Thursday, May 31, 2012

Favorite Work of Art - Van Gogh

Choosing one painting of Vincent Van Gogh is a tough mission.  He was only 37 when he died and by then he had produced over 2100 works of art.  This is Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night.  I like it because of the memories it brings of French Cafes, also the lights and the large stars which became a trademark for Van Gogh.  I think he managed to sell  just one painting during his lifetime and that was entirely due to the help of his brother Theo, and yet today they are almost priceless.  It's a terribly sad fact that his life was very unhappy.  One reason for his madness has been suggested; he used to lick his brushes constantly and with the lead in the paint of those days, it poisoned him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I sometimes wonder at the massive amount of equipment we use to keep things operating.  For instance, recently we have had the sweeper around.  Now at this elevation we have two things that "flatlanders" don't have to contend with.  We have ice, which needs gravel to keep our tires from slipping, and we have pine trees, which drop their needles all over the place.

At the end of winter we have a lot of gravel and pine needles laying on the roads and so we have this big sweeper to handle the problem.

Firstly the local garbage company drops off a dumpster (skip for the Brits!)

Then the sweeper roams around the roads sucking up these two pests to be dropped in the dumpster as soon as the middle section is full.  This section moves out over the dumpster and opens up to disgorge the load; it's all very efficient.  It's also quite dusty!

After a day or so, the work is done and a wander around the local streets shows that the work has left everywhere neat and tidy.

I can't help wondering though at the cost and maintenance of the machine, and also that would it not be more cost effective to use men with brooms?

I'm probably just being an old fogey, though!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The subject of bullying has recently been discussed by politicians and also a new Hollywood film.  Bullying seems to be a fact of life and yet those in charge of children don't seem able to stop it. 
I had a nasty experience myself when I was about seven.  I was a tall thin, and shy child, and I became the object of tormenting by the "boss" of the playground, 'Poofy' Williams.  This was a fat boy of about eight or so and maybe he was a budding anorexic and envied me my slender frame.  But every break time became a nightmare for me as 'Poofy' would make a beeline for me and along with his pals set upon me.
Eventually my mother noticed that I was not very happy at the start of my school day and wheedled the truth out of me.  My father was sent for.  He was the fount of all knowledge for me, of course.  He said there was a very easy way to stop this problem and he would show me how.  He made me make a fist and hold it behind my back.  Then he told me to hit him on the point of his nose.  I was concerned that I would hurt him but he just swayed out of the way as I struck out.  He made me practise the maneuver over and over until I had it down pat.
I didn't have long to wait to try out this system.  The very next day, 'Poofy' waddled over for his morning's sport.  I stood still, concentrated on the point of his nose and unleashed my fist.  It was right on target.
Now in my life I have witnessed many life altering and momentous things.  My first sight of television, atomic bomb tests, man walking on the moon, and up there is the memory of Poofy's exploding protuberance as I connected.  It was an incredible sight.  He bled and cried all over the playground.  His cohorts were as amazed as everybody else and did nothing but laugh at him.  He never acknowledged me again.  Ever!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Video - Japanese Surrender

Many thanks to my brother-in-law, Tony, for this fascinating video.  It is of the actual surrender by the Japanese on board the USS Missouri in 1945.  We've all seen photos of the event, but I've never seen a video of the ceremony before.  It takes 8:45 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday's Column - Victor Valley Museum

It must be hard to maintain a museum privately, and that became the case with the Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley.  I recently went along to have a look around and it was obvious that there had been some serious changes.

The museum is now under the direction of the San Bernardino Museum and their professionalism is showing through.  Firstly all the carpet has gone.  I was told that carpet is a no-no for a museum as it harbors bugs and other pests that can harm the exhibits.  I have to say I missed "grandma's kitchen" and also "grandpa's tool shed," which were originally on display, but there are a lot more other items to enjoy.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Mountain flowers are different to those grown down below.  There are different conditions up here, and often growing flowers can be a challenge. 

But lilacs return every year really well.  The trick is to "dead head" them after the blossoms have died.  Then you'll get these results and the wonderful perfume too.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Music Track - Rita Hayworth  This week's Music Track is not really so much about music as about some fine dancing by that wonderful woman, Rita Hayworth.  Certainly worth watching with the clever dubbing with the Bee Gees - not my favorite group as it happens.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Meninas

This is Las Meninas by Velazquez and it hangs in the Prado in Madrid.  This is not a very good reproduction, but it shows the general painting in some detail.  The artist himself is shown at the easel and seems to be painting the viewer; he is also portayed leaving the painting at the center right.  Meninas means maids in Spanish and here they are attending to the Infanta Princess Margarita, the daughter of Philip IV of Spain, with her entourage of dwarf and dog also in the picture. It is quite a large painting and always seemed to draw people to it when I was there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's fashionable in S. California to install a water free garden. It's called xeroscaping. At our house in Baldwin Lake our garden is just so.  It receives no water that doesn't come directly from above.

