Monday, October 31

Fright Night

Madeleine, pictured, in costume #1. Underneath the mask, her "Chinaman Tache" for round #2 , when she hits the unsuspecting neighborhood for a second time.

Sonnet hosts Eitan and Madeleine's friends, who join us for dinner and to change into their costumes (I stay home for the 'trick or treat).

Eitan: "Somebody knocked over all our Candy Corns!" (bowl set out front so Dad does not have to answer doorbell)
Madeleine, matter-of-factly: "Teenagers."

Eitan sits next to me at the kitchen table counting up his loot as I blog: "Look, Dad, I got 12 chocolate bars, the big ones, too. Four Haribo's, one Dairy Milk Buttons packet. One packet of Skips crisps. Um, I'm counting my lolly pops .. I got eight lollies. One drum stick. Ten sucking Fizzer tablets. Actually make that 21. I got loads of these (Fizzer tablets). I hate these, I should have given them to Luke.  ..  Um, 11 Bon Bons Pinballs (small round candies that look like pinballs). Two Mayoan Fruit Strips. 11 chocolate Mini Celebrations. .. .
Madeleine: "Eitan! Do you want to do trades?"
Eitan: "Two Chewy Fruit Refreshers. . .. "
Madeleine: "I got a packet of raisins. Like, right."
Eitan: "Can you add another Fruit Strip?"
Me: "Sure."
Madeleine: "Can I have a packet of Skips?"
Eitan: "Add another three Fizzy Sherbets."
(Madeleine munches on her Skips, watches Eitan count his candy)
Eitan: "Two more Chocolate Mini Celebrations."
Madeleine: "They're horrible."
Eitan: "Three Chocolate Eyeballs. One pack of mint gum. One Zombie sucker. .. ."
Me: "We're on the drags now, huh?"
Eitan: "A wine gum. A piece of chocolate- I don't know what it is. And some Grape Nerds."
Me: "How about you Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "What?"
Me: "What did you get."
Madeleine: "Stuff. A lot of it."
Me: "So it was a good night?"
Madeleine: "Yes. The best Hallowe'en ever."

The Great Trade now in progress.. . .

Sunday, October 30

Cafe Flesh

Madeleine gets busy with her pumpkin.

Both kids, and therefore all of us, have a sporty weekend starting Saturday in Epsom, Surrey, for the Wandsworth Swimming Club gala used to qualify for the Surrey Regional swimming championships.  Madeleine swims 200 meter breaststroke while Eitan competes the 400 and 200 freestyles, 200 individual medley and 200 backstroke, where he is disqualified for an illegal turn.  Otherwise the boy qualifies in everything while Madeleine inside five seconds on her race - she will get hers next year.

Elm Grove play Kingstonian Youth and the floodgates open for us: 7-nil, which is cathartic after the last three weeks of disappointment.  Eitan, playing a new position, defensive back, gets a header on a corner-kick which has everybody whooping since the team practiced this move yesterday. His first goal for the All Stars.  ManU chips in, defeating Everton 1-0.

Madeleine: "Look at all the flesh."
Me: "Gross."
Madeleine: "For a pumpkin."

Me, listening to Every Little Thing She does Is Magic : "You've heard of The Police, right?"
Kamila, our au pair, born in 1991. "No?"
Me: "You've never heard of The Police?"
Kamila: "No, who are they?"
Me: "Now I'm really feeling old."
Kamila: "They are good. I like."

Naked Yuf

I am as shocked , and titillated , as Bill Murray to meet Alexis Dziena, pictured, in the movie "Broken Flowers" - Dziena plays "Lolita", the daughter of an ex-lover with whom Murray re-connects (Murray BTW, upon seeing Dziena, freaks, leaves house). This has particular relevance as I research content-filtering programs (according to Family Safe Media, the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11).

So how are things different from the '80s , or when I was about Dziena's age ? For one , young people know each other online , which takes care of the first number of dates. The web offers an enormous local sample size which is quickly screened and leads to an active portfolio of ten to 20 active , possibly sexual, "leads" . I know this from the Associate pool at one of my venture funds. Privacy, or its perception, stems from the anonymity and scale of the web+every young persons' bubble. Definitions have changed, too, thanks to Clinton : my idea of 2nd or 3rd base will be different from my kids. And how to react when "a significant minority of 13-14 year old boys schedule their social time around viewing porn with male friends" ? (Univ. of Alberta study, Online Pornography, 2007)

As with every generation, mine will be caught out when it comes to our kids. Our only defensive : open communication. While awkward for the Shakespeares , I pay it no mind.

Saturday, October 29

Cardinals Win The World Series

The Cardinals win the 2011 World Series, defeating Texas in seven, which makes my Dad happy as he is A) from St Louis and B) A Cardinals fan, along with everybody else from there.  I have been to a Cardinals game , too, when they played at the old Busch Memorial Stadium (replaced, in 2006, by the New Busch Stadium) itself replacing Sportsman Park and where Moe would have seen games , if he could sneak in , on a week day afternoon.  It is an experience - baseball as it should be played , where it should be played : in the Midwest , without the glitz and glam of the East or West Coast clubs and their $8 hot-dogs and Jumbotron replays. Guys like Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Jackie Robinson and Ozzie Smith played for the Cardinals. Their rivalry with the Chicago Cubs goes back over 100 years.

The Cardinals joined the National League in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings, taking the name from an earlier National League Team, and known as the Cardinals since 1900. This city loves the team, oh boy, no matter what it's ups and downs. In recent years, it has been mostly downs so last night's World Series victory a nice thing to happen.

"Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it's because you've started to think of failure."
--Tommy Lasorda, Manager of the St Louis Cardinals

"My theory of hitting was just to watch the ball as it came in and hit it."
--Tommy Lasorda

Photo from the Associated Press, 2006.

Friday, October 28

Madeleine's Pumpkin

Madeleine and I sneak out to get a few pumpkins, pictured. "Sneak" , I say, as Eitan does a practice exam. The half-term week comes to a close.  These little people are a joy to be around.


Last night we watch my all-time favorite film "Rocky" which I have been waiting for with Eitan and Madeleine. This the movie that inspired my entire third-grade to, well, be Rocky for Hallowe'en in '76.  Yet my hopes dashed as Eitan non-plused and Madeleine gives it a "Thumbs-up but sort of near the middle". 

How can it be?  Perhaps boxing not the central entertainment it once was : Mohamed Ali in the ring with anyone was a Big Deal and I remember the Leon Spinks fights, Ken Norton and Joe Frazier. Or perhaps the "underdog story" does not sell in Britain. In the US, any bum like Rocky thinks he can strike it rich, succeed, given his chance and hard work. In the UK, people accept what they got and get on with it.  Or maybe the kids have yet to face adversity, which they will, and cannot relate to the protagonists' struggles.  Who knows?

On another note, judging Stallone on his endless, horrible , sequels missing the point : he created two of America's most indelible characters with Rocky and Rambo.

Me, running, with Eitan: "Do you know what 'redemption' means?"
Eitan: "It's when somebody makes himself better."
Me: "Bingo. Do you think Rocky was redeemed in the end?"
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess so."
Me: "Was he the only one to be redeemed in the movie?"
Eitan: "We're not going in this direction again, are we Dad?"
Me: "Just tell me what you think."
Eitan: "I think only Rocky was redeemed."
Me: "What about his manager? What about him? Waiting 50 years for his chance?"
Eitan: "But he was only in the movie for like 1/100th of it."
Me: "It's not about the time. How about Paulie? The mean drunk, Adrian's brother?"
Eitan: "Definitatelyi not him."
Me: "But he let Adrian into the ring. At the end of Rocky's fight."
Eitan: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "So even people with bad knocks have redeeming qualities. They can be redeemed."

"It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed. And if I can go that distance, ya see, and that bell rings, ya know, and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, ya see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."
--Rocky, 1976


Hidy ho since we live in London here is a tourist shot on Parliament Sq near Big Ben,  Westminster and Abby Cathedrals , St James's Park, Downing St and the Churchill War Bunkers, where we visit the other day. The kids enraptured. Please print for your refrigerator.

Me: "So I understand you're going to a disco party?"
Eitan: "Huh?"
Me: "Imogen and Harriet's birthday. And there will be girls."
Eitan: "Yeah, so? They invited the whole class."
Me: "Well, are you going to dance?"
Eian: "No. I told mom, me, Cyrus and Joe are going to be standing in the corner."
Me: "Twiddling your thumbs no doubt."
Eitan: "What's that mean?"
Me: "Don't worry. You will figure it out one day."

Woman In White , Thameside

Thursday, October 27


Me and Sonnet and that is all she wrote.

I take Madeleine to Covent Garden to buy some beads since I want to make a strap for my new camera.  She pulls over her hoody and follows me dutifully. My idea something 'native American' so I bring patterns for The Sun, Rain Man and the Dragon Fly.  Michael, the friendly gay dude with tattoo's , helps me out: "This ("thith) will take you ages." Since neither of us knows how many beads I need , Michael sends me to storage where I choose bags of black, red, yellow and turquoise .. beads.  I also buy a loom and Madeleine perks up: "We can weave together!" which I am all for assuming, of course, I can weave at all. My project becomes an expensive project but, hey, in for a bead , in for a . ..

Me: "What do you think is the most important decision you have ever made?"
Madeleine: "Me?"
Me: "Yeah."
Madeleine:  "I don't know."
Me: "You gotta have one. How about the dog??"
Madeleine: "I was thinking about that but it wasn't, like, life changing."
Madeleine: "I guess I had to tell everybody so it was an important decision."
Me: "Anything else?"
Madeleine: "Choosing Tommy."

"When I'm sampling from your bosom
Sometimes I suffer from distractions like
Why does God cause things like tornadoes and train wrecks?"
--"Swimming In Your Ocean", Crash Test Dummies, 1993

Wednesday, October 26

A T & T

I visit the V & A's exhibition "Postmodernism," a movement from 1970-1990 covering style, design, architecture, music and fashion from Italy to Las Vegas (meanwhile Sonnet takes Madeleine thru "The Power of Making" which Madeleine loves). This period, which covers a good part of my conscious yuf, includes David Byrne's over-sized suit in "Stop Making Sense"; Grace Jone's angular features and Annie Lennox's androgyny.  The ultimate expression of postmodernism : Ridley Scott's dark film "Blade Runner."  Manhattan's AT&T tower, pictured, gets a nod and, since I walked by it almost every day for four years, merits a missive.  The tower part of the new "Midtown" which, by the early 1980s, offered a sexy alternative to Wall Street's gloom and doom and ancient infrastructure.  AT&T, along with PAZ , the Rockefeller Center, Carnegie Tower, the Chrysler Building and the MetLife Building defined the money movement - financiers wanted to be closer to their lifestyle : shopping, theatre, museums, discos.  Usual stuff.  So here is the building :

The AT&T Building (now Sony), is a 647 feet tall, 37-story, highrise skyscraper by Philip Johnson , and completed in 1984. It became immediately controversial for its ornamental top (sometimes mocked as "Chippendale" after the open pediments characteristic of the famous English designer's bookcases and other cabinetry), but enjoyed for its spectacular arched entrance way, measuring about seven stories in height. With these ornamental additions, the building challenged architectural modernism's demand for stark functionalism and purely efficient design. The effect the building had on the public at large has been described as legitimizing the postmodern architecture movement on the world stage. Sourced: Wiki (edited)

Post card image by Judith Grinberg for Johns Burgee Associates, USA, 1978


Madeleine and I do"Party Palace" for Hallowe'en : She has been begging me the last couple of weeks. Madeleine will be a 'murderer' so we buy fake blood, a white mask, a plastic knife and "a scary mustache", pictured, or, at least, scary to a 'Chinaman' (I love the white dude who models the "tash" - I can hear him going "Ah - so").   Madeleine's goal to fill a pillowcase with candy and she has a plan: Two costumes, allowing her to hit the same block twice. Smart kid.

