Monday, April 29, 2019
A quick trip into London to see the Bonnard exhibition. My biggest take-away: one Bonnard in a gallery is a cheerful thing; a gallery full of Bonnard paintings - eight or nine rooms of them - is by far too many; too bright; too little evidence (and now I sound really carpy and old fashioned) that he can draw. But I guess I hadn't realised that he'd carried on painting more or less the same paintings until after WW2 ... In any case, I enjoyed the walk along the Embankment - I always do - with high tide on the Thames sloshing around. Here's a slice of Blackfriars Station that I don't recollect ever seeing before quite like this, and a Mexican big cat, just as bright, and much more appealing to me, than M. Bonnard ...
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Sunday lunch in the Prince Albert pub in Camden, North London, with two of my three wonderful cousins: Jon (above), and Gaynor (right, below, with her husband Mike). Jon's a terrific artist (you can sense not a little envy from me that he's now retired, and making prints and drawing and painting: do visit his new website at https://jonflint.com - and I also recommend Gaynor's blog, with its chronicles of (mostly) London walks, and photos of strange corners of the city: https://hiddenwithinplainview.co.uk, which unfailingly makes me London-nostalgic ...
And then, walking around overcast heavy-skied Camden, the wisteria was just extraordinary (as it is everywhere) ... and there's high class street art, as well.
Saturday, April 27, 2019
As was the case last year, Wimbledon Village is trying to outdo itself with displays of plastic flowers, in such excess that they become fun ... these are in front of a cafe in what used to be a bank. Indeed, all three former banks on Wimbledon High Street are now something else, so it feels as though there's something symbolic of the C21st to be derived from this substitution.
Friday, April 26, 2019
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Three aspects of my father's garden: the bottom of it, thick with forget-me-nots, bluebells, and other blossoms; my father sitting outside having his evening pint and pipe, and trying to claim that it's warm enough for that; and apple blossom. Given a long flight delay at LAX, I was just very grateful to make it to Wimbledon whilst it was still daylight!
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
and campus is turning into a fervent hub of two kinds of activities: students revising for finals (I had to step over about seven students in our corridor this morning, who were practicing speaking very elementary French to each other in adorably bad accents), and others who are lounging in hammocks, or playing the guitar and singing in little circles, and, one senses, being Students for just a couple more weeks (me, I was crossing this part of campus en route to mail the mortgage check: an activity that may lie in their futures, if they're lucky and not debt-saddled).
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
... at which the star of the show was undoubtedly Gumdrop. This isn't Gumdrop's person, but he was passed around, being of a suitably portable size and disposition. We decided that this was very much in the spirit of Flush.
And other than that ... it was all presentations, ranging from parts of essays - essays in a creative sense - to more traditional scholarship (Woolf and the New Mathematics, in relation to Night and Day); research on where the flowers in Mrs Dalloway would have come from (including stills from a wonderful 1924 documentary called Flowers of London which apparently one can access through our USC library - when I go on line the BFI site tells me it's not watchable outside of the UK); and some terrific creative stuff. Here's some embroidery (of Jacob's Room, and behind it, of Woolf herself) - which supported a whole lot of analysis about threads and needlework;
and here are some paintings representing an understanding of the form of Woolf's novels (in the spirit of how she saw form spatially and in terms of color) - all the creative projects have essays attached, as it were - but it's been such a delight to see our graduates engaging with Woolf in whatever terms best make sense to them.
I'll miss this crew.
Monday, April 22, 2019
When we arrived in Eldorado on Friday evening, there was a huge amount of activity going on around our bluebird house - apparently a bluebird flying in and out, then a whole lot of finches being busy, and then - the dreaded small brown bird - a House Sparrow, sitting on top. House sparrows, as I've had caused to remark before, are - literally - death to bluebirds: at least to bluebird eggs, and baby bluebirds, and sometimes even adults. They like nothing more than to chase them off, and inhabit their nests. So we chased this sparrow off, and hung up some shiny metallic spirals I'd brought with me for sparrow scaring purposes, and waited - there seemed to be a lot of finch activity, still (finches gang up with bluebirds against the marauders); one more sparrow sighting; bluebirds peering into the house and heading away again ...
