Thursday, February 28, 2019

Arabian Night, Downtown LA

OK, so this is, inexplicably (so far as I can see) on the outside of a parking garage on S. Main Street, in downtown Los Angeles.  Nothing with "blue" in the title nearby; the only other business in the building looked to be a Japanese restaurant; a quick Google reveals nothing - so please fill me in, if you know!  Perhaps it's left over from a Rams-supporting let's turn the town blue lighting moment - but even if so, why the eastern style tented gateway shape?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

zodiac signs, with palm tree

Walking across campus today, the light was just right to see the mosaics on the entrance to our main library.  The signs of the zodiac arch across - only it's as though the designer ran out of space, or fishy enthusiasm, because one Piscean fish is squashed, rather grudgingly, at the bottom here.  It just struck me that maybe I should look to see if its counterpart is swimming in the opposite direction at the foot of the other side of this arch - that would be a very apposite break/continuum in the design.  I'll check - but for all I know, it's been fried in batter and eaten.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Nothing, but nothing says Back at USC as loudly as encountering a large wall of balloons when one walks onto campus.  They're doing their best to look like fancy red and yellow tomatoes - but not quite bringing it off. Admittedly, this should have been a photo of my class on The Years, but today's Woolf session was so absorbing that I completely forgot (and I mean that!).

allerton gardens

Hard to imagine that I was walking round these extraordinarily beautiful gardens this morning (I"m now back in LA) - the Allerton Gardens, on Kauai - the fantasy outdoor world that a couple of gay guys started to put together in the 1930s, and that is a collection of tropical plants; (lichenous) statuary; lots of water features;

Italianate cherubs;

Muscovy Ducks (this one is called Henrietta);

frogs sitting on water lilies (and there are lots of tilapia down there, too;

Moreton Bay figs (these turn up - these very ones - in Jurassic Park - indeed the tour over-emphasized film sets rather than plants, but still ...);

ingenious horizontal fountains/water ways;

and a Buddha in a bamboo grove.

Oh, yes, and lichen.

Monday, February 25, 2019

kauai hiking, wildlife (and a bit more lichen)

This may be the world's most adorable sleeping Monk Seal - how he, and a colleague, manage to do this after a heavy night's fishing on a beach where they're being ogled by tourists beats me.  My multiple hats go off to all the volunteers who rope off the part of the beach on which they take their naps, and patiently, patiently answer questions about their wellbeing, habits, weight, lifespan, and so on.

Most of our walking today wasn't by the sea, though, but inland:

beautiful countryside, and with some excellent horses that suddenly emerged on the trail.

There were a couple of fish ponds - intended for prawns (that failed to grow) in the 1970s, and subsequently given over to tilapia;

the US's largest mahogany plantation;

amazing vistas (with taro plantations);

and yes, lots more lichen.

And at the end of the day, beach -with the same sleeping seal, and a new arrival in the form of a really giant sea turtle.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

views! (and some lichen)

Yes, Kauai is startlingly beautiful ... views, more views, and clouds rolling in.  We had a day of nor quite managing to take various hikes that we'd hoped to take (nowhere obvious to park; a treacherously precipitous-looking cliff path; a misguided turn that led one out over rough tufa (albeit with an amazing view) rather than down to a beach where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed - but none of this really mattered, since it was all spectacular.

No one who knows my current obsession will be remotely surprised that I've also kept a steady eye open for lichen, too ...

Friday, February 22, 2019

lounging about

It's been a long last nine months - time for a couple of days' birthday vacation!  Here's the view from a rather fine balcony on Kauai; here are some monk seals lounging on the beach (with some stakes and ropes round them, and a notice logging their arrival this morning - three males, estimated ages 4/5/5).

