Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ed Stiles

I've recently had a major clear out of my working space.  It's been about five weeks now so I think the new regime is going to stick.  I used to have lots of little bits of paper around, but now I've managed to stop the habit.  It was easier than giving up fags, I can tell you!  However one little thing I've kept close to me is a postcard I collected from the 20-Mule Museum far out in the desert at Boron.  It portrays one of the mule teams along with one of the handlers - Ed Stiles.

In case some of you townies have forgotten what a mule looks like this is one - long ears and very straight back.
Now poor old Ed was a muleskinner and his life was extremely hard.  He helped to drive a wagon train of twenty mules 165 miles across the Mojave Desert from Death Valley to the small town of Mojave itself. His job was to sit astride one of the last two animals in the train, often in temperatures of 130˚ F in summer; the twenty extremely stubborn creatures under his control must have created quite a challenge for anyone. The teams operated from 1881 until 1898.

Apparently maneuvering this wagon train around was a sight that spectators would turn out for – Ed and his two fellow handlers would use short tugs on the reins to go right and steady pulls to go left. Quite how responsive the mules were is not mentioned, but you can be sure they didn’t always perform according to the owner’s handbook.

Along with him was a driver, who sat aloft the huge wagons which were loaded with borax, and at the back was the “Swamper,” who was responsible for manning the brakes and also the cooking and dishwashing.  They lived on a diet of beans and occasionally some bacon.  They were described as silent, bad tempered men.  Can you wonder?

So the reason I keep Ed and his mules prominently on my desk is to remind myself when things don't go right, that life could be a damned sight worse - I could be Ed Stiles, and that would be no joke!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I wrote some time back about the possibility of watches going out of style - in fact with the use of cell phones, disappearing altogether.  The other day, I made a joke to a young 20 year old that the cell phone I turned in to upgrade recently was so old it was actually run by clockwork.  I was met by a blank stare.  He didn't recognise the term - incredible!  But the fact is that something that was so prevalent in my early life is not around today.  I think apart from some antique clocks I brought over from England, I only have three functioning clockwork items in my possession.  A couple of watches, and a kitchen timer.

The photo above from the free Web site called Morgue File is entitled Graveyard of Time - a fitting name.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bucket List

I have to say that my "bucket list" is very small.  Now this means that either I have no ambition or that I have lived a little too fully and yet survived to tell the tale.

There isn't anyone that I truly yearn to meet - except my favorite barman on a regular basis for the next 50 years, at least.  I'm not too impressed by fame or notoriety.  I've been very fortunate to travel a lot in my life and there are not too many places left to visit.  But perhaps I would put at the top of my list an extensive amount of time to visit South America.  I've been to the very top of the continent, but never ventured to the rest of it.

When I was about 10 my father had a job offer to go to Argentina.  He thought long and hard about it and turned it down.  He always said that he didn't want to raise me in such a foreign country.  At the time and for several years I regretted his decision, but now I quite understand.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I was very lucky in my early life to visit lots of factories; where they actually made things.  I saw cars, bottles, cookies, perfumes, vacuums, drugs, and TV tubes; the list goes on and on.  With every establishment there were hundreds of people bent to their tasks in every kind of environment.  I saw red matches being made in a factory that was built in the 1800's.  It was constructed as a match factory and was very, very safe.  There were no mistakes with such flammable material.

Recently, there has been a TV ad where a man wanders around a modern factory.  There are no people, only robots.  An incredible idea.  And I'm sure it's true.  After a few years I changed my direction and spent all my time in computer rooms and data entry areas.  It didn't matter where one went the basics were always the same.  Perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come, but of course, I didn't realize it at the time.  Incidentally the cleanest factory I ever went into, was the one in Havant, Hampshire where they made Tampax.  The noisiest factory I visited was the Rizla cigarette paper facility along the North Circular Road in London.  Low ceilings and machines that actually screamed.  It was dreadful.   I'm glad I saw the way things were made, but I imagine it's a lot nicer now.

The picture here shows the condition in which most of my early factories are now surely in.  Sad in a way.  The end of an era, but better for the workers to just supervise robots and lasers.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


We'd been living out here for about nine months when we hit the Christmas period.  It's funny how quickly we all adapted to Californian life - in many ways it was much easier, of course.  We lived in Marina Del Rey which is really a small village, with not too many residents, and lots of visitors on the weekends.  About a mile from our apartment was a wonderful supermarket, called Boys; it had the distinction of being named the supermarket with the most attractive women shoppers in America.

Well, on our first Christmas day, Boys posted a notice that they would be closed from 12 noon.  Normally they were open 24 hours, of course.  A feeling of panic descended on me.  Suppose we needed a jar of pig's feet, or ran out of toilet paper.  What the hell were we going to do?  We had become totally reliant on the pampering that California offered.

I was reminded of this the other day at our local market up here in Big Bear.  Normally they are closed between 2 and 6 a.m. so we've sort of disciplined ourselves to going without.  But the bomb was dropped.  They intended closing for the entire 24-hour period of Christmas day.  I reeled with the information.  As soon as I returned home, I checked our stock of pig's feet, and also toilet paper of course.  One never knows when a sudden attack of Montezuma's revenge might strike.  Well, I can report that we made it through the entire day.  But there was still a nagging feeling at the back of the mind.

Trevor's Travels

For the first time in close to a decade, there is no Trevor's Travels in The Sun.  As Saturday was Christmas, the paper drastically reduced the staff and only produced a "collapsed" version of the Sunday paper.  Most of the usual suspects therefore did not appear.  One can only hope that it does not mean the "collapse" of my regular journalistic career.  Things should return to normal next Sunday.

Music Track for Dec 26th

Merry Christmas everyone!
I have a little personal tradition during Christmas and that is the playing of this piece.  I don't think my family have yet spotted it.  This is a different version, but note perfect for all that.  You may be one of the 34 million who have already seen it, nonetheless it conveys everything best about Christmas.
Normally people always stand for this piece, and the history of that tradition goes back to the first London performance in the mid-18th century, when Handel first perfomed the work in front of King George II.  The king was so transfixed by the music that he automatically stood up.  Etiquette demanded that when the monarch rose, everyone else did too.  Hence the tradition - I'm assuming it still goes on.
Now we've had a few Baroque pieces for the last weeks, so next week - some hard rock!  Yeah!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day

This is very pertinent as we've had a lot of snow this week!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Have you ever found that you own something you dislike?  I've had a mug on my desk for about the last 25 years, and I looked at it yesterday coming to the conclusion that I've always hated it.  It was given to me by a fellow I didn't much care for; he'd picked it up at a business conference that was a total waste of time and money.  It's rather ugly and, of course, it's in pristine condition - why don't the nasty things ever seem to break?

