Saturday, January 31, 2015

swap meet

On Alvarado Street, on the way to the Provost's/Faculty Senate day long retreat - an event in which, at 4.50, I rose, eventually, to my feet, to say What About The Humanities?  I suspect that the Swap Meet would have been a good deal less uninspiriting than a day of The Corporate University.  If I heard any more rhetoric about the necessity for branding - university branding; faculty branding - I thought that I'd just go off and work on a cattle ranch.

Friday, January 30, 2015

palm tree and evening sky

Long day; long week - but very much sustained by a stormy evening sky and great silhouettes on the drive home ...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

knit your own cat?

Now that we're back from New Mexico, I've been able to groom Bitzi properly - that orange fluffy one, persecuted by the others, but now back on solitary in my study.  She no longer looks like Brody, in Homeland, in his cell.   Here's the first long handful of matted and loose fur to be extracted.  I'm sure it ought to have some kind of use - probably I'll put it in the yard, in case some birds would like it as nesting material ...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


By a Roski School of Fine Arts student, in a display case outside Moreton Fig, our on-campus restaurant - and presumably screaming because we're already half way through the third week of the semester and more meetings than one can possibly count are all trying to happen at once.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

fire wreckage

So this was, until mid-December, going to be the DaVinci apartments (cue for joke about them not being up to code, but I'll resist it).  And then an arsonist or two, and a whole lot of accelerant, and presumably a match or lighter or piece of string or more complex timing mechanism, sent the whole lot - a block-long complex - ablaze.  But I didn't see the wreckage until today - at ground level, all that's visible is a tall temporary fence and an incident-room truck.  And some yellow tape.  But from the freeway - it's startling.  I hasten to add that Alice was driving back from USC, so for a rare once I was in the passenger seat.  Some view.

Monday, January 26, 2015

waiting for the rain

Of course, I know that a whole lot of you are waiting to see how much it snows in the night (and I miss that excitement) - here in Los Angeles, it's a question of how much it will rain ... I tried to beat the rain home, since it's something that sends local drivers into this frenetic state of forgetting how to drive, but the first spots were falling as I walked past this more-or-less leafless tree on the way to the car park ...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

fish in the ice

Here in the miniature moat / lake at La Posada, this large blue carp smiles up from a thin layer of ice this morning.  I halted my crazed progress momentarily to take this (I was pushing a luggage cart containing four cats in carriers and several overnight bags at  the time): the last frost I'll see for a bit (big shout-out to all friends in the north-east anticipating a huge snowfall ...).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hotel room. With cats.

Back in La Posada - the Tom Ford room, and we're all getting comfortable ... twenty minutes later, when we'd been to the bar and repaired back here with two glasses of wine, they started to jump on top of all the bookcases.  But they genuinely seem to enjoy (apart from Bitzi, under the bed, who never enjoys anything) all the strange smells, and views from windows ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

peck peck peck

OK - claws up - who's responsible for this?  The side of our Santa Fe mailbox seems to have been turned into a sculpture, apparently of a south-of-France Roman amphitheater.  I suspect the flicker that's been hanging around our back yard, presumably after digesting the woodworm or whatever he's found here.

Turning round and hitting the road tomorrow - driving Alice and the cats back to a meeting that she's just learned has been postponed (the cats were not planning on attending, to clarify).  I am gnashing my teeth: I could well have done with an extra day here, but alas, other plans rest, by now, on the original schedule ... So probably the mail box mystery won't be solved, and by the time we're next here, it will have collapsed into sawdust and splinters.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

back where it's quiet

... and I can get some work done.  Admittedly it was all administrative work - for USC and elsewhere (surely this season of letter writing of one kind and another will come to an end soon?) - but it was peaceful, with crisp chill air, and just an inch or two of fresh snow, already covered in rabbit pawprints.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

things that don't materialize

a)  a cab, in the cab rank by USC, where there is (evidently, almost always) always a cab.
b)  a bar, with food, as advertised, in Parq Central Hotel, Albuquerque.  It had been dematerialized by the snow, I think.
c)  a desk in the room.

Maybe the plan of trying somewhere other than the ABQ Airport Sheraton has some flaws in it?  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

down town

Downtown (5th and Flower) at a job talk dinner: surely any candidate must find Los Angeles irresistible? - given that it's only 20 minutes drive north to our rural views (cf all those leaves, last week); half an hour from here, maybe, to the ocean, and - well, usually, sunny.  It's been bathed in Pacific fog and dankness all day - not exactly Vancouver, but not sunny Southern California, either.  I don't remember ever standing and looking at this sculpture before, on its reflecting pond, but by night at any rate, it's a pretty good advertisement for urban vibrancy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Snow White cottages

Every day I drive past these little cottages - a kind of court of them, like almshouses, though they were actually built in 1931.  They're just up the road from Gelson's, our local supermarket.  And Gelson's was built on the site where Disney had his animation studios from 1926-1940.  It's said that workers from the studios lived in these cottages ...