It doesn't escape my consciousness that if I were still in the UK, not only would I be weeping and gnashing my teeth over Brexit, but I would be facing mandatory retirement, at least so far as I remember the terms of my last contract.  That's a sobering, chilling thought in a number of ways.  Not to say that this Department Chair doesn't, some days, harbor fantasies (of, say, being on a beach in Hawai'i, rather than dealing with admin) - but it's not just that all of us, inside, are surely still 27 or whatever; it's that I'm nowhere near ready to - what's the best metaphor? - relinquish my office key?  Hand in my library card?  I promise that I'll step down, step away when I think the moment has come, but I'm deeply, deeply grateful not to be told when that moment might be solely on the grounds of my year of birth.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

the ubiquity of the abandoned scooter

I look forward to the craze for this nasty means of transport being over.  If they're in motion, these scooters are weaving around over the road - occasionally, but by no means usually, in a bike lane; or they're seeking to mow one down on or near campus.  But more usually, they're lying in an unwieldy heap on a sidewalk, ready for someone who's not paying attention, or, worse, who has vision issues to trip over them.  Only rarely do they seem to be neatly propped up against a wall, as here.  This, however, is mysterious.  It's en route to Keck - we were driving to USC via Alice's PT appointment - and this is a wall in an industrial hinterland - certainly not in the hipsterdom, or tourist enclaves that one associates with these things.  There wasn't even a pot dispensary nearby.  Maybe somebody's $1 worth of mobility just ran out at this point ...

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

the clouds roll in

The view from the top of what I still think of as Parking Structure D this evening - although it now bear the spuriously pretentious name of the Royal Street carpark.  That's the Shrine in the foreground, with its miniature minaret, and then the towers of Downtown LA standing out against the horizon.  By the time I was half way home - the other side of DTLA - the rain was coming down in huge drops.  I read such a depressing piece earlier - presumably in the LA Times - about how 80% of the rain that falls in LA County goes straight down the streets, into the drains (or the LA River) and out to sea - so although there have been massive amounts of rainfall so far this wet winter, no one seems to have worked out a satisfactory way of collecting all that much of it.  One hopes that some corner of Our Institution is putting their mind to this particular - to use our provost's favorite language - Wicked Problem.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Woolf class - week 7 - The Waves

You'd think that I'd know The Waves pretty well - I did, after all, do the Penguin edition of it.  But I swear it's shifted around a lot since I last read it ... What I found fascinating (not that I'd expect anyone in the class to find it fascinating) was comparing my notes, on this re-reading, with my marked up copy from when I was preparing the edition.  I marked, I noticed, so many of the same things.  Does this mean that my critical attention hasn't shifted all that much?  Does it mean that I was remembering, at some not-consciously-recognized level, the things that interested me before?  What's strange is that I had the definite sense, this time, that this was not a novel I could have understood so well if I'd been much younger.  But maybe that's a big fat illusion - perhaps, when one's younger, a novel like The Waves makes one feel old?  I was intrigued by the fact that the (young graduate) students in the class claimed to find it much easier than To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway - surely not?  On the other hand, quite a number of them are poets, so maybe that makes sense ...

Monday, February 18, 2019

gaze into the distance

... gaze, that is, beyond the dark line of hills, and you'll see quite how magnificent the snow covered mountains are - probably the most spectacular that I've ever seen them here.  This is from the road above the road that our house is on - afternoon walk time - but the mountains are plainly visible from our living room.  It's quite something to live somewhere where one marvels daily at how beautiful it is.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

winter travel

In reverse order - this spectacular rainbow was from the plane when landing at Burbank this evening - it was a good day for views.  Flying to NYC from Burbank was an experiment - it made for a much easier drive (and cheaper parking) than using LAX - on the other hand, it meant changing planes.  No problem going out - coming back, American were looking for 31 volunteers to give up their seats (for $600, then $700, then $720 and a hotel room ...), in order to lighten the plane so that it could fly with less fuel, for there were Crosswinds and Turbulence (actually, it was relatively smooth, but the threats were dire).  I was not a taker.  This was a whole-arch rainbow - I just wish that the airplane window had been cleaner ...
... as it had been on the first flight: again in reverse order; Arizona (Flagstaff Mountain is in there somewhere); somewhere in the mid west, and Lake Erie.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

American illumination

To the New York Historical Society - to see Betye Saar's angry/satiric assemblages from washboards, and also this stunning piece, "A Loss of Innocence" - a beautiful lacy christening gown, until you go up close, and see that it's covered - with great tastefulness - with all the derogatory, hurtful, racist names that the baby will likely grow up to be called.