The new container
I was mulling this over when I wandered into the kitchen and spotted another mug doing the same task - keeping spare pencils and pens at hand.  This one was bought for me by Michael years ago and is a fine piece of work.  It also has what could double up as the family motto: Life's a Bitch; Then You Die.  We all realized quickly that there is one more line to add to that: And Nobody Cares!  We Summons' have always tried to be optimists!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm still practising with my new iPhone. It's truly an incredible device and although the "App Store" cheerfully informs me that I'm not authorized for some reason, I find the convenience of being able to access emails while S.W.M.B.O. is in some store quite terrific.  It reminds me of the progress of phones in my lifetime.

This is very much like the first phone my family had; heavy, and of course, black.  The essence of luxury was if you had a white one - only for the truly privileged.  I can still remember the number we had - Watford 4683.  But my grandparents (Halland 209) had an even more primitive system, where they couldn't dial anyone directly - it had to go through the operator.  Any calls outside the Watford area in our case had to go via dialing "0."

My very first job in the school holidays was operating a switchboard for a chemical company in London.  It had lots of wires and long plugs to connect the various people in the firm.

I remember writing last summer about the miracle of being able to make a call home from Michael's boat out in the Japanese Pacific from his iPhone.  Truly an amazing leap in technology for someone who still remembers his first phone number from 65 years ago.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I think we may be losing our Northern European grit.  Obviously, the reason N. Europeans led the way in the development of culture is mostly to do with weather.  If the sun's always shining you can loll about having fun, but if it's freezing cold and raining, you have to get indoors.  And to do that you have to have some doors to get in!  And once you've put up a building, you have to decorate it and then amuse yourself.  It's not easy.

Now we've been out here in America's playground for nearly 30 years and I think we're starting to lose it.  We've had continuous rain for four days and now it looks like it's going to snow for another three.  I have to say that it's made me rather bad tempered, and S.W.M.B.O. has become somewhat depressed.  Let's face it, when we were back in the old country we would have shrugged this stuff off and just gone down the pub.  Last evening, for Heaven's sake we even canceled a date at a local and stayed home and huddled by the fire.  What the hell has gone wrong with us?

Monday, December 20, 2010


I recently wrote a piece in the Sunday column about a wildlife retreat for animals.  One of the animals I met was a wonderful coyote, called Wylie, of course.  He was rescued several years ago,  being the only survivor of his pack that had been struck with a bad virus.  The column caused the owners of the preserve a problem with the bureaucrats who handle such things.  They were concerned that people would think that you could tame coyotes and turn them into pets.  This is not possible as like woves they will always be wild.

This is a wild coyote - the picture was taken some time ago by my friend Ann, who lived across the lake in the village of Fawnskin.  He looks fairly tame and in fact Ann used to put the odd scrap out for him, but make no mistake, like his brothers and sisters this is a completely wild animal.

We see quite a few coyotes up here in the mountains.  They regularly trot past my office window on their business, whatever that might be.  I have even seen one in the middle of Village Drive at midday on a Saturday.  They seem completely fearless.

But mostly we hear them with their distinctive howling - it's quite beautiful but very eerie until you get used to it.  They are very crafty too.  They will bring a female in heat around to a loose dog and then corral it when it leaves its safety.  I have seen skeletal remains after such an event.  So as I wrote in a previous post, if you're visiting the mountains with a dog under about 40 ponds, don't let it run around loose, or it could fall victim.  And also remember like everything else living up here, animals are not to be trusted - and that includes many of the two legged kind!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Column - Bookbinding

Sunday's column was about getting a book bound (not published).  I ran into The Book Craftsman some years ago when I was doing a piece on Mentone at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.  The firm was founded in the 1930's by a Swiss gentleman working out of his garage, but today it is owned and run by Mike Arnold, an ex-Brit, who retired from his law practise and wanted something to keep him busy.  This is him holding a book I wrote some years ago.

Which brings me to the point of the story.  As a service to your young heirs, why not write a series of essays for them to enjoy when you're no longer around?  Frankly it's not hard, and the result will be treasured by successive generations.  You just have to start, and of course, have a place where they will bind the result.  It's not expensive either.  I had three red leather copies made of the book I wrote for Evan, my grandson, and they cost less than $100 each.  He will get his copy when he's 21.  As a compulsive writer, I'm working on another for him.  This time in blue, I think.

Music Track for Dec 20th

We officially start winter on the 21st, although it's been damned cold for awhile up here in the mountains.  In celebration of this time of year here is Vivaldi's tribute to the season with his "Winter" from the Four Seasons.  Part of his notes for the music include stamping of the feet to keep warm.

Stravinsky once unkindly said of Vivaldi's music that is was the same old tune played hundreds of different ways.  Rather unfair and as The Seasons has been played - sometimes in Indian Restaurants for Heaven's sake! - for some three hundred years he must have been doing something right.  One is forced to ask how much Stravinsky will be listened to in the 2200's?

The video of this is rather interesting with the masks and views of Venice - wonderful city!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


There is a medical museum in Riverside that I've written about several times for Trevor's Travels.  It is a tough look at how things really were back in the "good" old days.  One exhibit is the advance of the stethoscope - an interesting short history.

It seems that the normal way of listening to a patient's

heart a couple of hundred years ago was simply to lay the ear on the chest, and listen.

Apparently one day an extremely well developed young lady needed attention.  The doctor was somewhat flummoxed by the presented twin problems.  In a fit of inspiration he grabbed a piece of paper from his desk and rolled it into a tube to keep his head away from the protuberances.  It was not long before better tubes were developed and thence flexible ones.

I was told this by the custodian of the museum; I have no reason to doubt him, and it makes sense to me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Design Change

It's the official start of winter next week - actually on Tuesday the 21st.  So here is a new design for the season; I think it's a little cold looking so let me know what you think, please.  We'll do another change on March 20th when spring begins.

Henry Moore

The Big Picture at the bottom last week was Three Reclining Figures which is at the LA County Museum of Art.  It is a large bronze piece by Henry Moore, who perhaps is England's most famous sculptor, and who died in 1986.  He was a Yorkshireman - one of eight children - who lived in extreme poverty growing up.  He became immensely wealthy but always lived modestly.

Like most people in the UK, I was introduced to his work slowly and with quite a lot of controversy.  It's become so accepted today, but at the time it was thought of as lumpy and not very clear.  There were also some odd physical things about his works which at the time were though of as disturbing.  I was unaware that my launch into the world of work was to occur each day as I passed under the portals of 55, Broadway, the home of London Transport, who sportingly offered me employment when I left school at 16.  They were later to withdraw their offer when the results of my end of school results came in.  But that's another tale.

Today, Moore's sculptures have endured and are all over the world.  If you want to check him out further, this is the link to the Wikipedia entry with many of his works shown at the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loose Dogs

People should be careful with their dogs up here.  Just because it's "The Mountains" doesn't mean that dogs will revert to their wild state and adapt to natural living.  The small dogs can be, and sometimes are, carried off by coyotes - more on them in an upcoming post.  But even the large ones are in danger, but from coyotes of the human kind.

