Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween

I usually think of Tracey, in our front office in Art History, as being sober and industrious in her self-presentation, so it was something of a surprise to see her not just dressed up in pumpkin colors, but wearing a Mad Hatter's Tea Party hat.  Alas, a seminar event meant that I couldn't hang around and eat the food (which included Halloween cookies - white ghosts and more orange pumpkins).  There were large numbers of little ghouls on campus (part of our interaction with the community); one rather self conscious looking guy walking to the carpark dressed as a Trojan - of course - in a very short skirt, and an extremely fluffy large white rabbit riding a bicycle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

pumpkin shoes

Halloween is nearly upon us.  This attempt at seasonal footwear looks like a good idea that someone had after a few beers, and now, in the warm light of day, isn't quite working out as planned.  Scotch taping a half pumpkin around one's socks isn't always the easiest thing to do (I didn't wait around to see whether the girl managed to hobble off successfully or not ...).  

I would have said that this was the oddest sight on campus today, though possibly it was equalled by a rectangle of tables set up in front of Tommy Trojan.  On the outside were seated about sixteen guys - I think they were all guys - each with a chessboard in front of them.  On the inside - a guy dressed as a wizard, complete with cloak and pointy hat, who was circulating from board to board and playing one move at a time - circulating quickly - playing, therefore, sixteen - say - games of chess simultaneously.  Impressive.

Monday, October 29, 2012

they're out ...

... the spectacular cactus flowers, that is.  And the bougainvillea.  A calm summer's day ... so it's been such a disconnect to have been watching the Weather Channel on my desktop (courtesy of the Guardian, which has been streaming it sans ads, which is a great improvement).  It all looks an unbelievable wet mess.  Thinking of you all, still - stay safe and dry...

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Alice isn't taking a photo of a two-headed snake: what happens right at the end of October is that the big cactus on our front steps comes into bloom.  We think that this year, there are about twenty four flowers.  Maybe they'll be out tomorrow, especially if it stays warm.

How strange it is to be following Hurricane Sandy from afar - NJ is so very familiar, and it's not just that I'm concerned for friends there (and in adjacent states, to be sure), but that I find myself worrying about where the basement in Graham Street will flood - even though that's hardly my problem to be worrying about.  Here we are, three thousand miles away, on a calm and clear and very warm day - and yet imaginatively it's impossible, for me, not to be in the north east.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

peeling paper

Just to the side of the Silver Lake famers' market - layers of peeling wheat paste on wheelie bins ...somewhere under there, or flaking off into the ether, are some very large tabby cat images ...

Friday, October 26, 2012


Ah - I thought I had my picture of the day, and once downloaded, the focus was entirely in the wrong place.  So, capping it off, a couple of pieces of Trojan headgear.  We didn't actually have them with us tonight for the stunning women's volleyball victory over Washington - 5 sets - completely nervewracking, and it seemed very suitable that driving home (as well as the surprise "sobriety-and-license check on Vermont) that NPR was airing an interview talking about how yes, it's quite possible to have such an adrenaline rush accompanying a very tense game, or some kind of shock, however pleasurable (like getting a hole in one) that one can, indeed, drop dead of a heart attack.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


One more stopped-in-traffic detail, from one of my favorite buildings on Vermont on my way to work.  If only I had time to read something that wasn't admin related, I might have something to say about it ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

unusual sculpture

If one puts up a stepladder in order to change a light bulb in the front hall, it really should come as no surprise that a small cat called Moth will quickly climb on top of it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

indian yellow

This is Jesús Rafael Soto's sculpture, Penetrabile, at LACMA - a forest of yellow plastic tubing (it used to be chartreuse, which was even more forest like: now, I guess, it more resembles a cornfield).  Apparently the color is Indian Yellow, and I can't do better than quote LACMA's website: "(Conservators are precise about such things... the term “Indian yellow” is derived from a color popular in traditional Indian miniature painting made by feeding mango leaves to cows, then collecting and drying their urine to extract the pigment—today, the pigment is synthetic, as the original method was hazardous to the cows. The tubes are not made with this pigment, but the color is a close approximation.)"

It's outside, so small kids can run in and out and try and strangle each other with the strands.  Class, in other words, was at LACMA today (after a truly fascinating visit to their conservation labs, which made me wish that I had a PhD in material science and the eyes of a hawk).

Monday, October 22, 2012


Ostensibly I was rushing home to watch the debate, but also I was hoping to see - four minutes or so earlier than yesterday - what I'd witnessed yesterday evening: a shaft of sunshine hitting plates stacked in the dining room cupboard and reflecting off the surface beneath them.

