Monday, January 31, 2011


A couple of years back when Evan was 13 he was given an assignment by his school.  He had to take a position on abortion, and debate that position.  He had to take a side which was "Life," and he had to research the subject.  Now I'm no prude, but isn't this a little premature for a very young teenager?

Surely we gain nothing from teaching children the complexities of adult life before their time.  And it was at a Catholic school too.

We talked about the outcome and he told me that he ended up saying; "When you go home tonight, kiss your mother as she chose life!"  I thought that was quite good.

Bearing in mind the flavor of the school, I would have chosen a different tack: "So if you believe in abortion at all, you will go straight to hell and burn for eternity!"  I wonder what they would have said to that? 
Having lived in a society where abortion was illegal, no matter the protests they'll never get the genie back in the bottle, the alternatives are just to awful to consider.

I certainly believe a discussion on the subject is good for older kids, but I think 13 is just a bit too soon, don't you?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday's Column - Skating

Sunday's column was about a roller skating rink in Fontana - Roller City +.  It was an interesting place to visit on the second occasion.  The first time I went there the place was empty apart from the proprietors who were nonetheless very helpful.

I used to be pretty good on skates when I was about 10, and when we arrived in the US, we found ourselves living next to Venice Beach where nearly everyone seemed to be whizzing along on little wheels.

I naturally assumed that the skill, like bike riding, would live permanently in the muscles and so shrugging off the suggestion of renting, I charged head long into a major purchase of equipment.

At the first occasions we donned our skates and also all the necessary padding and pushed off.  Oh the horrors!  In the intervening 30-odd years the muscles had definitely forgotten their early lessons.  We were a couple of stumbling old fools staggering from one vertical  handhold to the next. 

At the first opportunity we sat down and tore off the boots and on returning home consigned them to a box in the deepest recesses of the garage, never to be worn again.  It was with this bitter memory that I declined the opportunity to join the skaters on my visit; but I did envy them though. It really looked like fun.  You can read the entire article at

Music Track - Abba

Now I've been very good, you must admit it, as I've only put ABBA on here once - one of the earliest posts in fact.  But back in the 70's they were huge in Europe.  This is one you don't hear too often  Now I know that it's not fashionable to admit to enjoying ABBA, particularly in the US, but I've never used music as a fashion accessory.  It has to have three elements - Melody, Rhythm and Harmony.  This group never turned out a piece of music that lacked one of these, which is probably why they regularly used to post more annual sales than their Swedish business rivals - Volvo!

Friday, January 28, 2011


When I was a boy we always seemed to be climbing trees.  It was so prevalent that you couldn't pass a tree of any size without spotting a boy somewhere in it.  I use the term boy as I can't for the life of me remember that any girls ever went in for the activity.

As a consequence of this, I had an intimate knowledge of the tree structure of every climbable tree in the neighborhood.  Branches and boughs like these were implanted deep in my psyche.  If we could get up high enough to grasp a handhold we would be up in a matter of seconds.  Passing adults would pay no heed as it was such a common pastime.

As far as I can remember, no-one ever fell out of a tree and we didn't damage them - we were fond of the great beasts and considered them to be part of our environment.  On returning to an area I knew as I child some years ago, all the buildings had gone, but I recognized some of the trees I had climbed.  They were like old friends.

I don't think I've seen a boy in a tree in several decades, and that's a shame.  Maybe the trees are glad but it speaks of how our society has changed.  For instance, any injury incurred would result in some lawsuit against the owner, be it park, city or private.  So any likely looking boy would be chased off.

But then they're all sitting down playing Nintendo, or searching Facebook.  Somehow I think my childhood was better.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dressing Up

My local is having a '70's night this week.  I shall not attend.  I don't like dressing up much and even though I'm sure I've got a bit of clothing that old in the recesses of my wardrobe, I don't think I want to drag it out and parade it around.  So it could be said I'm not a fancy dress kind of guy.

Now if I had access to the sort of outfit this fellow is wearing, maybe I could be reasonably happy, but it's not likely to be available up here.  I think he's some sort of Russian by the look of him - I particularly like the medals he's wearing too.

We have a number of people here who regularly dress up in cowboy garb, we even have Old Miner's Days which last throughout August.  It allows the more exhibitionist of our population to express themselves.  Later on there is a Renaissance Faire (note the extra "e!")  Here, people really go to town in what they believe the residents of England used to stroll around in during the 16th century.

