Monday, September 30, 2019

spider time!

It's fall!  It's spider time!  They are starting to string themselves between trees.  This huge one is outside my USC parking garage: not my favorite building today, since I'd parked as usual on the roof (that way I can both find my car with some certainty, and get to enjoy the view) - and the elevators weren't working - neither when I arrived, nor when I left.  As a colleague remarked to me on our post-chairs'-meeting climb up seven floors, this must surely be part of USC's Health and Wellness Initiative.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

morning stroll

Look who we met on our morning walk today!  Trotting down Carnavon Way at 8 a.m. - then trotted up onto a little bank to pass us, and on with his own matitudinal exercise.  We meet coyotes quite often in the dusk - and of course we hear them almost every evening, especially when there's a police siren that sets them off in synchronized howling sympathy.  But a single coyote going about his business, and heading back to Griffith Park?  I like sharing the neighborhood with the wild ...

Saturday, September 28, 2019

a grey day in Venice, CA

Photographic cliché though this may be, I never get tired of the reflections in the canals in Venice here (or there, for that matter.  This is the less Ruskinian version).  As this sky promises, or threatens, the startling-for-September happened: it rained.  Only a brief, if dense shower, to be sure - but all the same, a late summer treat for these parts.

Friday, September 27, 2019

tapestry and modernism

It was great to welcome back Kay Wells today, talking about her new book Weaving Modernism: 
Postwar Tapestry Between Paris and New York - it began life as an art history PhD here. She did a terrific job, not just explaining why tapestry was so important at this time, but why it's been so neglected, arguing that to focus on it would have been to have disrupted the dominant post-modernist narrative about the salient features of modernism: in other words, she's written both the history of an episode in this particular medium, and a revisionist account of art historiography.  It's a terrific book. When she was writing it I, of course, kept trying to pull her back in time to the Omega workshops, and for that matter to Burne-Jones: she managed to resist the lure of the latter, at least ...  

Thursday, September 26, 2019

a mystery rose

There must be a story behind this ... sitting on a rock, somewhere near our library, was a dead - a very dead - long-stemmed red rose.  Was it put there because someone had dropped it - whilst it was decidedly fresher - and never returned to claim it, or couldn't bear to, because it signified an evening that didn't meet the romantic expectations of its beginning?  Was it left as a poignant memorial to a lost hope, a failed relationship, bad news from home, or last night's volleyball defeat to UCLA?  Was it left as an offering, a conciliatory gesture, a commitment or vow?  I mean - why would you leave a rose, dead or alive, just there?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Breakfast and dinner

Breakfast: Simba, in Wimbledon, eating his special mash-up of kidney-friendly food; ordinary food; sliced chicken, and hot water.

Dinner: Moth, in Los Angeles, eating kibble.

The Atlantic, and the American continent, between them.  A long day - but one can do a lot of work whilst squashed into an airplane seat.  At least, one can in theory, although with in-air wi-fi, and the Guardian politics live stream for both the UK and the US playing on a day of quite extraordinary political scenes, it was a little hard at times to concentrate ...

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Magdalen Bridge in the rain

Apparently a month's rain fell on Southern Britain today.  I can well believe it ... (this is from the top deck of the Oxford Tube, heading back to London...)

Monday, September 23, 2019


To Oxford, today, to fulfill the last remaining item of my mother's will: delivering her copy of Philip Sidney's 1613 Arcadia, which she left to St Anne's, her (and my) old college.  My father thinks that he bought this from a stall in Leather Lane around 1950, where there were all kinds of things on sale that were probably looted remnants from bombed-out houses.  This has a faint pencil mark saying that it cost ten shillings.  It was hard to say goodbye to an old book-friend (and no, it wasn't as though I ever sat and looked at it, really, but it was something that had always been there).  But now it will be among St Anne's rare books, where it will be properly looked after, and where - my mother would have liked this, a lot - it will be seen by students studying the Early Modern period with a professor who loves to show them - well, what old books are like.

The library and development staff looked after me extraordinarily well; giving me a tour of the very covetable new library - including the roof garden, complete with mosaic.

The biggest drama occurred when the door to the Senior Common Room jammed after lunch - we'd been drinking coffee in there - and we all had to exit through the window into the flower bed.