"If you bow at all, bow low."
--Chinese Proverb

Smiffy's "Chinaman Mandarin Tash" scanned from packaging

Monday, October 24

Katie Chillaxing In The Bahamas

Police Academy

An old stadium at Imber Court, pictured, on the training grounds of the Surrey Police Academy, where Eitan in action yesterday against the Esher Wizards.  The academy has pitches for rugby, cricket and football - all well maintained and ready for sport. The boy has played a couple tournaments here, before, and I am always struck by this particular stand, slowly rusting, on an unloved, outer , pitch, with hand-painted plates providing long-ago scores, posted on a lopsided shed.  Once, this was a modern structure, the pride of the compound I imagine.

Madeleine and I walk Sonnet to the bus station, 7AM.
Me: "Rusty cannot control himself. Everything is a new smell."
Madeleine: "What do you think he smells?"
Me: "Imagine if your smell was 2,000 times stronger, which is Rusty. He's probably checking out other dog's, you know, pee and stuff : 'woof woof woof : Fred was here last week...."
Madeleine: "Do you know who has a good sense of smell?"
Me: "Who?"
Madeleine: "A mole."
Me: "Yep."
Madeleine: "They can't see and so they use their smell to avoid predators. And a tree. Or a pole."
Me: "Good thing about that, huh?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. And pigs are really smart. Once, they put pigs in paint and they walked all over a piece of paper and made a painting."
Me: "Did anybody buy it?"
Madeleine: "Uh, no. But they really liked it. They only made one 'cuz it was an experiment."
Me: "What happened to it in the end?"
Madeleine: "It went on display at the Barnes Wetland Center."
Me: "Cool. Nice one, kiddo."

Sunday, October 23

That's Rusty

Paolo Veronese depicts "Four Allegories of Love" which are on permanent display inside the National Gallery : here is 'Happy Union' that I happen to like because it looks a lot like Rusty in the lower right corner of the portrait. The other three (and far more interesting , really) are 'Unfaithfulness', 'Scorn', and 'Respect'. Veronese painted the set in 1575 for a private patron's interior walls (NB I got a dressing down for my photo since No Photos Allowed at the museum.  I chat with a friendly guardsman about this as I do not use a flash nor harm the painting.  He notes the rule for "security purposes" but agrees there may be a "commercial reason" as well so I buy a few post cards).

Jack And Eitan

Jack and Eitan before football practice and after the SM game v. Collis School, which SM loses 4-nil.  We have two hours to kill and end up at at cafe on the Thames across from Hampton Court.  The boys are a pleasure , too, wrapped up in , well, football and about nothing else. They can discuss clubs and stats for hours. I try to introduce something, anything, new and am shut down instantly.  I pry about class room gossips , who is going through their growth spurts and what the girls are up to. Eitan gives me a blank stair. Jack shakes his head - girls, right. They crank up the volume with hot chocolate and chocolate croissants.  I watch gratified to be in their presence and, while not really on the inside, not on the outside, either.

Sonnet and Madeleine spend an extra night in Oxford while Eitan and I return early so he can play the Esher Wizards (Elm Grove lose 2-nil this morning - bummer ).  The boy and I watch Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' - he has been begging to see the film since Jaws, which left him non-plussed.  At the famous shower seen he covers his eyes : not from the blade nor fear, Dear Reader, but Janet Leigh naked. The end does get him, though, esp. Norman Bates : "I wouldn't hurt a fly." He asks me to join him upstairs, you know, not because he's scared or anything, then, later, I find him in bed, fast asleep. All the lights on.

"People always mean well. They cluck their thick tongues, and shake their heads and suggest, oh, so very delicately."
--Norman Bates

Rockets '78

A blast from the past. Me and Todd, pictured, my neighbor for eleven-years on San Ramon , and five-years older.  He was all that. Todd taught me how to to make a proper paper airplane. We spent hours watching Star Trek then drew posters of the Enterprise phasoring some Klingon or getting sucked into a worm hole. He built tree forts - serious ones, that covered two trees. Once he dug a deep hole, maybe six feet, in the backyard. Why not? We found large pupae with jaw-claws that we paired off against each other. We patrolled neighborhood backyard passageways unknown to adults and explored an off-limits canyon at the bottom of the road. We collected bugs (killing them in a jar with kleenex soaked w/ ethenal).

And, then, there were the model rockets.  Two hobby shops, one on Telegraph Ave at 45th in Oakland and the other on Salano Avenue in Berkeley (both long gone), provided the kit:  walking in was like the smell of napalm in the morning. I saved my allowance for months to buy the Big Bertha or Mercury V (which , the first time, ended in tears) , engines , igniters , wadding etc &c.  Todd and I built the launch platforms ourselves, which you can see , Dear Reader, painted black, in the prior blog.  Our launch zone Golden Gate Fields, a Berkeley horse track between the Bay and the 580 highway. The parking lot gave us plenty of room but on a windy day the lance might carry over the Bay's marshy bog which would require a search party (car parked precariously by the freeway).

