Wednesday, February 28, 2018

coat hooks!

These are very fetching, and are in my San Francisco hotel room.  I am seriously excited to be here - all these years, and although I've visited the city a few times, I've never spent a night here - in Palo Alto and Oakland and Sacramento, yes, but never San Francisco.  I hope the driving rain outside isn't planning to curtail my explorations (or even walking to and from the conference) too much ...

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


We talked a lot about acanthus in class today - or, to be more precise, acanthus mollis - soft spike.  The class - Victorian Visual Culture - was about ornamentation: Owen Jones, some Ruskin, lots of Morris, Loos, and then lots of more recent reading.  We had some great excursions into Victorian wallpaper, and whether or not it's possible to take an ornamental photograph (as opposed to a photograph of ornamentation).  I was particularly struck by Owen Jones complaining in The Grammar of Ornament (1856) about the acanthus - in his chapter on Roman ornament; in his final chapter on plants and flowers and ornamentation. "The fatal facilities which the Roman system of decoration gives for manufacturing ornament, by applying acanthus leaves to any form and in any direction, is the chief cause of the invasion of this ornament into most modern works.  It requires so little thought, and is so completely a manufacture ..." and clearly, he thinks that it's fatally spread into modern design.

So, yes, what do I see on my way to a meeting this afternoon?  A whole bed of the stuff.

Monday, February 26, 2018


In which our dear friend Joe Boone gets an endowed chair, in a ceremony presided over by our Dean, Amber Miller - on the left - and the Provost.  So do two other people.  And lo and behold, USC has invented a New Tradition, probably going back to the C13th, or whenever.  THEY ARE PRESENTED WITH ACTUAL CHAIRS.  Is this a Thing, elsewhere?  Alice and I want to know if they are going to be issued retrospectively ...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

beach life

We only live thirteen miles or so from the beach - it's crazy that we hardly ever seem to get there.  But today was a brief exception - and curiously warm, compared with the chilly winds that have beset us further inland.  Soon, very soon, we'll get to the far side of this current crazy busy work-time, and with luck it won't be so long before we get to see our local waves and gulls again.  And dogs.  These two people don't seem to have grown to look like their dogs (nor vice versa).

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Yellow isn't my favorite color, and this is therefore symbolically suitable for a very frustrating trip to the Huntington - at which I realized that my reader's card needed renewing, and there's no one working in Admissions on a Saturday.  And yes, I did need a couple of books very badly indeed.  But.  So I turned round and came back, grumpily.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

under the 10 (and the LA convention center)

I so enjoyed walking from USC to the convention center for CAA today - nearly two miles in each direction, and some spectacular early 1920s architecture (but I can go back and look at that any time); many car salesrooms (and, if one's on foot, believe me, salesmen pop out and ask you "are you ready for a Kia?" obviously thinking that if you're not in a car, you might be ...).  And you get to see the Center from some unfamiliar angles, too.  I loved the optical illusion of this shot, which makes it seem as though water is shooting out of the concrete, when in fact it's light spilling over the curved edges.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

strange cats

An unusual treat today was being driven to USC - which meant that I could actually take a picture of this wall art on Temple, when normally I'm driving past it and can't stop.  I'll present it by way of a thank you to everyone who posted birthday greetings and helped to make today a wonderful one - it's so humbling and gratifying to be remembered by you (Facebook has its many advantages, despite its distractions ...).  

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sammy and Nellie

Our English departmental administrator, Nellie, has a new dog ... a three year old adoptee called Sammy.  I don't exactly think of myself as a dog person ... but he certainly is very delightful, and taking very many things in the English department on board.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

echo park street corner

... or maybe, technically, it's East Silver Lake - unyuppified, for sure.  One of those street corners by which I often find myself stopped on the way to work (on Benson, just north of Temple), and which has always caught my eye, both because it often has good light in the morning, but also because of the different textures and, if you look closely, a little broken cherub on the wall.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Moth loves birthdays

Moth loves birthdays - not necessarily her own, but human birthdays.  Today she got to play with the ribbons that were tying up Alice's presents, and was treated to an extra little piece of butter (Alice was melting some for the purpose of dipping artichoke leaves).  This was so much fun that she may not totally have realized that she was shut up in the bedroom so that we could enjoy having candles on the birthday dinner table.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

uncomfortable still life

So it's only three bananas and a yam or two, but it manages to look unpleasantly menacing, like a multi-bodied snake or a jaundiced swan.

draining board

It's not that we spend all our time in the kitchen, but it often manages to have the most magical lighting effects,  I'm not sure how a geranium in the window box comes to be silhouetted in precisely this way, on a thin green cutting surface, but it was very striking.

