Sunday, February 28

I Will Take You Down

I keep this pinned by my desk (thank you Stan and Silver for sending the best).

Stratos and Vasso over for the afternoon with their children who bond with ours - especially the boys since they both collect "Match Attacks" and sit around trading football cards. Vasso has been at P&G for over 15 years since business school while today she is the Director of Trends and Innovations. She decides, for the company and the fashion industry, what sells in six months, twelve months and five-years. A fascinating job. I wonder if her views held secret and she explains that for a time, they are - competition - but then much of her work spent getting others to accept her vision of the world. Once this probably meant some considerable travel but now technology allows instant, interactive communication. She can "touch" her franchise instantly from London or meet thought leaders online. In any case, she is the one to get it done (an aside: we talk about cat walks, where I have some street cred).

Today the last day of the Winter Olympics and while I have watched none of it, I am sad to see it go. The daily press keeps my interest and the US scores more tin then ever before (Canada sets the standard for Gold medals earned by the hosting country at 13). None of this matters, though, because tonight it is Canada vs. the US'A in ice hockey's Gold medal round. We will watch at Karen and Andrew's - Canucks! Go USA!

I have a busy week ahead with several funds, three cities and an m and a. Go team.

Saturday, February 27

Tommy The Hamster

Madeleine and her pal Marcus and I troop over to the pet shop for another hamster (it is raining). This one named "Tommy." Amazing how a little ball of fur can make our girl so happy. I find her wide-awake at 3AM thinking about her new pet. Walking home, Tommy tries to cut his way out of the box showing two sharp teeth and a pink-nose - this illicits either warmth or shock from the various passer-bys. None can deny Madeleine's enthusiasm. Madeleine freaks out as the hamster creates an escape hole and I note we might have to stop traffic to fetch the critter? She glares, oh boy. We make it home where a shiny Habitrail awaits.

I visit Boots pharmacy and discuss the differences between Talcum Powder and Baby Powder. The chemist notes helpfully that "ladies these days are no longer putting powder on their bits." The difference: Talc is a mineral from a crushed up rock. Baby powder is corn starch (and various perfumes).

Eitan spells out f-u-c-k a d-u-c-k: "Is that a bad word?"

Me: "Ok, get it off your chest. Let's hear your swear words."
Eitan: "Bloody hell! Bitch!"
Madeleine: "that other word that starts with a 'B.'"
Sonnet: "Bastard?"
Madeleine: "That's the one!"

Madeleine dries the dishes: "Should I do that one next?"
Me: "Madeleine, make your own decisions."
Madeleine: "I decide not to do the dishes."

Sonnet nears completion of the seventh and last volume of Harry Potter: "Maybe I'll stop before the last word."

Friday, February 26

The Arch

What a strange and wonderful monument at the heart of Paris that honors France's fallen soldier, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside top, a list of Generals and wars fought; underneath, the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. Access is via an underground tunnel, thank goodness, as the circling drivers mad. I see two near collisions while another attempts a dramatic inside-to-outside move that earns little respect: "connard!"

The Arc commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon after Austerlitz - laying the foundation took two years - and completed in 1836 delayed by changing architects and the Bourbon Revolution which stopped things cold. In the end, Napoleon had his satisfaction as his cold dead body passed underneath on December 15, 1840, on its way to the Invalides.

I learn that in '61 JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by President de Gaule. After Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy remembered the Arc de Triomphe's eternal flame and requested an eternal flame be placed next to her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery. President de Gaulle went to Washington to attend the state funeral and witnessed Jacqueline Kennedy lighting the eternal flame that was inspired by her visit to France.

So back to London and without fail, rain. I have never lived in a climate like this. England is not like this. We celebrate life with our friends Jan (Dutch) and wife Nes (Turkish) drinking martinis and talking late.

Thursday, February 25

Paris - Omen

I arrive in Paris for the sunset, which falls over a damp cityscape. Yes, rain here too (photo from the WWW, uncredited). The Parisians pay the weather no mind clustered beneath their canapes drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. 'Tres chic' indeed captures the 8th arrondisement. The men scruffy, still wearing scarves though nearly March, and hairstyles 'messy.' The women own black knee-high boots and black tights. Sometimes a skirt or mini, sometimes not. Dark lipstick.

