billboard covering being replaced.   The most exciting thing on the way back was a piece on NPR about the inequities and inequalities of the war against - what shall we call it? - wall decoration.   The same legislation that can be used against tagging and ugly graffiti can be - and is - also used against murals.  Mural artist Saber, whose 1996-7 LA river mural was painted over, two days ago hired a team of skywriters to write protests in the sky above City Hall - an encouragement to sign this petition against the fact that murals, like graffiti, apparently count as signage if they appear on buildings.   Writing in the sky - ephemeral graffiti - is the most perfect means to do this, carrying one step further the transience of Jenny Holzer (who spoke at USC yesterday evening - excellent) 's art, projecting large plain words onto buildings, mountainsides and even waves in order to make statements, and in order to make us read language separately from the medium used to transmit it.   Quite apart from Los Angeles' long history of murals (cf last year's MOCA exhibition  Art in the Streets), this is a patent absurdity in a city of continually regenerating billboards and posters.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I really feel totally welcomed by now ... and have started to move on to attending and speaking at other USC events without always being the New Girl.   They do, indeed, do a fabulous job of making one feel thoroughly at home here, so I can't let this particular gift go unrecorded.   Yes, it's some kind of plastic jar, rather like the ones used by Maxwell House Instant Coffee powder in the 1960s (we had a whole row of these, and then they became filled up with things like currants).   And what's inside it?   Yes, a whole lot of customized M and Ms, in cardinal and gold (personally, I think it's a bid too crimson for "cardinal," but that's the color the football commentators always call it), with USC Dornsife on them, in tiny, tiny lettering...

Monday, September 19, 2011

our morning quail

It was very hard tearing ourselves away from New Mexico this morning - not least because of the number of interesting birds in the yard.   Here are five of the nine quail who appeared - after the mourning doves (or is that "morning doves"? either would be apt) - but before the flicker.   It truly is the most restorative place ...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the arts of survival

There's a remarkable, and fairly new gallery in the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art called the Gallery of Conscience, "a space dedicated" - I quote its publicity - "to exploring contemporary social justice issues facing folk artists in the 21st century."   In its current exhibition, The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Disaster - it invokes the horrors of earth, wind, water and fire: Haiti's earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 floods in Pakistan, and the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi, in Indonesia.   This is a corner of a traditionally shaped tree of life puppet by Ki Enthus Susmono, called Gunungan Merapi Wayang, that shows the red lava spewing out of the volcano at the top, and sending ash and rubble down thousands of feet.   You can see here a couple of water buffalo that have been caught up in the destruction and hurled down the mountain side.   That big blue claw at the bottom belongs to the angel of destruction.   And yet, the puppet itself - like all the work on display - offers an extraordinary example of the resilience of art and creativity in the face of unthinkable devastation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

perishable beauty

It's pretty good, having the Supper Club - an offshoot of Real Food Nation - ten minutes drive from our home in Santa Fe, and having dinner there this evening was a pretty good way to celebrate the fact that Alice is well enough recovered from her gallbladder surgery to go out to dinner, and - well, I guess, to celebrate being alive.   Lauren can't have been out of my thoughts for more than five minutes all day, and every time I saw something as beautiful as this (hardly difficult, in September in Santa Fe) I was hit by the hollow, sinking knowledge that she'd never know the world any more.   To think that way is, of course, presumptuous - presumptuous that she would ever have seen it as I do, and it's therefore a reminder of how hard it ever is to see death in terms that don't just reflect one's own preoccupations around life and mortality.   But I so hope that she did know it, when she was happy, in all its wonder - and that she would, at some time, have turned her activist strength to its preservation.   And there I go again, posthumously reshaping someone to fit my own desires for the person they might and could have been.   Yet what I really want to take away from these horrible last two days is the reminder that affirming people matters; that one needs to tell people - and mean it - that it's not just the natural world, but they, too, who are extraordinary, and beautiful, and (though one probably shouldn't actually say this bit), perishable.  And to tell them how much they mean to one - not just think it.  I bought a fistful of greetings cards today, and will be catching up on some long overdue correspondence.

Friday, September 16, 2011

In memoriam: Lauren Felton - March 5th 1989-September 15th 2011

Today dawned cold and grey, but I had no idea that I was going to be writing an obituary for one of the most special and wonderful students that I've ever taught.

