Friday, October 31, 2014

halloween crow

Well, yes, indeed, I did wear a crow on my shoulder for most of today, including during a class observation, and then to the WVB match (the "monster match," with, indeed, many ninja turtles, batmen, devils, angels, princesses, giraffes, and red spotted cows in the stands.  Not nearly enough witches, or ghoulies, I thought).  It's notable how long one can be talking to someone before they realize that you're wearing a crow.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

another corner

... another corner of my morning commute; another corner, indeed, of N. Hoover Street (you can tell that the traffic often gets backed up there at the moment ...).  It's complete with smeared windshield, and indeed with the slant of the windshield itself - but the fairly early morning light was too good to pass up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

national cat day

Luckily, in this household, it's not hard to find one to celebrate, even at 10.30 at night at the end of a long day ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

the party's over

This party store - on my drive to work, down the street on N. Hoover from where we used to live - has seen better days.  Not only is it closed and shuttered, it has the oldest, saddest, most faded pinatas hanging from one corner.  I suspect this whole block (with a few more funky stores in it) of biding its time, waiting for the ever-ongoing hipsterification of the furthest flung sectors of Silver Lake to reach it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

pool view

The view from our breakfast table - before hitting the road and hightailing it back to USC.  This was a pretty good way to begin a Monday morning, even if everything since has been a little hectic ...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

big skies

On the road between Santa Fe and Phoenix ... we decided to go a more southern route than usual (with no cats with us, we could drive down I-25 to Socorro, and then cut across on 60, stopping at Pie Town for, yes, pies.  And lots of open sky ...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

new mexican fall, various

Some very fluffy stuff on our evening walk in our 'hood;

a garden up on Museum Hill (where I managed to see the photo exhibit of Native American portraiture, at long last);

and the Pecos River, at Ribera, with a cable looped across just stopping it from being picture postcard territory.  New Mexico is completely perfect at this season: warm, still, sunny, golden.

Friday, October 24, 2014

more leaves

This was the view from our backyard in New Mexico this evening: in truth, these leaves are more yellowish, but they were shining copper with the setting sun behind them.  I think that a couple of days here will revive me enough to see me through the remainder of the semester ...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

selfie day

in class.  My assignment was to take a selfie that would mean something to a specific audience - and then to write about it discussing what one had chosen, and why, and what kind of response one thought one's image (and caption? and hashtag?) would be met with.  This was after discussing a particularly ghastly dance-song by the Chainsmokers called # Selfie, and before talking about Kara Walker and Sugar Baby selfies (with detours through Beyonce, advertising campaigns featuring - for example - a selfie-taking squirrel - and funerals).  Nothing if not eclectic, this class - itself sandwiched (though there is a logic) between trauma and Barthes.  As ever, it seemed only fair to participate - a selfie with a specific audience of, I guess, our class ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


If one has to spend a good part of the day going to meetings with the Business Office, with HR, and so on, it's a really good thing that there are some excellent leaves to look at on the way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

halloween ghosties

Continuing my seasonal spook-spotting: these window-ghosts are neatly balanced between the needs of the material body and the desires of the soul, judging by the signs above their fluttering forms.

Monday, October 20, 2014

october pattern

This happens around mid-October every year (or at least, every year that I'm chairing) - I have no time to think about taking real photos, or to think about photography, or to do anything other than what I have to do for work.  One year - maybe the first of this blog? - I pretty much gave up, and just documented my lunch for a week.  So here's another fall-back: a plastic pony (it's been a long while since any of them have featured here), montaged onto a cushion cover.  Let's just call it "fall colors," and get back to work ...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

a self-boxed Walter Gomez

This one speaks for itself.  Walter Gomez loves boxes.  Come to think of it, although he's grey, not black, one could probably file this under Halloween, too ...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

halloween preparations in Los Feliz

Halloween preparations are warming up around here, if that isn't too inappropriate a verb (this is on the corner of our street and Cadman, so it will be seen by lost of hikers on their way into Griffith Park).  Halloween has a tendency to send me into highly contrastive black and white.  This is best clicked on and seen in all its full-scale spookiness ... the whole front yard has a very good assortment of skulls, and gravestones, and a crow or two, although I fear the birds aren't visible in this image. This is rather intimidating so far as the standard of decoration goes: all the same, I might think it's time to dive into a box in the garage and bring out a tired paper pumpkin lantern or two ...