The Xeroscape Garden

When the house was put in six years ago, the soil was very barren and bare so I laid down thick plastic sheeting and a two-inch layer of D and G, which is ground granite. It was fine for some time, but three years in some weeds began to poke through.  This year it has been quite a fight to pull all these little buggers out.  Four bags worth!  But now we can look forward, I hope, to a trouble free summer.
Outside the xeroscaped area, things are left to go free.  That is until our friendly Mexican, Rojelio, comes along and clears the lot for fire space in July.  The strength of nature is quite amazing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cruising Dogs

As is fairly well known I'm rather fond of the big boats and cruising.  Of course, nothing is perfect and from time to time on board, I miss the two boys very much, and wish I could have them with us.  But there is a strict rule about that: NO DOGS ON BOARD!
But what's this?  It appears to be a dog walking the promenade deck with its owner.  This is no PhotoShop piece it is a picture of Mogan (After the Jewish wine, Mogan David, I was told) being walked by his owner, who happened to be blind.
Mogan and his owners cruised a great deal and he had his own special cabin and kit to make it possible.  He was a great favorite with the crew and the visitors, and used to stop to be petted on his way around the ship.
Now if they would just let Poodles on board!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Video - Bulldog
Bulldogs are not the most sporty dogs, they have some physiological problems to overcome, like their short noses and no tails to speak of.  These shortfalls make this even more wonderful.  Just 2 1/2 minutes of sheer joy!  Be sure to watch to the end.  My thanks to Denise in Florida for sending it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday's Column - Riverside Auto Museum

This Sunday's column looks into the world of the automobile.  The Riverside Automobile Museum is a fine place if you want to rekindle some memories of European cars of the 50's onwards.  Here I ran headlong into a Jag Mark 10, which always looked rather bulbous on England's small roads.  But here it gleamed and glistened under the arc lights.  There is a big collection here too of racing Maseratis.

Mark Ten Jag

If you like the sort of museum where you can wander around and enjoy the best of past models then make a date to come along here, it's a wonderful place.  To read the entire column click on the link here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Who you looking at?

 There have been a few experiments with camels in Southern California.  Well, if you look around at parts of the Mojave Desert you would think you were in some outpost manned by the French Foreign Legion.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the army used camels to travel with their provisions along what is now Interstate 10.  Then the railway came through and the name of the place became Waterman.  Now it is Barstow.

Today, if you want to see camels in a natural habitat you can visit them at Mojave Narrows Regional Park in Victorville/Apple Valley.

They live on the ranch there where horses can be rented; they are quite friendly even though they have that wonderful snooty look about them.

Camels in Victorville (or are they Dromedaries?)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Music Track - Donna

We lost a great voice yesterday with the death of Donna Summer.  She was one of trademark sounds of the "Disco era," which has strangely over the years become a butt for amusement.  I never quite understood the way fashion in music moves.  Perhaps it's with people who don't really like music very much and use it as a fashion accesssory.  Here is one of her best ones -

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Munch

There are several versions of The Scream by Edvard Munch and I've seen one in the Getty Museum - that is the one on PCH before everything moved out to the new place high on the bluff north of Santa Monica.  It is a very disturbing work and was painted in 1893.  It is three feet by two and a half.  It has been suggested that the red color of the sky was an actual phenomenon due to the eruption of the volcano in Krakatoa and from which the emissions could be seen in northern Europe.
I always thought that the person in the picture was the one screaming, but it seems more likely that he is holding his ears against the "primal scream" that he hears from nature.  What do you think?
The painting in the Munch Museum in Oslo has been valued at $80 million.  One was sold recently in New York for $130 Million.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Farmers' Markets

Perhaps its the skeptic in me, but I'm a little suspicious of Farmers' Markets.  I suspect they are not such a great deal and I'm not too sure about their quality either.  However, ours does sell some great produce and you can get it from people who speak real Mexican too!

Every Tuesday, we go along and buy certain items of produce.  The strawberries are incredible at $5 for a triple punnet - is that even a word recognised in America?  There are also a number of arts and crafts stalls.  We usually manage to avoid those, and stick to the vegetables.