Today Todd lives in Chico, California, where he is a fireman and father of two boys.

Saturday, October 22

Pre Launch

We are at the local common to blast off Mercury,  Excalibur, and Tomahawk and I am 11 years old all over again.  The thrill of seeing these babies accelerate to 1000 ft/ sec. is , well, magic.  The Mercury by far the best launch : we put her up seven times and she falls to bits: first , the antennae needle gone, then the red tower, followed by a fin and finally, on the last launch, she goes up 250 feet then does a slow U turn for the ground , parachute ejecting on impact , tube snapped in two. I will fix her up new. The Tomahawk, meanwhile, my lightest , goes highest: : a C8 engine jammed in the rear takes her 2,000 feet : the parashoot fails to employ so that is that.  The Excalibur loses a couple fins and she, too, back to the shop. A top-ten day.

From some math book : A model rocket is fired vertically upward from rest. Its acceleration for the first three seconds is a(t)=60t, at which time the fuel is exhausted and it becomes a freely “falling” body. Fourteen seconds after the fuel is exhausted, the rocket’s parachute opens, and the (downward) velocity slows linearly to -18 ft/sec in 5 seconds. The rocket then “floats” to the ground at that rate. Find the position function s and the velocity function v for any time t, then sketch the graphs of s and v.

Jungle Gym

We are to Oxford to see Nita and Alain and the three Zs , pictured, in front of their new house which they are making over. I catch up with Zebulan , who "in to " maths which  is not surprising since Nita a math PhD and professor while Alain is a Professor of Mathematical Modelling and Director of the Oxford Centre for Collaborative Applied Mathematics.  Zeb is crunching calculus in the 8th grade.  I wish he was my Analyst when I was an Analyst. He would have been better at it. We talk about unusual planetary shapes since he reads Sci Fi:  if earth were a giant donut, he contemplates aloud, we could see China. Unusual thought and I go with it : could life exist on in our galaxy? Maybe. Universe? Most definitely. Zeb adds helpfully that life might be in our solar system now but we do not, you know, have the sensors to detect it.

Friday, October 21


Gaddafi meets his end.

"Badly injured but conscious, the former dictator, 69, was bundled on to the bonnet of a pick-up truck, his shirt stripped from his torso and his body dragged along the ground."
--The Times

Thursday, October 20

New Friends!

Here is my new friend on Facebook, pictured. Who says technology cannot expand one's horizons, even @ my age ?

Eitan invited to join (yet another ) sports training thingy , this time requiring Tuesday afternoons for five weeks. He is adamant about joining, too, which Sonnet and I against given his many various after-school commitments.  Rather then argue , I shift tactics and pass the buck : Eitan's swimming / football coach can make the decision re Tuesdays. This raises the boy's anxiety , oh boy .  So, after some bedtime rumination, I relent : this is Eitan's year to do everything while next year's Hampton School will apply its own discipline .  The only condition : Eitan's exam preparations and sleep do not suffer. He agrees and I get it done.

Tuesday, October 18

Edwin Sprog Battersea

Rusty and I join Edwin who walks the sprog, also known as "Alexander" or  sometimes "spot", in Battersea Park on a glorious autumnal morning.

Madeleine Mac

We have a 'no media' rule , accepting homework. This includes facebook, online games, movies (excluding "movie night"), football (unless England or Sunday afternoon including game-recordings), wii's, xboxes, nintendos, nachos, fritos, and etc &c. Computers must be used  in a public place, usually the kitchen, with an adult present : screens facing inward, please (Madeleine breaking about three rules here). Eitan's mobile allows txts to family and (at most, so far) three friends+the emergency call, as needed and hopefully never. Madeleine promised a Kindle for Christmas/ Chanukah which is the kinda gadget I go for.

UK annual inflation jumps from 4.5% to 5.2% thanks to energy and commodity increases. This the highest inflation has been in 20-years. Wages not nearly keeping up , nor are benefits for pensioners. Not good for savers nor standards of living.

Monday, October 17

That Dress

September 1969 : Katie and Grace on San Ramon Ave where I spent the first 10-years of my life. San Ramon had a good crew, too : about 15 kids bracketing my age on a reasonably quiet street perfect for prison ball, hide-and-seek or some other such thing (NB note Eric Hieda in the upper right of the photo- holy catfish, where is he now ?). This the block where I learned how to ride a bike yet , beforehand, I snuck my Dad's cherished Velo 10-speed bragging I could get it up on two wheels. I couldn't but did make several spectacular ditch efforts which, if Moe had known, would have put me in the dog house. My mom's outfit+glasses work . Katie a nice accoutrement.

Given Madeleine's concern about bird-strikes, Eric points out US Airways Flight 1549 which ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 : the pilot heroically avoided Manhattan and all 155 occupants safely evacuated ; the incident known as "The Miracle On The Hudson." The cause: flock of Canada Geese.

Of course Madeleine not particularly concerned about the passengers. A little investigation suggests that there is one bird-related accident per billion flying hours that results in a human death. Unfortunately it is usually fatal for the bird. (source: wiki)

NY Minute

Photo from '79 at the Natural History Museum in New York. I wear an OP terry-cloth shirt and matching yellow shorts (NB missing, my "California Swimming" cap). Groovy. Cousin Kelly and cousin Susan holding Katie's hands.  I remember our visit, my first to NY, for the graffiti which seemed to cover everything from the subway trains to the giant rocks in Central Park. I also recall a trip to the top of the World Trade Center knowing, one day, I would come back to this awe-inspiring place.