This is Lakota.  He was the king of the street dogs.  A pure bred Malamute he lived down the road from us and it was always fun to see him trotting around, fully in charge of his domain.  But sadly he was abducted by a visitor and carried off.  We miss him still, although Frankie and Johnny are no doubt relieved that their owners no longer misbehave with Lakota as they were wont to do; in full view of the house as well!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Sponsor

I'm pleased to welcome a new sponsor to Trevor's Tracks.  It's Ben's Weather.  In future, you will see his logo on the right, and if you want to find out the latest weather conditions just click on the picture.  Ben Brissey is the subject of the upcoming column for Sunday December 26th, so I'll not dwell on his talents at this time.  Suffice it to say that he has been forecasting weather up here for the last 17 years and we all think he's about got it right.  It's not an easy place to do this as we're sandwiched between the high desert on one side and the Inland Empire with some coastal flow on the other.

Horseback Riding

In deference to my American hosts, I have labeled this post "horseback riding," although of course the "back" part is redundant as there isn't anywhere else to ride the damned animal.  But I digress.  S.W.M.B.O. used to be a champion rider.  She was a show jumper and has the cups and ribbons to prove it.  She gave it up many years ago but she had a brief flurry on horses at the stables in Playa del Rey some 20 years back.  And her favorite equine beast was Kirkland; an ex-race horse and a handsome fellow too.
This isn't Kirkland, but it looks a bit like him.

My riding experience was in my mid-twenties where a friend and I use to rent the odd hack and thrash them around the Surrey countryside until they got lathered up a bit.  Great sport, but not the disciplined type of dressage that She Who Must Be Obeyed exhibited.

However, Kirkland and I had built a sort of relationship and one day I asked if I could take him round the ring for a little trot.  It was quite a large ring too.  I moved old Kirkie from first gear up into second, but he took that to mean shifting to third and then into fourth and rapidly into overdrive - a full stretch gallop.  I had no way to stop him and it was quite the most terrifying experience of my life.  I eventually tried to turn him round into smaller and smaller circles and Kirkie realized that the fun was over, so he just dropped his shoulder and shoved me off.  He then trotted over to my dear lady to tell her what fun it had been, and could she bring me back again soon. 

It was several days before I could rid myself of the image of his powerful shoulders churning away beneath me, but worse was to follow.  Soon afterwards the situation came up in conversation among others and S.W.M.B.O. said in her best Worthing tone: "Well, I thought you could ride, but Kirkland proved otherwise!"  Dear oh dear!

P.S.  S.W.M.B.O. has just loooked at the photo above and told me once again in chilling tones: "That's not a bit like Kirkland. Kirkland was a pure bred chestnut.  That is a bay!"  She also called me a wanker.  Dear oh dear, again!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Some years ago I heard George Carlin doing a rant on "Stuff."  He maintained that we all had too much of it.  It's true though that we have a lot more than our ancestors, and of course, there comes the need to store it.  And up here that means a garage - and as big a one as you can get.

The garage we inherited when we bought this house was quite modest - it was built in 1946.  But a few years ago we had it extended.  Incidentally, in order to do this we had 13 inspections by the building department.  Thirteen?  That's the subject for another post, or even a tirade, I think.

However, we now have a garage which is actually sufficient for our needs, but it needs a bit of creativity to pack it full.  This means both motorcycles, both cars, several bikes, and a snow blower.  The luck of it is that it's not a double garage in the fullest meaning of the word; more like two garages next to each other.

I've often thought that if there were only men living on the earth, we would all have just enormous garages.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday's Column - Wildhaven Ranch

We've already dipped into some of the photos I took of the wonderful animals at Wildhaven Ranch.  Diane Dragotta Williams runs an amazing facility caring for animals who have been damaged in the wild.  I've been there about four times, and it's always a joy to see her charges - they all look so fit and well.  Many of them can no longer go back to the world of nature as they have been "humanized" by their cure, like Misha.

Misha the Black Bear Enjoying Some Cranberries

The ones who are only healing and will return are kept away from people so they can adapt to their normal lives once again.  Tours of the facility are at 1:00 on Saturdays.

Music Track for December 13th

A friend sent this to me by email the other day.  It's a five minute performance of Taps by a thirteen year old girl.
It truly is a wonderful thing to listen to such a performance.  I don't think I've ever heard the full version before.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Size Does Matter

I have a confession to make.  Although I try hard to keep up with technology, there is one small corner where I am dreadfully deficient.  The area of cell phones.  I have one of them of course - have done for the last decade - but it's hardly used and as for the fashion of texting while driving, forget it, I can barely hit the speed dial number to call home, for Heaven's sake.

So as I stood outside the retail premises of my carrier, I felt a little like a young teenage boy outside his very first "gentleman's club." As I eased my way through the doors, I was intimidated by the huge variety of wares available and how little I knew.  I was met by a delightful young lady, who asked how she could help me.  Blushingly, I mumbled my needs and she checked my previous performance on her screen before taking me gently around, explaining what she could do for me.  Knowingly, she allowed me to settle for slightly less than was currently the rage, and there were only a couple of truly embarrassing moments. 

The first was when she asked me to show her what I had.  With trembling and slightly clammy fingers I took it out.  It was pitifully small and it was obvious it had never been used properly.  The other was when she wanted to make a transfer to the new device.  I stuttered that there were only six or seven names on the card; two of them were duplicates and a couple more so outdated that they no longer functioned.  I suspect she had a bit of a giggle in the back room with her colleagues when she performed that service.

I now however am a proud possessor of an iPhone -  not as powerful as a lot of you more experienced fellows, but it's still early days and I hope to catch up with you soon.  Thank you for your patience, Eva!

Afraid of Heights?

For those of you who haven't seen this, it is an amazing video - about 7 minutes long - of a man climbing a 1700 foot tower to repair the antenna on top.

There's a small cartoon intro before you get to the actual video.

Even if you're good with heights this will make you feel decidedly woozy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


There are lots of candidates for the moment when society changed for the worst.  Some people say it all started to go wrong when TV arrived, others choose when women were allowed the vote.  For me, it was when people started to dance apart.  Yes, I think we began to lose our way when the cha cha took a hold, and we lost the ability to do the waltz and the fox-trot.

We were married for about eight years before S.W.M.B.O. and I found ourselves (with her mother no less) at a place where there was a small quartet playing dance music, and one or two couples were gliding around the floor.  It never occurred to either of us that we couldn't dance as we are of that age where lessons were all a part of the growing up process.  The only hiccough was as I stood there softly counting.  "Can you do this?" She asked imperiously.  "Of course," I replied.  "I'm just trying to get the first step going and then I'll be fine."  And so it was; we were away and I even took her mother out for a spin. although it was a bit like driving a London Transport bus through rush-hour traffic.

We regularly take to the dance floor on cruises, although I have to say my repertoire is diminishing.  But it is an activity, the loss of which has not benefited society, I think.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Four more Podcasts are now up on The Sun's Web site.  They cover visits to Peppers Gallery; Sturges Theater; Olvera street and Motorcycling.  You can hear them at
Just click on the right hand side of the panel.


