Saturday, May 31, 2014


These feathers are to be found on the torso of what's for me a new Transatlantic Indian image - a Plains Indian in a fairly bellicose mood in Golden Square, Soho.  It's a sculpture by Josie Spencer, called Homage to Prisoners of War, and the feathers are both molting off the headdress, and, I guess, also potentially white feathers of cowardice, but I don't get much purchase on that as a potential reading.  I spent a stupidly long time trying to get a live pigeon or two to pose in suitable juxtaposition, but they weren't co-operating.  The lower feathers look decidedly ticklish ...

Friday, May 30, 2014


Saltaire village - very close to Bradford - is now a World Heritage Site for its architecture, and quite rightly: lots of workers' cottages (appreciate, if you will, the feline close-up);

the mill itself (rather oddly, though indeed he was born in Bradford, something of a shrine to David Hockney, and an up-market and very good bookstore and home goods shop - though where was all the historical detail??).  This is a view over the allotments that Sir Titus Salt insisted separated mill from village;

and here is one of the many lions that just happens to decorate the place.  Yes, I could have wished for sunshine, but it's quite beautiful.

unpredictable research

I'd intended to spend the day in Bradford's National Media Museum, but the photo artifacts on display only occupied me for a couple of hours (and flash only occupied a quarter of one case, but I guess I have what you'd call a specialist obsession.  Here, anyway, is a very early Sashalight bulb …).  The labeling was terrible if one wanted to know anything about the objects on display - really bad.  And the tour of the collections didn't run - the curator had gone to a meeting in London (they are only open very briefly, by appointment, during the third week of the month - but in the absence of an online catalog I'd wanted to see whether it was worth returning).  Hmmmmm.  An extended stay in Bradford may not be in my immediate future.

But I took brief solace in the neo-Venetian Wool Exchange - now a quite wonderful branch of Waterstone's - and then took several buses to explore my maternal heritage, past former cinemas ...

a bus ride to Ossett to look at the ghosts of the shoddy trade, and my grandmother's old house, and then to Hanging Heaton, above Batley - this is the house where my mother was born (not the one for sale - the one next door).  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

vacationing in Bradford

I am not sure that my windows in Bradford's Great Victoria Hotel have been cleaned since Victoria was Great; and I'm grievously disappointed that its Vic and Bertie dining room, "where mill-owners used to dine," seems to be no more - I'd been hoping for some Vic-kitsch.  But the architectural details of the hotel itself are fine, and if it stops raining (????), I hope to check out lots of gems of Victorian architecture tomorrow, as well, of course, my main reason for visiting, the National Media Museum.  OK - let's remove "vacationing" from the title of this post … 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

beautiful science

So … the British Library has one of its mini-exhibitions on the topic of "beautiful science" - really, just a small grab-bag of stuff, old and new (my favorite was a ship's log from the late C18th, in which a captain who clearly enjoyed both elaborate penmanship and drawing ducks had gone to town).  It announces itself in large neon-colored semi-transparent perspex letters, here rendered by that further beautifying tool, an iPhone app (ah, I love Hipstamatic when the world is too grey and damp by far to be turned into anything visually attractive through its own light).  This weather is presumably sent as a sustained reminder to be very, very, very grateful for living in Southern California.

Monday, May 26, 2014

G & T time

I do very much appreciate the 6 p.m. ritual here of a gin and tonic: not, of course, for Simba, but my mother and I are both happy to fall thirstily on our tumblers (my father, meanwhile, takes to the Man Hut - aka the garage - with beer and pipe.  And, currently, David Copperfield.)  It was a long, wet, chilly, grey day in southwest London.  Bank Holiday, indeed.  Pfahhh.  All that seemed to mean was that the BL was closed (luckily I checked), and that the pharmacists were closed, so I couldn't run an errand for my mother.  There can be something unfestive about British holidays - though yesterday, my father was reminiscing about going to "Whitsun Treats" with his Sunday School - the children being loaded onto a coal dray, the horse with ribbons in his mane - and them being rattled off to the countryside - or at least to a field or two - for games and, presumably, tea.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014


