Monday, April 30, 2012

Video - Ocean

This is a four-minute video sent to me by my friend Kevin in The Marina.  If you tend to be seasick, you may want to miss this one as it's about the power of the oceans.  Fascinating!
I'm forced to wander how they built that isolated lighthouse?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday's Column - Palm Springs Art Museum

Today we visit one of my favorite art galleries, the museum in Palm Springs. The dirty little secret of the area is that, in my friend Geoffrey's term, there's a ton of whack there.

Palm Springs Art Museum

Many rich people retire there and bring their art collection with them. The find they don't have quite so much room and so donate to the local art museum, which is a wonderful place.
You can read the entire article at

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Lake

People often ask about the lake level here.  There has been a history of releasing many gallons to the orchards down below each autumn - after all the lake was constructed to provide this facility for the orange groves.  Most of those groves have now given way to urban sprawl and very little water is therefore released.
On a ride around the lake yesterday I took this picture and you can see that we're very full.  That is the edge of the dam at the end of the photo. There is a local site, that will give you all the information about the lake and the current level, which as of this morning was 1' 4" below full, which is pretty good.  We look forward to a great summer of boating.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Music Track - Tina

Some real power from the great lady of rock - Tina! Steamy Windows in front of a huge crowd of Dutchies!
If you get the flavor for this type of stuff scroll over to the right hand side of the UTube screen and try "Addicted to Love."  Great stuff, and I know my friend Paul will love it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Pollock

Due to copyright reasons a decent reproduction of Jackson Pollock's Number One (1950) is not available, and I took this while doing an article on the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art.  It is quite large; about six feet by four, and when it first appeared it caused a great deal of confusion and in fact anger.  "Jack the Dripper" as he was called was a man fraught with demons - drink being the worst of them.  However his paintings are quite unique as he was one of the first "action" painters.  He used to lay the canvasses on the floor and then drip the paint on them in ever increasing strokes.  Initially it all looks like a mess, but if you look at the paintings long enough they will speak to you as they are a wonderful collection of energy and color.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Number Two

Favorite Book Number Two is Catch 22, by Joseph Heller.  I've read this about three times in my life from the first time around 1964.  It was a very different type of novel and it certainly introduced a new expression to the culture.  Set in Pianosa, a small Mediterranean island in WWII, it describes some of the idiocies of war with such characters as Crazy Joe; Major Major, The Dead Man in Yosarian's Tent; General Dreeble and of course, Doc Daneeka who coined the phrase Catch 22.  This was the ability to escape from the endless and very dangerous bombing runs by asking for a stoppage on the grounds of insanity.  Unfortunately by asking for such leave, it proved you were quite sane, therefore ineligable - Catch 22!  My favorite character was Milo Minderbinder, who turned everything into a business opportunity with his M&M Enterprises.  The slogan "What's good for M&M enterprises is good for you," didn't do the aircrew any good when they bailed out and found this message attached to the release on their parachutes; Milo had sold the elastic for a good profit!  A film was made of it in the 70's which was quite interesting, but it wasn't as good as the book; they seldom are.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


One of my few regrets in life is that I did not go to University.  I left school when I was still 16 and had to make my way in the world - not too successfully to begin with either.  But that was the way back then in the mid-fifties.  You didn't go on to further education unless you were destined for one of the finer professions, or a life in academia.  And back in the UK the only real universities to be considered were still Oxford and Cambridge - maybe London!  And there was absolutely no chance of going there with my scholastic results.
I recently had to do a piece on Redlands University here in Southern California.  It's a fine place and will set you or your parents back about $40,000 a year for the priviledge of attending for the obligatory three-year degree.
It seems today that every Tom, Dick and Harry's town has a college.  Also as nearly everybody seems to go to "school" I do wonder if it's been debased.  A degree from Harvard, Yale or Princeton I'm sure still resonates with prospective employers, but if you've got some three letter job from the Community College of Blythe is it really of much value?
I wonder if it's not best to learn a trade and then branch out on your own, assuming such behaviour is still tolerated by our burgeoning bureaucracy.  Let's face it, what sort of satisfaction is there in spending three years, acquiring some degree in human relationships then having to be chained to a desk fighting up the corporate ladder.  It seems a pretty miserable life to me.  Nonetheless, I would have loved to do a stint in a good university.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Medical Video

I was sent this video by my friend Kevin, who is in the medical profession.  Initially, I found it a little disturbing, but if you stick to it, you will see the wonderful advancements that have been made in repairing us.  It's fashionable to complain about how things are and how good they were years ago, but back then these injuries would not have been healed as efficiently.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday's Column - Palm Springs

This Sunday's Column is about a trip down to Palm Springs.  I usually visit there around February or March before it reaches its broiling temperatures - yesterday on April 21st, it reached 102; far too hot for this mountain dweller!  But in early spring, it's a great time to go and enjoy the differences in the two climates.
Downtown Palm Springs
Palm Springs has changed a lot over the last  30 years and now it's a very busy place with lots of snowbirds escaping from the cold weather to the north.  It's also a great place for dining, shopping and the purpose of my visit, the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is a positive jewel.  That will be the column next week.  On the way back I called in to see the Wildwater Preserve, which is a real oasis in the desert.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Big Bear

Well, winter is over.  The ski slopes closed two days ago.  Bear Mountain closed a week or two earlier, but Snow Summit closed on Tuesday and that's the end of winter as far as we are concerned.

