Monday, October 31, 2011

Thailand Video

A friend of mine, Joe, down in Fontana, recently went to Bangkok in Thailand.  While at a business conference he took a number of great photos and also some videos.  If, like me, you've never been to Thailand, you might enjoy looking at this wonderful travelogue.  The video on Su Cowboy is particularly fascinating.
The credit for this great work goes to
Joseph Berk
909 204 9984
Skype:  josephberk

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday's Column - Santa Barbara

Sabots about to begin a sailing race in Santa Barbara
I covered this subject a little on the cruise posts.  But Santa Barbara also took this week's spot for the Trevor's Travels column in The Sun.  It was too good a subject to pass by.
It's been a few years since I visited this beautiful city, and my previous efforts had not been particularly enjoyable.  Early on, soon after we arrived, we drove here and found the traffic dreadful; it was also just a little too far for our English driving habits.  This might have poisoned the well some.  But now having spent some quality time here I shall definitely put it on my list to do again.  To read the entire column go to

Fray Sierra, who built the first mission, began it all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Music Track - Traffic

When I first visited the USA in 1969 - I had my 30th birthday in New York, it was quite a blast - this was very popular at the time  I was roaming around the U-Tube site and found it.  I don't think I've heard it for over 40 years.  I might leave it another 40! It's pretty typical of the music that was played in the peak of flower power.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I broke a tooth the other day and once again in the category of how things are improving, as I sat in the dentist's chair I was reminded how much better this was going to be than years ago.  Today, it's almost impossible to have any work done without a local anesthetic.  And it's not given with a needle the size of a hollowed out six-inch nail either.  Furthermore before the needle you get a little pad held against the gum by the nurse to numb the area - Wow, that's some improvement right there. 
I remember years ago having a sore gum just from the needle and it went on for days.  The anesthetic also wears off about the time you get in the car afterwards, and doesn't last all day and make you spill soup down your shirt front at lunch.  Then the filling itself is now a resin, treated with a little lamp, and not half a pound of lead that would weigh you down for the rest of your life.  So the next time you're tempted to think things were better years ago think about a future visit to your friendly dentist.  If you are new to the blog or didn't catch it, here is a clip sent to me back in June about an Indian street dentist - pretty crude work but effective.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Movie Number 5

This week we reach the halfway point of my favorite movies of all time.  Number 5 is "Master and Commander" with Russell Crowe.  I've mentioned this movie before in an earlier post when I was writing about my grandfather who was in the Royal Navy.  He first served his apprentiship aboard a sailing ship and the traditions he endured were not that far removed from the setting of this era in history, which was during the great period of Admiral Lord Nelson.
The film shows the life aboard one of Nelson's fighting ships under the command of its Captain played by Russell Crowe.  I love his understanding of the ship, the men and his responsibilities - truly a man in the right job at the right time.  There is one scene where he stands on the bowsprit hanging onto a line, charging through the foaming water, obviously loving every minute of it. The battle scenes are horribly realistic, but I believe very accurate as is everything else about this film.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Like me you probably receive a number of emails listing out how good things were years ago.  While it's interesting to reflect about this sort of romance, there are a number of ways that things have definitely improved.
Over the weekend the paper stated that San Bernardino was the best place in the US to recover from TB.  And there I was thinking it was just the best place to get mugged!
It took me back to my very early childhood when the "White Man's Burden" was a fact of every day life.  Lots of people had, or knew someone who had TB.  Sufferers would disappear to sanitariums for long periods.
I wonder how many people remember that on every bus in the UK was a sign saying: NO SPITTING
Remarkable that people had to be told this.  But with dirty air, a lot of smoking and also chewing tobacco, people used to spit regularly, and saliva was a great carrier of the virus that spread tuberculosis.  I can't say I'm sorry to be rid of the habit of spitting, although I think we do need to educate baseball players not to do it.  It seems the only place now where it's acceptable.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cruise Round-up Part II

Our third port of call was San Diego.  This is a city we know quite well, although we didn't know the new Gaslamp Quarter which we walked around in the afternoon.  It's a couple of blocks of shops, restaurants and bars that was just getting started for the day's customers.  It's a huge improvement on the old downtown area which used to be quite scuzzy.

The highlight of the visit was a trip around the USS Midway which is now a museum.  I'll  be writing a piece on it for the paper.  Too bad I wasn't able to call in advance and get free tickets - as a powerful member of the elite liberal media!!!!
"The Island" where the admiral controls things.