... it's certainly local lore that they formed the basis for the dwarfs' cottages in Snow White ... (1937).

Sadly, they've been re-roofed fairly recently, so they're not made of the crazy shingles that they used to be.  Not that I ever saw Snow White, but I did see Mulholland Drive, and if you think that you've seen these buildings in a less dwarfy context, think back to the Sierra Bonita complex ... yes, the one with a rather past-its-best corpse in it ...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

self control

Self-control, that is, in not taking photographs of leaves?  No, rather, I needed to get a good deal of work done today, and I needed to block out all forms of digital gratification / procrastination for a while.  So an app called "self-control" that blocked gmail, facebook, etc (indeed, you can set it o block whatever you like) worked very well ... Setting it for (say) two and a half hour increments produced an effect rather like doing an exam: I don't know that it'll always be productive, but for short term necessity, I recommend ...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

leaves, again

It's one of the camelia bushes, rendered antique.  I've been rereading Mrs Dalloway - I have to write a piece on the presence of the Victorian in it and in To the Lighthouse, and as ever, reading with an eye to one particular angle makes one read differently (there are, I'd point out, though I know I'm not alone in noticing this, a lot of Victorian commemorative statues in the novel).  And there are a lot of leaves.  Rezia, for example, puts a hand on Septimus's knee as they sit in Regent's Park, "so that he was weighted down, transfixed, or the excitement of the elm trees rising and falling, rising and falling with all their leaves alight and the colour thinning and thickening from blue to the green of a hollow wave, like plumes on horses' heads, feathers on ladies', so proudly they rose and fell, so superbly, would have sent him mad."  Leaves can do strange things to one, in other words.

I'm trying hard to think how to work in to another piece the fact that Ethel Lang, the very last person alive who'd been born in Victoria's reign died yesterday, aged 114.  Somehow that makes me feel much older, suddenly.

Friday, January 16, 2015

leaves with flowers

Another exiting-for-work moment, to celebrate the fact that the camellias are quite spectacular this year.  Precious little opportunity to observe leaves for the rest of today, unless one counts leaves of paper, which is rather missing the point ...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

more trees, more leaves

It's turned into an arboreal week - to provide a counter point to meetings, more meetings, interviews, more interviews, and a particular administrative torture called Scheduling and Staffing, that involves trying to fit round pegs into more or less round holes (faculty's teaching wishes for next year into timetable slots) and then having some part of the administration replace those round holes with triangular ones.  Or octagonal ones.  I do not wish to have to tell my faculty to teach at 8 in the morning, or to spread out a course over Monday/Wednesday/Friday, when there's no internal timetabling need for this, simply because of a need to "maximise classroom space."  So I try and calm myself down with - well, trees, it would seem.  These are the tall tall shadows cast by some smallish trees out front on our neighbor's wall, making it seem as though we live at the bottom of a pale ochre canyon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

turning green

This is turning into such a busy week that it's a small miracle that I even remember the existence of cameras, let alone that I can find time to download an image.  Thinking and writing is asking a little too much.  But - I want to share the effects of rain on the landscape outside, which has been so brown for so long.  Looking good - this is the view from the big balcony off the living room, and it's just such a miracle to me that this is within - what? - twenty minutes drive, max, from downtown LA.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

more leaves

I knew that these leaves would be good if I went out and caught their presence at night, too... If the promised Santa Ana winds arrive tonight, maybe all the dead golden ones will come off our Asian Pear, ready for the blossom in a couple of weeks ... But it's also an opportunity to think about how very confusing the sense of seasons is here.  For there are seasons, and definitely, there was a feeling of damp fall in the air today.  And, on campus, the conflicting smell of fresh-cut grass.  And then the knowledge that this is actually the beginning of the spring semester.  That it most certainly doesn't feel like.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Indeed, I know that in much of the country, one would get a view like this in October ... but this is what it looked like, after a couple of days of rain, out of the bedroom window this morning. Autumnal.  And here, too, are a whole lot of bright fallen leaves on a glass table top.  

more shades of grey

There was something very soothing about the grey and white clouds and mist in Vancouver: I'll miss the views from my hotel room.  There was nothing soothing about the gap between landing at LAX and picking up my car at USC: let's just say that using the Prime Time van is not usually a mistake, but one shouldn't try and do it the day before the semester restarts.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

stereotypes of the Pacific North West

I carry around in my head images of what the Pacific North West looks like, or ought to look like. It's pretty wonderful to have these stereotypes straight out of my window.  Yes, indeed, the mountains had vanished again, but these layers of trees and cloud are terrific - like exercises in water-color painting, with only azure (and a little bit of black, and maybe a touch of veridian, for mixing) in one's palette.

vancouver's public sculpture

There's a lot of good (and, well, some not so good) sculpture out there on the streets of Vancouver - there's a big Public Arts Project.  Meet Douglas Coupland's Digital Orca - or Pixel Whale - which makes for an even stranger photograph than it does sculpture.  It disrupts one's sense of what's claiming referential status in a photograph, and what that photograph itself is - electronically speaking - made up of.  Of course, one can always blur the two by reducing the image itself into very obvious pixels, obliterating the distinction between sculpture and landscape ...

