Thursday, March 31, 2022

National Parks

There must have been some good reason why - when I'm on leave ... I said that I would give a lecture tomorrow in a cross-disciplinary undergrad class on the National Parks - I think because the very premise of bringing people from Architecture and Environmental Sciences and Public Policy and the humanities and and and together seemed like a good one.  So off I go at 8.30 a.m. [8.30!] on Painting, the Sublime, and the National Parks.  And I've actually learned a good deal about the relationship between artists that I thought I knew fairly well and the actual formation of the NPs, and also about the endless, endless invocation of the concept of the sublime in this context.  And it's good for me to lift my head from the minutiae of lichen and dandelions and snails for a bit - though yes, I do end up with bark beetles, and the rust-colored devastation that they're causing.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

morning walk, post rain

The tracks were still pretty damp this morning, but everything smelt wonderful.  I nearly was able to pretend that we had this part of Griffith Park to ourselves ... and then a young woman ran past with one of those jogging strollers, and disappeared at top speed (a little later we passed a standard poodle with a paralysed hind leg who was trotting along in a kind of canine Roman chariot, so it was a day of unusual vehicles ...).


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

calla lily time

Easter is weirdly late this year, so I don't know if we'll still have calla lilies in bloom then.  But there's something very miraculous in how they come up in the same patch here, year after year.  The rain yesterday doesn't seem to have made any dent in them at all (nor, surprisingly, in very much out there - indeed, when I went for a walk round the 'hood this afternoon, everything was blooming very happily, with barely a damaged petal: I guess the welcome storm was, at least in these parts, wind free).


Monday, March 28, 2022

house in a raindrop

I was meandering around the soggy garden during one of the pauses in today's welcome rain, playing with a macro lens: what I hadn't realized at the time was that I'd captured our house, upside down, refracted in a rain drop that was running down a cactus leaf.


Sunday, March 27, 2022

INCS day 4 - farewell to strata

I had to leave INCS before it was truly over, thanks to the timing of American's flights - that is, I left fairly early this morning.  Somehow I'd not taken on board the design of the (very new) Salt Lake City airport on the way in - to be honest, I was just struck by what a long walk it involved to get to the terminal.  But flying out ... I was very struck by how closely it hewed to the theme of INCS this year, "Strata" - a theme that proved to be extremely generative and led to a whole lot of re-framing of peoples' topics. 

An in-person conference after two years was a really wonderful experience - seeing people, yes, but also it served as a continual reminder of how much of the real fun of conferences lies in the socialising, from catching up with former grad students (as well as current ones) - I had something like 30 years' worth of them there, as though my career, stratified, was laid out in front of me - and hearing how people's institutions were or weren't doing, and hearing what colleges friends' kids had been admitted to or were favoring, and sharing photos of cats getting into our suitcases (and being ejected before we traveled).  To be sure, there was plenty of academic discussion and planning and advising, but it all comes together in a holistic way that just isn't possible on line.

Also, Olivia Colman's Oscar dress appeared to be modeled on SLC airport.

And for good measure, here's a view of the Salt Lake from the plane.


Saturday, March 26, 2022

INCS, day 3: the sun goes down on SLC

Literally, that is - it's midnight, and the nightlife of Salt Lake City is still hopping away outside my window.  There are bars and bars - hotel bars (a friend and I went looking for an open one, after dinner, with no success) seem to close very early indeed.  But the papers today were great, and the sunset apocalyptically spectacular.


Friday, March 25, 2022

INCS, day 2: very nearby bits of SLC

Salt Lake City is such an interesting place architecturally! - one of those late C19th/early C20th cities with plenty of business money behind it.  One sees this in the lampposts, originally erected around WW1 (electric street lighting of a less magnificent type arrived in the late 1880s): these have a fairly generic "Indian" head on them - generally (but probably too vaguely) interpreted as Ute.  Some of the original lamps remain: I suspect this - outside the hotel - is one of the facsimiles.  Jared Farmer has a great blog post about them:

Then round the corner is the Capitol Theater: originally built as a vaudeville theater in 1913, it was renamed the Capitol in 1927 (and, despite a fire in 1949 followed by full renovations in 1975), it remains a pretty impressive facade.

And then the Kearns Building, designed by Los Angeles architects John Parkinson and George Bergstrom, and built 1909–1911 in the architectural style of Louis Sullivan, can stand for any of the very many early C20th office blocks.  I've got to the point when I much wish that I was staying here longer, and had time to look around more closely...


