Sunday, March 31, 2019

someone else's wisteria

OK - I'll admit to serious wisteria envy.  I've always loved wisteria.  I planted some in a tub on the balcony of my first apartment, in Bristol, but I can't remember that anything much happened (I had, of course, grandiose horticultural visions of it careening across the balcony).  I planted some in our garden in Oxford, but although it grew, it was anaemic and unenthusiastic - I got my wisteria kicks from an amazing bush that twined in with a hawthorne and a May tree on Mansfield Road on a corner that now, I saw with dismay a few months back, has been cleared for redevelopment.  I don't remember trying in either Princeton or New Jersey - and New Mexico needs a good deal of care and attendtion - and here in Los Angeles, I just borrow other people's magnificent blooms.  Maybe next year will be the year to try, in earnest.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

sidewalk koi

This might be my favorite piece of sidewalk art ever!  It's in Silver Lake - just round the corner from Trader Joe's, outside Magpie's soft serve ice cream - which, as I took it, had a couple of trendy Young People sitting outside who, despite my smile, gave me an oh-it's-a-batty-old-lady stare.  I thought I'd seen some similar fishies on Vermont, which had me looking into them a little further ... they are stenciled on by Jeremy Novy, who's been adorning sidewalks with koi all over the country for nearly a decade.
They are symbols of resilience!  They swim upstream!  There are three of them - birth/marriage/death - so they sum up all of life as well as symbolizing the life force.  Go koi!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Moth listens to the Brexit debate at breakfast time

Our poor cat.  I think she more or less understands the calls to ORDERRRR - ORDD-ERRRR - but beyond that, she can't make head nor stripey tail of what's going on, and what's the matter with all of these people?  Why can't they just stay in Europe?  That is, after all, what her people fervently believe should happen.  But also - does one of them have to watch Parliamentary debates via C-Span at breakfast time?  What's the point of this, especially when it makes her so stressed?

She has, of course, watched the Simon's Cat Brexit meme again and again,

but she has been devastated to find out that Nathalie Loiseau, France's Europe Minister, does not, after all, have a cat - despite having joked (cf Simon's Cat not going through the opened door) that she'd named them Brexit (doubtless my father would regard that as further evidence of Unreliable Europeans, but let's not go there).  On the other hand, if someone called l'oiseau had a cat in the first place, that would have joke potential in and of itself ...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

a Crane Fly

I hope no one mistook her for an oversized mosquito, because she was really quite pretty, resting on the wall of a stairwell in Taper Hall.  Darker than many crane flies - I don't know what sub-species she is - but very harmless, unless you happen to be a crop in the way of one of the larvae (aka leatherjackets), which eat through things quite busily ...

Wednesday, March 27, 2019


Our azaleas are looking superb this year, after a spring of rain.  I've never seen them so thickly blooming.

Or - another read on this image.  Let's do context, shall we?  After seven hours of student meetings today, I lost my keys.  I have still lost my keys (and having a caring office administrator who not only helped me retrace my steps, call security, etc etc etc and then drive me home is something worth its weight in azalea petals).  But that explains what I'm doing outside, taking photos by flash whilst coyotes yip and howl in the background.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

fountains at Union Station

Alice dropped me off at the side of Union Station today, so that I could catch the bus down to USC (she went on to Keck; drove to campus later) - and heading up a staircase to the bus plaza, I encountered some fountains I'd never seen before - installed in 1995.  The top one is by Roberto Gil de Montes, the other one - two different sides; two different cat heads - by Elsa Flores.  Flores is best known for murals in LA and elsewhere (probably most famously, she collaborated on "California Dreamscape" with her late husband, Carlos Almaraz); de Montes is originally from Mexico - and among many other things has done some striking tile installations in the Metro, which I want to check out ... This was an unexpected bonus for the morning!