planted out for homecoming

The gardeners have been very busy with cardinal and gold plants all round campus.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

earthquake drill

Once a year, we have to practice earthquake drill - duck down, get under something solid, pretend it's shaking, hold on.  For a minute.  And then another minute, in case of aftershocks.  Actually I skipped that last bit, because it wasn't in my instructions, and I only read about it in the LA Times (but of course that makes sense).  This was the first time for me that it had actually coincided with a class - and as luck would have it, it was a class on "Photography and Trauma," so I could talk about photographs of earthquakes.  It did, though, cause an odd interruption in the flow of affect, if not of logic - hard to go back from this to Isis chopping off heads, and Ebola sufferers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

en route to the dentist

Is this the most imposing Police Department in the US?  Typical Beverly Hills, to be just slightly over the top.  But I always appreciate driving past it, this time en route to the dentist.  I'd have appreciated it even more if those clouds had dropped some rain ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

very early morning

The very good thing about having to go in to work very early in the morning is that I get to see the neighborhood looking beautiful and tranquil like this.  You'd think that it was the sea out there, not the 5 and Atwater Village ...

Monday, October 13, 2014

getting ready for Halloween

... in the gathering gloom of the evening, as we stretched our legs round the neighborhood before dark.  I can't believe that it's this time of the year already.  I have *so many deadlines* of October 15th that I ought to have dates seared on my consciousness, but Californian weather disrupts one's sense of seasons.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

still in need of a good home, but ...

When people ask how Bitzi is getting on - our timid, taken-from-feraldom a little too late, bullied-by-other-cats cat - I talk about her huge progress this year; her non-stop purring; her rolling over and over for tummy rubs and head butts and strokes; the way in which she rubs up against my legs again and again as I work.  Yes - the key, and the difficulty, lies in those last words: "as I work."  For she now lives in my study, largely safe from the other cats, and has come to love me, or at least to demand affection.  But, alas, only me.  So she's a one-person cat, and even though the point of this six month regimen of deferalization has been to turn into into a cat whom one can pet and treat like a normal house cat, I think I may be stuck with her.  She's still yours, however, to a one-person, no cat, no dog, nothing-scary home ... she'll come to love you, too ...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

one form of New York skyline

When I first came to New York, in 1979, I was just fascinated by the fire escapes - nothing like them in London, marching up the front of buildings - and took (like any first-timer) a little set of black and white pictures of them.  I keep having to remind myself of film - and how expensive it was, and how expensive it was either to have them developed and printed, or rent darkroom time, and how that made one very, very selective in what one shot.  But I couldn't resist those fire escapes, and all my early NY photos seem either to be of them, or of muscular African-American guys playing basketball on those little courts in Soho with wire mesh fencing round them.

Friday, October 10, 2014

small person in New York

Nothing metaphorical, or even self-referential about this - just the most perfectly positioned piece of street art on E. 4th.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

sailing past my window

I thought I just had regulation NYC skyscrapers outside my window until I turned my head this morning and saw this beautiful ship passing by.  A day's committee work is a small price to pay for such a view (especially when we exchanged a huge number of ideas about the state of things in the humanities, and I got to meet up with an old friend on the committee, and we were taken out to dinner in a restaurant overlooking Central Park).  I'll miss my fall trip to New York - my 3 year MLA service stint is, regrettably, almost over ...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dear American Airlines

Very many thanks for flying me safely to New York.  I greatly appreciate being somewhere that isn't unnaturally hot.

But please - why have you apparently moved all sockets at LAX Terminal 4 onto these sponsored charging stations, which provide nowhere to sit except the floor?  I don't mind sitting on the floor too much, although I feel I'm getting a bit old for this except when I've chosen to do so, but one's in danger from being tripped over by all those anxious travelers wearing face masks against any Ebola victims who might be wandering around.

Oh - and thank you for the working power socket at my seat.  I didn't know that it was going to be there, and be functional - but it was good to be able to keep my charged computer charged up ...

By the way - I have been waiting for the Kogi Korean Barbecue "truck" to open in LAX T4 for a long time.  I know it's not your fault that it's still "coming soon," but it would have been good to have had it to eat as I sat re-charging ...


