Friday, September 30, 2016

fag hag

One of the great pleasures of being on leave is having the time to go to talks ... today, Eleri Watson on the Fag Hag (by way of Marx, Heidegger, Husserl, Sartre, Foucault, Ahmed, and Margaret Cho).  She was super-smart and provocative, getting us to think about how fag-hag relationships have the power to subvert heterocapitalism - that might be no surprise - but also to subvert queerness itself.  But I wasn't just happy to go to this talk in and of itself, but because Eleri is doing her DPhil in English at Oxford, and, more than that, did the Women's Studies MSt there.  And a million long light years ago, I was involved in setting up that MSt, and it's so wonderful to know it's still flourishing, and being the jumping off spot for exciting new work ...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

an orange puff-ball

Our neighbors' lawn had a beautiful puffball on it this morning - a sure sign of fall.  And then, I thought - what if that puffball were orange (and spouting sexist, racist, arrogant crap)?  What would it remind us of?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

relocating the familiar

Art History has moved to new offices this year (under English, in Taper Hall, which is very convenient and collegial) - and we have all new furniture (bribery, I'm quite sure ... I mean, an incentive ... on the part of the university to get us to move).  So it's an incentive too, for me at least, to be hyper-organized, and selective about how I set things out in my office.  But there are some things that unquestioningly come with me from office to office; some that have traveled the Atlantic with me, and this faux-Roman pot is one of them.  Indeed, I think that this is its 9th, maybe its 10th, office ... Oxford; Rutgers; USC.  It's accumulated one tiny chip on the rim, but it's been a good traveler.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

harvest moon festival

Not a real harvest moon - we're two weeks too late for that - but a big, mock, paper-lantern style balloon floating out over the lake in the Huntington Gardens at their annual Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.  We saw this in the Huntington's list of forthcoming events, this summer, and thought - why not?  The renovated Chinese Gardens - nearly completed - were stunning, with reflections of the mock-moon and of lights in the small buildings; there were red lanterns in the trees; around 30 stalls with all kinds of Chinese food, and - this was the revelation - wonderful music from the Chinese Music Orchestra of China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, wafting out over the lake.  I didn't have a clue that I would like traditional Chinese music (some of it involving some quite extraordinary instruments), but evidently I do.

Monday, September 26, 2016

debate preparation

We can only assume that Moth had her head stuck in the milk foamer (again) in order to take in plenty of protein to give herself stamina (stamina! a characteristic possessed in spades by HRC!) for watching tonight's debate.  That debate was the most extraordinary presidential debate I've seen in my life.  Of course HRC won, hands down, looking presidential, prepared, knowledgable, and with a sense of humor.  But look at Breitbart; look at realdonaldtrump tweets, etc etc - and we're told that the orange cheeto won, with his (small) hands down - interruptions, vagueness, shiftiness, sniffs, grimaces, and all.  Of course I want to think - that's it!  she's nailed it!  But I'm not going to stop holding my breath (or stop sending the money, stop talking the talk) until November 9th.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

a drooping pod

This one's in our front yard - drooping because it's a ripe seed pod, but just about everything else, including me, is drooping in the heat ...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

strange flower

sometimes, the foliage round the 'hood when we're taking our daily walks can be very strange. But it's part of the ongoing entertainment.  All those Los Feliz hills are very healthy, and one can also check out all the houses for sale and being modified - a constant source of conversational (and doubtless financial) speculation.

Friday, September 23, 2016

to the beach

This is very cool ... with the full opening of the Metro Line, to be able to take a train from campus (platform, left) and be at Santa Monica Beach (right) in just about 40 stress free minutes.  And then come back to campus, after lunch ...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

the art of the junction box

We were over in Glendale this morning (Alice had to get her car serviced; I suggested that we have breakfast at Porto, the Cuban cafe/pastry shop, and very good it was, too).  Glendale is prime Armenian territory - often encountered as cab drivers, sometimes with very interesting stories about political corruption - but, apart from stores offering to send money to Armenia for you (doubtless at some rip-off rate), and Armenian churches, and some Armenian restaurants (definitely due for exploration), its Armenian-ness is not always easy to locate, even if (in terms of the people one encounters), it's also pervasive.  So it was excellent to encounter these painted junction boxes on Brand/Lexington!

a charming abstract composition?

well, no.  It's a picture that I took to illustrate - for the neighbors - where a sewage pipe was spewing out - well, sewage - that was running down onto our back yard.  Photography as Evidence.  The realities of hillside living.  I'd gone out to water the plants, and was surprised, to put it mildly, to seeing foaming, sudsy water flowing towards me.  So - one stepladder, one climb into the undergrowth later, and the obscure image was ready to be sent off in a neighborly email.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

a welcome back

... a welcome back orchid on my desk from Alice: or, to put it another way, on a day of dull cloud, when I seemed to be super-busy much of the time (memo to self: I am on leave, however tempting it is being back among colleagues and graduates), I turn, in a well-worn ritual, to whatever's most immediately at hand in order to provide a picture for the day.