We stayed with Larry and Marcia, who showed us around Manhattan and made us feel special - Marcia has never been out of place nor intimidated by New York's scale.  Me, my six years in NYC (including business school), barely dented the kettle. Without some memories and a few friends, my New York minute about just that. Maybe true for it all ?

i will put in the box
the clapping of thunder rolling off the sky
the reddest ruby on the earth
the first cry of a baby. the greenest eclipse in the galaxy

i will put in the box
the brown grain trickling through my fingers.
the scratching of a pen wizzing back and forth on paper
the loud snore of a man deep in sleep
the smell of a donut shop coming nearer
--By Madeleine

Sunday, October 16

Obedient Rusty

A year's worth of dog training.

Madeleine In The Conservatory With The Pencil

Madeleine: "Dad, what would happen if a bird went into a plane engine?"
Me: "I don't know. Probably a lot of feathers, though."
Me: "Something on your mind?"
Madeleine: "They are talking about building a runway where there are lots of birds."
Me: "Yes, Boris Johnson wants to put a new airport in the Thames Estuary.  We need another one, you know."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess so. But will the birds be okay?"
Me: "You can count on it."
Madeleine: "I wouldn't want them to get hurt just because we are going to California or something."
Me: "Me, too."
Madeleine: "Can I get a sweetie?"
Me: "You bet."

Richmond Park Fog

We have London fog and visibility 50 feet. Photo in Richmond Park, near Sheen Gate, whilst walking the faithful pooch.

We see Chelsea dis-assemble Everton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and I learn a few new usages for words otherwise not said in public company (Everton, by the way, a district of Liverpool in Merseyside) . We are seated near the Everton section and, I note, the visitors entirely male and many of them look like, well, thugs.  I am sure they are not but at least one guy thrown out for taunting Chelsea. Otherwise the vibe is wonderful on a warm autumnal evening and we are priveleged to some remarkable football : in fact, the best football in the world.  Both kids, but especially Eitan, in enemy territory and I remind Eitan that last time we were here he sported his ManU gear until he took it off. Under duress.  The Shakespeares get into the home team and we buy Chelsea caps and jump for joy @ each goal. They have slushies, salt-beef sandwiches on some kind of weird pretzel bread, hamburgers and sausages (gross, why do people eat them?). Says Eitan: "Top tip Madeleine: support Chelsea if you don't want to get mobbed."

Sonnet takes the evening to see the Beijing Dance Theatre at Sadlers Wells in Islington with Lizzie.  She returns home to find me in front of "Die Hard 2" as Bruce Willis puts six bullets into some dude's head : "I'm not watching this after the theatre" she says, making an abrupt U-turn. Me, I have a late evening.

Friday, October 14

Eitan Studies

Eitan grinds away at a practice exam for St. Paul's Boys and the Hampton School, where he goes for an academic scholarship.

I am in Paris for a couple days w/ Astorg and have dinner with Leon in Montreuil, a Paris "banlieue" which, along with its ethnic make up (read: black) enjoys a young and growing artist community , according to Leon , who should know since he keeps a photography studio off rue Paris.  Last we were together at his wedding. Now he splits his time in New York (Leon's wife, Sunny, getting her Masters at NYIT), Paris and Asia where he is doing assignments for Gucci and various magazines.

Leon drives me home and we pass through the 20th, 11th, 4th and 1st arrondisements before arriving at my hotel in the 8th, on rue du Faubourg St Honoree. Paris has twenty arrondissements arranged in a clockwise spiral, starting in the middle of the city, with the first on the Right Bank (north bank) of the Seine. The 20th , or "Ménilmontant", the densest at 32,052 people per km, according to the 2005 census.

Harvest Time

We attend the school "Harvest Assembly" where the kids belt out "Conkers, I'm Collecting Conkers" , "Carry The Corn" and "If I Were A Seed" which, even Eitan and Madeleine admit, they hate.  Still, the sun shining bright and every body in a fine mood. The parents gossip, the teachers run around with a bounce in their step , and the children troop in the school auditorium, well behaved, hands in pockets and, mostly, disheveled. By chance, Madeleine two feet from me and Sonnet so I distract her and she rolls her eyes. Eitan actually blushes when he sees us.  Eitan's former teacher, Mrs. Q, leads the Year 3s in "Feeling Groovy" by Simon and Garfunkel so I lean into Sonnet to make a snide remark to find her in tears.  Yes, our child-raising years more than half gone.

Wednesday, October 12

Kooks and Knox

We join the Kooks at the Brixton Academy , pictured, with Justin and Natalie. Our pre-dinner conversation turns to Amanda Knox , recently acquitted for the murder of Meredith Kercher , and Justin nails me for assuming Knox must somehow be innocent given she is from a middle-class (white) family from Seattle. By implication , then, I must be inclined to condemn somebody who is not these things, which Knox plays to an advantage falsely blaming Diya Lumumba, a black man. No matter the acquittal, Justin says : "Knox is a piece of work." And I agree.

Here is what we know :

1. A partial strand of the Kercher's DNA discovered on the blade of a knife found at Raphael Sollecito’s apartment. While the size of the partial strand means prosecutors can’t prove that Kercher was the only possible source of the DNA, it matters that Kercher cannot be ruled out.

The partial DNA match is even more important considering that the knife had been scrubbed clean with bleach and an abrasive substance.

More telling is what Sollecito said to cops after they let him know they found the victim’s DNA on the blade. He said Kercher cut her finger while preparing dinner at his apartment. It was an important admission because forensic experts could not determine whether the DNA was from skin, blood or other bodily fluid. That Sollecito felt compelled to explain how blood got on the knife became an even more damning piece of evidence when cops subsequently proved that Kercher had never been to Sollecito’s apartment –– for any purpose –– ever.