I have not mentioned to them that at the time most people were actually wearing rags and didn't take baths very often.  There was also an almost total absence of sewers and teeth, which I'm sure added to an atmosphere of some challenge.

But I guess I could turn out if I had decent outfit, but certainly not a renaissance one.  Maybe a Russian soldier/sailor/airman would do nicely.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


It seems that tattoos are a part of modern life and if I were young today, I wonder if peer pressure would mean I too would have one?  It's not a happy thought. I can't think of any design that I would want to have on me for life.  Then there is the etiquette of dealing with tattoos in a new relationship.  Suppose you were confronted with this on disrobing. What are you supposed to
say?  One could hardly ignore it, but it could somewhat upset the proceedings a little.  Then there is the problem of how much applause you should pour on.  Too little and you come off like a boor; too much and the entire episode is turning into an art show which maybe nobody wanted.  All very confusing, but I do hope the wearer gives a warning.

I remember once visiting a female executive in a bank in Bahrain.  It was a Wednesday and although very Arabic, she was dressed in basic business style - very western.  I returned on the Sunday - the Muslim weekend having occurred in between.  She was as she appeared earlier.  However her hands were heavily tattooed. Naturally my eyes were drawn to the sight but I didn't say anything.

The friend I was staying with told  me that the tattoos were in fact henna and would wash off eventually in about a week.  But they were there as she no doubt had been to a big party in the desert.  It was a strange business though, and led me to recall the old saying or one slightly changed: You can take the girl out of  the desert.... well, you know the rest.

Being a rather shallow person the sight of the tattoos did somewhat alter my feelings towards the exec.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just Answer

I am still amazed at what the Internet can do.  The other day one of our Poodles developed a small problem.  It was not so bad that we wanted to visit the vet, sit in the waiting room for ages even though we might make an appointment, then go through the usual mundanity to be presented with a bill for $40 plus maybe some sort of quack medication for another $30.  Not that I have any real problem with the vet himself as he's very good.

So I thought I'd try going on-line, and Hey Presto, immediately I found this site, Just answer,   The idea is that there are vets on line all the time waiting for questions.  My chap was called Peter, and he had 15 years of internal medical experience.  I outlined the problem and then after I had deposited the $16 fee, he came back with some questions, and after I answered those, he gave me his diagnosis.  Wonderful service.  Oh, by the way although there is some convoluted system for earning money for recommending products and sites on a blog, I don't do it.  So this is purely my experience.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Although we live in a ski resort, I have to say that neither of us ski.  Unfortunately we took to it too late in life - about 52 - and the prospect of injury was a little too real.  Nonetheless we did try a few times.  S.W.M.B.O. was not very polite with her instructor and he had to be changed, but that's another story.

This isn't me but it might well have been
I never got the turns right and I was somewhat annoyed that practice didn't seem to make me any better.

I did have one wonderful experience before I gave it all up however.  It had snowed about six inches during the night but the storm had gone off rapidly to the east.  We were left with beautiful fresh snow and bright blue skies.

I was first on the lift as they started up at 8:30 and launched myself down a green slope called Clementine.  My skis were the first to mark the virgin snow.  After the first few curves which I negotiated in my normal "pizza slice" manner there was a long straight run before we reached the bottom.  I shall never forget it.  My only regret was that I just couldn't make it a grade up to the blue slopes.

I did give it a try, but after failing badly I was forced to remove the planks and walk down the slope in full view of the Ski Haus at the bottom where several yuppies were enjoying their morning fortified lattes.  It was not a happy moment.  However I do have that one memory of the skiing experience to carry with me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday's Column - Wignall

We lost a very valuable contemporary art museum when the Claremont Museum closed its doors.  However a great alternative if you're looking to stretch your artistic interest is the Wignall Museum located on the Chaffey University Campus.
This is Rebecca Trawick the curator for the last three years.  She's knowlegable, and helpful; she's also very pretty.

I was chastised by a reader some time ago for mixing up the terms "modern" and "contemporary." So let me explain that "modern" art resides in the time period of the 1860's through the 1970's, and "contemporary" is art produced by living artists today.

