Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fight On! (skeletal edition)

For those of you who aren't USC people, let me explain how very happy I was to find this t-shirt, a couple of years back ... the USC - hmmmm, what does one call it? salute? - involves raising two fingers in a V for Victory sign - palm forward - just as we see with these bony digits.  I bought this in Target a couple of Halloweens ago, thinking it would come in useful for a Halloween volleyball game (I felt underdressed at the last October 31st one I attended).  Of course, there was no such game this year.  Nor last year - but I couldn't find this t-shirt then - I'd put it in the fatal Safe Place.  But this year - out it came.  Just as well, because the two small crows that I'd been wearing on my shoulder on October 31st for the last couple of years had, in my old office, succumbed to a bad attack of Moths.  It went down well in the department office ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


You'd barely think that there was a Halloween ghosty in sight.  But look closely - there are two friendly spooks in the double glass doors into this establishment on S. Hoover ...

Monday, October 29, 2018

day of the dead lottery

On Sunset: an optimistic gamble tied to one form of certainty - Day of the Dead lottery scratch cards.  I knew, as I took it (stopped in traffic that was just about to move again) that I'd be lucky to have framed this adequately, but not only are the stamp-like, flag-like posters strung out neatly along the hoarding, but there are some quintessential LA cypresses and palms in the background, and, yes - for this is the fringes of Silver Lake - a very hipster dog bearing down, quite hopefully, on the fire hydrant.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

bringing home a plant

I took the bus down to USC today (to a volleyball game), since the Rams were using the Coliseum, and I thought that traffic and parking would be a nightmare.  They wouldn't have been - indeed, the bus was on diversion because of the football, and turned anyone wanting USC off at Adams, which meant a very speedy twenty-five minute walk in order to make first serve ... But on the way, I really appreciated how busy public transport is on a Sunday: the bus was packed, and, evidently, included people who were bringing plants back from market (I'm frustrated: I know that I know perfectly well what this little bush is: is it chamomile?).

Saturday, October 27, 2018

our lively neighborhood

What I think particularly good about this front lawn display - just a couple of blocks over from us - is that grieving angel on the left.  She's there all the year round, a permanent piece of garden statuary - but takes on a new depth at this time of the year.  Halloween decorations look exceptionally out of place, sometimes, when everything's as verdant and flourishing as it is here. 

USC topiary

Alice's consultations at Keck today were in two separate buildings - which gave us a small amount of exercise walking between them - and the chance to admire what some gardeners can get up to with low box hedges.  I didn't sniff them - but there are some box bushes at the house next door, and at this time of the year, they're smelling just like the box hedges that I remember at Naworth in my childhood.  This is very confusing.

(and for those who are wondering - Alice's surgeon is very pleased with her; the oncology radiologist met her and examined her and radiology will start the week after Thanksgiving ... and that should take her neatly to the start of next semester.  Well, that takes care - day-by-day - of Christmas break - though she should get a break on Christmas Day itself.  Lots of opportunities to admire topiary.  But all the medical news is really great).

Thursday, October 25, 2018

skull and parsley

You didn't expect that after all my chronicling of Halloween decoration that I'd omit to include something of our own, did you?  Here's a painted skull with an air plant of some kind growing out of the side of its head.  It seemed a little lonely sitting on the terrace outside the front door - despite the accompanying stripey gourd - but once nestling in some parsley, it's quite comfortable.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

more halloween

Traffic was backed up on Sunset driving into work today - so I took a detour/short cut up Lucile, and came upon what's probably my favorite decoration yet.  This photo doesn't quite do it justice (I'd parked semi-illegally in a driveway, and was a little hurried) - but one of the little gingerbread bungalows on Marcia Drive (built in 1925, and a real remnant of old Los Angeles) has some terrific figures; a spider's web of Halloween lights in the window, and many, many crows gathering along the edge of the roof and in the gutters.  Oh, and a fair number of tombstones.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The harvest festival look

The harvest festival look - I guess our University Club is too decorous to go in for skeletons and ghouls.  This decoration brings out the neo-Gothic architecture to perfection: the Club is (these days) in King Stoops Hall, which started life in 1923 as a branch of Los Angeles Public Library (and then became a USC library) - its brick work and carved columns suggest an optimistic pretension to being a few centuries older than that.

Monday, October 22, 2018

hovering spider

A very large one, hovering over a front door as dusk comes on ... I've been taking pictures of this spider every day for the last few days, but each day it's been upstaged by something else.  If anyone's been observing me, it must seem like a weird kind of compulsion, and I don't promise not to return in sunlight.  The lanterns, though, give it a certain extra frisson ...