I was sent an email the other day about the business premises of Google (The parent company of this blog!)  It was truly amazing.  It had slides and fireman's poles to get down from one floor to another.  There were rooms to relax in, free food, and games like pool.  An incredible atmosphere to work in.  How unlike my first office experiences in London 50 years ago, where bosses seemed to enjoy keeping their serf-like employees in Victorian conditions.
At the time we would have given our eye teeth to work in the type of building on the left, but that is not the point.  The type of changes need to come from management, and not be abused by the employees.  Not such an easy matter.

Many years ago I was given MacGregor's book of management.  In it he expounded his X and Y theories.  Theory X was that people wanted to work and management's job was to help them do it in the best way for the company.  Theory Y was that people didn't want to work and management had to make them.

It's not hard to figure out how Google approached these theories, and they seem to have found some success!  As can be seen from this site

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

I managed to get to the Arizona Memorial on our last cruise.  Sadly there were so many people in the line that I balked at the last stage and this is as far as I managed to get.  As the day fell on a weekend it was truly full and we had to make do with this shot.

This is a picture that those of you who have been to the Memorial Park will know, I am sure. I just wish the lady with the purple top had managed to get her kid out of the frame!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday's Column - Funplex

We have a new venture in Big Bear.  It's called the Funplex and it's right next to the Bowling Barn; both owned by Bill Ross.  The Funplex is dived into three parts.  A snack bar, pizza place in the front with room for 100 diners, a laser tag area of 2500 square feet at the rear, and in between a place with rides, dodgem cars, and redemption games.  It's quite an area and dominated by the Himalaya Ride - a switchback rollercoaster.
Manager, Jim De Groot has experience running this type of place - that's him on board the Himalaya - and particularly laser tag games.  The building used to house an ice rink at one time, then a roller rink, then a mall with antique businesses.  It is hoped to buy the piece of land between the two places and maybe turn it into a roller rink and also an ice rink in the winter.  It would take it all the way back to its roots.  In the meantime however, if you're tired of the lines at the ski slopes, then the Funplex is a great way for the entire family to have fin.

Music Track for Dec 6th

This is the first published piece of music by Sir Edward Elgar - a truly English composer, although you Yanks have grabbed his Pomp and Circumstance No 1 for all your graduation ceremonies.  The tradition of that is when he visited Harvard for a graduation speech the piece was chosen, then he went to Yale and they played it again.  It became a staple after that.  This is Salut d'Amor which means either The Kiss or Love's Greeting depending on your French.  It is a real slice of Victorian gentility, and is often played at weddings - including one of mine.

I was fortunate to meet Elgar's daughter, Carice Elgar Blake, on a number of occasions.  She was quite the lady.  This is only about 4 minutes long so close your eyes and drift back to an earlier time.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I wrote a piece on the demise of watches and at the time thought that along with this demise is the seeming inability for people to make fixed appointments - particularly with regard to leisure activities.  I've noticed that if you are trying to make a date with people to meet up, there is always the proviso to "check up closer to the day."  Why?  If a date is made, unless there is a medical emergency surely that is the end of it.  Why check later?

Also I notice that people seem to need to call while they are on their way and ask for directions if they, like me, lack a GPS.  Have maps completely disappeared?  It is strange how society alters, and I do try not to fight these types of changes.  However, next summer, I plan to go back to the UK for a visit.  (No it's not to the Royal Wedding, although I expect my invitation daily!)  I can call a friend today and suggest that we meet at say The Cumberland Hotel in the reception area at 12 noon on July 28th and know that he will be there.  We will not need to reconfirm, but then we're old. Of course, if either of us fails to turn up, we will assume the absolute worst and call the widow to ask about funeral arrangements.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Now this little road sign is something that I truly miss living here in the Great United States.  It's for a roundabout - I think you call them circles.  The fact is that they are very efficient traffic designs.

Here we have the infamous stop signs - either two way or four way.  Nasty traffic delayers they are too.  I remember one in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.  It worked fine for most of the day but when the offices turned out at 5, they did nothing but slow the cars to an absolute crawl. 
All because the cars had to stop one after another.  And the police used to watch on occasions as well.

I know of a circle out here - in Venice - but it's nothing like the extra special roundabouts that sometimes occur in the UK.  There's one in Hemel Hempstead where you can actually go the wrong way - great fun.

It used to be the case in Holland where the traffic used to stop on the roundabout rather than stop going into it.  It was somewhat chaotic.  I heard it said that it was to confuse the Germans.  Do they still do it?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I wonder if in 100 years people will wear watches at all.  Perhaps collectors will be fighting over Timexes at auctions in Sotheby's.  I've noticed that many young people don't wear them as they have cell phones permanently out and these devices do a wonderful job of keeping time.

The first watch I had was a Christmas present from my parents.  I can still remember it even though it must be 60 years ago.  It had Roman numerals and a curiously shaped case.  It also had a leather strap as it was some time before metal ones became the norm.  I wonder where it is today as it must have been cast out by an insensitive parent along with many of my favorite toys.

My grandfather and great grandfather both wore pocket watches with gold chains across their stomachs; both timepieces ended up with me and I wear one with my tuxedo on cruises.  Undoubtedly watches were a big status symbol, particularly for men, years ago, but now I can see them disappearing in favor of the ubiquitous cell phone.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Second Question of the Day

The answer to the second question of the day: what inventions would you take back to Roman times if you had the chance, is as follows.

Remember they had no electricity so most of our stuff would be useless, but here are some things I think would work.  Bicycles - they might be a bit rough, particularly in the tire department, but they had some pretty good engineers and also jewelers who could make the chain.  Then there would be wind boards.  Just think of a regiment of centurions sailing across the Mediterranean on windsurfers! 

I think we know a lot about hygiene which would be worth passing on.  The propeller would no doubt ease the efforts of all those galley slaves and finally, make the Olympic games licensed and take a cut of the concessions!  The last one was from a business friend of mine.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielson

I was very sorry to hear that the comedic actor, Leslie Nielson, had just died.  I had occasion to meet him once.  It was quite momentous.

I was traveling back from Chicago to Los Angeles and the plane stopped at Denver where we had some sort of A/C problem.  As a frequent flyer with Continental in those days, I was sitting up front and although everybody was made to stay in their seats we privileged few were allowed to sample the wares of the Pub, which Continental had in those days just behind the first class section.  It was here that I met the actor, and I'm afraid we discovered a weakness for drink in each other.  We took full advantage of the delay and subsequent opportunities on the flight back to L.A.

We were still hard at it by the time the wheels touched down at LAX and when I arrived home, where my mother-in-law was visiting, she said to Yvonne: "Does he always come home in that condition?"


Earlier in the month, I stated that I was going to change the design of the blog once a month.  Well, having looked at the options I've decided to do this less often and make it once per season.  I don't know about you, but once I've become used to the way a periodical looks I rather resent the publishers changing it.  So as I am most anxious not to cause any resentment here, it's going to be four times a year rather than 12.

