Sunday, November 30, 2014


If it's going to pour with rain all afternoon, perhaps the only right response is to sit on the sofa, and watch a human write a book review.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Really, all photos of football games (see below) look much the same, so you might as well have two sunbathing spectators (yes, the temperature was around 80 today) at the USC/Notre Dame game, which we won in spectacular style.  The only trouble with the sun is that somehow we managed only to have one cap between us ...


The back of our house leads onto Griffith Park (excellent for walks ...) - although formally, we access it via a track at the end of the street, because it's a pretty steep hillside.  But we need a new fence.  We were inspecting the view from the track today: the collapsing fence on the left belongs to some Armenians who throw loud parties in their hot tub; the fence on the right - well, the reason that you can't see it is that this week, with a bit of co-operation from the weather, we'll be having it replaced.  But yes - this is a pretty good view, for late November ...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

forms of thankfulness

I could expatiate for an age on the topic of gratitude (or on the strangeness of Thanksgiving to one not born and bred in this country), but I'll restrict myself to saying that I'm extremely thankful for the beauty to be found in the ordinary and the everyday: viz, a vase of calla lilies, and a bowl full of brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

lunchtime fountain

I'll admit: when I took this, I thought it had promise as a more interesting image ... But it does illustrate a point: that when there are very few students on campus, one can eat one's lunch outside, and take on board the fact of one's picturesque (albeit very recently constructed) surroundings.  Count this, therefore, as a premature expression of gratitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Things one doesn't really want to encounter when one returns near midnight from a few days away (even if prepared by one's responsible house-sitter) include a refrigerator that had somehow managed to have a blocked water tube to the ice maker, causing blocks of ice to form everywhere, water to leak, old towels to be sought out, cats to be mystified.  And so on. And yes, file under #firstworldproblems.  And yes, it seems petty to write about this when things nationally are, shall we say, considerably more troubling than the troubles caused by a leaking freezer.  Or, this is an allegory.  If I'd had more time - rearranged a graduate student meeting before class? not been dealing with the fact that my debit card was hacked a couple of months ago and used to set up a video games borrowing account? - I would have placed word and image together of the activity in Ferguson last night - how do different headlines, similar images, slant how images are read? - and it would have been a much more live and relevant and useful Writing and Photography session (for those students, that is, who hadn't already departed for Thanksgiving).  I hate teaching days when hindsight haunts one in this way ... but maybe Tuesday?

forms of radical art in san miguel

... and all in the same cloisters: here's some curtains behind which is a room with different memorials to those who have been killed or "disappeared" in recent violence;

a little further up the cloister is a long room with some extraordinary geometric murals by Siqueiros from the 1950s, with optical effects depending on where you stand;

and then there are also murals from the early 1940s showing the city's trades,

with groups of today's schoolchildren being told all about them.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


A good deal of today was spent walking around, taking pictures of particular flowers or color combinations or cacti that might work well back in LA; walking up (and up) a hill to the botanical gardens with some wild nature reserve countryside beyond;

looking inside its rather quirky conservatory/greenhouse;

and then considering how very pretty our hotel's courtyard looked at dusk.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

cigar store figure?

This is a very strange figure in a San Miguel antique store - like a cigar store Indian, but - but what?  Cuban?

Add in some elaborate street art murals,

and indeed some street: there's a good deal to keep one's eyes busy here ...

Friday, November 21, 2014


Here is the front of the Parroqiua de San Miguel Arcangel in San Miguel de Allende, covered with memorials for the 43 murdered students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa.  I was so pleased - no, that can't be the right way of putting it - because this terrible thing happened, it was gratifying to see how central are the protests in this community, albeit chilling to see how many of the banners and slogans are protesting not just against brutality and corruption, but against passivity, quietude, indifference.

Sitting in El Jardin, opposite, was a woman with world-class skills in orange peeling.

But whatever am I doing in Mexico when it's a Friday during the semester?  Simple!  It's ten years to the day since Alice (seen striding purposefully in front of a church, here) and I first met, in Silver Lake, so we thought we'd come away and celebrate the fact.  It's been a terrific decade.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fall in SoCal

Yes!  we have leaves that change color, and look particularly good against white tents (no, not a snowy peak) and a blue sky ... (Campus festivities for Conquest - i.e. Beat the Bruin, aka UCLA, at football.)  On a day like today, two days before the game, one sees grown young men dragging small teddy bears through the dust behind them, on strings ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

night sights around campus

First, the annual Ferris wheel, and then, walking back from a sorority dinner (much fun, and thank you, Megan!), a superb trumpet tree - smelt before it was seen - looming up out of the darkness.  Really, this is a crazily beautiful place to work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the LACMA lamps

One of the great things about going to an evening event at LACMA is encountering the lamps lit up, and lots of tourists enjoying this forest of illumination ...