So there'll be no more of this activity until around Thanksgiving, when we traditionally manage to persuade Mother Nature to drop some snow on us.

Now closing the slopes doesn't mean that all the snow has gone; far from it.  It merely reflects the lack of interest in skiing and snowboarding as once temperatures climb there are other pursuits that the S. Californian population likes to engage in.  There's the beach, and cycling and picnicking and all those types of summer activities.

It's often the case that towards the end of the season we get one last kick in the pants from Mother N.

This was the last little piece of snow on the property - it was gone in an hour!

Last weekend we had a huge storm come through and it dropped about 18 inches of heavy snow on us.  Sufficient to make me get out the equipment to clear the driveway.  On the following Thursday we hit 70 degrees and snow is not going to stay around for long under those circumstances.  So now we hit our quiet period, which means many fewer visitors and lots of complaints from the local businesses.  But I rather like it!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Musc Track - Ojos Espaniolas
This is just a lovely tune, here played in a somewhat romantic way by Andre Rieu and orchestra.  If you search around UTube you will find many others

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Caillebotte

This is Rainy Day in Paris (Jour de Pluie a Paris) by Gustave Caillebotte, painted in 1877.  It is a perfect picture of French urban life in the late 19th century.  It is a very large painting at approximately seven feet by nine.  Caillebotte is one of three favorite impressionist painters on my list as along with many people this is a genre that I like very much.  I like the glistening cobble stones and the perspective of the triangular building in the background.  Within thirty years, this street will change and be full of cars and trucks - today it is very quiet.  The painting, which I'm glad to say I've seen, hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Favorite Book - number three

Favorite book number three is The Reason Why, by Cecil Woodham Smith.  It tells the tale of how the charge of the light brigade happened.  Not the foolishness of charging  heavy artillery with light cavalry equipped with only swords and pistols, but more, how could you educate a class of people into behaving that way.  It explores the life of the privileged in 19th century England and goes into the background of the three principles involved - Lord's Raglan, Cardigan and Lucan.  The first two of whom were better known for their contribution to clothing than for their military tactics, which were dreadful.
I learned a great deal about the Irish Question and the way society functioned.  I think I've read the book three times at least.  There have been a couple of movies about the incident, one with Errol Flynn and the other much later with Trevor Howard, as Cardigan and Gielgud as Raglan.  A young David Hemmings plays Capt. Nolan who had an important role in the lead up to the charge.  This later film is worth watching, but the book will tell you so much more.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

100th Monkey

Many years ago I was told about the 100th monkey in the learning process.  It seems that many of the world's zoos had noticed that if an orange was peeled and then dipped in sand monkeys would eat it in spite of the unpleasant taste of the sand.  What was remarkable was after 100 monkeys had done this they would discover that by dropping the orange in their water bowls the sand washed off and made the orange much nicer.  I point this learned behavior out as it often occurs to me how well people in general drive these days.  I know there are accidents, but considering the numbers and the speed on the roads its pretty well done.  Now of course, not every society has been doing this as long as we in the West, hence the following film out of China which is new to the activity.  It's amazing, and let's hope they get better at it.  How close are they to learing  the skills automatically?  It takes about seven minutes to view.  Best to fasten your seat belts, it's uncomfortable!

Monday, April 16, 2012


I've been known to shoot the odd game of pool in my time, and I've been impressed with lots of players, but I've never seen shots like these.  It takes about 3 minutes to watch

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday's Column - the Great Adventure

Today's column is all about our great adventure.  We left Gatwick Airport aboard World Airlines on April 16th, 1982 - 30 years ago tomorrow.  We arrived here, Marina Del Rey at about 5 in the evening.  Of course, we could have chosen Canton, Ohio, but somehow Southern California seemed a little more attractive to the founder of the company, who had asked me to come out here and join him.  I shall always be grateful for the opportunity.
One day earlier we had married, so today is the 30th wedding anniversary too.  Quite a lot to celebrate.
You can read the entire column at