... so this morning, I thought I'd better brace myself, and take a look. Happily, no tragedy. Nor did there seem to be the remnants of any earlier tragedy last summer - I'd meant to clean the nesting box at spring break, but it slipped past me. What there was was this horrible untidy mess of a sparrow building its own nest - or rather - and by contrast to the delicate tight weaving of bluebirds - throwing together old grass stems in a haphazard way. So I removed it. This isn't illegal - one can do what one likes to sparrows since they are Non-Native Birds - having been introduced, I believe, by Eugene Schieffelin, in order to combat an invasion of linden moths eating New York's trees in the 1850s. This is the same man who imported starlings to the US - legend has it that he wanted to import every species mentioned in Shakespeare to Central Park, but that story may be, indeed, mythical.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
... who knows whether it was part of an Easter Egg hunt, or had been dropped somewhere on the trail? It was nestled on a fallen tree stump at the top of the Borrego/Bear Wallow/Winsor Trail loop, up towards the ski basin - always one of my favorite Santa Fe trails, with aspen and creeks and wildflower (and two new bridges over Tesuque Creek - it always used to be log bridges, or hopping over stones). There were lots of post-winter fallen trees, and patches of snow - but plenty of signs of spring, and ideal hiking weather. The Borrego trail is the old shepherds' trail down into Santa Fe from the northern new Mexican villages, so one's treading in ancient hoofprints all the way up the return leg (assuming one's doing it clockwise).
Next time ... I've just discovered (you probably have all known it for years) an app called All Trails, which one can download - as I've just done - and it will tell you even when you have no cell coverage (which there isn't, out there) exactly where you are on a trail, and I want to head off and explore some of the ones south of us, in the Galisteo Preserve ...
Saturday, April 20, 2019
Down at the railyard for the Farmers' Market - we're hardly here for long enough to buy much for immediate consumption, but there's a lot of black garlic coming back to LA with us ...
I realised that if I knelt down to take a picture of these grape hyacinths against a mural painted on a low wall, that I could create a strange diorama like illusion ... the wheel of fortune, and some young leaves, just happened to be there, on the side of a huge warehouse-shed.
Friday, April 19, 2019
These spring leaves are either utterly unremarkable, or completely remarkable, depending which way one looks at it ... despite the fact that plenty of Los Angeles trees lose leaves and grow new ones in spring, somehow this isn't a process that one witnesses in the same way that New Mexican leaves come out, suddenly, with warm sun. Actually, we came out here for the weekend hoping to catch our lilac bush in bloom - it's a huge and remarkable flowering thing, when it happens, but we may be a few days too early.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Earlier this week, I was very happy to do a mock interview with a graduate student in English - and, wonderfully, she gave each one of her three interlocutors a hyacinth growing in a vase of water. This one is pink, and I swear that it grows about an inch a day. No flash was involved in the making of this picture - I find it highly ironic, though, that, having long finished my book on the subject, I now can bring myself to use flash. Flash, in its academic incarnation, had a rare outing today in a colleague's graduate seminar (thank you, Vanessa!) - it was truly interesting looking at it from the outside, as it were, and wondering what I might have done differently. The answer - as I said - is Not Much, given time constraints - although I addressed other possible routes not taken, too ... and felt faint stirrings of a sense that I might bear to return to some of these ideas, at some point ...
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
It's not a memorable image ... but I've fallen behind in my duty of documenting our weekly texts (and refreshments) - today, The Hours (both the book and the film version). I found it really interesting coming to Cunningham's novel after a semester immersed in Woolf: I'd always thought of it as a text that was both self-congratulatory and encouraged the self-congratulatory in its readers: this time I appreciated more that it's a critical tour de force, in many respects. But I also appreciated the film more - I've enjoyed it in the past; this time round I was aware how camera angle and the use of sunlight and shadowy patches in turn did a lot of Woolf's narrative work. In turn, it took Catherine (on the right of the picture here) to make me see how whole chunks of Cunningham's text are written like film script. If not a memorable image, it was a memorable class - the first one that not only over-ran, but that could have gone on much longer yet ...