Monday, September 19, 2016

signs of the city

One of the great pleasures of keeping this blog is the recurrence of certain themes.  I don't just mean The Cats, but over the months, over the years, there's a pattern to some of the things that constitute my daily life.  Here are two of the three building sides that one sees driving away from USC, and that every month or so get repainted with new advertisements - usually for movies or TV shows.  They're real signs-of-the-city.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

back home ...

After all that traveling, and after, really, a year away - with just short visits back - let's start celebrating why it's so good to be back in LA.  First: quality time with the cats.  Here's Moth.
Second - the natural habitat - here's a walk in Griffith Park, up behind our house.

And finally, the surreal world of Los Angeles.  Yesterday evening, we wondered what the strange red and white blob on the hillside was.  Binoculars revealed - as did our walk - that it was a huge, inflatable, mylar Santa.  He seemed to have been rescued (or to have flown off again) by this evening - he was a curiously unseasonal sight.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

cupcakes for Hillary

A fundraiser for Hillary this evening, at our neighbors' house - with cupcakes from the Goodie Girls (not to mention food by Yamashiro, Terrine, Barbrix, and my absolute hands down favorite, Knead & Co., from Grand Central Market.  This was very much a TV world - and Los Feliz locals - affair.  We ourselves were so local that we didn't need the - ahem - valet parking.  One percenter land or not, if this raises money money money for the campaign - HRC's, and for those further down tickets - I can't imagine, right now, anything better to attend - check in hand.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

peacefulness and a large-scale trigger warning

On the one hand, the pool of the Sedona hotel where I spent last night; on the other, campus this evening - with a warning that the guns aren't for real; they're props (campus seems given over to filming an episode of Scandal).  I drive all the way from Sedona to go to the USC campus?  Yes, volleyball ...

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The VLA (and travel skies)

If you don't take I-40 west from Albuquerque, but drop down to Socorro, and take NM 60 (and then AZ 260), it might take you a good deal longer, but you see some spectacular country.  And you pass the VLA - that's the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory (the night sky is very clear in those parts) which has 27 82 ft. wide radio telescopes.  Here are a few of them, stretching away ...

... and whatever these clouds may look like, dropping south also meant that I managed to avoid whatever they were dropping on people.  In fact, avoiding these thunderstorms was little short of a miracle - my car radio was bleeping out warnings; my cell phone was making angry whooshing sounds by way of alerts.  Currently in Sedona: luckily what turned into a night time mountain drive was greatly assisted by a full moon ...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

one last new mexican sunset

Spectacular, very early fall sunset.  I came back to wild flowers growing in the back yard - Michaelmas daisies, little sunflowers - but alas, I can't stay here to enjoy them: there are things to be done in Los Angeles ...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

congratulations, Dr Winick!!

Ever so many congratulations to Mimi Winick, successfully defending her terrific dissertation today!  "Studied Enchantment" is about the use of imagination, emotion and affect in scholarship in Britain between 1862-1931-ish - it's above all a recuperation of experimental scholarly writing by women during this period.  It was a bitter-sweet day for me - the last of my Rutgers students to defend (indeed, I was, technically, by now, the external reader, but I still think of Mimi as very much one of my own, right from recruitment) - but so wonderful to bow out on such a high note, and with a conversation in the defense itself between the five of us that was so very full of ideas.

Monday, September 12, 2016

an early start

This was the end of my parents' street this morning, through the rear window of the cab: barely dawn. It's never easy to leave - or rather, each time it gets harder, because I never quite know how I'll find things when I'm back next, even if there's just a couple of months between visits.  There's no point, of course, in dwelling on this - but such thoughts have a nasty habit of swiping me sideways somewhere over the mid-Atlantic.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

an idyllic English garden?