2. Knox’s DNA was found mixed with the victim’s blood in many different locations at the murder scene where Knox had lived with Kercher for only a few weeks before the crime took place. Knox told cops there was no blood from either her or Kercher in any of the rooms where the mixtures were found prior to the night in question. Without an innocent way to explain this DNA evidence, Knox’s involvement in the crime cannot be doubted.

3. Knox changed her story several times, initially claiming she was at Sollecito’s apartment at the time of the crime –– until cops told her that other evidence, including phone and computer records, disproved her alibi. Knox then confessed that she was present at the murder and could hear the victim screaming –– but she couldn’t recall much because she was under the influence of drugs. Many of the details she could recall about the crime were correct and could only have been known by someone who was there because the facts had not yet been publicly released.

4. Knox falsely accused an innocent black man, Lumumba, of the crime and let him sit in jail for days until police figured out he had a solid alibi.

Tuesday, October 11

Zaha's Dream

Construction for the 'London Aquatics Centre' for the london 2012 Summer Olympics by Zaha Hadid Architects now complete, pictured. Capable of holding 17,500 individuals at one moment, the facility will be the venue for the swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo events. Sheltering the sports events, athletes and supporters is an aluminum clad steel roof which spans 160 meters in length and 90 meters at its widest point. Three concrete columns support the 3,000 ton sweeping overhead structure. The double curvature parabolic structure visually evokes the form of an undulating wave. On the interior, 850,000 tiles surface the pools, changing facilities and and floors. The cluster of concrete towers including the three meter springboards and diving platforms were formed and cast on site.
Photo from hufton+crow

Montessori '72

Grace's Montessori, which she started in 1972 and ran until 1984, a magical place for youngsters to learn and play : I sure did, though never a student in my mom's class (Katie was ). Grace's school in a church off Fairmont Avenue in Oakland and I often spent week ends or summer afternoons exploring the spooky corners or the empty cathedral while my mom worked away.  In the outdoor play-area, Grace built a giant wood structure, shaped like a half-ship , complete with pier posts donated from somewhere , most certainly.  I earned some extra change sweeping or doing small chores while listening to the Giants on my transistor radio (Vida Blue! Jack Clark! Willie McCovey!). It was a good place to be.

Maria Montessori began to develop her philosophy and methods in 1897, attending courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and reading the educational theory of the previous two hundred years. In 1907, she opened her first classroom, the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a tenement building in Rome. From the beginning, Montessori based her work on her observations of children and experimentation with the environment, materials, and lessons available to them. She frequently referred to her work as "scientific pedagogy". Montessori education spread to the United States in 1911 and became widely known in education and popular publications. However, conflict between Montessori and the American educational establishment, and especially the publication in 1914 of a critical booklet, The Montessori System Examined by influential education teacher William Heard Kilpatrick, limited the spread of her ideas, and they languished after 1914. Montessori education returned to the United States in 1960 and has since spread to thousands of schools. Today, Montessori education is practiced in an estimated 20,000 schools worldwide, serving children from birth to eighteen years old. (Source: North American Montessori Teachers Association and wiki)

Monday, October 10

Boy Genius

The animals come straight for me. Anton leads the pack.

It is autumn and Sonnet lays down the law : given secondary school entrance exams, homework and exam-practice take precedence over television, Harry Potter, ManU, iPad , Alex Rider, cooking, sports and friends and play dates. Even Rusty gets the back seat. The Shakespeares absolved of household duties until January - the only news that gets a a smile from Madeleine, otherwise slouched in her chair.  Bedtime : 2030H and lights-out 2100H. No exemptions. The kids, who began the semester less focused than usual - maybe due to the long-vacation or an unusually warm Indian summer - have silently craved structure and now, Dear God, they have it.

Sonnet, in her gentle way, gets the kids to commit to her work schedule ( vs. my style : grind until they take no more). We are a focused little beaver unit until January and it feels that way, too.

Sunday, October 9

The Pump House Gang

Eitan and Joe co-host their Birthday party , which begins at the Bank of England club for indoor football, pictured, then outdoors for more football and some ice cream then Joe's house for football and fish-and-chips then concluding with cake and football.  If not for 6PM , they would still be out there now. Sonnet and I watch the boys hit, punch, tackle and generally pummel each other : there they are, the little animals, showing affection for each other by smacking the other down. They can't be all, like, "Hey, Eitan, did you do see the Manchester United match?" Oh,  no. Instead, Stanley tackles Eitan and a dog pile forms : all the boys come running. I wonder if the kid on bottom will , you know, break an arm or something. Barbarians.

And a Sunday funny:
"My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too. "
--Rodney Dangerfield

Massacre On The Pitch

Eitan's Elm Grove up against the Old Isleworthians Reds, a superior team, and buckle 5-nil in a game where our boys have two legitimate shots on goal.  Maybe. Even though EG physically bigger and equally capable, the other side skilled up and employ superior tactics : mainly, they "stick in" the action and make plays where there appears none.  Eitan chosen EG's "Man Of The Match" by Coach, who otherwise reads the Riot Act.

Madeleine and I have a Saturday evening "date" as Sonnet and Eitan at a swimming gala in North London (Wandsworth fourth of eight teams; Eitan swims the 50m breaststroke and his 11-unders win their freestyle relay).  We go for Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows, Part 1, and pizza. Perfect evening in my book.

Saturday, October 8

On Various Exchanges

Eitan decorates his homework books all "ManU."  His activities, which now include football, swimming, choir, in-door athletics and cross country, catching up to him: Poor kid is tired and not yet half-term.