Monday, November 17, 2014

rain? or no rain?

That's almost certainly: no rain.  But for a brief while, one could kid oneself, standing on the roof of Parking Structure D, that there was something moisture-bearing approaching over the Pacific.  It reminds me even more of making marbled paper when I was much much younger - something that I've not tried for a long long time, but that involved, so far as I remember, a lot of glue - or size - and a comb with which to make wiggly and blending patterns.


I'm very glad, always, when they do this - especially after a snowy ride down the Canadian interstate, with vehicles slipping around.  It seems surreal, now, to be back in sunny SoCal, with palm trees.  But it was terrific, as always, to go to my favorite conference and see so many friends (something made super-sweet by not being part of the team running it, this year ...)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

London, Ontario - street art

The sun was out this  morning in downtown London!  Admittedly it went away again, and I have very cold ears.  As ever, I get to the end of another NAVSA and just wish that I could have spent more time hanging out with people and going to papers - which given that this was what I spent my time doing, is patently logically absurd.  Regrettably, other obligations meant that I missed a day at the beginning of this year's conference ... but see you all next summer on Waikiki beach!  Which will be warmer: I suspect the street art won't be quite as good, however ...

Friday, November 14, 2014

city snow on grating

Maybe if I'd used a flash it wouldn't have looked quite so depressingly grubby?  I'm sure that there may be days and seasons when London Ontario looks charmingly picturesque: today wasn't one of them (but NAVSA was great!!).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

improbably hip

In this improbably hip corner of London, Ontario, there is a bath tub.  In my room.  Un-hip, though, is the fact that the hotel stopped serving dinner A Long Time Ago, and I'm not venturing out into the frozen tundra, or whatever's out there.  It was a long, bleak ride from Toronto (it might not have been bleak, but it was dark) that reminded me of the time in 1981 that I took a Greyhound bus from Boston to Fredericton, New Brunswick to stay with a girlfriend who, when I arrived, sat under a table because she thought I was Terry Eagleton.  OK, in her defense, she'd warned me not to come.  I ignored her advice.  So after a few miserable days (it was March, with floating ice floes in the river, and icicles hanging off the statue of Robbie Burns) of us sitting around in country and western bars and drinking whiskey sours (by this time, she'd realised I wasn't TE),  I decided to call it a day, and got on a Greyhound again (I had a pass) all the way to Key West.  There's a novel in there somewhere.  Meanwhile, I've had a rather uneven relationship to Canada in winter ever since.

USC student housing

This is not one of the more beautiful dorms on campus, but it's one that I pass between the car park and the department every day.  I've been deeply grateful to the person whose balloons have brightened it up - there's something very spirited about them ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day

"Do you care for this postcard?" wrote my grandfather Joe to Gladys, my grandmother, back in August 1917.  It's by T. Corbella, an Italian artists who churned out a lot of kitsch romantic postcard art at this time, which were much in demand among the troops sending a message home.  Joe apologizes that he didn't have time to write his usual Sunday letter (I don't know if any of these survive) because they've been exceedingly busy, preparing for an important regimental order.  That would have been the Battle of Langemark - part of the third Ypres offensive, and just before Passchendale.  I'm so very glad that he managed to make it back to Yorkshire - despite being gassed - and lived long enough (dying 86 years ago today) to father two sons - my own father, and his brother Don.

Monday, November 10, 2014

book, etc

If I hadn't agreed to do a teaching observation, I might never have read Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station.  Whereas I still can't make up my mind what I think of it as a novel (the trouble with a self-indulgent, pretentious, insecure, vulnerable, irritating, verbally sensitive first person narrator - at least in this case - is that one's left very unsure how much authorial irony there may or may not be behind the whole book) - I was given a gem of a sentence (p.16) about the ordinary and the overlooked, the background to everyday life: " ... love for that other thing, the sound-absorbent screen, life's white machine, shadows massing in the middle distance, although that's not even close, the texture of et cetera itself."