From my bedroom window, early this morning: the view I grew up with; the flowers from the garden on the window sill.  You'd think this was pretty idyllic, but ...

... I don't think this will show up very well, because I only had an iPad to hand, but there, beyond the long grass, that deep chestnut brown blob?  That's a fox.  I didn't open up the cat flap for a while ...

Here's the gardener, aka my father, mercifully not up a ladder this week;

... and something flowery.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

celebration (and Norwegian dampness)

Celebrating my parents' 69th wedding anniversary!  OK, a day late, but the champagne was still appropriate.  Simba, the pale orange cat, seems to have absented himself, but he was there somewhere - and so was our neighbor and friend Caroline, a little later ...  I was so glad that I could be here.

Meanwhile, earlier in the morning, this was the weather that I was delighted not to have encountered more of in Norway: Bergen fish market in full watery flow.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bergen street art

Who knew that Bergen is a huge center for street art?  I hadn't picked up on this the other day, and indeed, it took sitting at dinner in the Colonialen Litteraturhuset - a bookstore with a terrific brasserie and cafe attached - to realize this.  Checking, I find that - of course - Banksy started it all off with 8 pieces, that the city council whitewashed over ... no wonder this old man with a bicycle, by Otto - the best known local street artist - is protected with a frame and glass.  Two separate tour groups stopped, during the course of the evening, to look at this wall and take photos of it.

It was a damp and grey day - not one for glorious golden views of Bergen, this time - though here is Ålesund bus station (waiting for the airport bus), which qualifies for beauty in its own right.

But I admired different kinds of street art here in Bergen - manhole covers;

and the occasional glass tile interjected among the regular cobble stones.

Otto's old man pushing a bicycle seems lifted, in spirit, from C19th Norwegian painting - the gallery here has an especially gloomy collection - all poverty, hunger, death - the backstory to the 4.5 million Norwegians who emigrated to the US.  Here are a couple and their child, in Adolph Tidemand's Bestefarens velsignelse, which means, I think, "His grandfather's blessing."  I sat in front of this for an age: it was relentlessly melancholy.

Pretty much all the paintings were hung in a way that made it difficult to photograph them clearly: here's something of a close up.  Closer still, you can just about make out that the label on the old painted wooden chest on the floor reads New York.  This is it.  They're off.  Minneapolis, here they come, after NYC.

Seeing the C19th art that I've done has made me realize how much of one's career can be determined by accident.  Suppose, inter-railing in the mid 70s, I'd gone north, not south.  Suppose I'd seen Scandinavian realism, not Italian realism, and decided that was the under-investigated field that I'd work on?  Scandinavian Jugendstil, not Italian arte liberty?  Maybe I'd be asking the same questions now about the transmission of style in the mid C19th, or maybe not.  I guess I'd be semi-fluent in some different languages, and very used to eating fish, potatoes, bacon and green peas in different combinations, plus rye bread.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

largely architectural

One of the major reasons for this trip was to come to Ålesund, which burned down in 1904, and was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style.  Rebuilt rather hastily, one might say - not because of the quality of the building itself, but because there's something curiously cookie-cutter about the building types themselves - the variation is all in the decoration.  But how to show it?  Needless to say I was documenting it as extensively as I possibly could - so I'm sparing you what would, in years gone by, be about 10 rolls worth of film ... So here are some whole facades ... or at least substantial parts of them:

some small details -

even otherwise relatively dull edifices often have some little twirly bits -

then there are whole street views.

By way of a change - sort of - there's the Jugenstil Centrum, full of furniture and postcards and vases and posters and statuettes.  I was exceedingly glad to have seen the Japonisme show in Oslo - it was essential to providing context.

But what was also extremely interesting was an exhibition and videos about Cities - including a video about Ålesund - in the art gallery next door.  Apparently over 1/4 of the Art Nouveau buildings here have been pulled down, or have been hugely altered - an especially good mansion was torn down in the early 1970s to make the City Hall (the conservation movement understandably took off after that), and at the same time, a huge rock that kittiwakes used to roost on was blasted away.  This makes good sense of the seagull mural - called "We Were Here First."  Quite.

After that, to earlier houses - the Sunnemøre Museum, on the outskirts, is another folk museum collection of old houses - considerably less touristy than the one in Oslo (I seemed to be the only visitor), and one could go into many more of the houses.

and its situation was quite spectacular.

After that, back into town for an overview - after climbing 418 steps.

And for those of you not on Face Book, to conclude, two evening views ...