About Me

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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pic of the Day: The VIP Seats?



I caught sight of this jaunty yellow umbrella as it made its way through the interior ruins of the iconic Roman Colosseum. There was another, bright blue, which eventually met up with the yellow. At last sight they were leaving together, perhaps planning a little green umbrella of their own.












Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pic of the Day: Look, Ma, No Tanlines!



There are roads that seem to take you to the ends of the Earth. Others will take you to Paradise.

Every once in a while, you follow one which takes you to both. Away from the World and away from the madding crowd.

And if you're like this guy, you enjoy every minute of it.

The beauty of it is that nobody else on the beach cared or batted an eye. Well. Until a woman in a tiny bikini followed suit (pun intended).

The Road to Hana, on Maui, is perhaps one of the prettiest drives in the world -- and truly does end in a little slice of Paradise on Earth.



Friday, May 29, 2015

Pic of the Day: Through a Glass Darkly



The jaunty clouds and bright blue sky belie the fact this was New Orleans six months after Katrina devastated the city. This was the view from our window overlooking the corner of Toulouse and Burgundy, facing downtown.






Thursday, May 28, 2015

AN UNFORTUNATE CHOICE OF WORDS

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."          

                                   - Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride


Let me say, first off, that I like Hawaiian Airlines, so no disrespect to the brand or employees. But every once in a while I get a promotional item which requires comment.

In this case, it's simply someone who didn't think about what words they were using, and in the context of an airline these were particularly poor choices.

This morning, in my email inbox, I ran across the below Hawaiian Airlines promotional email. I get dozens of these sorts of things daily, but this one caught my eye due to the wording of the subject line: "Dive into the Pacific".

Obviously an image they didn't really want to convey.

Secondly, in the body of the email: "Ditch the Sweater".

Um. Okay, really not a huge offense, but taken as a follow up to "Dive into the Pacific" it's just not the right way to phrase the message they're trying to convey.

I'm putting this here not to shame Hawaiian -- again,. I like them -- but to point out that words matter and context matters. All too often I read comments on the internet which don't convey the intended message. (I'm reminded of the post a day ago which shows a hand drawn sign reading "English Tooter" -- not the image you want to put out there).

Certainly Hawaiian has no intention of diving into the Pacific or ditching any of your personal belongings. And yes, I know what they were trying to say, but that's beside the point.

There's an old carpenter's saying. "Measure twice, cut once", which is another way of saying "look before you leap".

Or, in plan English: "Think ahead."


Pic of the Day: LA City Hall



It's an iconic building you've seen many times over the years. Dragnet, Adam-12, CHiPs. Anything LA with a police badge or setting you'll see this building. 


In George Pal's 1953 version of WAR OF THE WORLDS, it even merits its own destruction at the hands of the invading Martians.




Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pic of the Day: Volleyball in Laguna




Laguna Beach is a well-known artsy coastal town at the confluence of Laguna Canyon, The Pacific Coast Highway and the ocean.

It's a spectacular setting. Very Mediterranean in both look and feel.

Except here, Volleyball isn't a pastime, it's a vocation.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

BIG DREAMS: A LETTER TO MY COUNTRYMEN

"Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition." - Isaac Asmiov




(Forgive me for veering slightly off topic, but my house, my rules...)




I wrote the below essay nearly two years ago.
I have just returned home from seeing Disney's wonderful new film TOMORROWLAND, which dares us to think optimistically and enthusiastically about the future. Go see it. Tremendous kudos to The Walt Disney Company for making and releasing this film.
It is a positive and invigorating way to view the world. It reminded me what we, as a species can achieve if only we dare to dream big. Really big.

There are those who claim America can no longer dream big. That we cannot afford it. This is not true. These people value their tax breaks and personal wealth above what we as a community can achieve. A few still dream. We're not done, but now other nations are dreaming very large dreams in our stead.
Again, so that some may save a little tax money here and there.
It's time to once again have bigger dreams than the rest of the world. We don't at the moment. We're dreaming of very small things and making ourselves small in the process. Disney, dismissed by many, put money where there mouth is and dares us to look past the cynicism of the moment, look past the ugliness and the anger and the small-mindedness, and raise ourselves up. 
To dream again.
I dare you.