As seen from my bedroom window, my father is doing a very good of trimming the cianothus, the jasmine, the roses, and so on, wielding the trimmer with strength and grace.  I just hope that I'm that impressive when I'm 90 ...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

bedroom flowers

The homecoming ritual! though this demure vaseful gives only the sketchiest idea of how good my parent's garden is looking (must be all that rain …) - full of roses, jasmine, nigella - the poppies, I'm told, were good until two days ago, and then it hailed.  Ah, English weather ...


These plants at LAX know exactly how I feel.  Traveling on Memorial Day/Bank Holiday weekend, with very little advance preparation, with arbitrary go-slow actions at security (I arrived at the front of a very, very long line to be sent back to the ticket desk, since my ticket had been issued with just an initial, not my full name) left me feeling not a little limp-rag-like.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

a party for Sean (in need of a narrative)

We had an excellent lunch for Sean today, to celebrate all that he's done for the department, and to give him a send off first to I Tatti (Florence for a year!  Wonderful!) and then to Qatar, where (I've been doing some rapid Google-imaging over the past week or so) there is such a stunning and futuristic display of modern architecture - architecture that makes the Gherkin and the Shard look timid - that I'm hoping that there's nothing that they want more than a visiting lecturer to talk about more than \flash photography.  Or even Victorian seaweed.  

But what I can't reconstruct is what Sean was talking about at this precise moment.  Megan certainly has got the joke; Daniela can't believe that it could possibly have been that long, whatever it was.

And as for Carolyn and Peter - they just seem thoroughly sceptical.  Maybe this was the idea of surfing behind oil tankers, on the sweetly even waves that they leave behind them?  (in all fairness, Sean was not claiming that he was looking forward to this sport, although the possibility of indoor ski-ing featured somewhere).

Ah, Sean - we'll miss you tons, but we look forward to hearing all the news from your new adventures!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

new rose

A long day containing a whole variety of meetings (file under: will this semester's responsibilities ever end?  answer: when those for next semester begin, I guess).  So I was very very happy to get home, eventually.  I planted this rose five or six weeks ago in our front yard - it claimed on the label that it liked full sun - and it's started to flower prolifically and cheerfully.  It, at any rate, thinks that it's summer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

cat, meet baby (Grey, meet Moth. And Walter Gomez).

I was a little nervous introducing Moth and Walter to a small person - who could possibly know how they would react?  Moth, it turned out, was intrigued beyond measure - if slightly wary.

Walter, predictably, went and smelt her feet, with enthusiasm.  And then stared at her, hard: I think he felt that anyone called Grey had almost certainly been named in honor of his own exquisite coloring.

And Grey herself is adorable beyond measure.  I know I love it when my graduate students/former graduate students produce their theses, but I'm also very very happy when they bring real people into the world.

Monday, May 19, 2014

hanging bear

The hanging bears are back (this one is at the junction of Hoover and Santa Monica).  Or maybe, to be precise, they never went away - there just suddenly seem to be a lot of them around again.  The HeartsChallenger pink ice-cream truck?  (one hypothesis, because hypotheses have always multiplied along with the bears).  Child abuse awareness?  An art project (to which one would say - surely not again - hanging bears are so last decade ....).  Anyway, there it was, swivelling on its string in the faint breeze ...