Thursday, March 24, 2022

INCS, day 1

A conference!  A real, live, in person conference!  With a reception on the terrace of the University of Utah's Natural History Museum (and inside as well, but I was too busy talking to too many people to go and see the dinosaurs).  Imagine!

And it was good waking up to early light just hitting the mountains.

I spent much of the day going to Provo and back - a navigation feat on public transport - to see some paintings that I knew were there (like William Bliss Baker's Fallen Monarchs, 1886) - which has much more presence in person than in reproduction, and I'm weaving at least the image into my talk tomorrow), and some that were completely new to me -

like Beatrice Parsons' Annunciation (1897-99).  I only knew Parson's as a painter of British gardens, and flowers - there are plenty of them in this painting, of course, but it's a pretty early work of hers.  I'm glad she largely stuck to flowers after this ... Of course, the BYU art gallery was largely full of religious art, but much of it was really new to me - a Poynter Prodigal Son, a Henry Nelson O'Neill Esther, and so on.

And also, it being a sunny day, the bus stops had some very good shadows.


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

salt lake city

It's been such a long time - of course - since I've been away at a conference I'd almost forgotten the experience of arriving in an identikit corporate hotel (a Hilton, this time) and hoping that one has a good view ... You can't quite see it here, but there's a thin silver sliver of the Salt Lake itself just before one gets to the horizon ...


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

first wildflowers!

The first wild flowers are out in the back yard!  As ever, I sowed handfuls of seed (just before dusk, just before rain - which is the best I can do when it comes to avoiding feeding the mo[u]rning doves).  But because the fire mitigation regulations around here mean that everything has to be mown close before May 1st, the flowers never get much of a chance to reseed and re-establish themselves year on year.  It's not been that wet a spring, so I wasn't sure what would come up ... but here's the first California poppy (already wilting on a hot day); and the first something else - I think another kind of poppy ... very bright and pink.  I have my fingers crossed that we'll see lots more before the mowers come ...


Monday, March 21, 2022

morning howl

Down in Griffith Park this morning, on the track next to the golf course, we heard police sirens down on the 5 - and then this crew started up in howling rivalry.  The sirens round here seem to operate on exactly the same frequency as the coyotes - or vice versa - and so the coyotes assume that another little pack wants to take over their territory. But they needn't worry: apart from the threat of being hit by an errant golf ball, their occupancy of rough and fairway is assured. 


Sunday, March 20, 2022


It is great to be home, and reunited with Alice, and Moth, and young Gramsci - who is growing into a thoughtful and mature adolescent cat.  Well, ok, that last bit is wishful thinking, but he's biting a lot less, and he may be chasing Moth a little less, and he is certainly very, very glad to see me.  


Saturday, March 19, 2022


Not a bad lunchtime view ... and how good to be able to make oneself a plate of salad again, without having to navigate the gastronomic minefields of 20 Hillside, where the quickest, easiest, taking-up-the-least-kitchen-space-possible solution is, invariably, a packet of supermarket pre-assembled salad (may I recommend M&S's Superfood Green Salad?).  But that's not a patch on arugula, some roasted beets, a little goat's cheese - that is, a small amount of goat's cheese, not cheese from a diminutive caprine - and some toasted pumpkin seeds - plus weather in which it's genuinely warm enough to eat outdoors.


Friday, March 18, 2022

from one front door to another

The top one - from when I went to fetch my father's copy of The Times this morning; the bottom, arriving back after a long flight ... Both are "home;" only one, however, smells overpoweringly of jasmine.


Thursday, March 17, 2022

Ray and Rima

My father, with indispensable friend and helper Rima (indispensable to him, but also to me) - among the daffodils and crocuses and magnolia blossoms.  Spring is here!  He is looking remarkably dapper for 98 (although, admittedly, at 10.30 this evening, I heard faint cries of "help ... help ..." from outside, and he'd fallen over into a flower bed whilst feeding the foxes.  I guess that may be a common everyday event in south-west London). 

It's not going to be easy, leaving to go back to LA in the morning - on the other hand, I may be able to do some work again.  It's very tantalising being in London: I should, and I want, to be visiting exhibitions and archives and libraries, but it's both logistically difficult and somehow doesn't feel fair to spend a lot of time away from the house.


Wednesday, March 16, 2022


So what is this thing with upside-down umbrellas for decoration?  I know I posted a picture back in August of some hanging from the sky in a shopping arcade in Liverpool - here are some outside a shopping center in Wimbledon where I'd gone to buy some food (shopping "center"?  Maybe shopping "court," since it's called "Wimbledon Centre Court," ha ha ha ha ha).   They don't seem to be advertising anything other than the shopping center itself - that is, there aren't any prominent bank logos, or anything like that.  And none have Mary Poppins attached to them.