Dear Fellow Americans,

I do not deny that our ancestors were exceptional. We, as a nation, can be proud of their achievements and nod towards those truly exceptional Americans and say "I want to be like them".

But we, you and I, are not them. We have yet to prove our exceptionalism to ourselves and to our planet. You cannot be exceptional simply by claiming to be so. In fact, the more you insist you ARE something, the more you should be asking yourself why you need to keep pointing it out.

(I am reminded of the television character Sheldon Cooper, a brilliant physicist on the program The Big Bang Theory. Cooper -- he would insist I refer to him as "Doctor Cooper" -- does indeed have potential as an exceptional American. Born in Texas, trained at CalTech, and (reportedly) a Hawking-esque intellect. 

(His downfall is that he is also an arrogant, self-interested jackass a good deal of the time.) 

In many ways, America is the Sheldon Cooper of the world. We, the current generations of Americans, have the potential to be exceptional. We could be, as a society, as exceptional as our ancestors, as the country that drew together in World War II, picked up the national economy and did a great thing.

Or our ancestors who followed John F. Kennedy to the Moon.

Or build the Empire State Building in the midst of the Great Depression.

We could do great things. That is the mark of American Exceptionalism. 

It is not lowering taxes. It is not squabbling amongst ourselves and calling each other names. It is not holding the nation and the economy hostage to one particular ideology or another. It is getting together, seeing a common goal -- one that is beyond the reach of anyone else -- and grasping at it. To better ourselves and our world. Feathering our own individual pockets at the expense of others is not exceptionalism. The opposite, in fact.

Americans are no longer exceptional, as a people. There, I've said it. We are capable of being exceptional, we are simply, you and I, choosing not to be. President Bush announced plans to go to Mars, a truly exceptional goal. 

America yawned. Or instead we could not afford it. Tax cuts were more important. Wars were more important.

President Obama embraced Republican concepts of medical insurance and practices. Republicans balked at their own plans, and when it became the law of the land, now threaten to destroy the economy unless it is torn down. Scorched Earth to destroy what they, themselves, proposed only a handful of years ago. That is not exceptional.

We, are not exceptional. We do not deserve the label. Our ancestors did. Many times throughout our proud history Americans have proven ourselves to be exceptional.

But now we vilify "intellectuals" and deny science. That is not exceptional. It is self-defeating.

There are Americans who are Exceptional Americans. Right now. People who, whether you agree with them politically or socially, are revolutionizing something. Exceptionalism is not political, it is action-based. Exceptionalism is not about decrying others, vilifying them or demonizing them, it is about lifting us all up, every one of us across the planet. Making us better. Dreaming big dreams.

We are not doing that, you and I.

Americans no longer look to the skies. We look to our wallets, That is not exceptionalism. Exceptional is not giving tax breaks to the wealthy by cutting back on services to the poor.

Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a man for whom I have zero respect -- was right when he said we're not exceptional in a speech some years ago. You are not exceptional until you behave in an exceptional manner. 


Self-interest is not exceptionalism. Greed is not exceptionalism. Arrogance is not exceptionalism.

Exceptionalism is about changing society. Exceptionalism is elevating the Human Race. Making us better, as people and as a society. Exceptionalism is about being a role model for the rest of the world. It is about building bigger, soaring higher and reaching out our hands to pull the rest along with us.

It is about being exceptional, ourselves. Individually. And until we do something exceptional we cannot claim Americans are a privileged Exceptional lot. Our ancestors were. They looked to the sky and built the tallest buildings, launched rockets to explore the deepest space, traveled to the bottom of the ocean, and volunteered to free the world of territory-hungry tyrants. Our ancestors created things. They took care of each other. They reached out to others and opened our wallets. We asked the wealthy to pay back -- and the wealthy did their part.