I have dinner at a bistro and play with my Blackberry and ease-drop - most conversations of work which is not surprising since an easy pre-dinner subject. To my left a handsome fellow and two attractive women put down a fourth who arrives then it is hugs and kisses and red wine. Seems about right.

So here is my insight: the French less narcissistic then us Americans. While the French fascinated with themselves (no doubt - they are French), they are not hell bent on destroying their country. Exhibit A, Healthcare, an omen portending things to come: If Obama unable push through reform - we all agree, including Repubs, healthcare broken and not sustainable as is - then what hope is there for the next three years? Republican stalling and blocking may score political points but at what cost to the Republic? (just the other day conservatives called new MA Senator Scott Brown a Judas and Benedict Arnold for voting for cloture on the Senate jobs bill). Such political opportunism leaves our country with no ability to address China, national debt or Wall Street reform. Who is the real Judas, I wonder?

"I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families. The Senate jobs bill is not perfect. I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I am voting for it because it contains measures that will help put people back work. ... I hope for improvements in that process going forward."
--Scott Brown, Senator, MA

Wednesday, February 24

C'Est Etre L'Esclave Du Tabac

This Parisian anti-smoking ad receives critical attention which is not surprising as it equates fags and porno suggesting an abusive, submissive relationship. God bless the French, who have no problem putting it out there. At least they are not hypocrites.

I join my book club last night for Richard Holmes marvelous "The Age Of Wonder" which telescopes the voyages of 18 century discovery - astronomical, chemical, poetical and philosophical -that made up this magical period. We are most intrigued by Sir Joseph Banks (who I know intimately from O'Brian's "Master And Commander" series) who, as a young man, joined the Royal Navy's search for a "transit of Venus" and, on the way, discovered paradise in the unspoiled Tahiti. The Endeavor moored here for three months while the sailors and Banks enjoyed a most accommodating welcome. The Tahitians had no alcohol, tobacco nor drugs and sex was their euphoria. We are shocked to learn that women snuffed newborns to remain available to their passions. From there we visit the poor immigrant William Hershel who opened the heavens, literally, with his home-made telescopes and lens, which sometimes required uninterrupted polishing for 16 hours a stretch (since I did not finish the book I cannot comment on miner's lamp or the first balloon ride). So we ponder: is our world better with wonder lost?

Eitan has choir and Sonnet takes Madeleine for a hot-chocolate, where she does her Kumon (always better outside the misery of routine). I am reminded of similar moments with my mom - like going for hamburgers at Copper Penny on University Avenue or Ortman's for bubble gum ice cream on Friday afternoon's after school. Eitan going through a phase, let's hope, of lurking around the house trying to scare the bee-Jesus out of Sonnet, which he does from time to time - I snigger as I did this too, poor Grace.

Sonnet meets Naomi Cambell, who arrives one-hour late for her appointment. Sonnet notes that "her people are scary."

Madeleine: "Do you remember when you used to give me Starbursts for breakfast?"
Madeleine: "If I made my bed."

Madeleine puts her forehead on the table: "We're not having this for dinner again?"

Tuesday, February 23

Book And Bradbury

Madeleine gets her book on - I do not recall the title from work but it really does not matter. She is into it. London's grey cold weather continues and I am forced to wonder: am I participating in a Ray Bradbury novel? Who can forget "All Summer In A Day" which I read around the seventh grade. Recall the story about Margot, who has been relocated to Venus from Earth somewheres in the future. On Venus it is constantly raining and the sun visible for one hour every seven years. Margot is the only child in her class who remembers sunshine so the kids bully her, locking her in a broom closet. Suddenly the sun arrives, the teacher takes the class outside where they whoop for joy in their new freedom; then a girl starts crying, a raindrop falls and thunder. Everybody runs inside remembering Margot who they find pale in the gloom and darkness - the sun has come and gone.

Bradbury was born in Illinois and still alive and kicking. He has the UK down cold.