Ah, the debate.  So all the world ("foreign policy") has been collapsed into the Middle East and China, and just maybe Russia.  Oh, yes, and Romney thinks that we can exploit workers in Central and South America rather than China.  Europe has disappeared (unless we are sliding into a Greek Situation).  No currency crisis in the Eurozone; no India (though Pakistan is ominously there); no southern hemisphere.    It was deadly dull; Romney shuffled into an aggressively middle of the road position and obviously found Obama's ideas useful ones to agree with; and Obama so obviously knew so much more than he did - and his to live this stuff daily - that it was almost unfair.  Almost.  How anyone could vote for Mittens is beyond me.

the badness of walter gomez

Unquestionably, I adore Walter Gomez.  But he is a bad cat.  Ever since he was a little kitten, he's shown a fondness for tearing up paper.  That's fine, when it's the newspaper under his tray.  But maybe I shouldn't have been so indulgent with that.  This last week, he's attacked various non-important discarded pages, one Art History office file, one record album cover (which he seemed to have pulled out of a shelf), and, now, a copy of Mary Beard's book on Jane Harrison, which I was about to read prior to a Rutgers orals prep Skype session later this week.  I appreciate his eclectic choice of print, and wonder when he's going to start on a pile of ungraded papers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

the wound is the place where the light enters

which is, I find, a quotation from Rumi, the C13th mystic Persian poet (and according to Wikipedia, which may not be at all accurate on this one, one of the most widely read poets in America.  Really?  Who do I know who reads Rumi?  Maybe you all do; maybe I've missed out).  However, this is on one of my favorite street art corners in Silver Lake, and by Nomatter Whatness, whom I'm sure has been responsible for quite a few images on this blog.  I'm so lucky to live in such a street art mecca ... ah, the trendiness of SL.  I was well enough to make it as far as Intelligentsia to have coffee (o.k., in my case, herbal tea) with a former student, and one great advantage of hanging out with a 22 year old for an hour or so is that she can do the celebrity spotting.  I gather I should be impressed that Alexa Chung was at the next table (impossibly thin - I mean, how did she get her bones so thin?), wearing sunglasses that made her look like a Halloween cat, and endearingly scuffed gold pumps.  Sometimes I feel old ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

celebration of Sue

I might still count as very much recovering (one cracker, one small and possibly ill advised bowl of soup), but I made it into tonight's volleyball game (USC beat Utah 3-0, boom!), not least because Sue Lerner was being honored at half time.  Sue - in pink - was the trainer for 34 years - imagine! - and was one of our wonderful companions on the VB tour of Italy and the Balkans this summer - we learned so much from her, and it was so great to see and feel, tonight, how appreciated she has been by players, and coaching staff, and and and.  There must be a florists close to USC that does a regular business in bunches of cardinal and gold flowers - I fantasize that somewhere there are fields of the things grown especially for us, in just the right shade.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

big water bottle

Today I progressed to several glasses of water and a dry, rosemary flavored cracker.   This, indeed, marks a considerable advance.  Ooooof.

lying in bed (oct 17)

I had enough energy yesterday to pick up my iPhone to shoot this, but not enough to sit up and post it.  It's been a long time since I was felled by an ailment that compelled me to take to my bed and give up on the world (stomach bug: very nasty).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

spinning in the cloisters

The cloisters en route to the Human Resources office - this rather fine spiral is, in fact, the base of a solid iron cross.  This is not (ostensibly) in case one needs a quick prayer on the way up there, but rather a sign that the space is rather strangely shared with the campus's United Church (that is, united Methodist and Presbyterian).  This is probably why it feels, suddenly and disconcertingly, rather like the red bricked passages (complete with stained glass windows), of Mansfield College - although, happily, without the bad portraits of non-conformist male worthies staring down on one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I've looked at trees from both sides now

I do find it hard getting my head round the spatial (and vegetative) fact of being in Wimbledon this morning (a little glade on Wimbledon common, as glimpsed from the cab that was taking me to LHR), and back in Los Angeles well before nightfall (that's one of our oranges, as yet uneaten by our unlovely Norwegian rats).  From autumn, to temperatures hovering around 90. It was actually an extremely easy journey - it's the mental shift that's harder than the physical one ...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

roses, ritual, travel

It's a couple of late season roses on my bedroom windowsill in Wimbledon (I say "late season," but in the current climate, who knows?) - in other words, there was time to get on a train in Paris (not before I'd had a rather fine brasserie lunch of goat's cheese salad) and come to London to see my parents. Technically, yes, it's a little bit out of my way, but totally worth it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