I managed to scuttle back before the real rain, necessitating one to get out a real umbrella, started in earnest.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

arboreal, horticultural

A tree - a seriously pollarded tree - at the back of Berkeley Place, looking both stark and magnificent as I went up the road to fetch the newspaper this morning.

And then, later, I went to meet a graduate student (quite surreal, seeing a graduate student in Wimbledon ...) at Wimbledon Station, and walking her up the hill to have some decent coffee in Wimbledon Village (Maison Cassien - excellent cappuccino), I thought I'd show her some good public art: the murals in what used to be the Children's Library at Wimbledon Public Library.  Really, they ought to have some wall material in the room explaining what they are ... I gave Avigail false information, as it was: I thought they were done in the late 1930s, but actually it was the late 1940s - 1947-48 - and they were executed by students at the Wimbledon College of Art - see the image at the bottom.  Of course, I now want to know who these students were.  Most of the murals are of pastoral scenes - The Seasons - cows and sheep - but this one is unusual, representing what looks like a commercial greenhouse rather than a domestic conservatory.

The room is now a computer room - but the picture below shows it roughly how I remember it - er, probably from 6 or 7 years after these murals were painted.  This is the wall with Older Children's fiction - from about E-Z.  A-D was on the side of an island set of bookcases facing these: on the other side of the island were picture books (which is where I went first of all - my first borrowed book being The Cow Who Fell in the Canal).  And that was before I was three.  One wasn't meant to be able to join until I was three, so I had to prove that I could read on my own: of course since I could read, at - whatever? - two and three quarters, this didn't strike me as being at all unusual, but even at the time I registered that it mildly unnerved the library staff.  At the end of the room, non-fiction: I later - after we came back from 4 years in Cumberland - happily chewed my way through the history section.  And I'm afraid I do mean chewed: I've just remembered the rather unsavory fact that I used to tear little diagonal corners off the bottom of pages and, yes, chew them.  


Monday, March 14, 2022

a Camden wall

Sometimes the light is just right ... and after some rain, too, which left just the right amount of reflective dampness on the pavement.  I was walking back to Kings Cross after lunch with cousins in Camden, turned the corner, and there was this luminosity in front of me.  


Sunday, March 13, 2022

more spring

There really is blossom everywhere all over the garden - only most of it is looking dull - much duller than it should - under heavy grey clouds.  This - on the back of the dining room wall - is as vibrant as anything is, out there: it looks as though a William Morris trellis and a Japanese print had an offspring.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

English spring

Daffodils!  Green grass!  A magnolia tree coming into blossom! (that's the kind of pinkish blob on the right-hand side).  Blue sky!  And yes, dampness.  Admittedly, some of this is terrible condensation - the dining room doors are supposedly double-glazed, but I think they stopped being water and air-tight some decades ago.  But there were, also, some surprisingly energetic showers this morning. And yes - some of you will recognize the same take-a-picture-through-water-droplets trick that I used when using tomato plants as a subject last summer ... this is clearly a seasonal project.


Friday, March 11, 2022

a rainbow

Let's read it as a hopeful sign, of something!  An impossibly long and tiring day, here - but this was a wonderful sight, and the light is pure English spring (mostly, it was raining).


Thursday, March 10, 2022

flag flying

Walking over Waterloo Bridge - and on past Somerset House, because I was on my way to hear Jeremy Melius give a brilliant talk on Ruskin at where the Courtauld is now (semi-temporarily, semi-permanently) housed north of Kings Cross - I was delighted to see my old Alma Mater flying the Ukrainian flag in solidarity.  Ah - nostalgia - brought about by walking around London, and spending an evening with friends and Courtauld grad students - I do miss being here ...


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

swanning about

I still can't get over this sudden - to me - proliferation of swans on Rushmere, on Wimbledon Common - nor the fact that the pub at the top of the road Formerly Known as The Swan is now called The Rushmere (and is, wouldn't you know, a Gastropub - not that I foresee any possibility of eating there in the near future, since my father doesn't believe in eating out, especially in a noisy pub.  Assuming it's noisy ...).  And yes, I did write an entry five or so weeks ago about how this establishment was going to be renamed The Cavendish, but someone, clearly, changed their mind.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

