Monday, August 31, 2015

one last sunset

It would have been wonderful to have been able to have spent more time back in Santa Fe before driving off in the morning - but the sky provided a suitable end of summer spectacle ... Tomorrow is the day that I count my leave as beginning in earnest: I'm taking a somewhat looping route to North Carolina, and have a photo project planned for the road ... more about this tomorrow!  

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Let's just say ... that in an ideal world this would have been a thoroughly peaceful day, my last in LA for a whole; one that wasn't filled with things like the CD slot in my computer getting jammed just as I decided to download a bagfull of CDs onto this computer with the idea of replenishing my on-the-road iPod; with the fact that it was still far too hot; with Mothy deciding that Bitzi was a completely hateful cat and should be obliterated (she wasn't successful), and with my growing realization that all the academic commitments (yes, it's that season) that I'd wanted to complete before leaving town wouldn't be.  Ah yes, and packing - even if most of the things that I'm taking off to North Carolina are in Santa Fe.  So ... the most tranquil part was watering the plants out back, and contemplating the ability of ferns to stay cool and green, and thus offering a model to be emulated.

jumbotron shaming

I love it!  Here's a new feature in the Galen Center - "Oblivious Cam."  It finds someone in the audience who is - shall we say - Absorbed in their little screen, and runs a clock (this guy is at 17.8 seconds at this moment - he went to about 23 ...) before the person realizes that they're actually on the big screen above the arena.  Of course this works best at a morning women's volleyball tournament match against a non-ranked team (in this case Chicago State) when there are plenty of gaps in the seating.  It wouldn't have been so effective tonight against BYU - a stunning 3 set victory.  From which ... you'll gather that the WVB season is under way, and this intensifies the pain of leaving LA (temporarily), since USC has been playing so well this last couple of days - a team revivified ...

But of course - this does, also, function as a pretty searing commentary about those who prefer their life second-hand ...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Durian

This is probably the strangest thing I've ever seen in Gelson's, not counting some of the people.  For a start, how did it get here?  Unless laws have changed, it's illegal to fly with a durian, at least in Indonesia - though maybe the answer is in the notice, and Thai Air will carry them.  For durians have a distinctive, and lingering smell - as though someone's thrown up into a bowl of very sweet custard.  Actually, they taste a good deal better than they smell, and somewhere - maybe Thailand, maybe Malaysia, or for all I can remember London - I once tried some durian ice cream.  But who, at nearly $70, is suddenly going to say - oh, I fancy some durian for dinner?  And if it doesn't sell, and doesn't sell - at what point does it become so ripe that it's acting as a very odiferous deterrant?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

dining out

It's really too hot to eat inside or outside, but come December - even November - I'm going to be feeling very nostalgic for dining al fresco.  Tonight at Pizzeria il Fico - much recommended - with another friend who's on leave too, and also on the point of leaving town: talking about the strangeness of being in limbo, of empty (relatively speaking) email inboxes, and the mixed emotions of a new year starting up around one when one's not going to be much of a part of it.  At the end of her first week back teaching, it's only to be anticipated that Alice might not be super-engaged with this topic ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indian dancer

Here's a new electrical box - new to me, that is - in a corner of Echo Park: a corner so enticing that I was instantly wanting to move to the 'hood: coffee shop; stationery shop; hairdressers - my reason for being there - after 10 years of Edward in Santa Fe, it's time to move on.  And up the street, a resale store with the inspired name of Hecho en Echo, where I'd surely have stopped if I hadn't needed to get back home for something.  It's a very curious feeling, being on the edge of moving for nine months - exciting though this will be, it's also deeply ironic that for pretty much the first time that I've actually been living full time in Los Angeles that I have the time to explore.  Ah well - there's always next year ...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

LA archetype

Outside the Beverly Hilton, no less - with palm trees curving away - the plates on this Escalade read 68MUSIC.  Now what would that be?  "Hey Jude"?  "Love is Blue"?  "Honey"?  "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay"?  

Monday, August 24, 2015

newer than I thought

I think I'd always assumed in the past, driving past 660 S. Figueroa (admittedly with my eyes on the rather too many lines of traffic) that this was another of Los Angeles's Art Deco buildings. Seemingly not - although decidedly under the influence.  When I looked up the details, it's a 1988 building (by AC Martin Partners) - which seems to me dramatically atypical for that precise moment, and much more retro than the other buildings that they were putting up in LA at the time (oh, and Alice was driving - no cars were put in danger by the taking of this photo).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

a Hail Mary photo in the form of a felt tiger

Sometimes - it doesn't happen very often, but occasionally - the photo that I think I'm going to post turns out to be a dismal failure - slightly out of focus, boring, or whatever.  What I thought would work today just wouldn't do - so at 10 p.m., I cast around me - here's a large felt tiger that I bought in the V&A earlier this year, clinging onto a faintly art nouveau cushion on my sofa.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

plant identification, please ...?

