Saturday, February 29, 2020

ornament (and grout)

It was more than time that I re-grouted some of the bathroom tiles.  And then I realized that I didn't have - or couldn't find - any painter's masking tape (note: check all supplied before starting.  I know that.  But).  So I had recourse to some William Morris, super-wide masking tape that I bought last year at the V&A: a better class of tile protection than the standard blue stuff, but probably intended for some completely different decorative use.  By complete coincidence, we'll be discussing Ornament and Decoration (and reading a lot of Morris) for class on Tuesday.  I'll quote the opening page of James Trilling's Ornament: A Modern Perspective (not a text for class, but on my bookcase): "Ornament has always been a powerful tool of ethnic and cultural self-definition.  Modernism, in contrast, is cosmopolitan."  So what could be more ethnically and culturally self-defining, for this Victorianist, than William Morris masking tape?  

Trilling's argument, of course, is completely undercut by the fact that the tiled wall that I'm repairing still carries the original 1929 Art Deco design - which is thoroughly international, and really, harking back as it does in its semi-acanthus motif, to the turn of the century, not at all modernist.

PSA: For those of you who enjoy re-grouting as much as I do [that is not a joke], may I recommend Flex Shot adhesive sealant caulk?  It's much easier to use than the stuff that needs a caulking gun, though it takes a long while to dry and seal ... 

Friday, February 28, 2020

an illegible wall

This wall, on my way to work - on Lucile, on its eastern corner with Sunset - has been a good site for murals over the years.  It's repainted every year or so: I'm not too enamored of this incarnation.  Even when one's facing it, I can't quite make out what it says (which is presumably its disorienting and troubling point).  I guess I'll have at least a year in which to puzzle it out.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

mailbox installation art

This was the strangest sight this morning, in a colleague's mailbox [name, courtesy of Photoshop, redacted].  How to interpret it?  Do we get so little mail these days that we have repurposed these receptacles as display cases, as wunderkammern?  Has someone been having an ice cream social, without inviting the rest of us?   I admire the sleek, pristine, matte quality of the utensils against what is doubtless described as the honey blonde of the wood.  What would you put in your departmental mailbox by way of an object lesson?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

urban hibiscus

It's a long way from Hawai'i (or even from the hibiscus blooming in our front yard) - but this is cheering up a wall in what my iPhone's location specifier claims is Lincoln Heights.  We're on our way home from Keck - USC's hospital - where Alice (I'm so very happy to report) just had a very positive and successful 9-month check up.  Onwards!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

the prettiness of campus

To be sure, it's been a few days of feasting the eyes on sea and views and foliage: not just a terrific birthday break for us both, but a breathing space after a Christmas break that was swallowed by all kinds of administrative business, and in a semester that involves more of the same (plus teaching).  But the teaching, and meetings - I can hardly complain about the surroundings in which they take place!   It makes a huge difference.

a very peaceful start to the morning

There's a tiny Buddha at the center of these ferns.  Our final night's rainforest retreat - a cabin with glass walls out onto huge foliage - now, back in LA, seems a very long way away ...

Monday, February 24, 2020

volcanic; ferns

One last Hawai'an day - Alice at breakfast;

two fiddle-headed ferns;

a large expanse of black lava;

and some sulphuric steam blowing out of a vent.  This is a very young island, morphing in front of one ...

Saturday, February 22, 2020

birthday florals (and leaves)

From dawn onwards, it was a terrific (and beauty-filled) day: here's the view from our room at dawn;

and the view from breakfast.

Some ferns on the way to a huge waterfall;

a shop full of home-made jam;

a flower ...

a garden full of flowers rather unmissably in USC's colors;

extraordinary botanical gardens;

with a gecko seen from underneath;

the botanical gardens led down to the sea;

the view from lunch, in Hilo;

another painted church (this one had been moved in 1990 so that it wasn't swallowed up by a huge lava flow);

and a hibiscus.

Friday, February 21, 2020

the other side of the Big Island

After a spectacularly beautiful morning walk, over the middle of the Big Island to much greener, lusher vegetation, and many noisy tree frogs.  Here's the view from our balcony, in a very early C20th plantation style house (I feel as though I'm in a Conrad novel, or maybe Robert Louis Stevenson in the South Seas).

The way down the stairs into the gardens.

Hilo (13 miles down the road) is just as grey and stormy as I remember it;

but with much more street art; and with conspicuously many more unhoused people.  I knew the problem was big in Honolulu; hadn't realized how serious it is here - and indeed, Hawai'i is the state with the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation (exacerbated locally by the volcanic eruption 10 months or so ago, which destroyed over 700 homes - and that added to an already existing shortage of available housing).  Not that this tells one anything about contemporary America that one doesn't already know, but it's sobering.

the most beautiful gecko in the world?

This was undoubtedly the most beautiful gecko I've ever seen, certainly in the wild ... curled around his lunch at Pu'uhonua O H┼Źnaunau National Historical Park - the Place of Refuge where - until the early C19th, native people who'd transgressed could go and seek forgiveness and pardon from a priest, and then be free to leave (It's just a bay along from where Captain Cook landed and then met his death). 

It's also close to one of my favorite Big Island places, the Painted Church.

And another thing I love about here - endless rainbows.  Not many, as yet, but this was a passable effort this evening.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Alice's birthday

In the first place I am, of course, supremely grateful to Alice for having been born - but then, for having a birthday at a time of the year when both of us are extremely glad to be able to get away for a couple of days - and in such close proximity to my own birthday that we can celebrate both at once ... greetings from the Big Island, Hawaii (written with the sound of waves breaking in the background).

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

campus drainpipe

One of those days when I was so busy that I was happy to grab a tiny bit of visual serendipity when I saw it.  The spider's web rather eloquently indicates, I fear, how little rain there's been recently.

Monday, February 17, 2020

two walks; two bursts of yellow

Walk 1, after breakfast: lemons against the shadow of a lamp-post and street sign.  Walk 2, this afternoon, in Griffith Park, with swathes of fluffy mimosa.  At least - it's what I confidently identify as mimosa, but actually Acacia dealbata, also known as mimosa, and not a real member of the mimosa family.  And I think almost certainly, being Australian, an invasive species.  And I also suspect that this is a "discovery" that I make every year or two, when I look it up, and write about it ...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

spring gardening

That hosepipe coiling off into the distance?  That's just been irrigating the garden's far slope - covered in jute mesh by the guys from the city who dug up the main sewer and replaced it - which I was about to sow with custom grass seed.  Custom grass seed - from Theodore Payne: a couple of different types of native grasses, blended with about eight different kinds of native wildflowers, all designated, supposedly, to (a) germinate and grow, and then (b) hold the soil on the slope in place.  Right now, and for the foreseeable future, there doesn't seem any danger of it being washed away - but there's still a strong dew.  And as you can see, the blossom persists, albeit a bit ragged.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Chicago odds and ends

The bits include ... the reception hall of the Palmer House hotel - I was walking past, and was taken by the sight of the opulent Peacock Door (see below);

some feet in the Art Institute of Chicago, where I spent a long and wonderful morning - too many years, or maybe decades, since I've been there, and I think I saw rather little last time;

a ridiculous way to greet the new day;

some lilies;

a Winslow Homer that I didn't know;

and, after going to a really excellent paper by Avigail Moss, one of my graduate students, one final view of the snowy airport.