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I was driving down San Vicente this afternoon, and became super-aware of a driver next to me honking his horn and gesticulating.  He looked perfectly - indeed, more than normally - friendly, so I was wondering whether my gas cap was open, whether I had a scarf trailing Isadora Duncan like from the door; whether I was billowing invisible (to me) smoke.  None of the above - he merely (being, clearly, a dog lover - I switched lanes so that I was behind him and could take this picture) wanted to commend me on my (still enduring) CATS AGAINST ROMNEY bumper sticker.  Clearly someone else who intensely disapproved of what that man did with the family pet by way of roof transportation ...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

the project

Three years ago, when we moved out of New Jersey, I did a large book cull - a number went to the graduate common room and found new homes; a greater number of things I could never imagine wanting in the first place, let alone again, went to Goodwill.  But an awful lot of boxes went into storage in Glendale, and then - about a year ago - migrated into our garage.  Clearly action was called for.  Ten IKEA bookcases - in bits, obviously - were delivered last Sunday.  I have now put up, and filled, five of them, which are happily ranged along the garage walls, and am feeling pleased with myself, even if doing manual labor in the garage in this heat can only be compared to Bikram yoga.  But there's a long, long, long way to go ... 

Friday, May 16, 2014

the doves are off!

My favorite moment at the USC graduation, every year - the release of the doves!  Off they head back to San Bernadino and - I hope - a loft full of seed and water.  You could see a couple of them give longing glances at the trees and wonder if they could sit there for a while till it got cooler, but peer pressure made them continue ... (but do they all stop for a rest and wait till it gets less stifling?  it must be an exhausting business, flying in this heat ... it was quite tiring enough processing and sitting and processing, even if one didn't have to fly).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

fire escape

Another beautifully ordinary piece of non-modern LA - a fire escape somewhere on S. Hoover Street, on my way home.  I'm trying to catch up with a whole lot of Los Angeles reading this summer, for the main reason that it's something that I promised myself when I arrived here, and it's Walter Mosley and John Fante for starters (though with Fante, I'm still in Colorado).  So here's some architectural detail to go with the reading,  I doubt it ever is quite as meteorologically hot in May in any of these novels as it was today ... 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

jacaranda, again

I make no apologies for another jacaranda shot, this time with shadows on one of the many, many tents that have mushroomed up over campus for Commencement.  Clearly I still can't get used to the sheer beauty of this tree ...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

La Frida

And here she is! looking remarkably cool (literally and metaphorically) on another sweltering (97 degrees) day, hanging out on a wall somewhere just off Melrose.  It was so hot, indeed, that it only became humanly possible to take a walk sometime after 8.30 this evening ...

Monday, May 12, 2014

getting warmer

I have a great deal of sympathy for this sparrow in our reflecting pool on campus: it was hot today (into the 90s) and is going to get hotter - red flag fire warning tomorrow, and so on.  Not the best weather for Commencement on Friday.  Indeed, a swimming costume may be the only practical thing to wear under my thick wool Oxford robes.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

fallen palm tree

Those two large pieces of palm tree in the foreground?  Earlier today, they were still attached to the palm tree trunk on the left - now visible to the top of the picture only as a grey stump.  It was extremely windy this morning, which left me tying down the curtains on the upstairs balcony as though they belonged to a schooner in mid-sail, and having some very anxious thought about fire danger and then later - see those two mock Adirondack chairs? - one of them has lost its cushion, and I had to retrieve it from down the slope.  And various plants in pots blew over.   And then, juts like that, late afternoon, the wind dropped.  But it'll be back tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

party time

Who knew that this was not just the week that Meg had her last department meeting, but that it was her birthday?  So a very good time was had by all - so good that regretfully, rather few of my pictures seem to have been taken with a steady hand.  I'll spare you blurred colleagues: those of you from Madison will appreciate, I hope, the fact that we're taking very good care of your former chair.

Friday, May 9, 2014

(only) connect

I can only surmise that whoever thought up this installation on campus had been suffering from an excess of E. M. Forster.  Yes, it's apposite enough for the end of the semester, and the end of someone's college career, in a myriad ways too obvious to mention.  Photographed, it manages to look rather like a lawn watering device, but that's all done with thread.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

back to the ordinary

Here's one of those buildings that I pass every day on the way home, that's completely unexceptional, and yet that's trying hard to look personable, even in the middle of a fairly shaky stretch of housing on Rampart.  And it's been a while since I've really used this daily photo opportunity to look around me at the beauties of ordinariness.  Indeed, if I was a bit more aware of my surroundings, I might, earlier, have realized that somehow I parted company with my ATM card at a gas station - only to be TM'd by Bank of America when it had been used for two large grocery shopping expeditions, and a video rental.   I always hope, when this kind of thing happens, that some truly hungry people managed to get some decent food to get them through a week or so, and that it didn't just go on sliced white bread and beer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

the end of an era (how long is an era?)