meeting room reflections

Over the past few years (with, of course, something of a hiatus for Covid ...) I've sampled a fair number of rent-for-the-day London meeting rooms: a phenomenon that, I suspect, will increase enormously if companies here consolidate practices of having a number of employees working from home.  That way they can downsize their big office buildings ... So I've also sample a number of different coffee machines; lunches that have ranged from the superb to the ok (today's was somewhere in the middle, and I had curried haddock and salad, which was somehow a truly British choice.  I can't imagine getting curried haddock in Los Feliz or Silver Lake); freebies (notepads, pens, and now bottles of hand sanitizer); and witty motivational sayings in very C21st typescript or mock handwriting on the walls and whiteboards.  My pen exhorts me: "a chance to ponder, draft, sketch, scribble, spark, draw a conclusion, make your mark, etc."  Uh -huh.  I did very roughly draw part of the view from the window with it, but not the magnificent frontage (or rather back) of the Chancery Lane building that I was in, as reflected in the plate glass opposite; nor, for that matter, the receding trapezoids of the room's lightings heading out into a sunny London day.

I'll miss these meetings, and for much more than the variety of venues.


Monday, March 7, 2022

London, early spring, and "art"

In London, for the very very last REF meeting (I will miss it! though probably not as much, alas, as if we'd had all our meetings in person).  I will not miss drinking coffee and eating toast and marmite at 1.30 a.m. before spending a whole day (or night) on Zoom.  And as a treat, we've been put up in a very comfortable hotel, the NYX, very close to the British Museum - a hotel with a startlingly awful attempt to try and incorporate contemporary art, but at least they're trying ...

Anyone who knows the area will know that the top image is of Bloomsbury Square, and might well guess that I was heading to my favorite art dealers, Abbott and Holder, to pick up an interesting watercolor/gouache that I'd bought on line (obviously by someone, by which I mean someone with a trained painter's eye and technique, but unsigned and undated).  I knew that going in there in person would be a fatal move: I came out with a little Helen Allingham w/c of reapers in Surrey, as well.  Clearly, the hotel art below bears no relation to this.

It's totally wonderful to be in Central London again.


Sunday, March 6, 2022


There was just time between my last live NAVSA obligation, and leaving for the airport to go for a walk - I'll be stuck on a plane for hours, so I was very glad of this, even if it was all rather a scurry.  Down near the Griffith Park Zoo, the Safari Shuttle seems to be in a precarious way ... 


Saturday, March 5, 2022

he's getting longer

Poor Gramsci was quite disappointed that he didn't see any on-screen cats at NAVSA today.  I pointed out to him that this was surely because almost all the papers that I heard had powerpoints accompanying them, and that meant that the possibilities of feline-spotting were, therefore, sadly limited.  I think he wanted to show off his stripes and spots, which surely are strong contenders for the NAVSA Pet of the Year contest (that isn't an official thing, but I'm sure we could run one).  It's been an intellectually exciting few days, even if we've not, alas, been in Vancouver - with the added bonus that very soon, we'll be able to catch up on sessions that we missed, courtesy of recording mechanisms.  But how I wish that, right now, we were taking out Cannon Schmitt, this evening's plenary speaker, for a terrific dinner - he amply deserves it, since his paper was eloquent, and thought provoking, and made me want to go away and read differently - and how often can one say that after a keynote?  


Friday, March 4, 2022

Moth, wondering

... (a) whether Gramsci is about to come up the stairs (almost certainly yes, Mothy - if I'm taking a photo of you, remember that young Tony is a cat who doesn't like me to be out of his sight);
(b) why Gramsci is making lots of appearances at #NAVSA2022 (because he doesn't like me to be out of his sight);
(c) why it's so cold?  Can't answer that one.


Thursday, March 3, 2022

summer indolence

This arrived today!  And proved absolutely impossible to photograph without reflections, until I turned out all the lights and tried a very long exposure.  So the etching is actually sharper than this suggests - indeed, very delicate.  It was a very happy eBay find: a Millais etching from 1861, entitled "Summer Indolence".  Here's a clearer image of it, from the print in the Art Institute of Chicago's collection.

A printed version appeared in Passages from Modern English Poets Illustrated by the Junior Etching Club (1861), and the figure was modeled by Alice Elizabeth Gray, a younger sister of Millais's wife Effie (she's the one on the left in Autumn Leaves).  And you've seen her before in this pose!  Here she is in Apple Blossoms, on the right hand side:

But the etching completely lacks that ominous scythe, suggesting the frailty of grass, flesh, and young ladies who chew grass stems in a provocative way.

This seemed especially apt today, since the USPS delivered it just after I'd finished talking about Millais (admittedly in the context of pheasant and duck shooting and salmon fishing, and rewilding of Scottish moors, not apple orchards) on the first day of the (alas, virtual) NAVSA conference.  Ever so many thanks to those of you who came!