Lauren took three classes with me at Rutgers - Writing and Photography, Memory, and Changing Britain 1900-2010.   She was a knock-out student in each of them.   I can see her so easily - sitting in the front row of the raked classroom in which the W&P course was held, her hand invariably one of the very first to go up with a response; or sitting next to me, in the other two classes, down in one of the lovely hospitable classrooms in Writers House.   I could always tell how well prepared she was - her books were covered with personal notes, and she carefully planned out her days, in minute detail, in her small black notebooks.   Lauren was someone who liked to feel in control - but not in a bad sense.   Indeed, she was one of the most spontaneous people imaginable when it came to issues of social justice.

But back to the classroom, where she could always be relied on for an apposite and intelligent comment. I was so pleased when she asked me to be her honors dissertation director, and she wrote a wonderfully original, scholarly, and heartfelt dissertation on Queer Comics (including not only the right kind of relevant illustrations, but also a picture of Alison Bechdel with her cat.   She knew how to make me happy).   She knew what would make so many people happy - she was an extremely astute reader of affect.   Did I wail to a class of undergraduates about the travails of being department chair?   Of course not.  Did Lauren know that what I needed was someone to drop into my office from time to time and bring me bars of high quality plain chocolate?   Of course she did.

I knew that wherever I'd bump into Lauren on campus - outside Murray Hall, at an LGBT event, at a Writers House reading - she'd give me a big grin and a huge hug.   I knew (because some of the writing that she'd done for me in classes was of a trusting and personal nature) that she had her troubles, and that she was a fragile person at some levels.   But she was also brave.   Lauren would speak out for what mattered.   She cared deeply, deeply for other people, and for their feelings.   She was passionate - the word comes up again and again in the tributes that her many friends have left for her on FaceBook - about what she believed in - about fairness, about queer politics, about racial equality.   She lit up a room when she entered it with her smile.   Of course I'm haunted by the sentence that she wrote in the middle of her remembrance of her friend Onion, who took his life some eighteen months ago: "We always question the people who look more upset and more depressed than usual, and never think to worry about the people who don’t seem capable of expressing any sort of negative emotion at all."

And Lauren was an extraordinarily talented photographer.   She had a quirky eye, and could take a picture of something quite ordinary so that one saw it entirely freshly - sunsets, bare branches, christmas tree decorations.   We shared an appreciation of iPhone photo apps as well as of Nikons.  She loved using herself as a model - and many of her most extraordinary images are in fact composite ones.   But she also used mirrors, and Photoshop simulations of double exposures.   And she'd photograph herself disappearing out of the frame, or truncated or invisible in some way.  I admired her work hugely for its beauty and its careful technique, but I never quite knew what to make of all these versions of herself.   Now, though, I think I have a little bit more of an insight into the way that she consistently presented herself as a complex, multiple whole; someone who was both strongly present and yet not always sure about presence.   Hers are a remarkable set of images, but it's too painful, for now, to look at them without tearing up with loss.

These photographs remind me, too, that I can only lay claim to having known a couple of facets of Lauren.   But I loved her for her integrity, her compassion, her thoughtfulness, and her righteous anger.   To say that I'll miss her, and miss seeing her grow into her future, barely scratches the surface of my sadness at her passing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