One of the nice things about the Farmers' market is that you can take your dogs along.  It's a bit of a strain as our two are not normally very sociable with other dogs, but here, they do behave quite well.  As long as we keep them well away from the other dogs strolling about with their owners.  You meet all kinds here and the other day there were two that were a cross between English Bulldog and Basset.  Frankie and Johnny were interested.

It's good training for them and also for us!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Summer Finally Arrived!

The real test of whether summer is here or not.  The boat is finally uncovered from the winter's wrap and hitched up ready to launch.  It will be lake bound until November.  Let's hope we don't get caught like we did last year at that time when we had an early snow fall.  Most unkind!  But summer's here at last!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Video - Osprey

My friend Stan in England sent me this amazing video of an Osprey in action.  Here is the description that accompanied the video which lasts about 3 minutes.

...I've never seen a bird shake water off like a dog does - wouldn't want to get in the way of him when he's got his eyes locked and his talons in the "load"

There are 3 sequences in this one video:

1st sequence he catches half a dozen fish in one strike.

2nd sequence he plunges talons into deep water right to the bottom to
grab his prey.

3rd sequence he captures a big old fat fish that looks as if it weighs
more than he does!

This is incredible to watch (best viewed in full screen mode)...enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday's Column - Cabo San Lucas

This Sunday's column is about Cabo San Lucas in Mexico.  If you go to the bottom of Southern California and then travel another 800 further miles, you will reach the bottom point of Baja California and Cabo San Lucas.  This was once a sleepy, small town resort with donkeys in the street and dirt roads.  No more.  Today it's full of "gringos" with fancy yachts and motor cars.  It's full of Burger Kings and IHOP's and you have to look around to find some of the old charm.  Nonetheless it's still an interesting and colorful spot.  Also in these troubled times, it's safe.  You can read the entire column at

Saturday, May 12, 2012

New Sponsor

Today we welcome a new sponsor - The Mill Creek Cattle Company and Diamond Lil's.  Run by Damon and Cindy this is a wonderful place right on the lake, where the Vintage used to be.  Those of you familiar with Mentone, will know Mill Creek as it has been a firm favorite down there for a long time.

With easy access off the boulevard, this fine place, with its great atmosphere will soon be up there as a favorite for locals and visitors alike to enjoy themselves.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Music Track - Bill

My son, Michael and I both like the Tarantino movies, but we're sure that the music he chose for them makes them great.  Here is one.  I like the Mexican trumpets in it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Favortie Works of Art - Manet

Edward Manet is often thought of as being the leader of the Impressionists in Paris.  This is considered to be his masterpiece, The Luncheon on the Grass, painted in 1862.  At the time it shocked an easily shockable audience with the blatant nakedness of the woman and the two well dressed "dandies" with her.  The lighting and the clothes suggest that it is in fact not an outside picture at all but one that was staged indoors.  The arrangement of the woman's clothes and the picnic basket in the foreground also adds to the feeling of it being posed inside.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Favorite Book List

For the last ten weeks, I've posted my favorite books.  It was quite a labor of love, but now I'll show the entire list rather than one at a time.
1 - 1984 - George Orwell
2 - Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
3 - The Reason Why - Cecil Woodham Smith
4 - Lark Rise to Candelford - Flora Thompson
5 - Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
6 - Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
7 - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch - Alexander Solzhenitsin
8 - Smiley's People - John Le Carre
9 - Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
10 - Bomber - Len Deighton

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Defense of Poodles

Poodles get a bum rap!  Now I know the stereotypical Poodle is a small yappy little dog bouncing around, or sitting on its owner's lap, but I would like to explain a little of the breed.
Firstly they always score very highly on the list of intelligence in dogs.  Usually just behind Border Collies.  (The bottom in this group is usually the Afghan Hound!)  And it's true that they are very smart.
But they are also sporting dogs having been bred to hunt in water areas.  The name Poodle (Pudel) is actually German and means "splashing in water."
Poodles don't shed their coats which means regular visits to a dog groomer - we have a mobile service and Harvey comes once a month to do our two boys.  The cut that you see on show dogs does little to promote their sporty natures.  But it has a reason.  The blobs of fur around the hips and shoulders are to help with buoyancy, and to hold in some warmth in cold water.  We have ours clipped in the puppy cut which is smooth all over apart from the ears and the feet.  The one above has it's moustache but we prefer ours clean shaven.  It's all a matter of choice - our boys don't seem to care.  Finally if you see a Poodle clipped very short you will see it has a perfect frame; long legs, large chest and strong hips.  It will also likely be very friendly.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Video - Belgium

I was sent this little piece of fun by my friend Jim in Pasadena.  At the start of the video, it says: "In a little square in Belgium where nothing happens."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday's Column - Panama

This week my editor kindly published a piece on our transit through the Panama Canal.  He said to me before I went: "It's bad enough that you keep going off, Trevor, but then you come back and write about it!"