damp paree

It was very wet in Paris this afternoon (and of course one can't think of umbrellas here without thinking of Caillebotte).  I walked through the umbrella-filled Tuileries to the Hopper exhibition, and stood in a very slow line for about ten minutes, at which point I reached a sign saying that the waiting time for admission from that point was about 3.30 hours.  Moral: buy ticket for a just-opening exhibition in advance.  So I went over to the Petit Palais (built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900, and therefore has some wonderful fin de siecle ironwork) to see an exhibition about the photographers in the circle of Gustave Le Gray, who were active between 1850-60, and very, very interested in the formal aspects of composition (and there were some amazing portraits, too, by Adrien Tournachon, Nadar's brother - of a mime, of Gustave Dore, of strange instruments for measuring the expression on the human face).  Coming away from it, the clouds had temporarily cleared; dead umbrellas littered the ground;

and the Eiffel Tower was everything that one could wish for ...

Friday, October 12, 2012

conference refreshments

... although in fact, it's a colloque, not a conference, which means small numbers, and I guess that a higher standard of refreshments may be therefore possible ... these, however, served at the end of lunch, surpassed my wildest patisserie dreams ... I have heard a great deal about democracy and the C19th novel, opined about democracy, the ethics of attention, and the work done by the Ordinary and Everyday, and at the end of it all, was delighted to have half an hour's relief and to be able to walk around the 5e and enjoy the Parisian sunset, before more food and wine ...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Place du Châtelet

I can remember driving past this on another damp dark night in very early November on my very first trip to Paris, which - a moment of revelatory arithmetic - must have been 43 years ago.  That is totally scary, especially given that in many ways I don't feel that either I, or Paris, have changed all that much. That is, of course, a delusion, on both counts, in many ways.  But this still has a real air of (imperial desire and) magnificence.  This is the Fontaine du Palmier (designed 1806), which sits in its center, commemorating lots of Napoleonic victories; and those are victory wreaths of laurel that the goddess is holding.  Supporting the column?  Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Strength.  Tomorrow, it's Democracy and the Novel.  One can see why the C19th French bourgeoisie was so keen on democracy as a fictional principle when this was what it was set against.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another day, another airport lounge

It's DFW again! At least this time, the flight I'm connecting to is delayed, so I haven't missed it ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

class outing

Half way through the semester ... so we had some fun.  Half the class was spent talking about some texts to do with museums and galleries, their organization and ideologies, their traditions and innovations - and then we trotted off the USC campus, and across the Expo line light rail tracks, and past the rose garden, and into the Natural History Museum, full of dinosaurs.  My thanks to Ashley and Doug, the staff members who were intrigued to have a whole class of 10 graduates arrive who were thinking about classification and display, and who gave us lots of time and talked about their dinosaur pets (they all have names, even if they are ancient bones).  And the big ones are huge, and the small ones - well, as small as hummingbirds.

But I confess, I have a real weakness for stuffed animals (some date back to the 1930s: the more recent ones come from population culling - coyote pups, for example - or from sad zoo fatalities).  The dioramas occupy this strange hinterland between true and false: posed, most of them with an anthropomorphic love of the perfect family.  Right away, they made me think of Sugimoto's diorama photos taken in the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, between 1975-99 (though his images are all in black and white), which similarly collapse the distinction between the real and the imitation (and, thus, reflect neatly on the role of type, and specimen, and photography itself.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

alvarado street

A quick grab of some buildings on Alvarado Street - they seem to have a kind of educational theme (at least on the left), but most of the building and lot here seemed to be given up to a huge swap meet site). I can never go down Alvarado Street without having Warren Zevon's "Carmelita" ear worming me ("He hangs out down on Alvarado Street / By the Pioneer Chicken stand").  I'm not sure where the dealers hang out now - Pioneer Chicken, which in any case was just off Alvarado on West Temple Street, closed, apparently, in March 2009, little lamented apart from its sign ...

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It's our little Moth's half-birthday!  Six months old today!  Here she is in an atypical moment of repose ... practicing to be (like that figure in New York) an Egyptian.  Since AA were kind enough to upgrade me coming back from NY, I feel positively rested and as though I managed to get a great deal of work done in comfort.  Not quite the end of traveling for this semester (or, indeed, for this week ...) - but it's good to know that I haven't missed this important milestone in Mothy's life.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

looking at art

One doesn't always find oneself in the right place at the right time in an art gallery, but walking through the Met this afternoon ... 

It was a day of walking - and that, in turn, means a challenge not to repeat a million of tourist images.  Brooklyn Bridge (I've always wanted to walk across it! and managed to do so, at last, today), however had a few places where it was covered in a very thick scrim ...

and there were a few good bits of graffiti (this quote is attributable to Ferdinand Fuchs, but I don't understand the many, many plastic bag handles, and unlike bridges with miniature padlocks, googling has been of no help, here).