I have heard from a number of you that leaving a comment on a particular post is not easy.  From a cursory look it seems that if you click on the orange word "Comment" a new page pops up and you can then write your comment.  I'll try and do this myself via Yvonne's computer and see how tough it is, and report later.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday's Column - Motorcycling

Sunday's column was about the joys of motorcycling and the fact that last month was my 18th anniversary of indulging in this occupation.  I've already covered the subject in a previous blog post so there is no need to go over old ground.

These are pictures of my spare motorcycle.  It's a 1975 Yamaha 650, and it's under wraps in the garage.  I haven't ridden it for about six years but I know it's there and it is waiting for when I can't heft the big Harley.

I took the pictures against some inspired graffiti in Santa Monica years ago.You can read the entire column at

Music Track for Nov 29th

After last's weeks Lady Ga Ga, it's not a hard leap to put on Amy Winehouse for today.  I'm sure she's had some problems but nonetheless selecting drugs and bad behavior can't have done a lot for her career or her life.  It seems such a shame that when someone has a voice that can belt out the blues like she can that there has to be bagage to lug around.

So if you can put the difficulties behind you this is one of her best songs and videos.  Back to Black.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Devil Winds

I keep thinking we've dodged the fire season up here this year.  But Mother Nature likes to play games with  us and the evil devil winds were blowing hard again last weekend.  Is there no end to them?

Known as the Santa Ana's, their name is more likely to be a derivation of Vientas de Satan or winds of Satan - Satana's.  But as we have a city here in Orange County called Santa Ana it's become the pronunciation.  So Santa Anas they are.

The fact is that normally at a very warm time of the year, usually in the autumn, the winds blow back to front - i.e. from the east to the west rather than from the Pacific.  After long hot summers these winds dry things even more and fan flames that crop up.  The winds also seem to drive certain people crazy, and that includes arsonists.  But the winds this year are late and coming from the cold interior so maybe we can escape after all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I would just like to wish all my dear American friends the very best Thanksgiving!

Don't eat too much!

Snow Ploughing

Long ago I read a very amusing article about a fellow who had moved to Minnesota.  He began a long ranging feud with the man who drove the snow plough,  No matter how hard he tried he could not stop him from piling up a huge berm across his drive.  Now I live in a ski resort, and we do have storms through, and they leave snow behind them, and the drive has to be cleared.  And we have drivers of snow ploughs, who seem to delight in leaving a huge berm across the driveway, usually just after we've cleared it.  He is known in the family as "That Bastard!"  Believe me there is nothing more irksome than having to dig out a three feet pile of ice, snow and other debris that these snow ploughs can leave behind them.

We had a storm come through over the weekend and it left about five or six inches on the ground,  I brought out my newly serviced snow plough and cleared the driveway - just as That Bastard came around the corner with his huge machine.  I went to the edge of the drive to make some sort of protest, not that it's ever worked before.  But as he reached me, he pulled a lever and a big metal guard came down to protect the opening of the drive from the plough; he lifted it up again as he went along and I almost became misty eyed.  Ain't technology wonderful!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Smoking!

Today is National Smoke Out Day; or in other words No Smoking!  I shall abide by the strong advice and not light up, but that's easy for me as I haven't indulged in the wicked weed since my last "fag" on December 31st 1982.  It was a wonderful day for me as I had been seriously addicted for the better part of 30 years.

I first lit up when I was 15; a friend and I spent our pocket money on a packet of ten Red and Whites - a brand that has long been absent from tobacconist's shelves.  We took our illicit wares to Cassiobury Park in Watford and smoked two each.  We then divided up the rest for the week.  This practise was repeated for a long time.  I liked smoking and tried everything - cigarettes (fags!) pipes and cigars.  I didn't care that it was bad for you, but slowly the evidence was so overwhelming that it gnawed at me and I had to stop. 

Funnily enough all the men in my family smoked, but none of the women did.  And none of them was effected by the habit, including my great grandfather who died at aged 94.  The doctor said if he hadn't smoked he would have lived a lot longer - Good Grief!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

First Question of the Day

Last week I mentioned two questions that were interesting to pose at dinner parties.  The first is which two people - one alive and one dead - would you most like to have dinner with?  The other is what inventions would you take back to Roman times if  you had the chance.

Here is my answer to the first question - the next one I'll reveal next week.

The two people I would most like to have dinner with are The Queen, and also Hitler.  The former has been on the throne since 1952 (crowned in 1953) and her knowledge of recent history must be enormous.  Just think of the people she's met.  I also quite like corgis.  I'd have to write down a list of questions beforehand so I didn't forget anything.

As for Hitler, well I'd just like to ask him: What the hell were you thinking?

What are your two candidates?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday's Column - Sturges Theater

Sunday's column was about the second theater that we have in the city of San Bernardino.  I was surprised that we had two as the city has declined dreadfully over the last couple of decades.  It all went pear-shaped after the closure of the Norton Air Base in the nineties.

The Sturges Theater Built in 1926
The Sturges Theater is located close to the California Theater of the Performing Arts and I had images of brawling thespians after long Saturday night shows.  The Blue Man Group versus Forever Plaid (A tribute to the guy groups of the fifties!)  The producer I met however told me that all was peaceful with both institutions.  You can read the entire column at

Perhaps with two such places putting on live theater, it will help the city to once again claim some growth.

Music Track for Nov 22nd Lady Ga Ga

I have to admit I like Lady Ga Ga.  This is probably her most famous track -  I do have to wonder however what you would talk about on a dinner date.  There is an annoying little ad at the start of the video and the video is pretty bizarre.  But her voice is wonderful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wedding Bells

The U.S. news is full of the engagement of William and Kate.  It's almost as if they borrow the English Royals when they have the need of a bit of pomp and circumstance.  I tried hard to avoid it all when Charles and Diana were married - I was in the UK at that time and had no idea I would be living in California within the year.  Naturally it was impossible to ignore and I saw bits of the ceremony and aftermath on TV.

Now we have the next generation - they seem nice young people.  They also make Charles and Camilla look extremely stodgy by comparison.  I think Charles needs to leave off the hand made clothes and try a couple of off-the-shelf jobs.

Maybe it's time for the U.S. to get their own royalty as they seem so obsessed with the House of Windsor.  I always thought Teddy Kennedy would have made a first class king - he had the appetites, and it would have given him a decent job at last.  But he's gone now.  How about Bill Clinton - he'd look good in ermine.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pacific Standard Time

Considering that I did all that flying around the world, and also back and forth across the U.S.A. for so many years, I'm rather appalled at my inability to adjust to a slight time change of one hour.

Yes, it's that annoying clocks-go-back-an-hour time of the year.  It also is the precursor of winter, but I can deal with that in a place that has 300 days of sunshine a year.