Music and Mindfulness

Around the middle of the day, I started to hear loud, ethereal choral and - maybe flautist? - sounds.  Eventually, I realized this wasn't one of my colleagues turning up some loud music, but that there was a whole flock of rotating figures on the space outside the side of Taper Hall - somewhere between a Dalek and a lampshade.  All of them were vocalizing or playing - it was really magical (although, to be honest, I'd have wished to come upon them in a more magical setting.  But then, maybe not.  This is my vision of how I like my university - surprising me with sudden beauty).  And then I was given a small bell, with an attached hexagonal notice: one side was advertising a forthcoming Visions and Voices event on Music and Mindfulness, with a mindful-poem written by a student in a poetry class taught by Molly Bendall, one of my colleagues. 

This has been a long day: I could do with more music and mindfulness.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

something blooming

There is a lot flowering in Griffith Park right now - but most of it's completely identifiable by me, like wild mustard.  This - not so much.  I've seen the leaves before, but this stem combines the worst and the best of red hot pokers with miniature cauliflowers.  I'm sure it's common enough - but I'd be very grateful if someone would tell me what it is ...

Saturday, March 23, 2019

more blossom

On a grey day - some more blossom.  I was so excited this morning!  The first time I'd managed to clear a day to go to a library (other than quick dives into the one at USC) all semester!  And when I presented my card at the Huntington ... yes, it expired last week, and they only have a skeleton crew on a Saturday, and no one could be rustled up, so that was that.  Still, it being the Huntington, there were some pretty trees in flower, even if these were in the car park, before I came dejectedly home.

Friday, March 22, 2019

a hint of spring

It's starting ... after a cold and damp winter.  In fact, there's lots of plum blossom on my way home, and some jasmine, and other bursts of spring flowering, but I was hardly in a position to stop and celebrate them - and I always think of these trees, on campus, as offering the first real sign that we're moving into a new season.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

evening rainbow

A very pretty view from our living room this evening.  Can I turn it into some kind of hope for Brexit (or rather, Remain)?  Please?  I have had such a distracted day, continually clicking on the Guardian's live feed to see whatever nourishment it was offering me from Brussels.  I signed the Revoke Article 50 petition - which as a British Citizen I'm entitled to do.  But I feel completely impotent (like millions of others, too, I'm sure).  I do not want to be a non-European.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

from the top of the car park

The stormy clouds moving over the mountains were beyond stunning, this evening ... I hope someone brought Carol Folt, our new USC President up here at some point to see the view: I always swear that it's the best one on campus ...

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

a doorway

... at La Posada, Winslow, early this morning, before the rest of the long drive back to LA.  I like to think of this as the most obvious of metaphors, opening out - or in - to the rest of the semester.  Spring is clearly hovering, imminently ...

Monday, March 18, 2019

back on the road

and heading back to LA: big skies (alas, I was driving when it came to the end of the day sun and clouds, which were spectacular); long trains; and Laguna Pueblo - a view to be born in mind every time an American in England is tempted to squeak "Oh! but it's so OLD ..."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

lichen and allium

Just outside our front door - one more type of lichen.  And I'll give you Endnote One from a draft-but-for-circulation paper that I'm trying to complete tonight ...

1.  You’re wondering how to pronounce that word?  The preferred pronunciation in American English is /ˈlaɪken/ - sounds like “liken.”  British English still acknowledges /ˈlɪtʃ(ə)n/ [rhymes with “kitchen].  This latter pronunciation is the only one given in Benjamin Smart’s Grammar of English Pronunciation (1810); by 1902, the Oxford English Dictionary was claiming that it was “rare in educated use.”

Glad to have cleared that one up for you ...

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Time for a quick respite from writing and deadline chasing, and into town for some errands, and a coffee (and red pepper/onion/cheese scone) at Iconik, which would make for a very good home-from-home cafe to write in, if only I didn't need books ...  The strange chandelier type thing is decorated with elaborately folded brown paper: not quite origami cranes, but not quite not.