We have a dinner party with Arnaud, Julia and Lorena. This morning over breakfast (Marcus sleeps over)
Me: "Were you two eavesdropping?"
Madeleine: "Of course: 'Ohhh we just LOVE giving Eitan and Madeleine chores la la la."
Me: "Do your parents have dinner parties, Marcus?"
Marcus: "Yeah. They always forget about me so I can stay up late."
Me: "Do they laugh  and act silly?"
Marcus: "Yeah, they carry on a bit."
Me: "Do they drink wine?"
Madeleine: "You were drinking wine."
Me: "Yep. That's what you do at a dinner party. Drink wine and act silly."
Madeleine: "That's what you do anyway."
Me: "Hey, Marcus, do you have to do chores at your house?"
Marcus: "No."
Eitan, Madeleine: "See?!"
Me: "I guess we just do things a little bit differently at 45 York Avenue."
Eitan, mumbling: "Yeah, like drink wine and do chores."

Eitan: "On our block there are four Jaguars, two Porche Carrera S's, one Porche 911, one Porche turbo 911, an Austin Martin and a Maserati quite near us."
Me: "Don't forget the VW Golf. Ooo! Check it out! There's another one! And a Volskwagon Polo!"
Eitan: "Dad . . . "
Me: "You just don't understand quality.  The 2002 Golf was a vintage year" (we walk by our car). "Look at the styling.  And the design of the head lamps.Ohhh. Ohhh."
Me: "Maybe we should get another one. We could have two 2002 Golf VWs!"
Eitan: "You're not really into cars, are you Dad?"
Me: "I'm not really a car hound. I had a fun car in college but I'm just not that interested now."
Eitan: "Why?"
Me: "I guess I am more interested in you and your sister and your mother."

Friday, October 7

Those '80s

Here I am, lover boy, dancing with my sister's best friend Megan at my parents' 25th wedding anniversary party at the Brazil Room.  That would be 1987.  I bought the suit and clip-on bow-tie combo at a favorite vintage shop on Thayer St in Providence, Rhode Island. Though baggy and ill-fitting, wearing it made me feel like a hundred bucks and not a dollar more.  I was into some sorta college style back then and a lot of it picked up at the second hand stores.  There was a great one in Berkeley, too : Aardvarks, on Telegraph Avenue, which racked all sorts of moth-ball smelling vetements and known for its Hawaiian shirts.

So, while I love dancing, I never did learn how to, you know, dance. Sonnet and I took a few lessons anticipating our wedding waltz to "Moon River" (of course) and , on at least one occasion, I aimed for the tango with some other willing friends. No, my "moves" honed at the yuf-ful discotheques of San Francisco and NYC; in college, it was "funk night" and now, the occasional PTA school party or, even more infrequently, a Soho night club. I have learned , to maintain any dignity, to slow down and channel John Travolta's Vincent Vega. It just about works and, hey, at least I am out there.

"Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair."
--Susan Polis Shutz

Thursday, October 6

Porn Everywhere

Marcus joins us for dinner.
Me: "So you had fun in film class today ?"
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "What did you watch?"
Madeleine: "Micro Cosmos. It's about bugs."
Marcus: "I watched 'Living On The Edge.' It was an 18."
Me: "You've watched an 18-rated film?"
Marcus: "Yeah. I've seen a lot of them."
Madeleine: "No, way."
Me: "Was it scary?"
Marcus: "Yes. And I have watched porn."
Me: "You've watched porn ?"
Marcus: "Yes. With our nanny."
Me: "You mean , like, by accident?"
Marcus: "No!"
Me: "So your nanny was showing you porn?"
Marcus: "Yes, and it was really good."
Marcus to Madeleine: "What's the big deal? It's only a movie."
Madeleine: "Yeah, Dad, what's the big deal?"
Me: "I am a bit surprised that Marcus watches porn at home."
Marcus: "Not porn. 'Paw.' The movie 'Paw.'"
Madeleine: "What's porn?"
Me: "So you don't watch porn?"
Madeleine: "What's porn then?"
Me: "Uh, it is when two people have intercourse."
Madeleine, Marcus: "Ewwww! Ugghh!. Don't want to know! Don't want to know!"
Me: "Thank goodness we cleared that one up before your mother got home."


Madeleine freestyles. She trains three-days a week, which is more than I did when I was nine.  Her least favorite : Sunday, 7AM, which the poor kid dreads from Saturday morning. We are trying to find a better hour but Coach demanding.  Eitan at four sessions per week and could do five - soon, it will be seven.

Me: "How was film club?"
Madeleine: "It was Ok."
Me: "Did you watch a film?"
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "More, please."
Madeleine: "We watched 'Micro Cosmos'. It's about bugs."
Me: "Neat, that sounds like fun. Did you see insects crawling from cocoons and stuff?"
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "How about a spider eating a fly?"
Madeleine: "We saw a spider eat a cricket. The cricket was trying to steal its eggs, jumping in and out, but then it got stuck in the web. So the spider killed it. And sucked its blood."
Me: "Gruesome."
Madeleine: "That's the way it is, Dad. In the bug world."

Me: "I thought you were doing your homework?"
Madeleine: "I am."
Me: "In the backyard?"
Madeleine: "We have to collect stuff."
Me: "So you're going to bring a whole lot of dirt into the house?"
Madeleine: "No. Rocks."
Marcus: "Can I have some rocks, please?"
Madeleine: "Rocks or paper?"
Marcus: "I'll take the rocks."
Madeleine: "We could also put dog food in there."
Marcus: "I don't think that's what they want."
Madeleine: "Just joking. We can put a sponge in our box."
Me: "A sponge?"
Marcus: "We have to decorate it (the box)"
Me: "With a sponge?"
Madeleine: "It's an experiment. We'll show you when it's done."
Me: "Just make sure it doesn't end up on the carpet."
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad."