Your weary traveler.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mrs Beeton and preparation for class

My graduate class on Victorian Bestsellers has reached Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management - not a text I'd ever thought to teach, but part of my crazy semester of only teaching books - with one exception - that I've never taught before.  I thought, last night, that I'd cook something for class from Mrs B.  Sunderland Ginger Nuts looked easy, and palatable.  So.  Apart from the fact that my weighing scales are in Santa Fe, and I had to use the lbs-into-cups translation chart at the back of The Joy of Cooking, I learned the following things
a) that either treacle and butter were much more runny in the 1850s, or Mrs B got her proportions very wrong
b) that a directive to soften treacle (or in my case, light treacle, aka Golden Syrup) and butter together is very vague.  Soften?  Do you mean melt, or what?
c) vague, also, is the description "a somewhat slow oven"
However, they seemed reasonably palatable, if solid, so I decided to take them in.  I placed them in the hall so as not to forget them.  Imagine my horror when I went upstairs five minutes later, to find that Walter Gomez had ripped into the silver foil, and had apparently chewed a little piece off one of them ...

Even more delightful was the pristine copy that one student had bought on line, bearing the inscription "SJ.  Welcome to wife-hood.  Here's the manual.  [heart] Maria.]"  So here's a mystery.  Is Maria one wife, and SJ - Sarah Jane - the other?  Did Maria give this to Stevie-John?  Or did Aunt Maria give this to her niece?  Any ways, this wasn't a much valued wedding present, methinks ...

Monday, October 6, 2014

narrative photography (in search of a narrative)

My class has got very good at reading narrative photographs, and unpacking the stories within them, and even at taking narrative photographs of their own, posing people ambiguously half in and half out of doorways (or toilet stalls), giving surreptitious glances, and raising questions about how far one needs humans at all (a strange disembodied bicycle seat had us all wondering).  But this image wasn't posed, today, just grabbed in a moment of serendipity (I was actually taking a picture of Eadward Muybridge with a pair of men's underpants on his head - it was obviously an underwear themed day around the cinema school ...).  It looks like Italy, but it's not; the back wall seems almost as unconvincing as an opera flat.  But the washing?  The young man reading - reading what?  Directions?  Script lines?  And then, in the background - and I didn't see this till I downloaded it, but perfectly positioned - a man in a wheelchair, with a service dog.

So please - feel free to speculate ...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

the seasonal nature of pumpkins

This year's pumpkins.  Much like pumpkins from other years, really - but in other years, I've taken their picture in Santa Fe, and they've been a true harbinger of fall.  These may be in a large cardboard bin outside our local supermarket, right on seasonal cue - just like all the Halloween candy inside, the stuff bulging with E-additives - but it seems strange seeing them when the temperatures are still, unbearably, reaching the 90s.  I'm suffering bad Fall withdrawal symptoms.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


LucyFur is posing very fetchingly with a needlepoint cushion - stitched by my mother - of what looks like her doppelganger.  There is nothing like a tabby: this post is dedicated to the memory of Celeste, late of north London, who departed this world yesterday.

Friday, October 3, 2014

the unsuspected history of photography

I'd known for a while, of course, that Edward Curtis moved to Los Angeles in 1922, worked taking film stills for Cecil B. DeMille, and operated a studio here.  But it was only relatively recently that I realized that I pass the building where he had this studio, on S. Rampart Street, almost every day on my way back from work.  So this is in honor of teaching Curtis/Marianne Wiggins's The Shadow Catcher (a novel that never ceases to annoy me, but that I love to teach - not least because I can never decide whether or not the narrator sets out to be deliberately irritating, or not).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

golden window

Let's continue this week's window theme ... here's the bathroom window at dawn, with Walter Gomez's head - opening up onto promise, optimism, and the wails of a million or so Los Angeles houses as our property tax bills land softly in our mailboxes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

drawn curtains

Yesterday, it was announced that our Provost, Beth Garrett, is going to be the 13th President (and first woman President) of Cornell.  She'll be terrific: she's full of energy and determination; she's a great supporter of the arts and humanities, and of women's issues; she's fun.  She'll leave (for me, at any rate) a big hole.  Today, the curtains to her office were drawn.  I'm quite sure this was pragmatic/accidental: it was shaping up to be a hot sunny day (and I was heading into the Admin building early).  But it felt like a very, very visible, in-your-face piece of symbolism ...

cleaning things up

City workers: there's not much that's fun about clearing junk out of a dry arroyo bed, just past a bridge where homeless people sleep.  Every single day there's this contrast that I do my best not to normalize, between sadness and squalor and the extremes of poverty, and then the smooth opulence of campus (and then: how does one write about that, without wandering headlong into cliche?).