"I think the sun is a flower.
That blooms for just one hour."
-- Margot

Monday, February 22

Louise Goldin

Of the photos I take yesterday from my mobile, this one captures the strange lonely scene best. The young woman pictured perfectly miraged: connected to us and yet a million miles away. The models tone dark - expressionless with heavy eye-shadow never making eye contact as is the norm at these things. A jutted walk makes their appearance all the more alien. Designer Louise Goldin's clothes dazzle, too: slinky, shiny leggings, wedge shoes and padded curves. The show in Covent Garden in the basement of a deserted building off the square and ideal for runway lighting and atmosphere. I am invited by new friend Izzy, from Croatia via Duane so not surprising his friends ueber cool; Izzy is dating Goldin.

Before the catwalk there is champagne or coffee and I observe the crowd: tall, leggy, young women gossip and make eyes at each other; dudes with beards and killer hair. Lots of funky styles from over-stated pin stripes to form fitting black leather jackets with faux fur collars. Skinny jeans (which, dear reader, I wear) de rigueur. Izzy and I bond over our blue converse Chucks while his stunning Egyptian friend and I discuss her many-crescent necklace which settles between her bosom on top of a black lace dress. I note their beauty (er, ambiguous?). I hold my own with black glasses and striped skull-cap, which I refuse to take off. I can do this style thing sometimes. Eventually the lights darken 45 minutes after the start time, creepy stage-appropriate music fills the space and the models walk. Electric.

Louise Goldin BTW English, having studied at the Central St Martins for seven years where she got her BA and MA. She quickly became know for her knit skills and use of colour, recognised earlier this year winning the British Fashion Council Fashion Award - an honour which guarantees her sponsorship in London Fashion Week this, and next year. She has a range of shoes at Top Shop. Goldin on her ascendency and much needed following Alexander McQueen's suicide.

Golden on today's collection: "It's space military."

Sunday, February 21


Reviewing Madeleine's photo from this morning, and all my photos for that matter, I realise many (most?) are a battleship grey. A combination, no doubt, of reduced sunlight and rain+dull overcast skies. At the fashion show I meet a single-mother living in Shoreditch (the cool part of town where all the gays are) whose older boyfriend in a band in Los Angeles. They commute. I am surprised to learn she does not like El Lay - most Brits adore the idea of California and all else unobtainable to them. But don't we all? I digress. She finds the relentless sunshine monotonous and lack of seasons unsettling. What do people talk about? she laments. And the traffic - nobody has time for the beach. It cannot all be Baywatch, I admit, but my high school experience pretty 90210. We compare notes on working and child-raising but, in honesty, I cannot imagine being solo for the biggest Project of one's career. It would not be half as much fun, for one. And requires tremendous courage and fortitude. Respect.

Eitan: "I really love a back scratch. Even when it's not itchy it feels so good when someone itches it." Pause. "Are you really going to write that?"


We have your typical London Sunday: up at 6:30AM for Eitan's swim practice; Sonnet takes Madeleine to the Betty Jackson catwalk at Somerset House; Aggie arrives 9:30AM to take both kids to the Waterloo IMAX where they see African Safari 3D then lunch at the dreadful Giraffe ... meanwhile, I go to the afternoon Louise Goldin show who is the fashionista of the hour and the pap there in full force, as are the celebs, but I will post something on them or this tomorrow.

And here is Madeleine on the Waterloo Bridge. I ask her about her day and get the usual "good." I probe: "'Good' like what happens every day at school?" (she now sits on the counter next to the oven, which is the warmest spot in the kitchen). Sonnet reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" which is the seventh of seven volumes (just asking the title, interrupting Sonnet's flow, gets screeches from the Shakespeares). Any attempt to gather more insight into Madeleine's (or Sonnet's) day for the next 100 pages null and void. Like Louise Goldin, I shall revisit.

PM Gordon Brown under fire for abusing his staff. I can see this - he seems to me a dour personality. Sure, his style maybe suitable for a good financial melt down but who would want to work for him? Despite it all, the Tories indefensible 28 point lead over Labor six months ago fallen to a measly six. They panic and David Cameron promises us, the people, stock in the banks we have baled out. Free money! Go figure. For the record: I will vote, for the first time in my life I might add, conservative in the June elections. A 50% tax rate does that to a fellow. Conservatives commitment to junk Heathrow's third-runway another. Most recently, Govt. has introduced a car-park charge in Richmond Park despite massive local resistance and protest (a rally drew 1,000 old-age pensioners and a few families). Unfortunately for us, the over-flow will be on our block as visitors attempt to avoid the charge. Conservatives have said bluntly they will repeal the charge earning my and a few other votes.