The weird-by-association thing about these traditional Japanese soaking tubs at Ten Thousand Waves is their similarity to a Cialis ad ... but other than that, the refurbished Ichiban private tubs are a complete delight - two tubs (each certainly big enough for two), a sauna, a Cooling Room, a Japanese toilet (I jest not - this has a seat lid that opens and closes if you just wave your hand vaguely near the relevant button, and inbuilt jets for - er - cleaning oneself), and one's own showers - which avoids that whole horrendous business of communal changing rooms, where I've never got past the shuddering memories of Public if Furtive Body Comparison whilst changing for Games or Gym at school.   Over the ninety minutes that we spent in there, I could feel the exhaustion and stress of the last couple of months just starting to seep out.   Not bad stress, in the end, I should add, for the Anxious Reader, but stress, all the same.   It's very easy to under-estimate what change does to the nervous system ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's probably superfluous to say that one of the huge advantages that Los Angeles has over New Jersey is that it's so much easier to get to New Mexico - breakfast at home; lunch in Albuquerque.   And it is so quiet here - so blissfully quiet.   What was surprising was that there was barely a rumble of thunder - these storm clouds, which looked extraordinarily threatening, veered off to the west to dump their contents on Pecos.   So over the next few days, I might even be able to draw my breath, and catch up with everything that I that I should be doing or should have done.   This may propel me into fantasy land - but it might, just, be do-able.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It's true: Los Angeles is inescapably a car culture, and there's no way to avoid reflecting this here.   Today was another First Experience - the car wash (very necessary: the incident involved the top layer of  USC parking deck D, a lamppost, and a seagull.   Or for all I know, a whole flock of seagulls, in relays).   Very happily, I found an automated one, of the type that I'm well familiar with from England - I completely love the sensation of being surrounded by what feels like a tropical rain forest in a violent foaming storm.   But getting to it?   That involved another heroic feat of navigation, a couple of hairy turns (I hope that my NM license plates might afford some kind of tolerance or clemency), and isn't something I'll attempt again in rush hour.   Nonetheless, it wasn't one of those uncomfortable Central Jersey experiences that always involved a gas station, buckets of foamy water, a couple of Rutgers u/grads operating the thing, and me wondering - too late in the day to have asked anyone first - whether or not one's meant to tip the people who swab the car down.   And next time I'll take a photo of the apparently controversial retro architecture of the thing.   What mattered, though, is that it Worked.

Monday, September 12, 2011


The street architecture of my route to and from work may stay more or less the same, but the billboards, large and small, are constantly changing - which makes being stuck at lights all the more fun.   I've been thinking about street art in Dickens (an extension of my pavement artists talk that I'll write for NAVSA), and this means thinking about walls as well as about sidewalks.   He wouldn't have seen a great deal by way of illustration in posters for much of his life, though, unless it was by way of advertising a panorama or circus or something already-spectacular - so that raises the question of the status of typeface and words on walls, and what it means to read something that's a spectacle as well as a printed document (or a projected document, in the C20th - which takes one straight back to Jenny Holzer).   And so I've been thinking about size and scale in relation to street art ... I think this is one of the reasons that I so like commuting: it gives one time to think - apart from the times when I deviate from my standard route, and invariably, GPS or no GPS, get lost.   The least said about the horrible junction where Temple vaguely joins Hoover and Beverley and a whole lot of other confusing streets, the better.  All I can say is that I'm very glad they don't have electric rail cars running through there any more: here's one at that very intersection in 1910.

Pacific Electric car One Hundred Ten near the intersection of Temple Street and Hoover Street in Los Angeles, [s.d.]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

empty plates

It's not surprising that there are a lot of empty plates and furled napkins stacked up at Primitivo restaurant, on Abbot Kinney, in Venice (that's Venice, CA).   The surprise is that anyone was eating there at all.   This is not so much a restaurant review as a wail about their inefficiency.   The food, for brunch, was fine - nothing special, but fine (I had a tasty and filling potato and onion tortilla - tortilla in the Spanish sense, like a very solid frittata - and some succotash).   But it took an inordinate length of time to arrive - we were told that the computer was down, and that therefore they couldn't place our order (presumably the task of walking to the kitchen was an insurmountable one).   Eventually, food arrived (so, soon afterwards, did a very so-so folk singer, rather too close to us).   A check?   A check?   Our waitperson apologized.   The computer system couldn't print it out.   Eventually, it, in turn, arrived.   But no machine could actually take our credit cards and process them, so we scoured our wallets, and found the cash.   By this stage the manager was standing in front of us doing a highly unconvincing job of hand wringing and apologizing, like someone auditioning for a small part in Masterpiece Theater adaptation of a Frances Burney novel - she had the blonde ringlets for the late C18th, and the false simper, down to perfection.   All of this would have mattered a good deal less if our brunch companion hadn't had the identical experience a couple of weeks earlier.   Not that this did anything to diminish my desire to live in a canal-side house in Venice, despite the deep improbability of ever being able to afford such a commodity, but it certainly had me resolved never to eat here again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

end of the week

It's at the end of the week - at the end of a hot week - that one realises that the flowers in one's study at home have wilted beyond repair.   A week ago, these were dark crimson gladioli; now - at least, before I threw them out - they've morphed into something more purple and sinister.   One also knows that it's the end of the week because it's party night outside, somewhere in - well, I'd like to say Silver Lake, but for accuracy's sake, the other side of the road is East Hollywood.   It's one of those nights with low clouds, so the city lights are bouncing off them, making everything look unmistakably slightly clammy and foreign.