Or there's the Olympic Caluldron (only lit for special events, like Canada Day) - that is very wonderfully glacial, and with icy looking cracks and shards along its surfaces that translate - believe me - rather poorly into pixels.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

MLA 2015

Rumor has it that there's a view out there - the fog lifted for a quarter of an hour or so this afternoon, and some mountaintops appeared, and then vanished again.  The air is heavy and damp and pale white, and attaches itself around people.  There are some seagulls in the mix, too.  Somewhere under it all is the convention, and indeed, Vancouver, which would, I think, be a terrific city when not thickly covered with opaque void.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

vancouver view

My heart goes out to all my MLA friends who are en route, but stuck in nasty places (or stuck anywhere, for that matter): here I am in the Pan Pacific, which has much to recommend it, including the view - I can't wait to see what the view from my room looks like in daylight.  BUT I do wish someone had warned me about the 9 o'clock gun - the cannon was just fired, and the window rattled, and I had to check on line that this was Normal, and not some terrorist assault on the MLA ...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

bird feeder

I'm delighted to have installed a new bird feeder - outside the garden wall, so that the corn doesn't - one hopes - drop close enough to the house to entice the little mousies.  Early morning, and the moon is still hanging in the tree branches.  A few minutes later, and the tin chickadee had successfully attracted not just a whole lot of finches, but a large, fluffed-up flicker was pecking at the suet log.  It was extremely chilly - and so very surreal returning, a few hours later, to the warmth of LA.

Monday, January 5, 2015

tree decorations

It's probably a little unusual to put one's Christmas tree outside, on a table under the portales, and decorate it (including the solar powered lights) - but if we were to leave it inside, who knows what havoc and mayhem the cats would cause?  Or rather, we can guess.  So the decorations are pretty much frost-proof, which, in turn, means a preponderance of Mexican tin ornaments ...


Alice's bronchitis is improving, but we're not there yet.  So in addition to antibiotics, and Fishermen's Friends, there's now the nose-and-sinal passages treatment.  Actually, so far, this seems like a miracle remedy ...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

door hanging

New Mexican clichés are clichés for a very good reason - they are state-specific; they are beautiful; they are (even if commodities in their own right), at their best, non-commercialized in the full blown sense of the word.  We bought this string of ristras when we bought our Christmas tree, from a trailer in La Tienda, Eldorado, and they've been hanging on the back door as a kind of holiday decoration (I suspect they'll stay a while).  

Friday, January 2, 2015

fallen flower

A bud has fallen - or been mutilated by a cat, more likely - from some lilies that I bought the other day, and we're trying to keep it going in a spice jar on the kitchen window.  It looked more luminous in the morning light than is apparent here - but even so, it counts as a marker for beauty in the unexceptional.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

year's beginning

Starting off Year 7 with the early morning in - or rather, from just outside - our back yard: a very thin dusting of snow, and sharp cold air.  All the mountains all around are covered in white.  

This is precisely the kind of entry that causes me to ask - why a seventh year?  It functions as a means of sharing an image that gives me pleasure; as a diary (of the kind that doesn't involve any private thoughts or that summarizes exactly what I've been doing - for the record, reading tenure and promotion materials, and reviewing a journal submission, and obviously there's nothing that can be written about in any detail there); that would cause me to meditate on the power of photography to mediate and present the beauty in the everyday - if I hadn't done so a thousand times already.  There's no reflection, angry or otherwise, on the state of the country/the world (I'm bad at doing anything other than stating the obvious, there); no trenchant observations on what I'm reading (other than the aforementioned, this would be Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves, which manages to convey emotion and family tensions in a very deadpan and unadorned way - I fail to see why it made best-of-the-year lists, but it's readable; the terrific Goldin/Lubell Never Built Los Angeles, which makes me lament the fact that we could have had a Frank Lloyd Wright Aztec-fortress-style building on Bunker Hill; and a 1970s dissertation on the West Riding Recovered Wool Industry c.1813-1939).

But this still works, for me, as a kind of daily practice, a call to attentiveness - and it's great looking back, now, all the way to 2009.  So even if there are days (fewer this year than last, for some reason) when I kick against the sense of obligation, or organization, that this demands - off I go with 2015.