Monday, September 29, 2014

early morning, with birds

From our living room window, looking east, just as the sun was rising this morning.  It does look rather uncannily like a Condolences card, though ...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

the unbelievable innocence of a small cat

I knew that putting a card on top of my iced coffee was a mistake.  Once Mothy had decided that her aim for the morning was to get her little muzzle inside, nothing was stopping her.  The look of post-facto innocence - indeed, the complete denial of havoc wrought - is, indeed, not to be believed for a minute.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

jello mold

This is every bit as bad a piece of kitsch as you fear it is.  Yes - it's a USC Jello Mold - or rather, a Jigglers mold, only I've never heard of a Jiggler, and it sounds more than a little iffy.  It was last night's give-away at the volleyball game - makes a (regrettable) change from t-shirts.  The back of the card tells one that if you use 2 parts strawberry to one part grape jello, you can create Cardinal Jello. What you do about Gold, I don't know - pineapple?  Why do I think I may never find out?  


spectacular blooming in the flower bed just by Parking Structure D.  It's a flower about which one wonders quite why it evolved in such a complex and ungainly way, as though it would far rather have been a bird.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

you are the air beneath my wings

I so like to have my graffiti in iambic pentameters.  This is new, underneath the 10 freeway.  I can't decide whether or not the words have anything to do with the watch-checking angel on the right ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

abandoned furniture

Some faithful readers will doubtless remember my prolonged series of The Abandoned Chairs of Highland Park (NJ).  Here, rivaling the very best examples, we have the abandoned chairs and mattresses of Los Angeles.  The second of these could well find its natural home in my class on narrative photography - it looks as though something is going on here; as though there's a story to be told - though in fact, I think these two are just walking by.


The view from courtside seats in the Galen Center tends to have the disadvantage of large Pac-12 cameramen sitting in front of one, and trailing theircables around one's feet and bag.  Yes, those are Bruin feet and legs on court, warming up.  Yes, they beat us much more easily than they should have done.  So that was very dispiriting.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday morning washday

My parents win a prize for ecological soundness: they don't possess a drier.  My mother says that would mean putting it in the garage, and that would mean a new socket, and in any case the clothes smell good when dried outside.  In being belated, they manage to be ahead of the curve ...

This morning seems (from the perspective of Los Angeles) a long way away ...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reading "In Memoriam" on the Tube.

Setting: The London Underground, around 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.  KF, with a graduate class to prepare for Tuesday, is sitting reading In Memoriam.  Sloane Square; doors open; respectable looking man, aged c. 35, sits down on her left, and addresses her in an Irish accent.

RLM: Do you mind me asking?  I hope I'm not intruding at a moment of personal grief?
KF (slightly startled): Er, no?
RLM: ... because I can't help seeing that you're reading a book called In Memoriam.  Do you mind if I take a picture of the cover?  [extracts iPhone, takes picture].  You see - a very good friend of mine just passed away, and I'm looking for something to read at his funeral, and that looks like poetry, and I wondered if it might have something.
KF: Well, er, um - I'm so sorry for your loss ...
RLM: My friend - he was a real gentleman.  An antique dealer.  And he was an atheist - so I'm looking for something that might have a little bit of comedy to it.
KF: Ah - I don't think you're going to find that in In Memoriam.  They didn't really do comedy and death in 1850, not in this sort of poetry.
RLM: So it's Victorian?  My friend - he loved William Gladstone.
KF: Really!  Let me try and see if I can find a section that might work [desperately thumbs pages]
RLM: So I heard Clive James on the radio the other day - he's really ill, you know - and he had this great poem about a maple tree, and I thought this might do, because my friend, he was in a lot of pain too, at the end [shows me poem on iPhone].
KF: You know, that really might be more suitable.  Though this section's possible ...
RLM takes photo of page on iPhone, and leaps off train just as the doors are closing at Earls Court.