Monday, April 15, 2019
It would take me a long time to dig out an old photograph of Notre-Dame, so here's something else to stand for transience: a jug of mustard blossoms. I cut an armful of them on Saturday, before the team of guys did their anti-fire brush clearance, and they've been adorning the table in my office at home ... and now every bit of that surface is covered, as I knew it would be, with fallen sticky yellow blossoms.
It's been horrific watching the footage of flames. I'm just hopeful that some - much - of the exterior carving remains. But it's also been fascinating reading about how restored, replaced, and reconstituted so much of the glass in the rose windows was. That's not to see that, most likely, some extraordinary medieval glass hasn't been lost. But much of it was C19th - not that this isn't a loss, in its turn, but not quite the same (and indeed, the windows in the nave replaced C19th windows, in the 1960s, in an attempt to recreate the medieval color and lighting). And of course, the original spire came down in 1786, to be replaced by the Viollet-le-Duc one. There's such a compelling story of making and remaking and restoration to be told, as part of all the decision-making that lies ahead about how to rebuild.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
The Trumpet Flower - Brugmansia - is about to bloom. Indeed, when we looked over the balcony at dinner time, the trumpet had opened. I didn't know (until I was, just now, checking on its Latin name) that apparently it's both hallucinogenic and poisonous - in other word, ingest a bit, and you See Things - ingest too much - and, well, that's it. It smells very wonderful, all the same.
Saturday, April 13, 2019
I think that there's something amiss with some part of my Nikon - it tends towards the dark dark dark, whatever settings I have it on (and I've tried taking it back to basics - aka re-setting it to factory settings). All the same, trying it out on our still-spectacular azaleas, it produced some pretty interesting effects - albeit not what I was expecting (this was, after all, full mid-day sunshine ...).
Friday, April 12, 2019
Every time I go downtown - and that's three times, this week - and I may have set a driving record for myself by not once getting lost/in the wrong lane/in the wrong kind of parking garage - every time I go downtown, these days, there's something new to look at. Here's a mural on the back of some apartments - I should think on Broadway and 5th, since I was on Hill. They look vaguely as though they're in the Ruhr, rather than in LA, but are decidedly striking.
Thursday, April 11, 2019
... indeed, this is not an Instagram-worthy Field of Poppies. Sorry. When I first threw out handfuls of wild-flower seed, when it first looked as though it would be a wet winter, I had my dreams ...and I then saw flock after flock of happy finches. But, miraculously, a whole lot of wild flowers are starting to bloom, in earnest. However, in two days time, our back yard is scheduled for mandatory brush clearance - fire regulations - and so to preserve any of this at all, I'm going to have to get out there with stakes, and string, and little signs saying no cortar - flores silvestres ...
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
At some point during dinner this evening, someone remarked - wouldn't it be great to have a picture with Henry in front of those guns? This was a strange USC event (sometimes I wonder if there are any other kinds) - a dinner in the Jonathan Club, which is a very West Coast version of an old-fashioned East Coast, even London. serious mahogany paneled affair. With guns. We - that is, the Provost Professors, give or take a couple of our number - were in the Wine Room, so there were a lot of bottles of Fine Wine (behind glass), too. This event was hosted by the Provost - an event set up long ago, before the Provost announced that he was stepping down at the end of the semester (when the new President arrives), so it didn't exactly have an agenda, although it felt curiously empty without one.