I used to come off flights and go straight to the office the next day and stamp out a few fires.  Granted I used to feel a little groggy, but I was quite functionable.  But this stupid one hour stuff has me awake even earlier than most old men; and I find myself slinking out of the bedroom well before 6, leaving S.W.M.B.O. still sleeping.  Then the computer beckons earlier than usual.  No wonder I'm exhausted by 9:00 p.m.!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Being Grateful

I heard a talk radio host the other day saying how few people he talked to were grateful for their lives.  I have to say it made me think.  Unless you live in Haiti, or some of the more unfortunate parts of the Islamic world, it seems to me that we should all realize that we are damned lucky to be where we are.

And yet, it appears that many people don't accept that they are extremely fortunate.  It is not long ago in the scheme of things that life was pretty awful.  When I hear complaints that things were better years ago, I immediately remember one of my visits on behalf of Trevor's Travels to the Medical Museum in Riverside.

Now a visit there will give you pause.  I don't think any of us would like to endure the medical procedures of even a few years ago.  So if you're having problems thinking about why you should be grateful, you could begin by being glad you don't ever have to visit a mid-19th century surgeon.  Leather apron, coarse instruments, and a bucket to dip the knife into.  (Refer to the Civil War for more details on that time.)  With Thanksgiving looming perhaps we should all compile a lists of things we are thankful for.  Starting of course, with living here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I have a friend who likes to pose a "Question of the Day" to her staff.  She finds it difficult to come up with new ones, and asked me for any I might have.  She says the sex ones are the best, but I try to leave that area alone.  So I fell back on the two questions that I think are interesting ones to pose at dinner parties.  These are they:

If you could have dinner with two people, one alive and one dead, who would they be?  And, what modern inventions would you take back to Roman times if you were transported back there.  Remember there was no electricy!

I've known of these two questions for quite a long time, and next week and the week after I'll reveal my personal answers.  I'd be very interested to hear your choices.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday's Column - Olvera Street

This Sunday's column was about Olvera Street.  Right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, this little piece of Mexico is about as genuine as you can get.  I went there to buy a small leather bag for the back of the Harley and as usual had no problems finding the ideal piece at a very reasonable price.
Mariachi Musicians Tuning up for the Days Performance

The original name of the city was El Pueblo de Nuestra SeƱora la Reina de Los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula and I'm glad we don't have to struggle with that everytime we give our destination.

Olvera sits on a slight rise and it was because of the flooding of the Rio Porciuncula that caused its new location.

In the center of the street is the site of the oldest original building in L.A.  It was the country home of Don Avila and a wander around it will give you a good sense of how life was lived when the city first began.  Returning outside, with the smell of the food and the sound of the music you really feel that you are in Mexico.  While there I even had my first taste of Horchata, which is a very sweet concoction of a rice drink.  Quite nice.

Music Track for Nov 15th

One of the comments on the You Tube site for this says that a friend put this music on the writer's alarm.  When it went off he thought the day of judgement had arrived.  As it's Dies Irae or Day of Wrath, it's not surprising.

If you know what it's like to get goose bumps listening to music then this should do it for you.  It only last a very short 2 minutes.  It's from Verdi's Requem. George Solti.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Carnival Splendid

And so we welcome back to US shores the Carnival Splendid.  It has been a brutal event for the 4,500 passengers who found themselves adrift on the Pacific having endured a fire in the engine room.  For four days they were without hot water, electricity, refrigeration and most importantly toilets.  It must have been a pretty nasty experience.  Ships' toilets work very similarly to aircrafts' and need electricity to effect the suction, or nothing works at all.

I had a small problem on board a Holland America cruise a few years back. Our side of the ship lost the toilets for about a day.  Now, with unlimited food and a sporting attitude towards adult beverages, the loss of one's toilet is a wicked burden to bear.  We could spot one of our lot anywhere on the ship.  They had a sort of superabundant look in their eyes and they seemed to be endlessly scouting for the location of the few public facilities available on board.  They never have enough of those and they put them in hard to find places.  Our lot were often found well into the voyage scanning their little schematic maps of the ship's lay-out - we all knew what they were searching for.

I could no doubt put up with the Spam sandwiches, which is what the Splendid's crew were able to prepare, even cold showers, but the loss of the facilities would be the very worst.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nice Animal

I notice that my blog has become rather wordy so far this week.  So here is a nice animal to look at - another one from my trip to Wildhaven Ranch.
This is Jill Webster holding "Wolfie" a redtailed hawk.  He has a very sharp beak.

Mr. Know-it-all

From time to time you run into what my mother used to call a Mr. Know-it-all.  They are usually spouting off about everything and they are always correct in their opinions.  They are in fact very annoying to those of us blessed with only the average amount of information.

When they are truly upsetting I have a method to cause them to at least pause.  It is to remind them that as far as history books are concerned the last man on earth to know everything was Desiderius Erasmus.  Now this fellow was born in Rotterdam and was deemed to know everything in the world as it existed back in the 15th and 16th centuries.  He knew all the languages (civilized), all the mathematics, all the philosophy, theology, and in fact everything.  He knew the lot.  He died in Basel, Switzerland at age 70 in July, 1536.

However from time to time some obnoxious person arrives who seems to think they have taken over Erasmus' place.  I usually mention this to them and that is mostly the end of Mr. Know-it-all!  To find out more about Erasmus click here

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Memorial Day

I'm sure that back in England last Sunday was Memorial Day or perhaps it will be next Sunday.  It used to be a pretty big deal when I was growing up with the sovereign placing a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.  As the armistice for the first world war ended hostilities at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month so one minute's silence was preserved throughout the land.

For a few weeks prior to this event volunteers are out and about selling cloth poppies to mark the carnage that occurred on "Flanders Fields," the site of all the trenches.  I remember once in a fit of naughtiness telling a lady vendor that I wouldn't buy one as it would only encourage them to do it again.  She was rather offended.

The following lines were always said at the services held around the country, and although they were originally written for those who died in WWI, they are as well said for all our fallen.  Veterans Day here is on Thursday, the eleventh of the eleventh.

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We shall remember them, we shall remember them.

Tea Party

A number of people overseas have asked me what this tea party thing is all about. Without wanting to alienate too many of my audience, here is an effort to define the phenomenon. Firstly, I am not a member of this movement as I have an aversion to wearing funny hats and carrying placards around. I also don’t know the words to most of the American patriotic songs that are needed at their events.

Basically the tea party is a loose affiliation of people who are fed up with the ruling class in all its forms. They want to return to the simpler days of Mom and apple pie. They are suspicious of the growing intrusion of big government into every aspect of life and they hate paying taxes to prop up programs with which they disagree. Mostly they are scared to death of the massive debt we have built up and they feel impotent in the decisions being made in Washington. Most of these people have been asleep for years, believing that the representatives they have elected will do a good job, but no longer. Admiral Yamamoto said after bombing Pearl Harbor: “I fear we have awoken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve."  Maybe Obama, Pelosi and Reed are saying something like that too.   Socialism is best snuck up on a population and not rammed down it's throat.