That was a very strange encounter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

miscellaneous London art/photographs, mostly Victorian

To Shoreditch High Street to see a fabulous small exhibition of photographs of Black Britons, and Black visitors to Britain, in the C19th: the African Choir (one woman, Eleanor Xiniwe, uncannily like a far more beautiful Virginia Woolf); various "Zulu boys;" missionaries; a lion tamer; boxers, emissaries and envoys; a cricketer; bishops and clergy; a Creole French-Caribbean can-can dancer (that would be Finette, briefly Whistler's mistress); the inhabitants of the Congo House Training Institute for African Children at Colwyn Bay - but more intriguing still, to me, a large number of "unidentified sitters," from all round the country - Liverpool, Exeter, Birmingham, Manchester, Swansea, Birkenhead, Ripon, Bradford, Doncaster, Ipswich - and on and on, as well as from London. This is the first public showing of Autograph ABP's archive research project, and was accompanied by a voice-over of Stuart Hall's keynote for the inaugural symposium, back in 2008, launching the project, bringing home the importance of archival work: bringing forward the forgotten, ignored, disavowed experiences within history (or within a dominant version of history).  Many of these images are from that goldmine, the archives of the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Co.; some are in private collections.  If you're in London before it closes on 29th November, go.

Alas - one can't take photographs, although here are Albert Jones and John Xiniwe playing with a camera, seen in the window of the show (and a mural of William Burroughs, most incongruously, in the background).

Up the street is a famous Banksy (preserved behind glass ...);

... and now for some further incongruities.  Here - as part of a campaign to put well known works of art on billboards and in public spaces this summer - is a not especially well known portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of an Unknown Italian, contemplating quite how hard it must be to lug a large suitcase up the stairs at Aldgate East tube station;

coming soon, Effie Gray - that's Mrs Ruskin, first, and then Mrs Millais, to those few of you who don't know the family history - predictably illustrated not by a painting of Effie, but of Lizzie Siddal as Ophelia;

... and then, finally - whose bright idea was it to subtitle Late Turner, at Tate Britain, "Painting Set Free"- when this is printed over a reproduction of his Slave Ship, the incarnadine waters (Ruskin's phrase, surely echoing Macbeth) full of slaves whose only freedom comes with a watery death - or even barely then, given the shackles that are just visible through the rough sea?

Friday, September 19, 2014


A home, anyway, for where, really, is home?  Here, where I grew up, I find the garden flowers waiting for me, guarded over by my second soft toy, Cat (why will that surprise no one?) and a Sheepy from a couple of decades later (my first toy, Charlie Lamb, was indeed a Lamb - I think he's in a cupboard in the kitchen here, wrapped in polythene against the potential ravages of moth.  Cat, I see, has pretty much lost all his fur - and what fur remains has turned a mossy green - and he has a loose ear and a split in his tail: it's very strange to look at him now and think that he's pretty much a historical artefact.

The Mapache (for September 18th)

Sometimes, someone shows a slide in a lecture of an animal one would just love to get to know ... As Wikipedia would have it, this South American beauty's name "proviene del n├íhuatl mapactli, "que tiene manos", debido a la ya descrita capacidad prensil de sus garras delanteras" - though one can't quite see this capable, useful hands for human heads.  It's like a small raccoon, or a coati (I adore coati ever since I met them at the Iguacu Falls - though come to think of it, I haven't exactly run into a lot recently).  Such lovely burglar-stripes around his eyes ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

against the sun

Do I actually like our living room curtains?  No, not much.  They came with the house, and although I can understand the aesthetic reasoning - semi-baroque curly bits to match all the late 1920s Spanish iron work, they are not only fussier than I'd like, but a strange shade of buff yellow, as though they've been dyed in coffee (which is to say - I've dyed paper in coffee, for printing on, and it's come out exactly this color.  Maybe I should wash them with bleach???).  However, they are, when drawn, most definitely useful in keeping out another day of witheringly hot sun.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

fallen blossom

I don't even know what the yellow-blossomed trees are outside my office, although I suspect they don't like this heat any more than the rest of us do.  They are certainly molting.  But this means that the sidewalks are very pretty, though at 102 in the shade, who's going to linger on them?