(Yes, there are horrific parts of our history we all lament, but as I am apt to say: "That was not me. I did not do that and we as Americans are working to change that. Change ourselves" THAT is exceptionalism.)


I desperately want us to be exceptional. I want America to be as great as we are capable of being. But we as Americans must be exceptional ourselves to merit the label "American Exceptionalism". That means that we must rise above our differences, rise above our own self-interest and seek to help others…seek to rise to new heights and not be afraid to dream big. Bigger than anyone else on the planet. Dream of a world in which poverty is gone, war is gone. Where voters vote, and the government respects the message that vote sends. Where government works to better us all, not just a small constituency. 

We must rise above our own petty self-interest and do what is right for the country regardless of what it might do to your own wallet. Exceptional is what you accomplish when you DON'T have the resources and yet rise to accomplish great things. THAT is exceptional. 

Ask ourselves, individually and in the mirror, John F Kennedy's question: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

And then do it.

We are not exceptional, this current generation of Americans. Our sights are not on the sky. Our dreams are small, like our buildings and our accomplishments. Our hands are not outstretched, reaching for the stars. Our hands are thrust into our pockets, checking to make sure our wallet is still in there.

We did many, many great things that I am proud of, as an American.

We're just not doing them now.






Pic of the Day: Catch the Wave




You and I see an impending storm. These guys see the perfect wave. 

Cowabunga, North Carolina's Emerald Isle






Friday, May 22, 2015

Pic of the Day: Elvis' Blue Hawaii


If you're a fan of Elvis Presley you've probably already recognized the Coco Palms Resort in the town of Wailua, Kauai. The canoe at the bottom is a reconstruction of the one which ferried Elvis and his bride Joan Blackman on a music-filled journey through the lagoon.

The hotel was badly damaged by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. A subsequent fire and years of neglect threatened the property with being torn down, but rumor is it is going to be refurbished and reopened as a Hyatt sometime in 2018.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pic of the Day: Would You Like Your Picture Taken?




We all know that feeling of dread as someone approaches us to ask if we would like to have our picture taken....

(And yes, you may appreciate the irony all you like.)


Carsland, Disney California Adventure



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pic of the Day: Alone at the Counter



Eating at many airports is a lonely affair for the solitary traveler.


Lone Diner, Hungry Jack's, Melbourne International Airport.




Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pic of the Day: Fair Warning




You can't say you weren't warned....


Waiheke Island costume jewelry shop, New Zealand.









Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pic of the Day: Nosebleed Hockey


I like hockey. It's one of the few sports besides auto racing I actively seek out to attend (watching on tv is never quite the same, regardless of the sport).

But for some reason I always end up in the nosebleed section. 

LA Kings in action.






Friday, May 15, 2015

Pic of the Day: One Month From Today




One month from today my blushing bride and I will be in London celebrating our 30th anniversary. We have a planned "Party at the Pub" and an earlier in the day recommitment ceremony in the park near Big Ben. Our friend Lindsay -- a priest at St. James Piccadilly -- will be performing the ceremony.

I will be posting photos of our entire journey, which will commence in New York City, cross the pond to London, and join my parents for Fathers' Day in Annapolis.

And yes, there will be martinis.


God we were young...

(No, I did not take this picture. Obviously. It's from our official photographer's work. I suppose he thought he was being funny when he included the Stop sign in the background, or he simply didn't see it -- any decent photographer would have caught that and moved to his left to obscure the sign behind the limo driver. I catch those things now, many years later.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pic of the Day: An Evening at the Venetian



Yesterday a cheese plate from Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Today let's have a little wine and olive oil at Mario Battali's Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas. Situated in the Venetian's massive "St Mark's Square", it evokes a bit of the flair of Venice.

Cheers, and I'll have the Funghi Misti pizza with taleggio...




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pic of the Day: Pacific Coast Highway




The legendary Pacific Coast Highway as it hugs the coastal mountains between San Simeon and Monterey.

One of the greatest drives on Earth.