Poor Rusty

The dog gets his nuts chopped off. Some days it happens to the all of us.

Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

There has been some considerable blogging and obituary of Steve Jobs, who created Apple Computers from nothing to today : the most important and valuable high tech company in the world.  Apple changed my life in college when I waited hours for a Mac at one of Brown's two 24/7 "computer centers". In the '90s it was a PowerBook , and again the 2000s with the iPlayer, Macbook and now iPad.  No other company, save Microsoft or Volkswagon (my first car , in High School, a VW hatchback), has been in my life longer and made it better, cooler.

Jobs, 12 years my senior, may be a Baby Boomer but my generation knows the truth:  he belongs to us. Jobs emphasized style and marketing as much as substance . He wore running shoes to present at big conferences. And, of course, he was the dawn of our revolution that spread American idealism better than any military policy.  Thanks to Jobs, America grew during the '80s corporate down-sizings : Fortune 100s got lean and start-ups got their talent. We called on Jobs again after the tech boom-bust and he delivered , keeping Silicon Valley and the Californian dream alive. We have lost one of the great ones.
Photo: Jobs' first TV appearance in '78, six years before the first Macintosh, three years before the IBM PC.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.
--Steve Jobs, to Stanford Business School in 2005

Saturday, October 1


gore (gôr) n. Blood, especially coagulated blood from a wound.

Pictured, a live work of art : a Japanese woman binds her wrists and legs, blindfolds herself red, and allows children to shoot her with mucousy syrup. The kids become increasingly aggressive : at first they are respectful of their charge and hesitant to harm her. By end, which is broken up by one of the photographers, her position disdained.

Eitan: "Have you tried these grapes?"
Me: "No."
Eitan: "Listen to my teeth delicately break the skin. .."
Me: "That's nice."
Eitan: "Good, isn't it?"
Me: "You certainly are a grape connoisseur."
Eitan: "Now I am crushing the flesh, scooping it out from the inside."
Me: "Can we stop this now?"

Sabi's Studio

We visit Sabi's open-house in W10, a cool space in a dense urban setting. Sabi new to this particular artist commune having spent the last number of years at the Wimbledon Art Studio. Last we were together : The Airborne Toxic Event.

Here is Sabi's profile on the Saatchi Gallery:
"My work lies between the practices of Abstraction and Ornamentation. It is influenced by both my Islamic sensibility and my Western art education.I use abstract shapes,pattern,all over surface decoration, architectural and calligraphic line and lots of colour.I have made this series of work in conjunction with Tamasha Theatre Company to complement their recent production of Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance'.I wanted to make work that alluded to the theatricality of both the story and Tamasha's adaptation of it."

Self Portrait XXI

This pretty much sums me up after VS20 from California. The teeth purchased in hopes of a repeat of Dracula : but next time in Madeleine's class.

Eitan: "What are we going to do this afternoon?"
Me: "You are going to be doing chores."
Eitan, Madeleine: "Aww, not chores!"
Me: "I remember hating chores too when I was your age. But I still did them."
Eitan: "Yeah but what's your point?"
Sonnet: "Do you know why we have you do chores?"
Madeleine: "Because you hate us?"
Sonnet: "No, silly."
Madeleine: "Because you want slaves?"
Sonnet: "Do you really think that?"
Madeleine: "That's what Dad said. He said he had kids so we could be his slaves."
Me: "So true."
Eitan: "I'm not doing them."
Me: "Fine. But no ManU game then."
Eitan: "You hardly let me watch Manchester United anyway."
Me: "Ok you have a choice: No ManU or hardly-any-ManU. What's it going to be?"
Me: "Well?"
Eitan: "Hardly-any-Manchester United."
Me: "Then chores."

Happy 01 01

I return in time for Eitan's birthday and ask what many parent's do when they see their kids growing up: "How did that happen?" Yes, eleven years old.  Madeleine gets him goldfish which Eitan names "Misha 1" and Misha 2".  Don't ask me why.  His other Big Gift a phone which  he selects with great care, Dear Reader, on the High Street , palming the many styles and cooing over each's "feel".  He chooses a "smart" phone "with games already there!"  I think three of his pals have a mobile and Eitan excited by the possibilities: three people to text! Anthony comes over to celebrate (his shadow, pictured) and we talk about apps and various models, why Macs rule and so on and so forth. I BBQ since London achieves record warm-temps for Sept. Eitan bakes his cake.

But let us not digress : Eitan goes into 11 full of joy and enthusiasm : he loves his football, Hampton School awaits, and ManU on top of the Premiere League.  He is a dedicated swimmer and can count his best friends on one hand which, Moe once told me for myself, counts him for a lucky man. I could not be more proud of Eitan.

Madeleine: "Mom, would you have wanted to get a dog?"
Sonnet: "It was three against one. I didn't stand a chance."
Madeleine: "Can we let Rusty upstairs?"
Sonnet: "No. I draw the line."
Madeleine: "Three against one. You don't stand a chance."
Me: "I would back off on this one, kiddo."

Madeleine: "Is it true David Cameron wants to bring back the cane?"
Me: "Did you read that in the newspaper?"
Madeleine: "Eitan told me. He said David Cameron wants to cane some kid in school."
Me:  "I think you're safe."
Madeleine: "Eitan was probably lying anyway."
Me: "Probably."
Madeleine, after a thoughtful pause: "But I wanted to make sure."

Madeleine: "Why do they have poisonous snakes on a farm?"
Madeleine: "I guess they can have anything on a farm. If it's Australia."