Friday, February 16, 2018

tulip effects

No, no filters.  I'm entirely sure that if I were to try and recreate this, I'd come up with something different.  Some expiring tulips silhouetted against a lamp in our kitchen: the photo creates something that I never consciously saw - that is, the macro focusing on the camera has given this both detail and blurry surround that would never normally be available to the human eye.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

in which LucyFur takes exception to a man next door with a leaf blower.

LucyFur does not like men.  In particular, she dislikes men in uniforms, or wielding leaf blowers.  This latter objection may - and quite justifiably - be on environmental grounds (for leaf blowers are shockingly bad polluters).  So that lump under the bedspread that covers the shabby sofa in my study?  Yes, that's unmistakably a lump of disgruntled tabby.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

tangerine peel

Really, some student - I'm assuming it was a student - shouldn't have left this tangerine peel on a windowsill of the stairs in Taper Hall.  On the other hand, it looked remarkably pretty in the late afternoon sun.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

an interpretive enigma

I confess - I don't know how to read this.  I saw the guy - looking uncomfortable - on my way to work this morning, at the same time that I was listening to an NPR piece about homelessness in LA.  It's not that I think he's technically or necessarily homeless, but at the same time the precarity of those who have to cope on slender means with the rapacity of the Los Angeles housing market, or who may not be here with legal documentation, is everywhere.  But what I hadn't seen when I took the picture - in haste; stopped at traffic lights - was the advertisement board.  It's an anti-abortion ad, exhorting one to "believe in miracles;" telling one that there's a heartbeat at 18 days (oh, come on - a foetal heartbeat can first be detected around 6 weeks - that's 42 days - at the earliest).  But given how long I spend in classes assuming that text in images can, or should be read, as a commentary on the rest of the image - what do I do with this?  And what do I do with the fact that there's nothing deliberate about the juxtaposition of text and man?  And that rather than some kind of happy accident, what I'm left with is some kind of interpretive enigma?

Monday, February 12, 2018

annual beauty

Here's the amazing annual spectacle of the Asian Pear in full bloom outside our bedroom window.  Who knows whether any of this blossom will remain on the tree in the morning - this evening saw that most improbable and rare of Los Angeles phenomena: rain.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

a very fine cat plate

My mother's colleagues gave her this plate some twenty three or so years ago, when she retired from the work that she did for the Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations, one of the examining boards that organized O [later GCSE] and A levels in what now seems to me, from afar, to be a strangely unregulated and uneven system.  She headed up - from an academic, rather than an administrative - point of view - English A levels for maybe 14 or 15 years, with a combination of critical fierceness and much humanity.  I'm not sure that she was wild about it when she was given it (did people think her a crazy cat lady?  was it somehow too kitsch or cutesy to be Good Taste?) but over the years I think she's mellowed to it.  I, at any rate, have loved it since I first set eyes on it, thereby probably fulfilling her fears that I (and Alice) really are crazy cat ladies ...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

all saints, margaret street, London W1

My super-best thanks to Barry Qualls, for suggesting, yesterday, that if I'm teaching my grad students about the Gothic Revival, that I should show them pictures of All Saints, Margaret Street.  Er - hmmmm - I don't know how I've managed never to have been to this extraordinary Victorian jewel, hidden away just behind Oxford Street.  It was, somewhere, in my consciousness - but I had never been.  And given that this year I plan to start making a dent on all the British Victoriana that I have never seen, it's a fabulous place to start.  Designed by William Butterfield in 1849-50, it was consecrated in 1859.  "It is the first piece of architecture I have seen, built in modern days, which is free from all signs of timidity or challenges fearless comparison with the noblest work of any time. Having done this, we may do anything: there need be no limits to our hope or our confidence," said Ruskin - so in fact, it'll fit in with this week's theme of The Contemporary, too, very happily ... Yet even thought that some of it, notably the floor, was too bright ...