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Here's a mystery - tucked into the base of a tree-trunk, just inside a railing, a couple of streets away.  It's fairly obviously not a Halloween decoration.  It's - well, a Christmas bauble, one assumes, but too large to hang on a tree, comfortably (slightly bigger than light-bulb sized).  And, also, it's mid-October.  And - HOPE?  Is this some kind of post-Obama election message (in which case, timely).  Any enlightenment is welcome.  It seemed very deliberately positioned - but at dachshund-eye level, so possibly rather limited in any electoral appeal.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

a very fine bobcat

OK - so you can't see him in detail.  But I looked out of my study window early this morning, and there was this fine bobcat strutting across the hillside, before he decided to sit down in the shade and wait for any passing mice or pack rats or rock squirrels or lizards.  There's only that wire fence between us and Griffith Park (and I make sure that there's an animal-passage-way underneath it, for easy access) - it's such a privilege to have him as our neighbor.

Friday, October 19, 2018

a screaming spook

Another Halloween offering on the streets of Los Feliz (and believe me ... many more to come!).  This one is not only screaming, but bears an uncanny resemblance to Mrs Thatcher.  Or Miss Havisham.  Take your pick ...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

hi, everyone!

Two cheerful skeletons and a cheerful (if large) spider, waving at you from down our street.  The neighborhood is really gearing up for Hallowe'en: a lot of skeletons and tombstones this year, and big fuzzy spiders (this particular house always has large spiders crawling over its front hedge).  Several hands popping up from underground; a couple of oversized grinning rats; some wispy ghosts; what looks (at a somewhat strange house) like the ghost of an Easter Bunny, perched on a pedestal; and a dismembered lizard (head and tail only were left ...).  Oh, wait: that last one had been left by an owl or a hawk, I should think - and wasn't an organized part of a decorative scheme, even if it did look completely in place.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

what a cat sees in the early morning

Moth very much enjoys sitting looking out of the bedroom window - it's on the second floor, and looks straight out into a tree (and then onto Griffith Park) - with luck (from her point of view), there'll be a squirrel in the tree, and maybe a lot of birds, and and and.  In other news, it was just wonderful to wake up and have a state of mind that matched the peacefulness outside.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

outside Keck Hospital, at the end of a long long day

OK - it's a boring photo, but the alternatives were worse ... It was a long day, leaving home at 6.45, and finally - well, we were back, via a pharmacy for painkillers, around 7.45 p.m.  But the good news - as many of you know - is not only that Alice's surgery went very well, but that there seem to be no traces of the cancer in either breast nor lymph nodes.  Lots of treatment still to come ... but this is super encouraging.  I'll spare you the day's exhausting confusions and waiting and and and.  I'll spare you any image of Alice having been stained (something to do with ultra-cleaning her skin) a bright Trumpian orange, topped with a pale blue face (like bad Victorian milk) as a result of the tracer dye that was put in her (and yes, she'll be peeing blue for the next 24 hours or so).  I'm just so happy that she's home and that the news is so very positive.

Monday, October 15, 2018

fight on ...

Admittedly, the precise resonances of this are most likely to be appreciated by those with USC connections ... but there we were, sitting in Keck Medical Center of USC, waiting for Alice to be imaged in some strange machine like a hollow and very visible tunnel, and staring at a campus Trojan in full armor, complete with a breastplate that, as Alice herself said, looks like an enormous tit.  Or rather ... it looks suspiciously like the round plate that was about to be taped to her left breast, after four (four! - thank goodness for lycocaine) injections of some traveling tracer dye were shot into said breast.  This then refused to travel where it was meant to, thus rendering two and a half hospital hours peculiarly useless ... though maybe it will have snailpaced along by tomorrow morning.  For tomorrow is surgery day - please keep all your fingers crossed and candles lit.  "Fight on," our university motto, is singularly apposite ... 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

surface reading

One of the sessions that I was in today was grouped around a strangely polished set of metal topped tables, which clashed (I spared you this) quite horribly with the florid, curlequeued, brightly coloured swirling carpet.  It was, however, maybe the most picturesque thing today - a day that was both full (with conference) and frustrating (connecting flight canceled, routed back through Miami, where I still am, hoping to escape for LA in an hour or two).  It was a terrific NAVSA - I hope other people's journeys back have been smoother ...

Saturday, October 13, 2018

St Pete evening

However much NAVSA may be my favorite conference of the year (so many friends! so many great papers!! so many bits of food and drink!!!), it's always super-wonderful if I can grab some quiet moments as well ... walking back to my hotel pre dinner fulfilled this to perfection ... 

Friday, October 12, 2018

morning light with Great Egret

Not only are there many herons and egrets here, but it's the first conference that I've been to where lizards regularly turn up in the seminar rooms ... Such beautiful morning light.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

early morning, St Pete

A little bit of post-hurricane sky, but otherwise, completely calm.  I'm staying at a hotel about 0.9 miles from the conference (so my phone map says) - which means that I get a beautiful walk there and back which allows me to walk off a little of the food and drink that also gets consumed ...