A friend kindly sent this to me from the Financial Times.  It's quite a long article but explains in detail a lot more about the tea party than I can cover here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I'm not a real fan of horse racing - the mathematics of the odds are well outside my poor numerical abilities.  However I do like horses very much; they are magnificent animals.  But every so often a racehorse comes along that catches the imagination.

S.W.M.B.O. of course is well up in equine matters and drew my attention to Zenyatta long before she took the headlines.  Therefore we were well ensconced in front of the TV before the off at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

We watched as Zenyatta came down to the paddock doing her funny little dance, and sticking her tongue out along with her front legs.  There was no doubt of her special personality.

As they left the gate, as usual the mare came out dead last.  She remained in the back for most of the race but then hit her stride and began to move up the field.  She was gaining on the leader over the last 200 yards, but her jockey had maybe left the challenge a little too late.  She needed the course to  be 1.26 miles rather than 1.25 and she would have won handily.  Such a shame, but her record is 19 and 1 as she heads to retirement.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday's Column - Redlands U

Redlands University
This Sunday's column was about the art gallery at Redlands University.  It's quite a small place and it's called Peppers, after Tom Pepper who donated sufficient funds to start the place.  Most of the art displayed is extremely modern and when I went there, all the exhibits were from the faculty itself.

I am of the generation that didn't usually go to university.  Unless you were entering academia, the law, or medicine, and none of those were in my future.  So I'm always a little inhibited when I go on the campus of a fine seat of learning.  Redlands is one such place and a great opportunity for the lucky students who learn there.  Their Web site is

Music Track - Moulin Rouge Nov 8th

I have to admit that I have never entered a brothel in my long life.  I guess the opportunity never turned up, and I suspect that my present opportunites are diminishing daily! Now after the oddness of last week's Webern piece, here is total reversal.  Behind the stage here is the sort of brothel I would like to go to if the chance ever came my way.   Offenbach wrote music for the Moulin Rouge called Gaitee Parisiene, but it was never like this!

Oh, I've never spent a night in jail either; I'm starting to think I've led a sheltered life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Memoriam

I am sorry to report the death of Kevin Danelson.  He had a heart attack while he was working in Texas.  He was a long time resident of Big Bear, but traveled extensively throughout the U.S. in the music business.  He was also a strong supporter of this blog.

It's always a shock to lose one of the permanent residents here, and particularly as he was only 43.

R.I.P. Kevin.

I regret that I have no information as to where to send flowers and tributes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Swimmer

"Can those dogs swim?" I've often been asked.  Now the truth is they come from a line of hunting animals.  No, don't laugh!  Poodles were actually bred as water hunting dogs, and their name comes from a German word meaning "Splashing about in water."  We have taken Frankie and Johnny swimming a couple of times and they weren't that good at it, keeping upright and just sort of splashing with their front paws.
Frankie (L) and Johnny (R)

Frankie after the dunking

Well, we took them out for a last motor around the lake before the boat comes out to be wrapped for the winter next week.  On the return leg, Yvonne said: "Did you hear that splash?  Where's Frankie?"  A quick inventory of the boat showed we were one short in the passenger department.  A look to stern showed his little black head bobbing up and down.  By the time I had turned the boat round at full revs, he had flattened out and found his groove.  He had rejected the disappearing boat as his goal and taken a good bearing on the closest route to the shore - about 100 yards away.  He was going like a champion.  I cruised up to his port side and pulled his little sodden 23-pound body over the side.  His tail never stopped wagging as his anxious mistress toweled him dry.

So the answer to the previous question is Yes.  Well, Frankie can, and damned well at that.  I had a word with him later that evening to find out why he jumped off the back, but he refused to tell me.  I wonder if he told Johnny later on.


I went on an assignment the other day to look at some really wonderful animals.  They are at Woodhaven Ranch which is in Cedar Glen.  I will be doing a post on the entire trip in the future when the article is published, but in the meantime here is a shot of a splendid Lexus, a bobcat.

Lexus likes mice, but really prefers chicks.  He starts from the head end, which is the way I like them too.  Isn't nature marvellous!

November the Fifth

Remember, Remember, the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

Today is a special anniversary.  In America, fireworks are used to mark independence, and back in the UK they're only used once a year as well, apart from royal weddings and coronations, which don't come along too often.  But today as with every November 5th, we rekindle the English visceral love of violence, and it's done with lots of explosions.  I believe the practise of having bonfires in everyone's garden has changed to the safer version of communal fires to avoid the annual problem of children losing fingers and eyes.  The history of the event however is of some interest.

Back in 1605 as the clock turned midnight to become November 5th, a search was made of the House of Parliament.  One, Guy Fawkes, was found sitting among 36 barrels of gunpowder  - enough to blow the place sky high at the official opening the next day.  Many in the UK had tired of the intrusion of King James's government; high taxes, over-regulation, and... well you know the problem.  Unfortunately the UK had not yet developed the ballot box idea sufficiently to throw the bums out; blowing them up was the next best thing.  Guy was given a pretty decent introduction to the enforced interrogation methods of the day - namely the rack - and gave up his fellow dozen conspirators.

So every year we have celebrated the event with bonfires and fireworks.  We even put an effigy of poor old Guy on top of the fire and get quite excited when he flares up.  All to the accompaniment of fireworks, of course.  So much more fun than just plain old independence.  I rather miss it.  You can read the entire history of the event at Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Prop 19

I thought long and hard about proposition 19 (The legalisation and government control of marijuana) before I voted against it.  Mostly my philosophy in life is to leave people alone - except the really crazy ones, and they should be locked up, of course.  But for the rest of us, I think there is too much meddling in our affairs and we should be left alone, particularly if we want to smoke the odd "doobie."

I do have some other commercial thoughts on this matter however.  So far the marketing of marijuana seems to be doing quite well.  Most people seem to know how to get hold of the stuff and there is an excellent distribution network in place.  Now why would we want to hand all this private enterprise over to the government to run.  And what about all the current small businessmen involved in the process.  Heck, we even had a terrific farm up here in the mountains that was doing really well growing it until the Feds flew in in helicopters and destroyed it all.  Finally of course, if dope becomes legal, what's going to happen to all those correction officers entrusted with looking after their temporary guests. No, let's keep the government out of it.  It seems to be doing well on its own.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

Today, Americans go to the polls.  It’s a pretty big deal as all elections should be.  It’s what it known as the “mid-term elections,” which means it’s midway through the current presidential term.  It’s the time when representatives for the “House” are elected – every two years, and half the100 senators – every six years.  It is always considered to be a referendum on the current president’s policies.  It’s no surprise that these policies are not popular as this is a center right country and the president and current majority are well to the left. 