For good measure, here's the view from my hotel room window: umbrellas, yes, but excellent architecture ...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

passion flower

I'm sure that there have always been passion flowers growing in Wimbledon.  Or have there been?  Is it a sign of global warming that they are here, and happy?  This one, anyway, was striking on my walk to the station in this morning's drizzle.  I usually very much enjoy checking off on my list what I think as being the English blooms and leaves - at this time of the year, goldening horse-chestnuts, and fuchsias, and Michaelmas daisies - but this doesn't seem quite to belong on the list.  Nevertheless, it's there, and startling.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

seasonal dissonance

So I arrive at London Heathrow, and head into M&S food, since the arrangement that I have with . my father is that when I visit, I bring/buy all my own food, since that's the easiest thing for him - and M&S is nicely convenient for Terminal 3.  And look!  It is full of tins of shortbread with Christmas Robins on them! - whilst Wimbledon Common is still bathed in the dry golden light of early autumn, and was very beautiful -

although there never used to be a Fair there at this time of the year, which seems like an acknowledgment of global warming.

Walking back, I passed a suburban house fiercely guarded by two cats (the second is on the front door mat).  One wouldn't tangle with these guys ...

Friday, September 20, 2019


Of course, my favorite part was that Traveler (yes, I wish he didn't have that name) was present!  I just about resisted the temptation to have my photo taken with him.  I don't know if he led the platform party up to the stage: all faculty (and staff! and students! and school kids!) were kept round the corner in the sun for a while to roast, especially if their ceremonial robes are from Oxford and made of wool.

But in the end we all processed, and listened to many welcome statements, and to a good speech by Eric Garcetti (whose grandfather used to be the barber for many USC faculty), and a surprisingly honest one by the Chair of the Trustees, Rick Caruso, saying that this was about the future, and about Redemption, and that USC had gone astray, and lost sight of its values (etc).  Indeed, if one knew anything about the context (and most people, of course, did), it was seriously critical of Nikias.

Then Carol Folt was chained, or whatever the phrase is, and all the white doves were released - like they are at Commencement - only one stayed behind, over her head, listening, or taking care of her, till she'd finished -. and indeed, she did make me non-cynically proud of our new leader: she spoke about the value of immigrants and DACA, and community, and sustainability ... And Leonard Bernstein's "My Home" was sung somewhere in the middle.

And then we all went off to eat our sustainable, compostable lunches - it was excellent to have the company of my new colleague Lisa, and her husband Jim - not least because among many other things, Lisa is an expert in Early Modern Venetian pageantry, and kept comparing it (fairly favorably, since we didn't fight) with pageants there some 500 years ago.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

what goes on some of the tables

... and the answer is: the celebratory dinner the night before our new President's inauguration.  USC is feeling like a new place: far less pomp and ceremony and pretentiousness; a performance from our Latin jazz ensemble; excellent and fresh food; a President at the helm who seems to have masses of energy; and for once, common sense went into the seating arrangements, so we were with other arts-sort-of-people like Mary Kelly, and the Deans of the Art School and of the Cinema School (I spent a good deal of time talking to her husband about how to keep mice out of our garages in Northern New Mexico, and what he found was best at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market this last weekend, which was a great relief after the normal assortment of stray donors and trustees and things that one gets at these events).  In all truthfulness, I feel so encouraged at the shift in the air.  OK - I tend towards glasses being three quarters full even when they are obviously in need of refilling, but I will keep raising mine, for now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

more tables

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to show you something actually on these tables, or happening at them, or something?  In the meanwhile, I'm impressed that despite all the Inauguration Construction, the Wednesday Farmers' Market was taking place as usual (not a patch on Santa Fe, of course, or indeed Atwater Village, or Hollywood, or or or, apart from the French Bakery stall ...).  But the strawberries and raspberries and peas and beans seemed very much in keeping with what we're assured will be a Sustainability-centered event (no plastic bottles!  locally sourced food!).  In anticipation ...

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

keeping tables safe

Campus is completely busy with preparations for the inauguration of our new President, Carol Folt, on Friday - and tents and other temporary structures are cropping up everywhere.  But I'm completely baffled as to why these tables seem to have been corralled - in case they break out and start attacking - attacking what?  Round, as opposed to rectangular versions of the same species?  Chairs?  Skateboarders?  Plenty of opportunities, so they're clearly being kept very safe here.

Monday, September 16, 2019


I know lichen is really my thing - rather than biologically unrelated moss (however much Victorian writers might lump them together).  But how could I resist this mossy corner of campus this afternoon?  This particular stone was rolling much too fast today to gather any moss, I might point out ...