The aircraft carrier which starred in Tom Cruise's movie, Top Gun, was the biggest ship afloat when it was launched in 1945.  It was finally retired in 1992.
A couple of days ago two S. Californian college football teams played a match on the flight deck, and there was plenty of room for spectators.
The piece in the Sun should come out on Nov 27th.

The Flight Deck - big enough to play a football match!

Our final port of call was the small Mexican town of Ensenada.  Fortunately, the cartels have left this alone so far and we took a shuttle into the center and a walk back.  As usual we were regaled with the usual vendors who all seem to think that they can't sell anything unless they're making a nuisance of themselves.  We had lunch at a real "locals" place called La Comadre.  It was superb. Handmade tacos with a variety of meats to put in them and all sorts of toppings too.  Lunch for three came out at about $7.  I had to have more as well.

On the way  back I took a picture of our travelling companion, Charlie,  with S.W.M.B.O.  The Mexicans do like big flags.

And finally, the sharp end of the Sapphire Princess - it's big!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday' Column - Norton Simon

King and Queen by Henry Moore
Viewers in one of the many galleries
Millionaires are currently getting a bad rap with the Wall Street protesters.  However some of them, apart from providing jobs and inventing things, do provide other benefits to society.  Take for instance Norton Simon.  He was a 50's, 60's and 70's man.  His empire included Max Factor, Avis, Canada Dry and McCall's Publishing.  He was immensely rich and he became a huge collector of art. 
His collection was so large that when he died in 1993, it had to be housed in a museum just to cope with the size of it.  It is impossible to see everything in a few visits.  This was my second trip to the place, located in Pasadena, and once again I took Evan along with me.
Like the last time, we spent a lot of time looking at the Impressionists but then we went out into the garden.  Simon liked sculpture and he amassed a lot at that too.  Above is a piece by Henry Moore the great English sculptor.  It was originally designed to sit on his native Yorkshire hillsides, but there have been some half-dozen made since, and they are now all over the world.  To read the entire column go to

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Music Track - Dudley

I'm not a great fan of Jazz, but when I was living in Southampton in the very late 50's and early 60's the local TV Station - Southern Television, as I remember - often used to put on the Dudley Moore Trio late at night and I used to watch them.  Not a lot of people knew in his later career that "Dud," was a very talented musician and had won an organ scholorship to Magdalen College, Oxford.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wonderful Short Video

I'm rather fond of animals, therefore it was upsetting on Wednesday morning to wake up to hear about the escaping wild animals in Ohio being shot to death.  Some 48 were killed - all very sad.  But then this morning we awoke to hear of another animal being put down - the famed Col. Ghaddafi.  Absolutely no tears shed there at all.
In a more upbeat mood though, my friend Don, in Orange County sent me this marvelous video of an owl on final approach.  It only lasts about 45 seconds and it's well worth watching for the last few seconds.  Imagine being a small rodent looking up to see those talons!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I watched an old movie the other day - it's not going on the list of ten best, by the way.  It was called Act of Vengeance with Robert Ryan, and it was made in 1949.  A lot of the scenes were shot in downtown Los Angeles - almost next to Angels' Flight as it happened.  (Refer to the archives for more on that interesting LA landmark.)

What I also noticed in the film was the enormous amount of trash blowing around on the streets.  Now I know that things are not exaclty pristine in that area of town, but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be.
I think we often believe that matters are getting worse in life, but trash is one way of seeing an improvement.  The above picture is always a possibility, particularly after rain, but more and more things are a lot tidier around Western societies.  Does anyone remember the Keep Britain Tidy campaign in the 60's.  I think it worked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Movie # 6

Movie number six is Apocalypse Now.  I saw this movie when it came out, in the north of England which is not one of my favorite places.  I'll try and explain that in a future post.  But at the time I was not in a very happy state and I found the film to be very depressing.  Also the final part where Martin Sheen meets up with the mad Col. Kurtz, is it?  Played by Marlo Brando it is very weird.  ("Oh, the horror!)  However like a lot of moves over the years, I've watched it several more times and come to appreciate it, hence its position here on my list of the top ten movies.  I wonder if you agree with me so far.  If you're new to the blog you can go into the index at the side and click on "Movie," or go into the previous month's postings.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


It seems that the East Cast is not getting its fair share of colors this year due to rain.  In fact we have some friends who took a cruise along the north east coast and were quite disappointed.
Now of course, living as we do up at 6,750 feet above sea level we don't have the profusion of trees that turn in the autumn, although if you look at the left hand tree here you can see that its needles are going brown.  This is just before they drop to allow the new ones to come through.