Tuesday, April 9, 2019
How come that I never knew about the Bradbury Building until today? (or to be exact, until last night, when I was looking up where to park for Grand Central Market). Driving past GCM on Broadway with Amy yesterday - somewhere I'd never been, and yes, I know that's a shocking admission - it seemed like a great place to aim for for a pre-class late-lunch/very early dinner. So after consuming much shrimp ceviche and tostadas, we just had time to head into the building. Bradbury was a gold-mining millionaire, who lived on Bunker Hill: this five-story building which he envisaged as a kind of monument to his memory was built on slightly unsteady foundations, so all the massive steel rails that support it were transported from Europe. The wrought iron was made in France and exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair before being installed. It opened in 1893, and then was an office building for much of its life - with a two-year period in the early 2000s when it was an architecture and design museum. Today, it's the home of LAPD's Internal Affairs division ... and various other institutes and organizations. You think you've seen it before? Of course you have - it's in Blade Runner, and countless, countless other movies and videos. And it's beautiful. It's quite remarkable that we made it down to class with 2 minutes to spare.
Monday, April 8, 2019
I was so happy that Amy Elkins was able to visit USC and give a talk in English/Art History/the Visual Studies Research Institute today - this was a brilliant presentation on "'Homemade Tech': Virginia Woolf, Zadie Smith, and the Art of Critical Making," which not only linked material craft and modes of writing, but suggested a whole range of approaches to research (not least the importance of having hands-on experience with material creativity). It's great to hear something (and, yes, at this stage of the semester) that makes one reflect not just on what we do, but on how we do it - and how critics and scholars can borrow from the inventiveness of writers and artists. And tomorrow Amy gets to visit my Woolf class!
Sunday, April 7, 2019
Excellent hiking weather! in Will Rogers State Park - with my old and dear friend Véronique (the first time I came up here was in March 1988, when I was staying with her in Santa Monica - and she'd just been living in the US for - what? - six years? But she seemed such an old hand at it all ... That was a long time ago!).
And - although the color in the top image is predominantly mustard yellow, there's purple in there too ...
Saturday, April 6, 2019
If yesterday was purple, today is yellow - from our hike in Griffith Park this lunchtime. On top, lots of wild mustard; below, a golden wattle. Yes, that's an Australian tree, which is why it looks so out of place; yes, it's an invasive species - but a startlingly pretty one.
I don't have a picture of the large snake that leisurely crossed our path. We passed a couple who warned us that they'd just seen a couple of rattlesnakes; that one had rattled at them. My amateur identification? I think it was a gopher snake - its head wasn't thick and diamondy enough; it didn't look like a rattler's tail - and gophers have learned to mimic rattlesnakes, and to make a rattly sound. This isn't to say that there aren't rattlesnakes up around us - certainly there are - but I have my doubts about the serpent that we saw enjoying the sun.
Friday, April 5, 2019
Thursday, April 4, 2019
I don't get it. Having repudiated flash photography for years, I'm now behaving as though I've just discovered the powers of this photographic technology for the first time. You'd have thought that I'd never thought about the effects that it might produce.
On the other hand, it could just be that I've had a very busy week, and that mercifully, I can head out into the garden and find something to photograph, even in the dark ...
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
What can I say? I meant to photograph this season's calla lilies - two blooms, to date - before they yellowed and faded. But I promise you that they were quite beautiful, a week ago - and there is something rather fetching about their yellowed and crumpled state, all the same ...
(also - nothing sinister and metaphoric, here - it's just that there are three and a half weeks of the semester still to go. Drawn your own conclusions.)
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Monday, April 1, 2019
It's getting to the time of the year when the sun starts to come into the kitchen at breakfast, which improves the start of the day ... These dried flower heads are in an old blue and black jar marked "SAGE," which belonged to my paternal grandmother. I have no memory of her actually keeping sage - presumably dried, for sage and onion stuffing? - in it, but I remember it sitting in her pale-green glass fronted kitchen cabinet. Mind you, I can't remember her cooking anything other than Birds Eye powdered custard, served in a jug (to accompany what? tinned peaches?). That doesn't stop me being very fond of the little jar.