Monday, September 15, 2014


It's hardly surprising that this stall on S. Hoover isn't full of blooms - unless they've all already been snatched up by eager frat boys: it's Monday night, when by tradition these guys go round to sororities and deliver votive offerings.  I did indeed see one nattily dressed young man in suit and tie with a bunch of cellophaned roses, riding his skateboard off on an errand of chivalric courtship.  This in a temperature of 100 degrees, I might add, although it had dropped to 97 by the time I got home.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


"Heat" is, of course, a metaphor for today's temperatures in Los Angeles, as well as a descriptor for the products of the window box chile farm.  However much I might extoll the climate here, I always forget about the horribleness of September.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

viewless listening

I came, eventually, to the decision that it was time to buy a new TV - the last time I did so was eleven years ago, and that was in Santa Fe.  They seem to have got flatter since then.  OK - I'll stop playing faux naive - I bought a tiny flat screen tv for my apartment when I was at the National Humanities Center, and this house came with a number of them already in it.   But still, there's something of a novelty in owning a handsome beast that allows us to watch Netflix at the twitch of a remote, and - wonder of wonders - that has streamed radio from anywhere in the world that one can imagine.  So I tried out some French rock music, and some Italian talk radio, and came back to roost with Radio 4.  Yes, I know that my computer can get all these things, I guess, but not with such nonchalance, such organization, and not attached to a phenomenally classy sound bar.  So I'm reveling in up to the minute (indeed, tomorrow's) technology ...

Friday, September 12, 2014

off to the game

And off went just a little bit of the band (a very full band tonight, since the football team is playing so far away) with us following along behind, heading to the Galen Center.  Let's just say that the volleyball season is young - like the team - and although I thought quite a bit of the time we played better than last night, we still lost.  But there's much promise there - which is why, really, sunset light is a little too melancholy, and at the same time this image fails to do justice to quite how glowing and gorgeous the campus was tonight.

out of focus

Disappointingly, what I though was going to prove a great shot of Samantha Bricio serving in the home WVB season opener proved to be disappointingly blurred - with no real excuses.  And it was the only shot I took.  On the other hand, our (young) team made a great number of shots of a different kind, and they were somewhat out of focus, too.  So I think I'll claim this was symbolic.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

mice on a street corner

Alice has been having a challenging time with Mice in Santa Fe the last couple of days (though things have improved - for her, if not for the mice - since yesterday, when I sent her a video of How to Set a Mousetrap).  Think many dollars being handed to a company called Critter Control, who so far have failed to control the critters.  Think trying to plug stray gaps around the garage door with brillo pads; think peanut butter (for traps), etc.  Remember that all four cats are here in Los Angeles.  So these little rodents rather jumped out at me, so to speak, as I was driving home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

calisthenic selfie

Today was Photography and Science - which I expanded to include Photography and Time.  So after some crowd sourcing (this is an honors-level General Education course - bound to include some scientists, so I figured they were the best people to introduce some slides) - that to my delight covered the vast (earth seen from space; the ineffable hugeness of galaxies) and the tiny (synaptic connections in fruit fly larvae) - I explained to them why I was wearing this t-shirt ... It's from the Eadward Muybridge show at the Tate a few years back: not, perhaps, what I normally wear to class, but it proved quite a hit all day.  I should think about this more often: buying t shirts as teaching aids ...

Monday, September 8, 2014


It might take living in too-sunny SoCal to appreciate quite how rare and wonderful this sight is: puddles on the roof of Parking Structure D, with rainclouds still dropping moisture on the hills. Driving in this morning was like a hallucination - I'd come to think that I'd never see rain here again (and of course, I mightn't, for a long while ...).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

blue on blue

We have a huge bank of plumbago in our back yard - the blossom pretty much the same color as the afternoon sky.  So this was a technical challenge, as much as anything - and I've taken liberties: this should be a vertical frame, so tilt your head or screen if you want the verisimilitudinal version - but I rather liked it as a pale blue lacy fringe.  Blue on blue: after the cyanotypes, it's been a blue week.  Somewhere, bubbling under, once again, is a course syllabus on Color: perhaps something of an over-written-on topic in the last few years, but that makes it the more accessible (in terms of readings) for an undergrad General Education course (a genre that has been much on my mind today, as I vet syllabus after syllabus that's meant to fulfill lofty university ideals ...).