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I have to admit I'm not a golfer, so that is not me driving off into the distance.  The last time I played, which was about 1980 I think, I gave up on the sixth tee, having already gone through a box of balls.  Not a natural I think we could say.  However I did watch some of the Masters' over the last weekend and it was wonderful.  The consistancy of these top players is amazing.  The fairways seem to be getting narrower and the bunkers larger.  Also it was great to have an American win it, and one who was called Bubba.  How good is that?
Now let me into the secret, that constant birdsong we always hear there is piped in isn't it?  It has to be. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Music Track - Gipsy

I've always liked The Gipsy Kings and was lucky enough to see them perform at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles a few years ago.  This piece has all the sound of the high places in Spain where the weather is a constant fear with its unpredictable wind across the slopes.  Also the music has that indefinable Eastern sound to it brought by the original Gypsies on their long journey across the continent.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Oates

My friend Paul, in England, suggested that I should post ten of my favorite works of art.  This was harder than I originally thought, but I set to it and came up with ten of my favorites in no particular order.  I'm going to try and put the actual prints on each post, although some of the copyrights might cause difficulties.  However this one has no copyright so I'll start with it.
In 1949, my father (in a fit of uncharacteristic indulgence, I think) used to take the National Geographic Magazine.  In April of that year they published The British Way, a series of paintings that represented moments of great importance in British History.  I was almost ten and these pictures had a great effect on me as well as teaching me something of my culture at which in those days I was truly a dunce.  On an impulse back in 1985, I rang up the National Geographic in Washington D.C. and asked them if it would be possible to obtain a copy of the issue.  Amazingly they found it right away, even though I had the date and subject wrong.  They mailed me a copy and it is one of my dearest possessions.
Inside is this painting which as a young boy effected me greatly.  It is by John Charles Dollman and shows Captain Titus Oates leaving the small compound of Scott of the Antarctic on their tragic return journey.  He was riddled with frostbite and knew his existence would only slow them down and endanger the entire expedition.  As a result he quietly decided to end his life and walked out of the tent saying: "I'm going out for a while.  I may be some time."  The painting which is not very well represented here is perhaps the bleakest I can ever recall and certainly earns its title "A Very Gallant Gentleman."  Today it hangs on the walls of the British Cavalry Club in London.  On my next visit, I shall go along and see if they'll let me view it.  They probably won't, being rather sniffy, but I shall make the effort.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Favorite Book - Number Four

It's just occurred to me that there are two posts this week with books as an illustration.  However this one is the bookself in my office. 
Book number four is Lark Rise to Candleford, by Flora Thompson.  It has been taken as a BBC series which is now on 16 DVD's and is a pleasant enough 19th century soap opera.  But the book, when I read it was quite an eye-opener.
It is the account of a young girl's life in the hamlet of Lark Rise and how they existed back towards the end of the 1800's.
Life had not changed that much then from a thousand years earlier.  Seasons came and went and people were desperately poor.  One of the hardest possessions for any family was boots for the children.  Once the harvest was in, then gleaning became a huge part of each family's need to provide corn for bread making over the next year.  Life was a constant struggle. The book's tale is simple and makes it easy to understand the problems of life back then with primitive medicine and few creature comforts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Encyclopaedia Britannica

I was sorry to hear that the Encylopedia Britannica Company has decided finally to end publication of their books.  I think they intend trying to hang on with some sort of on-line version.  I'm sure that won't be easy either with so much information available on the Net.

I was once offered a job by them in London - this was not that wonderful a thing as I'm sure if you  possessed a few teeth, could remain upright, and also string a word or two together you would fit the profile.

I was pretty young but even then, I detected that this might not be the easiest job in the world, and at the time I was searching for just such a post, with attractive compensation to match.

They made great play of the fact that they received leads to follow up, but there might be some cold canvassing (99%?) involved.  Right!  So even though they sent me a written offer with many congratulations on my appointment, I declined the opportunity.  I hope this decision of mine did not in any way contribute to their demise!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Navy Video

Thanks to Jim in Pasadena for sending me this fascinating video of the U.S. Navy Drill Team winning an event in Norway.  Amazing precision! 
It takes about three minutes.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday's Column - Edward Dean

You don't often see busts of Napoleon in California, but this one is on show in the basement of the Edward Dean Museum in Cherry Valley, not far from Yucaipa.  It was given to Admiral Lord Nelson by some grateful French citizens for ridding them of their Emperor and Dictator.  It ended up here among the private collection of these two art dealers, Hollywood set designers and bon vivantes.

Abovethe basement is a replica of an 18th century English drawing room with all its foppery and finery.  It's an interesting room to wander around and imagine what  life must have been like in those far off days.