OK, this pretty flowering plant baffles us - although it's growing in a pot in our yard, which makes us highly suspect that we must have bought and planted it.  For the last year it's been a leggy green beast - maybe five or six feet high, thirsty, and anonymous.  And now, it's burst into these blooms, which are thinly reminiscent of wisteria in how they gather right at the end of branches - but the flowers are a quite different shape.  I'm sure it's something quite obvious, but help, please??

his true color?

Either the light was super-bright on campus today, or someone has repainted the statue of Traveler so that it more closely resembles the live horse that canters round the sidelines at football games.  Repainted legally, or illegally?  In some ways it looks better than gun-metal gray - if it has to be there at all (I confess that my eight-year old self would have adored it to bits); on the other hand, it's just begging for someone to stick a large pointed, spiral horn in the middle of its forehead.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

art slut

Somewhat surprising graffiti on S. Virgil - unless it's referring to Arthur, or Artura.  But it felt all too appropriate, after a day of leave that included two meetings with grad students, two meetings with colleagues, one three-hour (successful!!) orals exam, and some office tidying.  Leave?  I can't wait for it to start in practice, as well as on paper ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

window cleaning

Downtown LA is something of a shock after New Mexico - but it has its compensations (as we drove through this morning, trying to find - with some success - the best possible approach to campus without becoming entirely jammed up in thousands of anxious parents dropping off their offspring for their first semester at USC).  Here's a window-cleaning cart suspended on the side of a huge building that's almost the same color as the sky ... 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

where are we going?

Coming into Los Angeles on the 15 ... good job that we know our way, and what lane we want to be in ...

Ah!  That helps a lot.  Thank you.  But what if we'd wanted to head in some other direction?

Back.  Exhausted.  Any one who was hoping for an email from me this evening will have to wait till tomorrow ...

Monday, August 17, 2015

making oneself comfortable whilst on the road

Staying at La Posada, Winslow - our invariable, favorite stop between Santa Fe and LA - Walter Gomez has found his ideal perching place on top of the bed head.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

how to celebrate being on leave ...

Day 1.  So what do I do?  Put a load of trainers and suchlike in the washing machine.  I don't know when - except it was very recently - that I realized that one can do such a thing, but it's been a revelation.  Especially welcome, in this instance, because I was very suspicious that the Converse boots were harboring moth eggs/larvae - our permanent, pernicious bane of existence here (the possible sources are numerous).

It was some perverse relief, therefore, to go to the cochineal exhibition at the Folk Art Museum here in Santa Fe (yes! I know how to do leave properly, I truly do - it involves going to a show in a museum, among other things) and look at old fabrics - rugs, copes, embroideries - and count the moth holes and moth damage.  Sometimes I feel that I get obsessed, checking daily, spraying lavender essence everywhere - supposedly a repellent - but when I see those chewed little holes in antique fabrics, I realize that it's part of material decay that's everywhere (ok, Matthew 6:19, obviously).

However - the show was wonderful for many other reasons - not least the presence of the Historia general de las cosa de Nueva España by Bernadino de Sahagún - otherwise known as the Florentine Codex - and here in Santa Fe!  It was open at the pages that deal with obtaining and producing Nocheztli - cochineal - with drawings - one side of the page in Spanish (dealing with its economic implications), the other side in Nahuatl (describing the etymological and historical connotations).  And there was the top coat of General Sir William Napier (from the early C19th) - he seemed to have been tiny - the upper brass had their stroud cloth dyed with cochineal; the ordinary enlisted men had to put up with madder.  And there were ceremonial Japanese firefighters capes, and C19th Mexican embroidered tablecloths (with ungainly lions), and cochineal used as the underpainting for iridescent feather work.  One thing that's really come to me through the last four years in Art History at USC - through a kind of osmosis as much as anything - is a real appreciation for the importance of trade routes in art and artifacts prior to the C19th - and then the show showed this continuing into the C19th and beyond: the red fragment from the wool lining of Kit Carson's robe; a late C19th Lakota headdress - and then Fortuny dresses, and contemporary Northern New Mexico weaving, including a terrific piece by Lisa Trujillo called Crazy at Heart.  We have a couple of her big weavings, which I spend my time guarding against, well, moths.

Leave.  It's great.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

the last of the summer

Not, of course, really the last of the summer, in all kinds of ways: the summer will go on; the Santa Fe Farmers' Market will go on - though we'll be on our way out of here on Monday.  So we've turned into valedictory mode (that also involves much house cleaning).  The town is very very full of tourists, and much in the market reflects this - little sage bundles of all kinds, and - I don't think I've ever seen before, and presumably aimed at Texans, sage cacti ...