Saturday, September 6, 2014


I've been very struck, the last couple of days, by the shadows cast by the lanterns on our middle landing: no reason whatsoever, over and beyond the tracery that's on the ceiling.  Or, in other words, a couple of days at home this weekend, supposedly giving me time to catch up (does one ever catch up?) have provided the opportunity to stare at the ceiling ...

Friday, September 5, 2014

up to no good

Definitely up to no good.  Look at Mothy's little pink tongue.  Look at Walter Gomez, trying to disguise himself as an owl.  Look at that little piece of greaseproof paper, that undoubtedly contained something delicious (actually, delicious for me, not for kitties, so I don't know what Moth's enthusiasm was about.  I rescued it ...).  No good saying that Butter Wouldn't Melt in Their Mouths - it undoubtedly would.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"so what did you learn when making cyanoptyes?"

I asked them. 

- that doing photography is fun!  [yay!  that's all right, then.  Mission Accomplished!]
- that you need patience
- that there are Lots of Variables [well, yes.  Variable 1 was that - for once in SoCal, the sun wasn't out - not till we'd finished class, anyway.  I joked that when I moved from New Jersey, I'd boasted that I'd never have any problem making cyanotypes with a class, because there'd be sunshine.  Harrumph.  But, indeed, the UV light is so strong, even in haze, that the paper bleached quite happily under people's leaves, watches, jewelry, plastic containers, sunflowers, leaves, ziplock bags, keys, etc.]
- that you need skill [yes, o cellphone photo generation, yes].

What I learned (other than the fact that USC's fountains are just perfect for rinsing prints) is that a banana skin that someone used worked remarkably well; that as ever, I wish I had 40 sheets of glass to hand out to keep flowers etc, flat - much though I like the sense of evanescence and 3D-ness that one can get when things aren't pressed; and that next time I do a cyanotype, I'm going to try a feather. One student's fluffy ? ostrich feather turned out just beautifully, and I'm dismayed that I didn't take a picture of it - but here are some rather fine blossoms, instead.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

class prep

It's cyanotype day in class tomorrow!  (my favorite: watch this space ...).  Previously, I've gone to a lot of effort having students fill up plastic tubs with water in which they could rinse their prints ... but the other day, it struck me: campus is full of fountains with water basins.  Couldn't we use the one right outside our classroom?  But then I started to wonder about the effect of whatever chemicals they put in them.  Probably this is chlorine, which should actually help to bleach, but in the interests of conscientious class prep Robin Coste Lewis (whom I'm super-lucky to have as a TA) and I thought that we'd better go and test it out.  So I grabbed a sheet of prepared paper, and a leaf off a rather dull plant in the Art History office, and off we went ... Unless this fades in the night, I think we'll be good to go.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

an unexpected head

Stopped at lights on the way home, I think that I'd better have my camera in its usual driver's seat side position, in case something interesting turns up - and lo!  I turn my head, and here is a very strange head in a store window.

Monday, September 1, 2014

transformed fish

... so tomorrow's class is on "Is Photography Art? - or rather, why has anyone ever cared about this question?" and one little segment deals with apps for iPhones.  Researching - or do I mean "researching" this, I was amazed at how many new ones have sprung up: I've been relying on my trusty favorite, Hipstamatic, for so long, with an occasional shot of RetroCamera.  But now I find some great filters in MagicHour, and a wonderful new app, Tales of Us, which allows one to take two images from anywhere in one's iPhone library, and combine them.  So I took one old Hipstamatic image, one new one - with a new Hipstamatic "camera"/"film" combination - merged them in TofUs, and then passed them through various different MagicHour filters.  No, of course it's not "art" - unless I was making some kind of self-referential photographic statement, in which case (etc etc) - but it sure as hell is a lot of fun.

Oh, and why do I have a thing about blending fish and plants this year?