Sunday, September 15, 2019

the curl of the clematis

Back in Santa Fe this summer, it was hard to get a bad-tempered woman to sell me a couple of clematis.  Are you going to keep them indoors, she asked?  The frost will kill them.  I explained that no - I'd be taking them back to Los Angeles way before it got cold.  She was far from convinced (it didn't seem sensible to point out that if she was that worried, maybe the nursery (Payne's, on St Michael's Drive) should only sell frost-resilient species of clematis.  But I persisted, paid for them, and a month later put them into a big pot - indeed, with the watermelon plants - and drove them back.  They're just starting a second flowering - and as you can see here, are very happy to be able to coil themselves around a windowbox full of geraniums.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

watermelon cultivation

I feel more than a little surprised that the watermelon plants that I bought in Santa Fe - just an inch or so tall - and that I transplanted to Los Angeles because they were flowering, and pretty - are now - yes - apparently growing little watermelons.  I don't know why this should be so improbable - I mean, watermelons have to grow somewhere.  And I'm very fond of watermelons.  Only another - say - 30 days, judging by the gardening sites that I've consulted.   and I'm sure, wandering over our front yard, that they probably won't grow to real edible maturity.  I'm sure they probably won't grow to real edible maturity (hello, raccoons?) - but we'll see.  Meanwhile, they offer much miniature prettiness.

it's volleyball time!

It's volleyball time!  Home opener!  Against Yale - who were wonderfully scrappy, and wouldn't let it go.  In the end, we won what should have been an easy match for us 3-2.  It's going to be a long season.

And now this post gets even more parochial ... The game was notable not for our performance, but for the appearance of our new President, Carol Folt.  I don't recollect ever seeing Max Nikias at a WVB game, but President Folt stayed until the very end.  Even more encouragingly, she told me (for yes, of course I went and (re)introduced myself - that she loves women's sports (which seems to be true).  And after a half-hearted attempt to be loyal, she admitted that we weren't playing well ...

I can't face two games tomorrow if we're playing like this.  I'll trust them to beat Howard in the morning.  Then back tomorrow evening for Villanova - who beat Yale 3-1 earlier in the day.  We - unlike Yale - didn't even have the excuse of having played 4 sets already today ...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

praying mantis

"I'm sorry I'm a little bit late for this meeting ... I had to stop and photograph a praying mantis in our front yard."  That would have been a good line - I couldn't use it since the traffic was flowing quite freely this morning, and I wasn't, after all, late.  The praying mantis jumped out, in a rather surprised way, when I was watering the plants - and then, as I delicately pursued it, proved what a wonderful creature it is at camouflaging itself against the leaves.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

ghost sign and Silver Platter

This is for my cousin Gaynor, with her love of ghost signs ... from this morning's drive to work.  I can't quite read it - the lower word is surely HOTEL, but on top...?  Of course I could dig it out from old street directories, but that's for another day.  So is a trip to the Silver Platter, on the corner -still Los Angeles' premier Latinx gay/trans bar (about which Wu Tsang made a documentary film), although, after a very long day, I could murder a beer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

hot work

It's never a good sign when you arrive at your university building and find it plastered with Warning Safety Notices about HOT WORK.  Hot Workers might be one thing - but hot work?  To add to the hammering?  When I saw these guys outside my room, heading into the ceiling, and lots of thick vaporous something billowing out, I said that I hoped whatever that was wasn't toxic.  Oh no, said they, it's nitrogen.  I have absolutely no idea if that's good or bad (though I have had nitrogen chilled Japanese ice cream, which doesn't seem to bear any relation to hot work whatsoever).

We are promised that this building work will be finished by Friday.

Monday, September 9, 2019

a very large container

Ah, yes, I know that this probably contains all the gear for the football team as they head off up to Provo - BYU this weekend.  But I'd prefer to think of it as containing Lynn Swann - or if not the Athletics Director, "resigning immediately" - and a very good thing too - if not the AD himself, then all the contents of his office.  Good riddance!  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

morning Moth

Mornings are all about Moth.  Whether she's sticking her head in the milk foaming device that's been left to soak (apparently milk flavored water is the best); or sitting on the butcher block in full view - in so much full view that you can't help but notice her; or demanding that she be adored - there's no ignoring her presence.  By this time LucyFur has quietly removed herself, of course, so as to get the best sunny spot in the living room.