But there's still plenty - abundant plenty - of seasonal produce, thought this too looks as though it's heading into fall;

and the marigold strings;

Oh, and you wanted one more mock old-photo to end the week?  Here's Mothy, in a basket that I bought at the market ...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Quinceañera (and old signs)

I guess that's the problem about determinedly shooting with Hipstamatic and an iPhone for a week - one can't guarantee that the "camera" and "film" that one has programed at any given moment will be necessarily quite what one wants.  However ... here we have a party arriving in a black limo at Frost's Ice Cream parlor, in Albuquerque, and I'm assuming that's it a Quinceañera, and that this is the birthday girl, and two of her requisite seven attendants ... Not an adult in sight: what truly impressed me were the young men, dressed up like members of a mariachi band - not deliberately, exactly, but that's the style - behaving with the kind of old-world courtesy that dated them to about 1890.  Very retro, very confusing, very sweet.

And then what struck me when I looked at the photo were the girl's shoes - they look like a pair of Converse boots.  I hadn't realised that part of the Quinceañera celebrations involve the fifteen-year-old being given - supposedly - her very first pair of high heeled shoes.  Retro though this all may be in its sexual politics, I hope they had a terrific party: they were certainly enjoying their day.

Just in case this isn't retro enough, here are a whole lot of Route 66 street signs - I was stuck on Central, aka Route 66, for interminable ever in a traffic jam ... (and yes, it's back to the Nikon, here ...)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

one of those flowers

Definitely one of those flowers.  I've reached count-down to end-of-being-Chair time - but I'm not quite there yet.  Lots of loose ends - or rather, ends that suddenly and defiantly unravel, and that need to be tied, or singed, or waxed (and, if you want the rest of today, add in cat dental surgery - poor Bitzi must have been in considerable pain, and a very expensive car surgery - I mean, servicing - bill heading my way when they finish doing whatever you do to a car after 90, 000 miles, and find that its bones are old and arthritic).  So yes - still with the iPhone, and still experimenting, though I see that color is creeping in again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I'm enjoying my week of iPhone images ... Today, shells.  And memories.  Or rather, complete lack of memories.  I was tidying out my drawers in the bathroom - a very satisfying thing to do, in between various bits of endless admin - and a very overdue task.  But I have simply no idea where these shells may have come from.  Oregon?  Jamaica?  Mexico?  The Jersey Shore, even?  One location or several?  I'm quite sure that when I gathered them up I thought that they were not only pretty, but they'd retain memories, but no.  I'm sure I could have annotated them - like the collection, long ago, that I saw in a colleague's apartment in Berlin: he and his partner brought back soil or sand from everywhere they'd traveled to, and put it in a little bottle, and wrote a label with details of time and place - quite a geological cabinet-full, even then, and that must have been in the late 1990s.  All the same, I still very much appreciated their whorls and spirals and wave-smoothed edges.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Some of my favorite photographs over the last few years have been of eggs - photos that I've subsequently turned into digital negatives and printed out on, yes, albumen paper.  But these current eggs I bought partly because of their delicate brown and blue colors.  They were from the farmers' market, of course, and before that from a school farm somewhere: they do photograph wonderfully well, in their near abstract way.

Monday, August 10, 2015


This turkey is resident - with some relatives, and some peacocks (indeed, I think there's one patrolling in the background) at the San Marcos Feed Store and Cafe on Route 14.  You'll be relieved to hear that he's too old and tough to be eaten for Thanksgiving (another customer was being reassured on this point).  Meanwhile, some very locally hatched eggs - that is, from the far end of the yard - tasted very delicious on potatoes with green chile.  One needs fortification before braving the Genius Bar at the Apple store in Albuquerque (helpful though they are, I should add ...).  And yes, barring something colorful and unforeseen, this is to be a week of mimicking old photos ...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

variegated forms of inspiration (floral, photographic)

Inspiration #1, on my part - to use the metal base of a very heavy table lamp as a center piece - like a table-cloth weight - to our round table under the portales.  Inspiration #2, on Alice's part - to stick a very small test-tube like plastic container - I think it once held an orchid - in the center, so that it acts as a miniature flower vase.  Inspiration #3 ... well, I was considering that I decidedly under-use the artistic potential of some of my iPhone apps.  This - almost twice life size - was taken with a particular Hipstamatic combination, and at this rate, I may return to it again.  And again.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

the Farmers' Market at its best ...

It's August!  The Farmers' Market in Santa Fe is at its biggest and best at this time of year - or biggest and most various, anyway.  And the smell of roasting chiles is just starting to fill the air ... And there are many, many peaches;

and jars of flowers;

and shishito peppers - we thought we might not get any of these, since the People From Texas who were in line in front of us bought two huge bags of them;

and variegated colored corn;

and onions - we didn't buy any of these, but as always, they were looking shining and spectacular;

and the marigold garlands.  I so love the market at any time of year, but it's super-wonderful right now.