I don’t remember a time when there has been so much energy injected into the debate, but we are all battle weary of the process.  Huge amounts of money – more than ever before – have been spent trying to persuade us to vote for particular candidates.  Every TV program is interjected with fierce rhetoric and most of us grab the remote for the mute button at every chance.  Well, today we get to pull the lever; punch holes, or draw little lines on our ballots.  Tomorrow is a different day, Thank God!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Sunday's column was devoted to Armstrong's Gallery in Pomona.  It specializes in ceramics and that's a branch of art I am least knowledgable about.  The manager there however, Cynthia Madrigal, explained quite a lot to me and I left this small establishment a lot better off because of her.
Cynthia Madrigal, Manager of Armstrong's in Pomona

This week I'm including this hot link to let you go directly to the weekly podcast that accompany's each column.  It's about 2 1/2 minutes long and gives a different aspect.  Alternatively you can read the column in full at

New Design

In order to keep myself awake, it's time to put a new design on the blog - it's autumnal.  Also a new profile photo.  I hope you like it as it includes S.W.M.B.O. (She Who Must Be Obeyed!)  In setting us up for the shot, I had to lug the 800 pound Harley around an uneven field to catch the colors behind.  This did not improve my knees!  But one does what one does for one's audience!


This week's Music Track is perhaps the most "off-the-wall" piece I've selected so far, and some explanation is needed.

I grew up with all types of changes to the normal culture like modern art and music.  Rock and Roll was a part of that.  This track is off in a totally different direction.  It's Five Pieces for Orchestra by Anton Webern, written in 1911.  It's a true example of atonal music and it doesn't attract a huge audience.  I went to a number of avant garde performances in the sixties and found the experiences quite exhilerating.  Occasionally I still listen to poor old Webern or even his contemporaries Schoenberg and Alban Berg.

I say poor old Webern because he came to a sad end.  He was shot by an American soldier when he stepped out of his cabin in the woods in 1945.  Not wanting to disturb his grandchildren, he had gone out to smoke a cigar and the flame attracted the shot.  The shooter was filled with remorse and he died ten years later of alcoholism.  But as they say, the music lives on.  It is odd stuff and I'd appreciate your comments.  Could you ever learn to love it?

Sunday, October 31, 2010


We seem to have had a very short summer. It was slow in coming and today, October 30th we woke to a sprinkling of snow. Can the thermals be far behind?

For the first five or six years of living in the mountains, Mother Nature was pretty kind to us with nothing much in the way of extremes, but the last two years have seen serious falls of snow – the last one actually broke the garage roof. So much for global warming! We normally get a little snow to fall just before Thanksgiving which encourages visitors for an early ski, but for it to fall in October, even late October, is outside the norm. Big Bear has a guarantee of 300 days of sunshine a year, but we do get cold at nights, even though it’s Southern California.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Once again we have reached that very unpleasant time of the year - Halloween.  I must confess that so far I have managed to avoid the entire thing quite successfully.  Naturally I am aware of people getting excited at the wearing of costumes, but as they - like the wretched ghouls and gobblies they hope to emulate - only come out late, I don't have to mix with them.

I believe it has become something of a celebration in the UK as well, although up until 1982, when we left the country, it was nothing more than a minor date in the church calendar - All Hallows Eve, to be followed by All Saints Day.

I imagine the world is divided into two types of people - those who like to dress up in costumes, and those who do not.  Guess which group I fit into!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


It was interesting that just before I went out to do a piece on our local shooting range, I received an email on the 2nd amendment.  Now I was always told that the two subjects one should never raise in conversation at the table were politics and religion.  I think we also should add the subject of guns to the list.

Nothing seems to excite people as much as gun control.  And yet recent estimates suggest there are at least 64 million guns in the U.S.A.  Somehow, I can't see these being voluntarily handed in if the government made them illegal.  As with all "difficult" subjects true statistics are hard to come by for the supposed increase in gun crime since both the UK and Australia "voluntarily" handed their weapons over.

Shooter Les Grant about to fire his VERY LOUD .223 Vanguard

Some years ago I had a discussion with a gun control advocate.  She professed to hating guns and wanted them banned.  Eventually I managed to reach a compromise with her that as soon as we'd managed to confiscate all the weapons from the criminals in society, we could then get the law abiding to hand theirs over.

For those of you who have not seen it, here is a wonderful one minute advocacy by William Shatner on the use of guns.  Enjoy -

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


A friend sent this to me today  He asked if anyone could explain what the heck it was about.  I have no idea, but I do like the goggles!


I've just finished reading "Even Silence Has an End" by Ingrid Betancourt.  She was the Columbian politician captured by FARC rebels and held in the jungles of S. America for six years.  It's almost impossible to imagine her existence in the dreadful conditions of capture, cruelty and the uncertainty of her fate.  Nonetheless in true political fashion there are other books stating that she was selfish, uncaring, and not as compliant as she states.

Last night I watched a film called "Alive" which is an account of the Uruguayan rugby team, who crashed into the Andes range on Friday, October 13th, 1972.  The 14 survivors of the crash survived by eating the dead bodies of their colleagues.  Two men managed to walk 40 miles over incredible terrain to reach help and get the others out.  I remember the scandal that erupted when their "canabilism" came out.  But today all of the survivors are still living and have no regrets.  The Catholic Church also gave them their blessing.  Coupled with the recent miners escape from the mine in Chile, it is testament to how people can endure the most horrendous circumstances.  It is quite a coincidence that these three situations all occured in S. America.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


We're lucky to have a really good bowling alley in Big Bear.  It seems to do quite good business too.  I first tried bowling about 1961, and you had to keep the score on little forms.  I found the math, as usual, a bit of a challenge.  But today it's all done for you on a screen above the lane.

Yvonne likes to bowl a bit more than me, and she regularly goes with Evan when he's up here.  But recently I've taken to going with her for a few games in the early afternoon.  It's so nice not to have to work for a living - thanks to all of you out there pumping money into the still existing social security fund!

Anyway, yesterday, I actually bowled a 192, which seems to me to be pretty good.  My best so far has only been 136. 

The Bowling Barn is the subject of the Big Picture this week - you can't miss it, it's RED!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday's Column - Metro

Sunday's column for The Sun was on my recent ride on the Blue Line Metro, which we covered here a few weeks back.  No need to get into it again.  However I have one request to make from the railway companies of the world: Could we please standardize on the use of ticket machines?

Grandson Evan studying the rules for ticket purchase
Now there must be enough international information on the use of these gadgets to make it easier for the casual traveler, rather than what we have at the moment.  Currently no doubt there are very clever engineers sitting hunched over drawing boards worrying over the design of Spanish, French, Japanese, and for all I know Mongolian ticket dispensing boxes.  The result is that it is a true horror for anyone approaching them for the first time.  It also makes the regulars lining up behind one very cross as you have to read all the instructions.  This one above gave us back gold-colored coins for change that were not even legal tender.
You can read the full story on


It's impossible to put off Beethoven any longer.  But what to choose?  It's hard to find any poor stuff that the great master wrote.  But perhaps for a short track this: which is the third movement of the Pathetique Sonata.  I checked out several versions, and decided on this recording by Horowitz.  Glenn Gould was much too fast for my taste.