In other, and utterly unconnected news, our Great Horned Owls are in full hoot this evening.

USC football and various surprises

We can start with the fact that we routed Stanford, which certainly counts as a surprise.  But first, getting to the game - a parrot.  I took a somewhat circuitous route, for various reasons, which included a ride on the Expo line.  I can only assumed that this bird screeches FIGHT ON at apposite moments.

Then I was so super-happy-surprised to see my friend and colleague Rebecca Lemon appear on the big screen (the big new shiny renovated Coliseum screen) as the Faculty Profile for this game that I didn't think to raise a lens at the time - just shrieked applause - but here she is afterwards - plus Marc - celebrating against the background of the new extraordinarily comfortable seats in the President's Suite.  Did I mention that they were new?  So much better and less formal than the old days of horrible pre-game receptions in Town and Gown (I get invited to partake in this luxury once a year - so happy I picked Stanford this time ...).

And Surprise 3 was that I hadn't known that USC has, for the first time, a woman drum major - so she gets to plunge the sword into the hallowed turf at the start of the game.  This seems highly suitable for the general take-over by women at USC.  No pic of her doing this - instead, the Flame, lit at the start of the 4th, with the Goodyear Blimp above it.

Friday, September 6, 2019

a very local tragedy

I can't tell you the story.  I found this sad little yellow corpse when I went out to change the sugar water in the humming bird feeder mid-morning.  I think it's a - was a - warbler, probably an orange-crowned warbler; too startling a yellow for a female yellow warbler, and the back was a deep olive green, which rules out a male yellow warbler, most likely.  It's too early in the fall for a goldfinch, and in any case, it has a long warbler beak.  Happy to take advice.

But what happened??  At first I assumed it had flown into a window, though it was several feet away from the house, and I'd heard no thud.  And then - it seems to have been eviscerated.  There's some rusty blood visible on the feathers, and it's - well, empty.  I'd heard some strange noises on the roof earlier, which could have been a hawk; there was a raven gargling in a tree for a while, who could have chewed it post-mortem.  It was a sad sight, whatever - and I gave it a careful and reverent burial.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

hollyhock and fennel

Late summer splendor ... or, serendipity.  I thought I'd be spending today supervising a rotten window being removed and a new one installed, and I should have been.  But the new window - the new made-to-measure window - was three inches too wide.  So I went out to lunch, instead.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

sun shade

This morning, on the 754 heading down Vermont, it was already very warm ... the woman in front of me had the right approach.  

I'm always surprised - though I shouldn't be - when I take the bus in (for complicated logistical reasons, today) and it's so very fast and efficient.  If only there were somewhere guaranteed to park close to a useful bus stop ...

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


Banana?  Or orange?  Would anyone like to explain this?  It's wheat-posted to a transformer just outside John Marshall High School, but that doesn't help me make any sense of it.  I'd like to think it's supporting Victor the fruitseller in some way - Victor who runs a cart just up the street, and who was picked up by ICE a whiles back, in May 2018, but let out on bail after many of us (including John Marshall students) protested.  Is he still waiting for a deportation hearing?  Did the case get dropped?  I can find nothing on line.  Of course, it's probably nothing to do with him in any way: it's just me looking for something that's logical ...

Monday, September 2, 2019

not laboring

That makes 50% of this household who were genuinely taking Labor Day off work: I'm proud of them.  The remaining 50% ... we just tried to make sure that we didn't do anything that would require the attention of our office staff.  LucyFur and Moth set a good example, all the same, and it would have been great to have had the time and space to emulate them.  When we were at Rutgers, beginning the new semester just after Labor Day might, indeed, have cast a bit of a shadow over the day itself - but one was crystal clear that it was The Last Day of Official Summer.  Whereas here ... it's like a strange hiccup after we've just got going.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Ellen and Arnie's wedding

To Ellen DuBois' and Arnie Schwartz's wedding at UCLA Faculty Club this afternoon  - beautifully staged, and a beautiful ceremony (I just wish that I'd been positioned so as to get a picture of Ellen's long, long wedding dress train).  It was great to catch up with friends ... (hence some of the pics below).

Actually, my very favorite moment was in the buffet line, when the cantor, with extraordinary dexterity, managed to disrupt a pile of bread rolls so that two plopped neatly down - one into each large container of salad dressing.  But it seemed mean to whip out my camera at that memorable moment.

Mazel tov, Ellen and Arnie!