Friday, August 7, 2015

trumping Bitzi

Bitzi - I'm sorry.  But when I read about the cats who are styled to look like Donald Trump ... well ... it was time for a comb, and a temporary toupee ... (actually, she looks a little more like Boris Johnson ...).  In part this was inspired, too, by the new show at New York's Museum of the Moving Image, of Cats on the Internet, and various other memes.  And videos (Henri!).  And cat-shaming.  And - I'd never heard to cat-breading - cutting a hole in a piece of bread, and getting your cat to stare through it, like a weird gluten-filled ruff.  I particularly liked the statement by Jason Eppink, the curator, quoted in the NYT, that "I take delight in finding depth in seemingly frivolous subjects."  I guess that goes for a lot of what I post here ...

Thursday, August 6, 2015


It's been six years, I think, since I was last at the Santuario de Chimayo - and it's changed hugely in that time.  Not the church itself, which is as quiet and magical as it's always been. but both outside at the back, and on the street, there's much more of a feeling of a Santuario tourist industry than there's ever been before.  A homemade, slightly funky, chile-inflected industry, to be sure, but much more slick and systematized than it used to be.  And behind the church?  Where there used to be a wire fence interwoven with homemade crosses and prayers, there are now a whole series of stone arches: elegant, yes, but it's strange to see it so formal.

And then a whole lot of small shrines have grown up, carefully maintained, if still somewhat - thank goodness - haphazard in their offerings.

I prefer, now, for a sense of beauty and solitude, the cemetery just outside Truchas.  But that being said - it's great being able to introduce an out of towner to these places - and then to continue the long loop of a drive to Trampas, Sipapu, and down through Mora and Las Vegas NM - Northern New Mexico is truly one of the most beautiful places imaginable.

annual tailgating

Our annual trip to Santa Fe Opera - and tailgating in the carpark, first, as the mountains start to turn golden.  Alice is very accomplished at pouring champagne.  But this year may have been the first on record when the opera far, far surpassed the picnic ... Jennifer Higdon's new opera Cold Mountain (based, yes, on the novel), which was beautiful, and moving, and a stirring anti-war piece - one extraordinary somber chorus number near the end, with the ghosts of dead soldiers singing among shadowy trees - with the jagged planks that made up the set looking like the shattered First World War landscapes that Nevinson painted, and thus turning it into a lament for all lost in wars, and all times.  The bars of light also made them look like dead Native American warriors shading into the trees, doubling the sense of a haunted land.  To be seen - if not in Santa Fe, I gather it's going to be staged in Philly, and then Minneapolis.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

state pride

Seen in the Whole Foods parking lot - this homage to the state.  It contains at least two NM license plate designs that I can recognize; a Californian one; a Colorado one - those green zig-zag hills; Kansas; Arizona ... does this represent the car's travels?  Whatever its migrant history (which of course, for me, harks back to that American Road Cultures course that was such fun to teach many, many years ago - or so it seems) - there's no quarreling with where it's claiming geographical identity now.

Monday, August 3, 2015

on photographs of flowers, and tempting fate

My close friends know ... if I post a picture of a flower, or plant (or more ominous still, and late at night, a cat), I'm making use of what's to hand, and I'm signifying, very often, that whatever's going on that day is not stuff that I can really write about.  This isn't invariably true, but it frequently is. And for four and a half of the last six years, that "what's happening" has, almost always, been connected to chairing a department, or university business, or colleagues, or or or.  So I thought, this morning, walking in Eldorado, that - wouldn't it be terrific to take a picture of a flower - as I did yesterday, indeed - and it not be a filler, but simply have it stand for itself?

Be careful what you bring upon yourself.  It was a day in which - for all USC is 886 miles away - I might as well have been tied to it with ropes.  Whoever invented email has a good deal to answer for.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

back home (again) in NM

Back in Eldorado - and observing with wonder quite how well everything's doing in the garden after a summer's worth of rain (the corollary to this is that I filled three very large trash sacks with tumbleweed that I'd pulled out today).  Two more weeks here, with (unless I've miscounted), no looming deadlines (other than the usual seasonal ones), no keynotes to write, nothing urgent.  I may be deluding myself, but after a busy summer, it feels good ...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

coloradan skies

Alice's Colorado Springs research being done, we came back to Santa Fe a day earlier than planned - and came back the beautiful (and slow) way - 24 over the mountains to Buena Vista, then south on 285, 17, and 285.  It kept threatening rain, thunder, locusts, plagues, boils, but in fact we only had a five minute heavy rainstorm (during which time I pulled over and took the top photo), and various spatterings - miraculous.