The Wignall Museum is opening a new exhibition on Monday January 24th which will run through March.  It's a small but very interesting place to visit.  For all the information click on this link

Music Track - Stones

I'd almost completely forgotten this piece by The Stones; until I heard it playing in the background of a movie called The Darjeeling Express - it was the best thing about the movie!!!!
This track is a rehearsal with footage - quite violent - from some films I don't know, but I like the music.  Let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I went to see Black Swan the other day.  OK, I know this is not the first movie that perhaps a Harley rider should attend.  But what the heck!  It was a dark and disturbing, but incredibly magnetic movie.  So much so that I had to keep postponing a trip to the bathroom as I didn't want to miss anything.  In the end I was wriggling like a two-year old and had to be sent off by S.W.M.B.O.

I've only been to the ballet three times; once to see a very controversial ballet called the Broken Date when I was about 17; I was taken to see some modern ballet in New York, and I was urged by S.W.M.B.O. to go with my foster daughter to see a performance of Swan Lake all done by blokes - for heaven's sake, what was that all about?

Obviously I'm aware of much of the music for ballet, but the little details in the film also perked my intererst.  I was fascinated in the scene where the dancers literally tore all the insides out of their ballet shoes to make them "right."  Also when I went to the ballet in New York I had never realized that the dancers' feet made little clicking noises as they went across the stage.  I suppose when you think about it they would, as the toes are blocked with wood.  I never knew either that often you can buy the shoes the dancers wore for that performance.  I didn't find that too interesting for the blokes' dance.

Oh yes, I did see a performance once of Australians dancing in boots.  Their used footware was not available for purchase either.

This is a link to the Chinese Ballet - an unbelievable 4 minutes sent to me by a friend recently.  The maneuver she performs at 2:00 is incredible.  Also watch for the little man in the white suit to appear at 2:57.  He's there to ensure she doesn't fall - rather well done the way he disappears again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I think Oswald's window is the third up
The other evening I watched yet another conspiracy enthusiast explaining how it was some group of people and not Lee Harvey Oswald who killed Kennedy back in November 1963.  He had all sorts of documents and films and computer models to substantiate his claim.  Like most of those who were around back then I can still recall the horror of hearing that this icon, who was so revered, had been shot.  Kennedy was felt to be a truly special President, although over the years his image has become a little tarnished.

I was taken to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas many years ago by a good friend, and I think it helped to put the entire episode in some sort of context for me.  I also read Norman Mailer's 800 page tome, Oswald's Tale, and although I was no fan of the author's political stripe he was no dunce.  He was also extremely thorough in acquiring all the facts.

The truth is that like Princess Diana, there are only a few really bright stars in our world, and to have them snuffed out by either a shabby little man, like Oswald, or killed in a stupid traffic accident is somehow so unbelievable that many just can't accept the reality.

In the case of JFK, so many years have passed and knowing the human need to confess, there has never been a serious alternative to Oswald sticking his Italian rifle out of the corner window and firing off the necessary shots.  The world changed that day however, and those who were aware of it will never forget.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


One of the odd names that one passes on the Ten Freeway near Ontario, CA is Etiwanda.  I've had to visit the small village of Etiwanda a few times to do pieces on the Chaffey Garcia house and so I found out about the name.  Firstly, the entire area was developed in 1877 by George Chaffey Senior.  He had come out of Ontario, Canada to spend time with an aging relative.  It was Chaffey who gave Ontario, CA its name.

He bought a house for his son in the small village of Etiwanda and it was the first in S/Bernardino to have electric light - you could see the bulb all the way from Redlands where some relatives lived.

It was Chaffey who also gave Etiwanda its name.  It belonged to a distant relative who happened to be an Indian chief in his old home in Canada.  How exotic!

I'm sure this picture does not represent the original in any way but it was the best I could find in the Morgue File, whose library I regularly visit for illustrations

So the next time you travel east or west on the 10 Freeway and you see the name Etiwanda come up, you'll know what it means.  Now I wonder what Miliken means as that's the next turning?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wine - particularly red wine

I haven't drunk red wine in a long time.  Sadly it was one of the first casualties of old age creeping up on me.  Something about the sulfates, I think.  Frankly if I drink the stuff in the evening I can guarantee an early morning call about 2 a.m. and that's it for the rest of the night.  So it had to go.

Sad really, but I have happy memories of the drink, and particularly some to do with a hotel in Spain.

I used to stay regularly at the Wellington Hotel in Madrid in the mid-seventies and one evening dining alone, I looked more closely at the wine menu than usual.  I noticed that they had a Rioja dated some time in the 1890's.  I asked the wine waiter if this was correct as the price didn't seem too much.