And back in the Met, I think I'm going to use this image as the flier illustration to my Writing and Photography course next semester.  The photo gallery is just gearing up for the Faking It show - on photo manipulation before Photoshop - this is a kind of appendix room, on Digital Manipulation now ... and this is a photo-assemblage by Joan Fontcuberta, taking as a base Niepce's "original photograph" - the view from his window in 1826 (that's the date they give) - re-imaged using photomosaic software that put together 10,000 images found by googling "photo" and "foto."  I may have to catch up with Faking It when it goes on tour later next year - I don't think I'll be back in NY before January 27th.  Alas.

Friday, October 5, 2012

walk like an egyptian

I always find it compelling walking the New York streets for miles - one never knows what one will see next (and I include people as well as static objects).  After our committee ended today I walked up  to the Dahesh museum, which was to have been my big treat here in NYC.  It's a museum of latish C19th and early C20th academic art.  Only - and don't ask how I didn't know this - it functions only as a virtual museum, loaning art works, but at the moment with no permanent display (even more frustrating was finding that its last major loan exhibition was in the spring of this year at Pepperdine, just up the coast in Malibu).  It has a shop, yes, selling lots of postcards of Bougereau and Bazzani and Ballesio. And those last two artists are C19th Italian artists that I've forgotten about if I ever consciously knew about - something that has the same parallel universe effect on me as one of my nightmare dreams when I'm in a second-hand bookstore and I come upon a novel by George Eliot that I've never heard of - but the shop is going to close and throw me out before I can find any money.  Here, on my way back, is a little bit of escaped Orientalism, outside a store in which someone was giving psychic readings - presumably which have to be paid for in cash.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

water jug

I've been sitting in front of this all day at the MLA Status of Women in the Profession meeting - much fun to get together with people and talk about issues that of course went far beyond issues in English/Modern Languages - for what aspect of the profession today, from NTTs to General Education to tenure to administration doesn't bear on the position and expectations of women in the academy.  The traditional and non-traditional academy - I think that we may well put on an MLA panel in 2014 about women in the C21st university - which will include for-profits, and distance learning, and campuses in Dubai or Singapore, and all manner of other things too.  Get thinking about what you may have to say ...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

street cleaning

If you find the small straggle of Occupy Wall Street protesters camped outside Trinity Church a little untidy - why, hose them and their sidewalk down!  With high pressure hoses!!  Someone's bound to be taunting the police and filming them on their cell phone just in case they were going to become a little less passive (actually, three quarters of an hour later they seemed to be back chatting cheerfully with some of the temporary locals).  After tonight's debate (did Obama spend all that prep time rehearsing looking down at the podium?  Why??), I'm sure that the people I heard in the nearby streets saying "those bonds are doing really well" are feeling happier.  Now I'm sitting seething in a financial district hotel (courtesy of the MLA: committee meeting on The Status of Women in the Profession tomorrow and Friday), feeling thoroughly let down by the lackluster performance of The Man Who Was Not Hillary.


an aging hand, courtesy of my latest iPhone mimicking-old-photos app, Strut Type (in turn, courtesy of the LA Times, which had a feature on it).  And curiously, also courtesy of`Lida and Lacey, who were talking about Gabriel Orozco's website in class, and he had some rather fine hand images on it.

But also contemplating the fact that this was the same hand that I had in 1976, and it's got a great deal older since Emmylou Harris's Pieces of the Sky was released the previous year.  Pieces of the Sky was one of the three records that I played endlessly in '76 when I was revising for finals (the other two, just so you know that I knew how to keep cheerful, were Lou Reed's Berlin and Ry Cooder's Into the Purple Valley, interspersed with my first and last serious musical venture, some John Clare poems which I set to Very Bad (but presumably Harris, and Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell influenced) acoustic accompaniment.  At least it was one way of learning some poems to regurgitate in the exams.  Tonight we went to see Emmylou perform (wonderfully) at UCLA - an audience full of people our age, and with Harris admitting to being a grandmother, and forgetting the words to one song ... Hard not to weep at "Boulder to Birmingham" (the geography of which meant nothing to me back in the mid '70s: I thought it ws something metaphorical about moving big stones around, I think) - not just because it's a sad song in its own right, but because there was so very much of the past hanging there, in every phrase.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Sometimes, students' lives look deceptively tranquil ... today was the kind of day in which the idea of sitting quietly by the edge of a reflecting pool seems an impossible dream (hagh! that's what one gets for conference going ...).