However, we do have some wonderful maples in the area and this gives us quite a bit of lovely color.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cruise Round-Up

The week's cruise we just completed was a little different, in that it was based mostly along the Californian coast.  Of course, as foreign ships are not allowed to ply among US ports we had to tack on a trip to Ensenada, thereby permitting Princess to avoid all the US labor laws and the huge price of doing business here as a US company.  I think it's the Jones Act of 1920, but I might be wrong on that.

This is our third trip aboard the Sapphire Princess and it is a very beautiful boat.  It is 116,000 tons and caters to 1900 passengers.  Cruising has sometimes cruelly been called an activity for the "newly wed, or the nearly dead!"  And there were not too many of the former category on board.  In fact this was the oldest cruise we've ever taken in terms of the age of the other passengers.  I would say that at least 80% were over 80 and many of these weren't carrying it too well.  As such the company had modified their programs to deal with the habits of the passengers.  Very few late night shows in the theater as most of the audience had retired.  At least they weren't overweight!
Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego all gave me material for future columns and I've already got two of them written.
The food was terrific and the service excellent.  The weather was superb and we missed a storm that swept through and blew our fence down. Now repaired.

This is Francisco our cocktail waiter.  He worked very hard serving the obligatory drinks before dinner.  If you look carefully, you can see his wallet is on fire.  He used to do small conjuring tricks to keep every one amused.  Mostly I'm not fond of such stuff, but he was pretty good.

One evening show they put on was done by the crew and they were all very talented - naturally Francisco was on the bill.

We had a wonderful day in Santa Barbara, a day at sea next and then arrived in San Francisco, where we made a return trip to Alcatraz where we had been 25 years ago.  Not much has changed I can assure you.  It's a very popular site even though it has been nearly fifty years since they had any prisoners there.  The last one, Frank Weatherby, left in 1963 from the prison which had held the worst of the worst since 1934.  This was where Al Capone was held for evading taxes, which goes to show you don't mess with the IRS!

Looking out across the bay with San Francisco being only
1.25 miles away, one can only imagine the sense of isolation felt
by the 1576 prisoners who were incarcerated there in its history.

The movie, Escape From Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood gives perhaps the best understanding of life on The Rock.  Playing the role of Frank Morris he and two others dug their way out of their cells using spoons.  It took a year and they managed to get into the passage behind where the pipes ran up to the roof.

The cell number 152 shows the dummy's head that Morris used to fool the night guard while they ran across the roof, down the wall and onto the beach.  They used inflated macintosh's to help them float across the bay.  They were never heard of again and there is still controversy as to whether they made it.  Personally I doubt it as I'm sure someone would have sung like the proverbial canary after so long.  I think it's human nature.  Part two of the report to follow soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday's Column - Alpine Slide

About ten years ago when my grandson, Evan, was about 6 or 7, we were left alone in the house one afternoon.  Both his mother and grandmother had gone out on female type business.  We got bored and so I asked him if he fancied a ride on the Alpine Slide, which is only a mile down the road from us.  He readily agreed and we took the trip up on the chair lift before climbing on a small plastic sled, which is how you go down this half-pipe ride set into the mountain.  I had ridden it before and knew that unlike many other things in S. California there is little margin for error, and in fact you can hurt yourself.

Reaching the end of the Alpine Slide - Safely!
There is a handle set between your knees, and as we went in to the second bend I had it as far forward as possible to get the maximum speed.
Unfortunately I should have applied the brake at that moment and the result was that all three elements of the speeding unit came apart.  The sled went left, I went right, and Evan being quite light went straight up.  When we all collected ourselves, most of the sticking out parts of us were damaged with cuts and abrasions.  The sled appeared unhurt.  At the bottom, we limped off to the car and went home where I applied various unguents and plasters to the boy as well as myself.
I knew I was in trouble as soon as the distaff side of the household appeared.  Both of them turned glaring looks at me for putting the apple of their respective eyes in danger.  I was forbidden to ever take him on anything like that in the future, and how could I, etc. etc.  No one showed any interest in my own considerable grazes.  Nor the first class efforts I had made to staunch the boy's bleeding.  Dear me!  You can read the entire column and find out about other features at the Alpine Slide at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

QR Codes

Like me, you've probably been noticing a few of these strange little boxes on things recently.

No doubt unlike me, you know what they are, but for those of you also uninitiated, they are QR Codes.