He explained that it was a fact, but he couldn't guarantee the quality of the wine and also that it was in half bottles.  Such small quantities had gone out of style, or the capacity of the average Spaniard had increased during Franco's time perhaps.  Well, he pulled the cork and tried it himself; no good, he tried another; still no good, but the third as they say was a charm.

I have to confess that there is not a single bottle of red wine available in the Wellington Hotel in Madrid older than 1950.  I drank the lot!  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work my way through such a collection over the following six months.  The staff quite enjoyed my performance too, I think.  Happy memories!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Music Track - Ravel

This could be considered to be a novelty although it stands on its own as a serious concert piece.  It's Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand
It was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, an Austrian virtuoso pianist, who lost his right arm in WWI.
It gets to 2:25 on the track before the piano comes in.  It's a complex piece and it is said that some two handed pianists do in fact cheat, although there is no sight of that here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday's Column - Y.M.C.A.

We have a lot of camps up here in Big Bear.  Most of them have some sort of religious affiliation, and one of these is the Y.M.C.A. camp in Fawnskin.  Perhaps it is the elevation of Big Bear that attracts devotees of the deity as it does mean the attendees can be closer to their goal.
Volunteers sort through a recent donation from REI

As for the Y.M.C.A. they have recently changed their name to the "Y," which is what everyone has been calling it for ages.  It's also open to girls as well as every other denomination so that would explain the lack of the "M" and the "C," wouldn't it?

Just before Christmas, the local Y received a generous present from a firm called REI.  They had suffered a big fire in their Eugene Oregon location and gave 34,000 items to the association.

The Y.M.C.A. was founded in London in 1844 by George Williams, who had left his rural home to find his fortune.  He also found that the city offered no respectable place for young men to relax.  Only "sinful" places seemed available.  Today there are 45,000,000 members worldwide. A lot come up here!

You can read the entire column at

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I was sent this link by a friend the other day  It's called We Didn't Start the Fire, and is a tribute to the song from the seventies by Billy Joel.  As the introduction to the clip says the writer didn't pay a lot of attention to the lyrics at the time.  Well neither did I much, nor was I particularly fond of the song.  But seeing the video brought back how much has gone on over the last 50 years or so.

One short picture did grab my attention - a quite pretty brunette.  It was Christine Keeler and I looked her up on the Web soon after.  People of say less then 60 would probably not recognize her, not would most Americans I think, but at the time - 1963 - it is hard to imagine any scandal that has been bigger then what was always known as The Profumo Affair.  It almost brought down a government and ended the very promising political career for a man who at the time was Minister of War. (so much more sensible a title, I think, than Defense Minister, but I'll leave that for another occasion.)

The entire business was well documented in a movie called Scandal and it certainly was that.  Briefly, a young woman of questionable character - don't you just love these old fashioned terms! - had an affair with John Profumo, the aforementioned Minister.  At the time she was also "involved" with a drug dealer and an envoy from the Russian embassy.  The entire thing was looked over by one Stephen Ward, who was a seedy little osteopath, also of questionable character, who just enjoyed meddling.  He committed suicide when the affair became public.  This is the picture published at the time by the Daily Mirror, I think. It did quite a number for most red-bloodied men at the time.

As a matter of interest, how big was it in the States back then - did anyone know much about it?

Friday, January 14, 2011


I was about 12 before I saw any mountains, and they were in the south of Scotland which hardly qualifies, as they were little more than hills. But deep within me I think I always had a fascination with them. Of course the uiltimate mountain is Everest, named after Sir George Everest, the surveyor of India in the mid-19th century. Up until then it had been called Peak 15 in the Himalaya range.

Everest has claimed many victims - in fact 216 since 1927.  In that year two men, Mallory and Irvine, were spotted on the final appoach from their last camp. They were never seen again and a mystery always surrounded their feat. Had they reached the top or failed in the attempt?

This isn't Everest I think, but it's very much like the more benign side of it.
In 1999 an expedition was undertaken to find the two missing men's remains. They had great success. Mallory was found at the bottom of an incline. His body was almost totally mummified and parts of his clothes were intact. In his pockets were found several personal items like letters from his brother and also a perfect box of Swan Vesta matches. The people in the expedition decided to leave him there and made a stone grave. Irvine was never found.