best foot forward

It is so much fun having a new campus to explore - and one that has so many surprises.   Here's another pool with a statue sitting in the middle of it, overlooking a garden at the back of the Fisher Art Museum - we'd really gone round there to look at Jenny Holzer's wonderful Blacklist piece (and Alice will be in conversation with the artist on September 20th about this) - but I was distracted by the very lifelike toes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The problems of parking at USC are not at all the same ones that one experienced at Rutgers - no more driving round and round the parking lot at the back of Murray Hall hoping that something would miraculously become free - the alternative being a longish (damp, cold) walk carrying computer, books, home baking, etc.   No ... the problem is remembering on which floor of Parking Structure D one's parked one's car.   I was recently reading a (very helpful) book by C. K. Gunsalus, The College Administrator's Survival Guide (no ... do not ask why this should be my print matter of choice) who relates the interesting fact that at Berkeley, if you win a Nobel Prize, you get a parking space, with your name on it.   But obviously I'll never win a Nobel Prize, and it's not that I want a named space, even (though admittedly, it would be useful) - just a better memory.   Looking for a grey Lexus SUV doesn't help in Los Angeles, even if if did in New Brunswick.   So I've taken to parking on the roof (carefully choosing my spot - I learned an important lesson involving lamposts and seagulls the first time I left the car up there), where I can purr over the attractions of a Pacific Rim city every day - mountains, golden sunsets, eclectic architecture, and low hovering orange smog.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

my route home

... a deceptively bland heading, of course, but I couldn't find another one that sounded decorous enough. This picture is completely worthy of a caption competition ...  My current route to and from work takes me straight down Vermont, which mightn't be quite the quickest way, but I love the assortment of shops, which shift from Korean to El Salvadorean and back again.   And here, when I was stopped in traffic - happily - were a collection of clothed legs: four facing out, and three facing in.   It's the juxtaposition of the two directions that truly gives this character.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The cocoa-nut cake. A report.

First, I handed out copies of Eliza Leslie's recipe.   Then, I dived into my large cooler bag (the temperature was a nasty 94 degrees outside), and produced The Cake - and explained that this was a total experiment.   Then I read them Robert Appelbaum (from his "Rhetoric and Epistemology in Early Printed Recipe Collections," Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 3:2 (2003), p. 9)'s claim that recipes are "products of shifting patterns in the organization of households, the definition of regional and ethnic identity, the practices of gender construction, the spread of literacy, the promotion of professional medicine, and a variety of other social, cultural and even political phenomena."   (OK, I was very grateful to find that quoted in the current edition of Gastronomica, in a piece by Jude Stewart called "Cooking up Color").   And then we tasted it.

It was shockingly good - not unlike a somewhat alcoholic bread pudding, without the bread.   The coconut had more or less risen to the top; the bottom part was more like a rich coconut and marsala flavored solid custard.   Is this really what C19th cakes could be like?

I don't think I'll be cooking for next week: the most food-like substance to come into our discussion of the first half of Bleak House involved sooty deposits, and thick yellow smelly grease, and the flavor of cooking chops in the air ...

Monday, September 5, 2011

a handful of flour

Last week, reading North and South, we noted that along with a bowl of American apples, Margaret and her parents greeted Mr Thornton, when he came to tea, with a cocoa-nut cake.   This could have been entirely for ornamentation - there's no sign of them actually cutting into it and consuming it.   We did, however, start to explore the ways in which food in the novel connects the characters to the networks of the actual and informal empire; has them ingesting products that are made possible because of trade routes.   And so ... what might that cocoa-nut cake have had in it?   I thought that I might soften up tomorrow's class a little, and disguise the fact that my grad course is really a Victorian novel boot-camp.

The closest recipe in date that I could find was indeed an American one: Eliza Leslie, in 1851.