It seems they were developed by Toyota to ensure quick response to ordering spare parts - that's what it stands for Quick Response.

Well, the other day I was on an assignment and my guide pointed this little square out to me.  He said they were installing QR's alongside all their exhibits so that people could get more information on each piece they had on show.

When I got home I check on the applications available for my iPhone and sure enough one was there for these codes.  It was free so I downloaded it.  Now all I need it to try it out.

My friend Paul, who normally is in England but now is in Florida for three months, sent me this video which is rather interesting.  I suspect that we'll all be very familiar with QR codes soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Music Track - Mehta

This was sent to me by my friend John in England.  If you sometimes get confused by the styles of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and the rest, this will help to clear it up.  This is a concert for the Queen of Spain given by Zubin Mehta.  It's quite clever.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I have to say that I have a small weakness - I like bags.  Particularly briefcases.  I don't really need them today although I have a few tucked away.  When I go out on assignment, a bag just gets in the way and therefore I only carry a small notebook and a camera.
Finally the right bag for all the electronic stuff - at the right price too!
When I was at school, I had an old briefcase of my father's to lug stuff around in, and I well remember it's leather sides, and flap with brass lock on it.  The key had long since been lost.

When I went into sales, a briefcase was de riguer and I had a number of them over the years.  I owned one of the first aluminum ones with a black mock leather covering on it.  Later on I managed to acquire a very smart brown leather case with a split handle and a sort of bellows arrangement to keep all one's papers in order - I was very fond of that one.  I wonder what happened to it.

The other day I was in an office supply store and bought a new computer bag to lug all my gear around in when we travel.  I have to store away the iPhone; iPod: laptop; touch pad; Kindle; battery charger, and of course the mouse as well as all the power chords - it's quite a business.  When I got the bag home I found it wasn't quite what I wanted as it didn't have the number of compartments I required, so back it went and eventually after a few more stores I found the absolute ideal.  Perhaps I should look for a proper job now to go along with it.  Nah! That would be crazy.  We haven't even covered suitcases!  That's a different story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Movie Number 7

Movie number seven has to be The Godfather, with Marlon Brando.
I saw it when it came out on the big screen, and although I normally find very long movies tedious, this one had me hooked all the way through.
I've watched it many times since and it never disappoints.

I also like the other two Godfather movies although I often get them confused.  I like the one where Al Pacino kills the boss and the police chief in the restaurant by bringing in a planted gun from the toilet.
Or was that another actor?  Too many things in my head - I need to delete a few of them!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thank You Notes

I sometimes get thank you's from people who read the column - often complaints too from those who find some of my information incorrect.  I received a whine from a fellow the other day about the weight of a musket carried by the Mormon Battalion.  I had stated that they weighed 60 pounds each and he remonstrated with me that this was not the case.  I had received the information from the guide who took us on the guided tour and wrote back to tell him. 

But he replied that I should forward his email on to them so they don't make the same mistake in the future.  Silly fool!  I imagine him sitting there waiting for a chance to pounce on minutiae.
I did receive an actual thank you letter from a lady the other day, who had asked me to cover an event.  It appeared to be hand written and included her card for future use - I shall add her to the list of blog receivers on Saturday mornings - that should teach her!  It says something of the age we live in, as I said "appeared" as the writing was so good I suspected that it might have been computer generated.  I even put the magnifying glass on it, but I think the lady just has very good handwriting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday's Column - Japan II

Sunday's column was the final in a two-part piece on Japan.  It featured places to go other than the big megatropolises of Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka.  Above is the giant Bhudda of Kamakura who stands 35 feet high and was built in 1252, which is rather a long time ago. Kamakura is a couple of hours out of Tokyo and is a seaside resort; it's always crowded, but a fun place to visit.  You can read the entire column, which is a little longer than normal at

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Music Track - Copland

I saw Aaron Copland conduct a program of his music at the Festival Hall in London sometime in the sixties.  Of course, his Rodeo was cheerfully received and for an encore he had to play this one last time.  It's the Hoedown, and typical of America.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Rock

It’s been 25 years since I first visited The Rock – Alcatraz.  It hasn’t changed a lot, and there are still a huge number of tourists spending their leisure time going round this former Federal Penitentiary in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  The prison was opened in 1934 and closed in 1963. In its time, It housed approximately 1500 prisoners, including Al Capone and Robert Stroud (the Birdman.)  In 1962 three prisoners escaped, led by Frank Morris and they have never been found.  The episode was made into a movie with Clint Eastwood.  He dug his way out of his cell using a spoon.  The cement under the sink was a little soft, but the digging took a solid year to get through to the inner cavity where all the pipes led up and down.
Lots of people believe the men got away, but the general consensus is that they drowned in the cold waters.  Eventually the prison was closed down because it was too expensive to maintain.  It’s still a chilling place to imagine being locked up every day in a 5’ x 7’ x 9’ cell, and if you misbehaved yourself one that had no light at all – the hole!