About a year after I saw my first mountain in Scotland, Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing finally scaled the 29,000 foot peak. It was a momentous occasion and we were given the day off school. Interviewed in 1986, Sir Edmund said that if they found that Mallory had managed to reach the top, he and Tensing's feat would have to be downgraded from "first men to scale it" to "first men who scaled it and survived." The mystery of whether or not the previous two ever made a final successful ascent is still unsolved, and likely to remain so.

In Big Bear, we have a boy, Jordan Romero, who conquered Everest last year when he was 13 - pretty impressive.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Like most people I was shocked at the tragic events of the recent assassination in Tucson.  However at the time I heard of it two things struck me immediately.  Firstly, there would be non-stop coverage by EVERY news media outlet ALL the time; secondly, this might encourage politicians to become even more remote from their constituents.  I also did wonder if some sort of evidence would be uncovered that the shooter was linked to a right wing outfit, like the tea party.  They're never linked to left wing ones, of course!

As suspected there was immediate and lasting coverage by every news hack who could drag up the necessary fare down to Arizona and file up-to-the-minute reports of the injured parties, particularly Gabrielle Gifford who was the main target.

I found the hysteria directed towards talk radio and right wing thought predictable and of course, totally foolish.  But let's say the loony who pulled the trigger happened to have a leaflet from Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh in his pocket, what would have happened then?  One can only imagine.  But the loony actually had Karl Marx on his reading list as well as Hitler, so it seemed everyone had a piece of blame!

My main question about these types of tragedies is why are so many people obsessed with trying to find out why the loony did it?  He's a loony!


It's so easy to forget how fast technology has moved.  I started my working life having to take invoices that needed to be fixed over to a department called Powers.  It was short for Powers Samas, who along with Holerith were early manufacturers of computer equipment.  The machinery in the Powers department was noisy and dirty as it was a mechanical punch card department.  All the girls that worked there - and they were girls of probably no more than 20 - wore pink nylon coats, and it was very noisy.  They were lead by a middle aged lady who ran a tight ship.  It was she I had to see in order to get invoices changed.

Later on in my working life - about the mid 60's I came into contact with LEO 3.  This was a mainframe computer that had been built in the late 50's it was huge and generated a lot of heat.  It was about the size of a single-wide trailer.

Also at that time arithmetical calculations were done on comptometers like this one - truly amazing machines, if you  knew how to work them.

For a few months I sold office equipment and there was a division which handled these odd devices.  The man responsible for doing this out of our office had to solve a mathematical problem each week to prove he was up to the job.  He showed me the problem one day.  I had absolutely no idea what it meant let alone how to solve it.  Mathematics have never been my strong point regrettably.

I do wonder what ever happened to the sales rep with the weekly problem.  All that skill disappearing into the small confines of a pocket calculator! Almost done overnight!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It occured to me the other day that I didn't often feel intimidated by society.  I mentioned this to my grandson as I was taking him out for a haircut.  I told him that for instance I could go into any bar anywhere in the world and order a drink even if I didn't know the language.  I knew how things worked and felt that I could fit in even if I looked funny.  The same did not apply to Starbucks, however.

Soon after, we were sitting in a unisex - or should I say gender neutral - hairdresser where he was having his haircut.  I had in my pocket my iPhone, I was reading a Kindle and at my side was a Starbucks coffee purchased on our way there.  I had almost arrived in the new society.  But there had been a major slip up on the way.

Oh, the horrors.  As I stood in line at the Starbucks behind a crowd of youngish people all staring intently at their cell phones, I realized that his was a place where I was out of my depth.  As I reached the head of the queue, I mumbled my order to the barrista. "A medium regular with a shot of vanilla, please."  I heard my grandson draw in his breath.  A major faux pas!  One does not use the term "medium" in Starbucks; the correct word is "grande!"  In one fell swoop I had blown my cover and declared myself an outsider, hopelessly out of date.  A bit like ordering a pint with a cherry in it!  It's so hard learning a new language at my age!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Beautiful and Seductive but Unfathomable
Firstly, let me state that I really like cats.  I think they are wonderful and most interesting creatures.  They are also quite beautiful.  But I don't understand them, although I have a little theory.  Unlike dogs which are rather like men, cats are like women.  In the first case, dogs, like men, are very easy to understand.  They are simple, and woe betide anyone who tries to analyze them too deeply; mostly they are motivated by simple basic things.  Cats on the other hand, like women, are very complex.  It's very hard to figure out what's going on behind that lovely face.  I have managed to overcome my hesitation with women, but never with cats.