(oh, and for anyone who cares about the Swarming Termite sage, my research suggests that they swarm, mate, and then fly off.  I'm not sure how many will have made their escape: there was a very happy Northern Flicker on a tree in the yard eating everything in sight.  That doesn't mean that they . aren't also chewing through wood out of my sight, but I'm going to pour huge jugs of vinegar into the ground outside my window tomorrow, which apparently is a great eco-killer, and then get in an eco-friendly terminator when we're back.  Thank you for your care and suggestions.  And at least they made the Flicker's day).

Friday, March 15, 2019

winged thingies

I was sitting peacefully at my work table after lunch (deadline-writing; admin; the usual) in the suddenly warm sunshine, when something horrific started to happen.  Out of the cracks round one of my windows, winged thingies started to swarm out - not one; not three, but battalions.  I fear they are termites: they emerged once before, in the same kind of massed and aggressive way, three years ago, but this time their appearance was both sudden and - well, invasive in the extreme.  I was bashing at them so fast that it was like a game of whack-a-mole on speed.  Eventually I did a rush to the kitchen for some immediate repellent in the form of peppermint essence and cinnamon (my study now smells rather strong); taped up all the cracks, and then found the organically-sound termite murdering spray that I ordered on that earlier occasion, and the repellent (which looks just like cat litter), and attacked the few that still managed to squeeze their way in.  Then I poured a kettle of boiling water onto the ground outside the window.  That all, touch wood (maybe wood isn't the best thing to be touching?) seems to have taken care of it for now (and no, I'm aware that this doesn't get to the real root of the problem, wherever that may be).

And then I saw that there were more insects, flying around in the yard - these ones had immolated (I think one can use that verb, even if no flame is involved?) themselves by drowning in a bird bath, and look positively pretty.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

end of the winter ...

The snow is now off the chamisa ... it may be back again tomorrow (this morning's inch of the stuff was a surprise), but surely some spring will arrive soon?  It is, after all, supposedly "spring break" - though there is little spring, and alas, little break (file under: A Chair Is Always Dealing With Something).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

chilly (oh, and USC stuff)

It was cold out there this morning.  Alice very wisely marched us out for a walk before the wind kicked up in earnest, and then we hunkered down for the rest of the day with work deadlines and the ongoing USC (and elsewhere, but I'm being parochial, here) admissions scandal stuff, interspersed with (for me) watching the House of Commons live, mangling everything to do with Brexit that it possibly could.  

I'm left shaking my head that someone who I know - in a friend-on-campus, have occasional lunches together, talk to at volleyball games, exchange views about volleyball, to be sure, but also, yes, about politics, and about the less than perfect aspects of USC; someone whose company I enjoyed and who always seemed a straight shooter - that someone I know could apparently be so downright corrupt.  So, evidently, unless there's some whole other story (and all the evidence in the depositions makes this seem very, very improbable), one can misread, badly.  But what's almost entirely been lost in this is the good that this person did do - for women athletes, for their mental health and general well being, and, perhaps especially, for LGTB athletes on campus.  That was one of the reasons that I admired her.  As this piece in the lesbian on-line publication Autostraddle puts it: "Here’s hoping that support of LGBT and women athletes at USC will not be collateral damage of this whole damn thing."

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

today's lichen

Just a couple of feet from our New Mexican front door!  And the presence of this beautiful lichen goes to prove a point connected to my current overall lichen obsession: that one just doesn't, by and large, notice it.  That is - I couldn't have told you, until recently, whether we did, or didn't, have lichen here - but voilà!

Monday, March 11, 2019

spring break continues

Whilst some of us are staring at our deadlines or our tax returns, others of us are working hard at our catnip bananas.  If you blow this up large, you'll see Moth's little pink tongue hard at work.  Of course, there was a half-hour of abject panic when someone came to mend the underfloor heating (as usual), but leisure activities soon recommenced.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

on top of things

LucyFur is so happy to be back in Santa Fe: not least because this house has underfloor heating, and everything gets toasty warm very easily.  Also - when the underpaw warmth gets a little too much, she's able to remind us that she's Monarch of All She Surveys.  I'm just grateful that she still has the agility to leap, or scramble, on top of this tall bookshelf/cabinet, and that twelve or so pounds of tabby doesn't come through its roof onto the angel bulto.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