Then the red brick outside - it might look like a myriad of Victorian town halls, or for that matter suburban pubs, now - but it was highly innovative in the 1850s.  Again, I wonder - why haven't I been here before?

It was pouring with rain today, and the numerous street people who were crowded at the back of the church keeping dry did rather make me wish that there'd been some high Anglican incense swirling around.  On the other hand, it did seem like a suitable act of charity that they were hanging out there, untroubled.

Friday, February 9, 2018

leaving the library

Let's just say - the view from the British Library was pretty good today, as I was leaving.  No wonder St Pancras Station made a star appearance in last week's Victorian Visual Culture class as a superb example of British neo-Gothic architecture ...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

nearly Valentine's Day

This raises as many questions as it answers - a London street leading to the British Library (o home from home) and St Pancras, with a weird piece of wall art that's somewhere between graffiti and cartoon and bas relief and and and.  And whatever - it looks as though it's made of old chewing gum, even if it isn't.  And what of that cardboard box?  Consumer detritus, or a street person's sleeping patch?  And if either of those, how does one read the ironic juxtaposition? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Maybe LHR isn't technically home in any respect - but arriving back in London, and having a night out in what is indubitably my home city - that's priceless.  I could catch the plane back to LA tomorrow, and be happy with touching base. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Today was a crazily busy day, and I was very glad that I'd brought a bag of - well, food for the airplane.  It turned into lunch.  Years ago, in the very earliest weeks of this blog, I was so busy chairing at Rutgers that my posts for the whole week consisted solely of My Lunch (well, o.k., it was also at a time that I was very into photo series).  Today I signed on the dotted line and committed myself to another three years of chairing Art History (not something that I'd willingly undertake, or undertake at all, if I didn't love my department, I should say - masochism is not in my nature).  I have a dark feeling, though, that, come August 16th, there may be some more sad lunches in this blog's future ...

Monday, February 5, 2018

the wall is back!

No, not THAT wall ... but the wall at the bottom of Lucile, which has been deep Dodgers blue for a while, and now seems to have grown a lot of vertical spots/stripes.  And no - this isn't some composite, but the view from my car, driving in this morning (and, since all the rest of the day was spent Doing Things, I was super-glad of its sudden apparition, this morning, when stopped at lights ...)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

spring in los feliz

It is truly amazing to have blossom (on the Asian pear tree) and citrus fruits of some hybrid kind - tangelos, maybe - at this time of the year.  Entertaining a job candidate for dinner - it's so hard to imagine that the sheer beauty (and warmth) of the place doesn't seduce on its own, and that they want to know about things like the students ... (insert smily face, of course, at this point) ...

Saturday, February 3, 2018

chilly morning

It might look very pretty, but it was a nose-numbing 16 degreesF out there.  I know that's not that cold, but I'll remind you that my perspective is a Southern Californian one.  However, I do miss the winter colors of the east coast ...

Friday, February 2, 2018

inside the tent

The hotel I'm staying in is clearly used for countless events, ceremonies, receptions, functions ... I don't know if the outside marquee is absolutely permanent, but it looks to be very much a fixture.  This (and a couple of one that I took at more or less the same time) clearly cry out for some photomontage.  But I've been busy with other things, and those suggestive arches and darknesses aren't going to be put to any good use any time soon, alas ...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

garden ornaments

The ornamental cabbages!  The painted tires, stuffed full of soil and ready to make comfortable homes for herbs!  It's good to be back east for a couple of days, and to enjoy particular kinds of vernacular horticultural inventiveness.  Of course we have kitsch garden ornaments in LA and in Santa Fe, but they're teamed up with cacti and grasses, not cabbages.