One evening, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I returned from a quiet evening drink at our local, and we found sitting on our doormat the most beautiful blue Persian cat.  It was actually leaning against the front door.  We were one of some 60 condos so there was nothing about our door that was particular, but this cat had picked it out. We owned our Beverly Hills Poodle at the time and there was no chance that Whitney would allow another animal, let alone a different species into the house without a fight, so we barred the door and secured the dog to the back of the house.  I let the cat in and it tore across the threshold as far as it could.  It wanted to be there very much.

Neither of us understood cats and with Witney in residence, we knew we couldn't allow it to stay.  Therefore we asked a lady opposite, who had cats, if she would come and take the animal.  She loved it on sight and called it Domingo as it was a Sunday.  They lived happily across from us for years, but occasionally Domingo would come over to reestablish his relationship.  He was a wonderful luscious creature.  But I never could figure out what was on his mind.

Monday, January 10, 2011


We have a talk show host out here who says he's happy to discuss anything except poetry and architecture.  I'm fairly happy with architecture in an informal way, but I'm with him on the poetry thing.  The problem is I just don't get it.

I have one poet whom I inherited from my father - Robert W. Service.  Now what my father, an ex-seaman and inhabitor of the suburbs, was doing reading about the Yukon and the quest for gold in the previous century, I have no idea, but he really liked the stuff.

I do too, and somehow understand the wonder of the northern lights, and the harsh life that the miners and the other dreamers followed back in the mid-19th century.  The Ballad of One-eyed Jake, and the Shooting of Dan McGraw are the best.  I think I began to lose the poetry thing when they stopped rhyming the words.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Autry

Sunday's column was about the the Autry Museum which is opposite the LA Zoo.  It also happens to be one of my favorite places in the Southland.  Although named after the "Singing Cowboy," there is little of the man himself once you pass the life-size statue in the courtyard in front of the museum's theater.

Unlike his rival, Roy Rogers, this place is a museum on the development of the West, and it's a very full representatiuon of that part of history.  The Rogers' museum used to be in Victorville and was devoted entirely to the life and career of the Texas Cowboy.  I visited that place a year before it uprooted and relocated to Branson.  Sadly, the population was aging and fewer and fewer people were interested in him (both stars died in 1998 - Autry at aged 91, Rogers at 87) Today, even Branson could not attract sufficient customers and the collection has mostly been sold - some on e-Bay.  What of poor Trigger?

The Autry on the other hand is popular and likely to remain so for a long time.  There is only one small case showing Gene Autry's life in radio, TV, films and music.  It's an interesting place, and even has a life-size tableau of the gunfight at the OK corral.  I can never resist pushing the button to activate the commentary.

Music Track for Jan 9th

This is one of the best renditions I know
Tina is not only eligible for a pension, she has been for the last ten years!  Amazing!
I know my friend Paul is going to love this!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


For those of you who listen to my Music Track from time to time, you will no doubt notice a total absence of jazz.  There is a reason for this.  I don't care for the medium.  Also I'm somewhat guilty about it as I feel I just haven't tried hard enough.

I have no idea who these blokes are but at least they're wearing ties!
Growing up just before Rock and Roll became so huge, the only type of music available, outside dance music and classical, was jazz.  Mostly it was what was called Traditional Jazz - Monty Sunshine, Acker Bilk and the like.  I would occasionally go along to places where this was played - usually in hot stuffy cellars.  It was OK but it never gave me goose bumps.  The other type was played by Johnny Dankworth and sung by Cleo Lane.  The former died recently.  I really tried hard with them but it just didn't take.

I quite liked the Modern Jazz Quartet playing quietly in the background, but that's about the limit of my knowledge.  I would like someone to explain how I can step up to the mark on jazz, but I fear it could be too late.

Friday, January 7, 2011


The friend who sent me the information that VAT had increased to make a pint of beer cost more than three pounds, did so because he and I were in a pub in Wimbledon many years ago.  Beer had gone up to some unacceptable amount and we were laughing at the possibility of it reaching two pounds; a figure truly laughable back then.
It made me think about beer in general, and those who know me personally know that I have been known to shift the odd pint.  Even the American stuff, which compared to English ...well, there is no comparison.

Americans do have some confusion about British beer and its temperature.  Firstly it's not warm!  The correct temperature is cellar temperature.  It's not brewed to be ice cold however, as that kills the flavor.