Thursday, October 6, 2011


About 20 years ago Carlo Maria Guilini left his post as the principal conductor of the LA Philharmonic.  He was interviewed before he went back to his native Italy and the interviewer said that many people thought him a genius.  Guilini said that he did not consider himself one as he believed that a genius was someone whose impact on society was so great than when it ended the world had lost something irreplaceable.
          Genius is a term often thrown around, but ever since that interview, I’ve always thought the definition correct.
          Yesterday we lost a true genius with the sad death of Steve Jobs.  Applying the same template to his life, it is easy to see that now he has gone, all of us will be adversely affected.  His vision reached into nearly everyone’s lives and now that he has gone he cannot be replaced.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie # 8

Movie Number 8 is LA Confidential.  It stars Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and James Cornwell. Made in 1997, I often confuse it with Mulholland Falls as the eras are the same and the clothes too.  It reminds me of the type of movie we used to watch in the 50's, and America was so far away with access only for the truly wealthy.  A real step back in time and I always enjoy watching this one.  Kim Bassenger as a latter day Veronica Lake is a treat on the screen, and in color too.

Formal Night

Formal night seems to make everyone happy - including S.W.M.B.O.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cruise - Day at Sea and San Francisco

This is the Shapphire Princess, all 116,000 tons of her.  One of our stops was Santa Barbara and we had to take tenders ashore.  This was taken from one of them.
Our trip into the city was wonderful and I have lots of photos.  Unfortunately, the Internet on board is so slow in downloading photos, that I'll have to wat until we get back to the office.

Cruise - Day Two

Unfortunately there were some serious problems with the Internet link on Monday, therefore our day at sea was fraught with 1901 crinklies wandering around unable to hook up with their email. One is forced to ask if the same system is being used for the Sat Nav and therefore if we truly are in San Francisco.  But outside the window I can see the Coit tower so we must have made it.
The personal result of all this is that I have pictures but due to a planned visit to Alcatraz, everyone will have to wait until later in the day. Then I will post some pretty pictures and less verbiage,  Oh, how we become reliant on technology.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cruise Day One

It's wonderful to be back on the Sapphire Princess.  We were here earlier in the year, but it didn't stop us getting confused as to which was the sharp and which was the blunt end for an hour or two.  The berth at San Pedro is not the most interesting place to depart from, but it did overlook the Lane Victory where I had done an assignment about a year or two ago.  It's a cargo ship that saw service in WWII, Korea and also Vietnam.  It didn't look as if it was still open as a museum

Once out at sea we got into our normal routine of a few drinks before dinner and then met up with our six other dinner companions.  Charlie and Evelyn of course are with us so it was just the other four - two Brazilians who don't speak much English, and two very old Mexicans who do.  Excellent dinner and then as we were too late for the show we repaired to the Wheelhouse bar and a not too late night.  Santa Barbara is the next stop.

Sunday's Column - Japan part I

When I came  back from Japan in May earlier this year, I worte an extensive article about the place.  My editor, John Weeks, sportingly allowed me to cut the piece in two and publish it on successive Sundays.

Typical Japanese Temple in the small city of Nio

I wrote about my sailing trip on this blog but I hope the column will contain some different aspects of this fascinating country.  You can read the first piece at

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Off

In a couple of hours our friends, Charlie and Evelyn will be picking us up to drive to San Pedro for our week's cruise up the coast of California on the Sapphire Princess.  I have to say I'm looking forward to it as it's always a great experience.
People have often asked me why I like cruising.  Well, I think there's a little of the sailor in me like my father and grandfather before me, so being on a big ship gliding through the water is a very nice feeling.
Also all the big ships, and this one is 116,000 tons, are massive hotels with everything laid on.  Our itinerary is firstly to stop in Santa Barbara, then up to San Francisco, back down to San Diego, then Ensenada in Mexico, before returning to Los Angeles.  There will be two days at sea, and two formal nights for dinner.  Otherwise we'll just "chill out."  I'll report as we progress.  The picture is not actually all our luggage, just in case you wondered!