I've written about the trip extensively here and also posted this picture.  It's of our final exit through the locks into the Pacific, at the Miraflores lock.  As you can see, a stadium has been built so that spectators from the city of Panama can come along and watch the ships pass.  Also you can see how close we are to them.  One passenger - a Panamanian - wanted to be able to talk to a relative who was there.  She was not allowed off, but the relative was allowed up to the side of the ship where they could talk.
You can read the entire column at

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Telephone

Isn't nice when you realize, "I am not alone!"  The other day I heard someone on the radio say that he hated the phone.  It was not because it distorted the voice or the discomfort of using it but because it never brought good news.  Most of my business life, the phone was an integral part of every day, and I didn't mind it at all.  In fact I welcomed it; but now in retirement, it is merely an intrusion, and rarely if ever a pleasant one.
For instance although being on the "do not call" list for telemarketers, they still manage to get through and there are always those annoying recorded messages from politicians, who naturally are excluded from such lists.  And let's face it most of the time any phone call is either wanting your time or your money.  No, like the radio guy, I'm an email man.  That's by far the most convenient way for me to communicate.  I always enjoy the moment when I open my inbox and I can deal with the messages there at my leisure. Do you feel the same way?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Music Track - Aranquez

Recently Music Tracks have been a little Spanish and this is no different, with one of the most famous of that nation's pieces.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Favorite Book Number One

Choosing a favorite book out of the thousands read in a lifetime, is a daunting task.  And yet, giving it some thought, I believed that no novel could make it all the way to the top, as no matter how clever, the plot or atmosphere it was only fiction.  And yet, this book although fiction is so stunning that it almost elevates above the genre.  I first became aware of "1984" in my mid teens when a production starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morell, was shown on BBC TV.  It was an electric event.  In those days, the BBC was so bereft of material that Sunday night plays were repeated on Thursday nights as well. "1984" had such a dramatic effect on the populace - and me too - that the audience on Thursday was huge.  Those that hadn't seen it heard about it, and those that had seen it wanted to see it again, it was so magnetic. The book became an immediate best seller as well.
I have read the novel perhaps four times, once in my teens, then again in my twenties, and a few times since.  Each time it has illustrated the horror of totalitarianism, and cemented my fear of it.  Mankind is quite capable of the extremes illustrated in the book; if you don't believe that look at N. Korea, or Nazi Germany, or the Soviet regime.
Several studies have been done to see how far along the path we have traveled that George Orwell predicted.  In some cases we have come very far.  Think of Political Correctness and how it stifles thought and expression.  Are we far from the Thought Police and group Hate Sessions?
Orwell wrote his book in 1948 and it was published a year later.  He reversed the last two digits in the date to come up with 1984, believing it was so far ahead to be effective.  Today that fictitious year is long gone, but the menace of such a world is still a frightening prospect.  Each step we take to have government take away our freedom with the excuse of protecting us leads us further down the road.  Beware!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Favorite Works of Art - Odalisque

For many years I thought that this painting was called "The Peacock Fan."  But I found out that it is in fact called La Grande Odalisque.  It hangs in the Louvre and when I was there, sometime in the '70's, I bought a copy and had it framed.  It is a large painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, painted in 1814.  It's about 9 feet by 14 and it shows a concubine in Turkey awaiting her master.  Incidentally the difference between a concubine and a prostitue is that whereas a prositute sells sex for money, the concubine sells love.
Anatomically the woman is incorrect, and has about five extra vertibraes, according to experts; also the left  arm is much shorter than her right.  However there is something about the steady gaze and the surroundings that have always appealed to me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April/May 1992

Twenty years ago this week we had the L.A. riots. It was a scary time for everyone.  As to the circumstances leading up to the riots, enough has been written and pontificated upon.  But as we were about six blocks away from "the projects," at the time we were very much in harm's way.

Early on in the process, I stood outside our condominium complex armed with a baseball bat.  It soon occurred to me that should problems come our way, such a weapon was not going to be much use against a .45!  I bought a gun the very next day.
To this day, I have always wondered why the rioters burned their own neighborhoods down?
Reginald Denny who was pulled from his truck and severely beaten has never quite recovered.  His main attacker, Damion "Football" Williams was sent to jail, released after half his sentence and now is serving 47 years in the penitentiary for another murder.