You can read the entire column at

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mega Lottery

This is a picture of a lottery ticket.  No it's not mine, but S.W.M.B.O*. weakened as we were in the cashier's line at the local supermarket and the clerk asked if we wanted one.  I have never bought a lottery ticket as it's not my thing, but I guess I can overlook madam's purchase - just this once.  After all, the entire nation had gone mad over the potential of winning close to $650 million in one fell swoop.  As it happens it was three fell swoops as the prize was split between three lucky winners. I'm not one who subscribes to the notion "that someone has to win it so why not me" theory.  However if S.W.M.B.O*. had achieved the impossible, what would we have done?  The responsibility is so overwhelming that it's almost a burden that is not welcome.  I guess we'd stick it in the bank, but one luxury would be to always travel first class in the future (and I don't mean business either!)  That's about it.
* She Who Must Be Obeyed

Friday, April 6, 2012

Music Track - Marais

This week's track is a little longer at 7:38.  It was also written some 290 years ago by the French baroque composer Marin Marais.
Stick with it as it winds its way around and around.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Favorite Books - Number Five - Atlas Shrugged

A 'Dem" friend once said to me that this was the most elitist book she'd ever read.  I was impressed that she'd read it at all as most on the left shy away from it.  Atlas Shrugged is number five on my list and it's certainly not an easy read; one speech goes on for 72 pages!  But the story is about how government and bureaucrats will take over an entire society if those with talent and enterprise do not stand up against them.  It also shows what can happen when those talented people go on strike.  Not just for more money but to withdraw completely, taking their abilities with them.  It was panned by most critics when it came out and continues today to annoy them.  Most on the left seem to idealize collectivism which is the antithesis of Rand's philosophy which is individualism - she called it objectivism.
Ayn Rand's work was published in 1957, and surprisingly it continues to be one of the top sellers in print - in 2009 it sold over 500,000 copies.  If you read it you will be able to answer the question: "Who is John Galt?"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seven Wonders of the World

Over the last seven weeks I've posted my personal seven wonders of  the world.  Here they are again in no particular order:-
The Aquaduct in Segovia, Spain
The City of Tokyo in Japan
Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah
The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA
The Panama Canal
Cruise Ships (Over 85,000 tons)
Big Bear Lake, CA

I'm sure many of you have your own and I would love to hear of them; you can let me know by email at  Next week the start of a new series.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


During the "at sea" days on our recent cruise, one of the activities was a series of lectures given by a Professor Glick on Global Affairs.  He was quite old and had retired from academia and now spent a lot of time aboard ships doing this work.  He was very interesting.  One of his subjects was the comparison between North and South America.  One of the distinctions he said was that in the southern continent, corruption was a way of life and always had been.  Also that even if an official was found guilty of the offence he was rarely if ever punished.

A couple of weeks ago we were treated to the spectacle of the ex-governor of Illinois going off to spend 14 years in jail.  Yes, "Bloggo" was being punished for trying to sell the empty seat vacated by Obama.  The trial was quite entertaining, not least for the colorful telephone recordings of Blogojevitch in the act of this.  So that's basically the end of him.  But wait, does the retiring governor of the state not have the right to issue a pardon when his time comes?  And does not the one hand wash the other?  I'll keep an eye on this for sure.

Monday, April 2, 2012


RUSSIAN NAVY CAPTURES SOMALI PIRATES - The Russians captured the Pirates, tied them up, put them on the boats, then set them all on fire - puff no more Pirates!  NO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HERE!  This video shows Russian Navy commandos on a Somalian pirate ship shortly after the pirates had captured a Russian oil tanker. The Euro Union navy that patrols these waters would not interfere because they feared there could be casualties.  All explanations are in Russian with a single exception of when a wounded pirate says something in English and the Russian soldier says "This is not a fishing boat". All conversations between the commandos are in Russian. If you don't understand Russian, the pictures speak for themselves.  The soldiers freed their compatriots and the tanker. The Russian Navy Commandos moved the pirates back to their own (pirate) ship, searched the pirate ship for weapons and explosives and then they left the ship and exploded it with all remaining pirates hand-cuffed to it. The commandos sank the pirate ship along with the pirates and without any court proceedings, lawyers etc. That is, they used the anti-piracy laws of the 18th and 19th centuries where the captain of the rescuing ship has the right to decide what to do with the pirates. Usually, they were hung. I would think from now on, Russian ships will not be targets for Somali pirates.
(boring film, but you'll get the idea.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday's Column - Huntington

One of the jewels of Southern California is the Huntington Library and Museum in San Marino. It was the home of the Huntington's around the 1900's, and where they housed their huge art, furniture and manuscript collection.  It also has several formal gardens.  This is the actual library which houses a genuine Guggenheim bible.  On this visit I was able to enjoy the house they lived in and it was there I saw Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" and also Thomas Lawrence's "Pinky," both masterpieces.  You can read the entire column at