Our redoubtable chair of English - our redoubtable outgoing Chair of English - Meg Russett, holding an envelope containing a gift certificate to a rather good Los Angeles Spa - calibrated to reflect the not inconsiderable number of years that she's been chairing.  I honestly don't think that anyone who's not been a chair knows quite how relentlessly petty (as well as exhilarating, challenging, always-fascinating-to-be-more-or-less-in-the-know) the position can be - so my deep, deep thanks to her for all she's done over the past six years (including hiring me!).  That framed picture at the bottom?  A photo I took of her and Thea, her daughter, almost two years ago in Switzerland, when we were tramping across a hillside or three to get to dinner in a cowshed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

(almost) the end of the semester

There was something curiously autumnal about the light this evening.  It's that dead, fevered time on campus before Commencement, when plenty of students still have exams and papers to come; when you hear the sounds of sniffing and muffled sobbing in the women's bathroom stall next to you; where couples are engaged in desperate and glum break up silences in strange corners (or more publicly: there were two curiously unhappy looking girls making out on the steps of Tommy Trojan at lunchtime); where flowerbeds are suddenly stuffed with countless cardinal and gold plants in full bloom; where stray groups of students materialize in gowns and hoods to have their photographs taken against fountains; and when the administration suddenly decide to introduce new timetabling systems to take effect in the middle of next year, thereby rendering completely useless half your scheduling plans.

the picture was got

Conference organizers Vanessa Schwartz and Jason Hill celebrating the end of two days discussing news pictures - and a room full of attendees!  OK, everyone who was there - do these pictures constitute news?  Do they mark an event?  Do they have truth value, and does that matter?  And - speaking of news and speed - why has there been such a bizarre time lag in getting them to you (no limping couriers here)?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon isn't instinctively when I most look forward to going to campus - but there again, campus rarely disappoints visually, even before one gets into the conference room and people start talking. I much appreciate its built-in mood elevation ...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

(nearly the) cinco de mayo

... so what better thing to do than go and hear our local band (!, but true), Los Lobos, go and platy at the Greek Theater (ten minutes drive from home).  40 years!  I first heard "Will The Wolf Survive?" on a little transistor radio listening by the side of a pool in Sacramento, sometime in the late 80s.  Unfortunately my picture of a huge ensemble on stage at the end, young women's mariachi band and all, is very blurred - I think my legs were dancing to La Bamba, even if I thought I was, well, reasonably still.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

studio tours

Two studio tours in one hot day: Paramount in the morning, and Warner Brothers in the afternoon.  Far too much emphasis on popular TV series that we've not seen, and far too little on movie history and Hollywood's past.  But of course it was fascinating to see all kinds of street scenes (even ones with strange lights being strung across them for a party);

generic, re-workable American city-scapes;

one-off props;

props waiting to be borrowed, should anyone want a picture of a fluffy poodle;

and little glimpses of constructions in process.  It had me feeling that I'm hopelessly divorced from popular culture: the most interesting thing that I learned is that all of Rear Window was shot on set, and that the cars occasionally visible in the background were pushed along by hand.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

a hot day at the Huntington

where sensible people were taking shelter from the sun under parasols,

some of which were curiously reminiscent of the Jane Campion version of Portrait of a Lady;

where cacti looked quite happy in the heat,

and the roses did their copious best not to droop too much;

and where at least the baby ducklings could keep cool (Clare in borrowed hat ... sometimes it's useful not to have a back of the car that's too tidy).