But can the weather change so rapidly, from mist to crystal clear light, you wonder?  Hagh!  Two of these images are taken with a real camera - and it's so humid that the lens instantly clouded over, which resulted in some interesting effects.  Photo 3, with my iPhone, is a little more what it actually looked like ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

flying behind the hurricane

I don't want for a minute to downplay the horrors that Hurricane Michael has caused just 350 miles north of where I am right now; nor the sheer awfulness of what this all says about global warming (the storm accelerating because the gulf waters are 4-6 degrees warmer than usual at this time of year).  But gosh - the (completely smooth) flight from Miami to Tampa this evening was beautiful (the bumps were on the LA-Miami leg).  It was like flying through a John Martin painting.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


As seen on campus today.  I know nothing of the context, but I suspect there are many of us who can relate to this right now ...

Monday, October 8, 2018

another sign of Halloween

... and one that's not nearly as scary as yesterday's.  On the other hand ... maybe scary in another way, since it's in the window of USC's Environmental Studies Program, and seems composed of the most environmentally unsound plastic products imaginable.  This led me into a rabbit hole - a rabbit warren - of wondering what our Environmental Studies BA looks like, and finding that - were I hypothetically to take it - I would have to pass a compulsory course in calculus - one that seems aimed at business and economics.  In turn, this led me to look at past final exams - full of the kind of practical questions about break-even points for price-to-sell-at-a-profit hockey tickets to a stadium of a certain capacity, or about brewing beer (I assume Kavanaugh must have done a calculus course?).  The last time I looked at any calculus I was 16 - we had covered our O level math syllabus, and were allowed to do some more advanced work as a treat.  I'll re-punctuate that: as a "treat."  Maybe I should take a calculus course and conquer my demons, even as I feel my anxiety levels rising by merely looking at an exam ...

Sunday, October 7, 2018


And if NOT Halloween, then what?  Admittedly this is the same house where a model was posing for the camera the other day - I suppose it could be a left over prop.  Since it was Sunday, and quiet, I could get out of the car and have a good look - but no clues.  I find it weirdly disquieting - not least because the racial/gender/Halloween decoration politics seem entirely unreadable ...

Saturday, October 6, 2018

trumpet flower

In the slow, delicate movement from one season to another in Southern California, I always look forward to the trumpet flower.  To be honest, I think they bloom pretty solidly - around the place - during mid and late summer, but ours seems to be on a cycle that flowers around now.  And it's a plant that Alice had before she met me, and that moved with us five years ago, and so I take particular care to cherish it.  Here, it looks as though it's trying to become a piece of French knitting - something I'd completely forgotten about until looking at the photo jogged my memory - which involves a cotton reel and some little nails and weaving wool between them until it comes out in a kind of plait at the far end.  And then what?  Whatever did I do with these useless lengths of thin woolly rope?  

Friday, October 5, 2018

cello on campus

There's a particularly persistent USC promotional video that plays a lot when there's a USC game being broadcast on the PAC-12 LA channel - suggesting that campus has Creativity bursting out all over - ballet dancers leaping down tables in the library; musicians serenading the waves on the beach (presumably they got an Expo line train there from campus?).  So seeing a cellist practicing in a quiet corner looked almost like a promotional set up.  It was a day for surprising musical moments: there was a very inspiriting lunchtime concert in the central part of the University Village of - I think - some kind of eastern European, or eastern Mediterranean, music.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

a green fruit

But no - I don't know what it is.  It grows on a large bush in our front yard - the product of bright orange flowers - and almost certainly isn't edible.  It must be the end of the summer - I suddenly saw that the bush is full of them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

an unintentional choice of necklace

This morning, I was part of a small group of people meeting with our Interim President, Wanda Austin, to talk about what we should be looking for in a new University President (and yes, dear reader, I did manage to mention the importance of someone with an academic and research background - not someone coming from running a law or business school, and certainly not coming from a non-academic world - and preferably from somewhere with a medical school; someone who favored more transparency and not always giving top-down decisions that lack full explanations but, rather, supporting faculty governance; diversity; sustainability, and More Space).  Mission accomplished, or at least delivered.  BUT - a few minutes into this meeting I looked down at my carefully chosen outfit (smart but non-corporate, etc) and realized to my amusement/horror that I'd unconsciously chosen a necklace that appears to be in cardinal and gold - the USC colors.  I PROMISE THIS WAS UNINTENTIONAL.  All the same, it'll come in handy for volleyball games.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

USC balloons

'Tis the season for ... careers fairs on campus: long lines of undergrads in very uncomfortable looking suits lining up - folders with CVs in hand - in front of tables where prospective employers lay out their enticements - free pens, mugs, soft toys, flash drives, plastic toys, and such like.  I have absolutely no idea how all of this works - whether it functions as some manic kind of speed-dating, or what.  But it's certainly a profitable time of the year for vendors of stacks of balloons in Trojan colors ...

Monday, October 1, 2018

posing for a shot

ah, Los Angeles ... or, a perfect example of why I drive around with a camera sitting shotgun in the passenger seat.  Unfortunately the traffic moved before I could lower the window, which means there are some strange splashes, left over from the last time the car saw any water, on the window glass ... but this was just a too-perfect-for-words scene.