Cut up and peel some pieces of a very ripe cocoa-nut. Lay the pieces for awhile in cold water. Then take them out; wipe them very dry; and grate, very finely, as much as, when grated, will weigh half a pound. Powder half a pound of the best loaf-sugar. Beat eight eggs, till very light, thick, and smooth. Then stir the grated cocoa-nut and the powdered sugar, alternately, into the pan of beaten egg, a little at a time of each; adding a handful of sifted flour, a powdered nutmeg, and a glass of sweet wine. Stir the whole very hard. Butter a square tin pan. Put in the mixture, set it immediately into a quick oven, and bake it well; seeing that the heat is well kept up all the time. When cool, cut it into squares. Have ready a thick icing, made of powdered sugar and white of egg, flavoured with rose-water, or extract of roses. Ice each square of the cake, all over the top and sides.
You may bake it in a loaf, in a deep, circular pan. Ice the whole surface, and ornament it.
It's only just out of the oven, so I haven't got to (and may never get to) the icing bit.   But it smells wonderful - I think that this may be the result of the glass of marsala.   The tricky bit, though, was that "handful of flour."   Try and find that equivalent measurement on line, and all that turns up is reference after reference to the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17:12, who complains at Elijah when he asks her for food that she only has a handful of flour and a little bit of oil.   Without divine intervention, this is only of culinary help if one's trying to make a rather dry pizza base.   However, I reckoned that my hands were probably the same size as Eliza Leslie's, and it seems to have turned out just fine.   
If they didn't, indeed, cut into that cake, Mr Thornton must have been tortured by how good it smelt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

anima man

And the big question is ... is this, indeed, "anima", as in "mind" - as in a thinking version of this guy, or is the artwork even more curtailed than this suggests: is it Animal Man, devil's horn and all?   He's just appeared on a wall at Sunset Junction, a particularly good area for street art big and small.   I've been using my Victorian pavement artists research as an excuse to start reading myself into the realm of urban street art in a more general way - what distinguishes permission-less posters on walls, and graffiti, and stickers on lampposts, and surprising murals, of course, is its counter-cultural style, in opposition to the mimic-ing of high art at its most cliched that formed the norm for Victorian pavement artists.   Los Angeles is endlessly full of the surprising and the inventive when it comes to street art (some of it political, some of it subversive, some of it just fun) and I completely delight in it.   At the same time, I'm getting fascinated by the transnationalism of street art, but nothing that I've read so far has satisfactorily explained quite how it spreads, and I think that I'll need to explore all kinds of alternative web sites and Flickr postings and other web-based records of people's unsanctioned decoration of public space.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

pillow talk

We are, of course, still trying to find homes for things.   Why do we have so many pillows?   Some, I know, are ones that have failed to disappear from various yard sales/give aways - but even so, I know that we've managed to give some away over the years.   Yes, to be sure, we keep some for guests (even though, in this less than spacious house, that would now mean a pump-up air bed on the floor).   There are four on the bed.   There are three ones that truly are beyond hope on the floor, stacked up, waiting for us to decide their fate.   But here are three more roosting on the window-shelf in the walk-in closet.   And there are, I know, a whole lot more in Santa Fe.   The strange thing is that I'm not aware of either of us having a compulsive pillow-buying habit - we're not talking me and bags, here - but they do exist, in quantity.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Here are two plastic gloves, on sticks, apparently waiting to become hand shadow-puppets.   Only there's no sun hitting them (in the shade in downtown Pasadena), and no visible means of wiggling their ears.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

book destruction - west coast style

I'm happy to have tracked down my first piece of USC book destruction - not, I hasten to add, because of any intrinsic delight in murdered volumes, but because of my ongoing, if at the moment slightly dormant interest in all the unconventional things that one can do to books in order to draw attention to their materiality.   Though for all I know, this book was suicidal: perhaps it slipped from the hands of its reader into a bath (or, since this is Los Angeles, hot tub, or swimming pool).   It can hardly have been left out in the rain (and at this point, I apologize to anyone in New Jersey or elsewhere on the east coast who may feel understandably sensitive on the topic of drowned books).   Perhaps under a lawn sprinkler?   

In any case, it was resting on a window ledge half way down the stairs in Taper Hall.   It has the air of a thick law textbook, but I didn't disturb it to find out.