There's also a huge gallery of Tiffany lamps and glass, which decidedly represent another side of America - but which make for some wonderful photographs ...

Friday, February 15, 2019

conference paper giving

Ah, conferences.   Sitting in front of me, as I was up at a table on the podium before giving my paper, was a small dish of very unpalatable hard boiled sweets.  Then that's some kind of water receptacle thingy behind, and in the front my folder (ferns! - not in the book, though, because people have written lots about ferns, containing my talk on lichen - which I was very happy to have given, and had really useful feedback ...which, for once, made me want to rush straight back into research and writing).

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's day in NYC

There were a lot of heart shaped balloons and people rushing around with cellophane wrapped flower bouquets in New York today (oh, and a few slightly embarrassed people carrying stuffed bears), but the most remarkably ridiculous display (shades of Heliogabalus) was the truck offering samples of Ralph Lauren perfume somewhere on 6th Avenue.  Central Park was exceptionally pretty for a Valentine's Day walk - frozen lakes, but warm enough not to feel frozen oneself.

Of course, if Valentine's Day went badly, and one decided to throw oneself in, through the thin ice, there are always plenty of ladders that one might be rescued with (and mystery inscriptions in the snow).

Yes, I know I'm at a conference, but I'm not going to be in NY and not enjoy a walk in Central Park.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Moth, before dawn

When a Cat's people get up Before Dawn and there are Suitcases, one tends to get looks like this from the top of the Armoire ...

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Woolf class, week 6

... in which we discover textual differences between the UK (as in the Penguin) edition of To the Lighthouse and the US one (as in the Harcourt) - not to mention a further aberration in the Everyman.  This led to a discussion to textual editing and decisions about [non] authoritative texts.  And yes, speaking of parentheses, there's even a difference about at least one stand-alone chapter-paragraph: square brackets [which in a moment of inspiration, though I expect others have been there, often, before me, I compared to a picture frame] in one, round parentheses in the other.

I found teaching this text extraordinarily difficult today.  I knew Woolf toyed with considering it an "elegy;" it had never gripped me so painfully as being about personal loss as it did on this re-reading.  Loss - not just of my mother, but yesterday, of an incredibly dear family friend, Gwen Pascal - my mother's best friend at school: born within two months of each other; died within three months of each other; my entrĂ©e (together with her husband Claude) into France - a woman who was incredibly kind to me, and also so much fun to be with.  I'll write more about her soon.

 It was when - a few hours before class - I came to Lily's thoughts about [the late] Mrs Ramsay that I pretty much lost it: how thinking of her was pretty safe, but that there was such a thing as "these emotions of the body ... It had seemed so safe, thinking of her.  Ghost, air, nothingness, a thing you could play with easily and safely at any time of day or night, she had been that, and then suddenly she put her hand out and wrung the heart thus."  Strange, perhaps, that describing the effects of a trigger should be a trigger ... Then add to that the fact that some of Mr Ramsay's ways of coping with loss and grief seem horribly close to those of my own father (though no tyrannical boat trips involved ...) ... it wasn't easy.  Of course, professional composure returned: it always does.  But literature can trip you up.

Monday, February 11, 2019

flying home

The mountains have never looked so good!  In other news, it was a long flight, but I wrote my CAA paper and put the slide show together - largely because the panel organizer wanted the slides today (for Friday).  I may never have been so organized.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ray and Simba

They're doing well.  At which point, one either writes seven paragraphs, or one short one - but given that Ray's reminiscing only stopped at five minutes before midnight, and that I have an early flight, guess which it will be ...

Saturday, February 9, 2019

lichen (and a White Rabbit)

Mostly, I was photographing lichen in Oxford this morning - with a view to have background slides to us for text in my paper for CAA next week (yes, they mostly be faded, of course, or partially so).  But I went to the Covered Market (cheese! cheese!) to see what's there now - and found that there's a huge White Rabbit (consulting his pocket watch, of course), hanging from the rafters.  How long has that been there?