first night back

Of course, I'm sure there are plenty of first nights back in Santa Fe when we don't go to Harry's Road House for dinner for the ritualistic margarita and burrito, but (even if we don't eat burritos; even if we don't drink margaritas) there's still something - as I know I've noted before - of the ceremonial return - I've been coming here for 20 years ... The whole front part is fairly new: what used to be a patio is now an atrium with a glass wall that raises in summer (summer, given that there's still some snow on the ground, seems a ways off) - but it now makes a good space in which to wait for one's table, as opposed to crowding and shuffling on some chilly benches, or perching in the very full bar ... So good to be back!

Friday, March 8, 2019

more balls

On the road - our first trip to Santa Fe with the cats in tow for a year!  It's so good to be back at La Posada, in Winslow, although whether or not the cats agree is still hanging in the balance.

big balls on campus

These big balls appeared on campus today - they seemed to be part of an LBGT+ event - lots of cheerful rainbow flagged tables - but I can't quite connect the two ... at least, not in any seemly way ...

Thursday, March 7, 2019


It was very wet this morning.  However, as I said to one of my colleagues - who commented on my rubber boots - one bonus is that I get to pretend (in certain respects) that I'm 6 again.  Such fancifulness is a necessity on a day that begins with chairing a two and a half hour department meeting ...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Woolf, "Between the Acts," and misquotation

Our last Woolf class before Spring Break, and - apart from Orlando, reserved for an upcoming and special occasion - we've reached Between the Acts.  One thing that we became fascinated by in today's discussion is the amount of misquotation that the text contains: sometimes by characters who know that they're offering an imperfect jab at some half-remembered lines; sometimes by people who don't realize that their memory is a bit off; sometimes an ort, scrap or fragment turns up, unacknowledged, in the middle of a sentence.  All of this goes up to create a picture of a national culture that is both important, and sustaining, and yet very wobbly, and subject to personal emendation.  My personal contribution to this debate is this Landseer picture.  When Mrs Swithin shows William Dodge the nursery, there's a picture from a Christmas Annual of a Newfoundland Dog pinned to the wall.  "Good Friends," the picture is - in William's recollection, it would seem - called.  But - and I could very well be wrong - I can't find any Victorian/early C20th pictures including a Newfoundland Dog that are called "Good Friends."  On the other hand, there's this very, very famous Landseer picture of a Newfoundland ... OK, maybe I don't convince myself, but I still think that this is worth a try; a contribution to a catalogue of half-remembered cultural illusions.

Monday, March 4, 2019

billboard figures

Here's a case of how language takes over from the logic of the eye.  Once you've seen these scrappy bits of hoardings - painted over, but torn in a few places - as two figures; one (on the left) hunched over, and the other deliberately striding away; with maybe a third, rather ghostly personage between them, it's hard to see them as abstract tears and scratches.  I've never quite bought into James Elkins's argument that we tend to make sense of the world by seeing faces everywhere - two eyes and a nose, wherever we look - but maybe I've fallen into some analogous representational trap here.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

wild mustard

A dear friend in England tells me that the daffodils are blooming and that it's starting to feel like Spring (my father tells me it's raining, but I guess these two updates aren't incompatible).  Here (where it's about to rain again), the most notable bits of yellow around come from wild mustard, which is just starting to bloom everywhere.  This is in our back yard; we were up in Griffith Park later in the day, and it's beginning to come out there, too.  

Saturday, March 2, 2019

catching feathers

Moth seems very proud of herself having caught these feathers: between ourselves, it wasn't that hard.  But what else is there to do when it's pouring with rain all day?

Friday, March 1, 2019

moving plants around

Ah, the never-ending mysteries of campus life ... Presumably these opulent indoor plants have some kind of story behind them; are going to grace - or have just graced - well, what?  Perhaps they are interviewing a potential candidate for our next University President, and want to convey an impression of Green Values - or perhaps they want to hide something behind them?