Footnote: Lerner himself: "Maybe I should say that “Life’s white machine,” Gordon’s phrase for the rhythm of mundane life, the texture of time as it passes, etc., is very close to Hart Crane’s “white machine of life,” but it’s also a line from a collaboration between the poets Geoffrey G. O’Brien and Jeff Clark, a line in turn quoted by Ashbery as an epigraph to one of his own poems."  From an interview:
The whole interview, in fact, is terrific, and makes me realize that yes, the book is subtle, and self reflective, and multi-layered.  But I still think the protagonist (even if poetry-smart, in his way) is a jerk.  I also suspect that's the point, or part of it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

the abandoned playthings of Los Feliz

This goes way beyond the usual humdrum chairs and sofas that have graced my Abandonment images over the years ... The truly curious thing is that it's been on the curb for about four days.  Back on Hoover St. it would have disappeared in a matter of minutes; further back, in Highland Park, it would at the very least have disappeared with the trash.  But here?  I'll be interested to see how long it - and the broken mirror with which it's keeping company - hangs around ...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

evening and morning light

There was a peculiarly beautiful golden light all day today: at the top, a view straight through someone else's house, a few streets over, as we went on an evening walk - with a child's drawing on the easel (or a faux-naive artist's version of a child's drawing? - as ever in Los Angeles, it's impossibe to tell what's real, what's staged.  And below, some calla lilies, catching the early morning light coming into my study.  In between, conference-paper writing ...

Friday, November 7, 2014

the long and the short of it

It was terrific to see Ben today, in town for ASA.  But - surely Alice (an inch or so taller than me, I might note) isn't this diminutive?  Maybe we kid ourselves (except when we're around volleyballers) about our height in relation to the world?  I know I'm always in danger of being mowed down by guys on campus (and elsewhere) who turn corners at speed and don't realize that there may be someone down there a foot or so below them.  The truth is, I feel at home, when it comes to height, in Oaxaca, or in my ancestral land of Batley and Dewsbury ... (or, for that matter, I feel at home at home ...).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

family photo class

... in which we spent a lot of time talking about Larry Sultan.  But I also took this photo of a photo, because I'd promised them an example of The Bourgeois Family as produced in a C19th photo studio. This is a terrific example of bourgeoisification through backdrop, and through (lent by the photographer - or would they all have had these clothes for best? somehow I doubt it) costumes.  Just look at the noble patriarch on the right; the elegant matron on the left.  In fact, though, Allen Davis runs a barbers' shop; his wife Lizzie is most probably the daughter of a farmer or farm laborer.  They're doing all right for themselves, but I doubt that their domestic setting looks quite like this.  I think, judging by the ages, the picture must have been taken around 1890.

In relation to Sultan's images of his parents, especially his father, we expanded on the question raised by the father himself: to whom does a photograph belong?  To the person who took it, or the person whom it's of, or the person looking at it (yes! they know their Barthes beyond Camera Lucida)?  In this case, is this my photo to write about, or Alice's?  For these are my great grandparents, grandfather-and-great-uncles-in-law, and at the center (that young boy on the right, at least), of her current book.  It's also very uncanny to think that I've looked at the (relatively few) extant diaries of the boy on the chair in the middle - in an archive in Colorado Springs - and seen, from the 1940s, the little marks that he made in his diary when he clearly (there's no other explanation for them, in their contexts) had sex with his wife.  This makes me feel, in relation to the voyeurism that we were also talking about, like some kind of voyeur of his future ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

art and medicine

I could see from my office window today that something interesting had been put up in the courtyard of VKC: it proved to be a mixture of very varied (in terms of style, execution, period, medical exactitude or corporeal inspiration) treatments of the body in medical art, or art inspired by medical procedures.  Much of it was absolutely contemporary, by USC students; some reflected library holdings; plenty of pieces demonstrated a complete cross over between aesthetics and pragmatic bodily imaging.  It was occasioned by today's medical humanities conference - something that I was truly sorry that other commitments prevented me from attending.  OK - for "other commitments," read Admin Hell...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

voting day

Mothy, having heard much about the suffragette movement, wonders why it is that cats don't have a vote, and contemplates a protest.

Monday, November 3, 2014


One knows that one's got to a certain point in the semester when one looks around one and all that comes into view is the knotted cord of a window blind.  So it's my Hipstamatic app on my cellphone to the rescue, and back to the Sisyphean tasks of ever-multiplying admin.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

other people's sundays

It's completely shocking that I love the sea so much, and yet today was the first time that I've been there since early May (and yes, it's only a 45 minute drive away, at most).  But it was great to spend a couple of hours watching people drag surfboards around;

be menaced by gulls at a picnic,

and generally splash around in large breakers (which then inevitably broke on the shore where we were standing - I guess that I've gotten out of the habit of moving when they advance ...).