Also the glass you drink out of has gone through some changes over the decades.  For years "gentlemen" used to drink beer out of mugs like the one here.  Then strangely, as beer became more and more refined, with smaller breweries producing local brews, the thinner straight glasses, which had only been used in the "Public Bar," began to appear.  It was said to make the beer taste better.  I shall be going back to the UK in the summer, and frankly I won't give a hoot what they pour it into or even what it costs, as it's nectar!  Cheers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I try not to get into too much politics on the blog, but a friend in England sent me an email recently telling me that the price of a pint of beer there is now likely to reach three pounds.  This would be about $4.50 in proper money!  The reason for this amount is the increase of something which in the UK and most of Europe is called Value Added Tax.

Now I expect to be told by some of you that my facts could be wrong, but I think V.A.T. was introduced around 1973.  It was a general tax of only 5% to begin with, and who could complain that sticking that small amount on every item you bought would be a problem?

Today it is now 20%!  And that's serious money.  So before you accept a "reasonable" tax on everything you buy, remember that once it's in place no government is going to drop it - only add to it.  Check out the history of income tax for that.  Also remember that we, the people, didn't run up all these deficits - it was the politicians who did that.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I seem to have begun a type of continuing story on clocks recently.  I thought it was over, but a friend suggested I add a post about one of the most famous clocks in the world - Big Ben - and he sent me the link to it.  I used to regularly pass it by when I was working in London in the 60's and 70's.

There was an amusing line in a play I once saw where a visitor to the center of London placed a bet with the son of the house where he was staying.  He said: "I bet you ten shillings you can't see Big Ben from here!"  The boy went to the window and said: "There it is, you can see it plainly."

But he lost the bet as Big Ben is actually the largest bell inside the tower, and can't be seen of course.

One other odd fact is that the number four on the face is unique.  In all other clocks the number is the Roman numeral IIII, but in the case of "Big Ben" it's IV.

The BBC still uses the clock's chimes to announce itself, and the sound is one of the most well known around the world.  For those of you who need reminding this is what it sounds like - it's LOUD!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


At this time of year there's a lot of traffic between Las Vegas and the huge metropolitan centers to the south west of the gambling town.  In spite of promises for years of a fast rail system, the main way to traverse the long stretch desert is via the 15 Freeway.  It's a pretty boring journey.

Collecting samples from the man made lake at Zzyzx

You know you're getting closer when you hit Baker - home of the world's tallest thermometer!  If you can drag yourself away from this truly bland spectacle and rejoin the 15, you will soon find yourself passing by a sign to Zzyzx.  Most people wonder what the place can be, and why is it called  by that strange name.

A four-mile dirt road will take you to Zzyzx, which is now the Desert Study Center, run by the State of California.  But it used to be the headquarters of an organization run by Dr. Curtis H. Springer.  He was granted a mining contract by the federal government in the '30's, but decided to found a health spa, selling what we would call "quack" medicines.  He also delievered religious radio programs.

In 1974, the authorities took the land back as it was not being used for its original purpose, but the name the Doctor gave it remains.  He called it Zzyzx as he wanted to have the last word in the encyclopedia.  I guess he succeeded in that endeavor.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Trevor's Travels - Ben Brissey

After last week's hiatus this Sunday's column was devoted to Ben Brissey - the blog's new sponsor.  The column was about his 17 years of accurate weather forecasting up here at 6,750 feet.

Ben Brissey with his weather maps - always running.
A lot of people think Southern California doesn't have much weather as it's always sunny, but that's not the case - ask the poor residents of Highland at the bottom of the hill, who are still digging mud out of their homes.  And mountains always do odd things to weather as well.

We are in between the deserts and the ocean with its coastal flow.  We also have four different mini-climates in the valley.  Wetter in the west in the winter, but drier in the summer.

Ben works during the day at the Bear Mountain ski resort and one of his tasks is to plan snow making for them.  It's not just a question of being cold, it's all to do with humidity as well.  You can actually make snow above freezing point if it's dry enough.  If you want to know the weather up here click on Ben's link to the right of the columns here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

As we're coming to the end of the Christmas season and the memory of it all disappears into the rear view mirror, here is one last Christmas Track  .
I like the way it enfolds the old music with the new rendition.  It's by Mannheim Steamroller, who I now believe has eclipsed Elvis as the biggest Christmas artist.  I always thought it was Bing Crosby.

Mannheim Steamroller took their name from a phenomenon in 18th certury Germany where an orchestra did such crescendos that it was nicknamed the Mannheim Rocket!