Ok, over dinner Madeleine notes that the fashion show music "loud" and the venue "dark." She "very excited" and describes the scene - "mostly younger, middle and older people" and many of the women "had funny hair." When pressed: "curly and straight and stuff." She remarks that Tony & Guy did the styling which is cool because the same franchise did her hair last week. I promise myself not to ask Sonnet how much.

Gone Bowling

Eitan has been clamoring for bowling so yesterday we do. Here we are on Queen's Way in Bayswater touching Hyde Park's north side. Queen's Way is one of those strange, incredible streets found only in London. Crowded, a bit run down and rather low-brow (as is the neighborhood, despite Tony buying a pad on Connaught Square) it attracts young people from everywhere by the horde. As it should: the other side anchored by Whiteley's shopping mall - London's first mall suffering from the economy and Westway which opened in Sheperd's Bush and home of Tiffany, Apple and everything bling. In between, the street has restaurants and pubs from every quarter: Lebanese, Italian, German, Japanese, American (Subway, Starbucks, KFC - fast food), Iranian, Chinese, French, Scottish, Dutch .. it is the only place in London as Cosmopolitan as we know the city to be - over 250 languages spoken here after all, making us the most linguistic capital in the world [An aside: in 2000 Government surveyed 850,000 London school children's first-language finding Lugenda (Uganda), Ga (Ghana), Tigrinya (Sudan), German and Japanese equal at 800 per tongue; English 608,500.]

But I pull back to bowling. Eitan's first exposure to the sport(?) in Whitstable and from various birthday parties - bowling en vogue with the neighborhood's Year 4. The atmosphere makes me think of Shakey's Pizza only our neighbors Nigerian (I think) and Chinese, whose barely walking children cause me grave concern given the flying bowling balls. Eitan takes the first round pumping his fist triumphantly: "You are going down, sucker." I win the second - saving face for the over-40 set - whilst nailing the only strike of the afternoon, puncturing the boy's elation. Did I mention this a friendly match?

Eitan is fabulous company - everything I could ever wish for in a boy who happens to be my son. Hair uncombed, curious and with a sense of humor, he and I hang out for the afternoon with never a moment of boredom or awkwardness. Will this change when be gets older? I wonder. Will he one day be embarrassed to have me around?

Eitan: "I should not have to do chores."
Me: "And why is that?"
Eitan: "I am just a kid. I will do chores all the time when I am an adult."
Me: "Well, we work so we can eat and have fun and live."
Eitan: "All I do is work for you."
Me: "Good point. Maybe we should get you a real job so I can retire early."
Eitan: "You would never do that."
Me: "You bet. The 'help wanted' adds in tomorrow's Sunday Times."

Eitan: "There is only one job I want to do."
Me: "Let me guess - play for Manchester United."
Eitan: "No - it could be for any team in the Premiere League."
Me: "Alright then. Let's gear up our morning drills."
Eitan: "Tomorrow then?"

Eitan, worriedly, at this morning's breakfast table, as I read the papers: "Did you find a job?"

Friday, February 19

Be Warned

On Eitan's door: "Danger! Do not mess with me. A fierce boy lives in this room and if you enter past the line you're dead!"

Thursday, February 18

Sugar High

Me: "Describe the photo?"

Eitan: "This is a picture of me eating three ice creams at a time. First I took chocolate ice cream, then I took the pink ice cream bar. Then I took vanilla ice cream. And then I had half a chocolate bar which gave me a lot of sugar and I became quite ballistic and started saying words like 'Poppa Bear' and 'Big Daddy" and 'sugar' in a Southern accent."
Me: "Anything else?"
Eitan: "My brain didn't work."
Me: "Hmm."
Eitan begins singing: "I am a DJ party."

Madeleine spends the night at Jackson's. Sonnet leafs through bathroom design brochures. Eitan tries to do his homework for his tutor.

Biba And Van Gogh

Sonnet dresses in her best dungarees and spends the day at the V&A Battersea Storage Facility which is on the river next to the Battersea Power Station. Eventually, the museum will move its storage outside London to reduces costs, but for now, Sonnet and a colleague must sort the wheat from the chaff. Pictured, a possible treasure - Sonnet think it might be a Biba, a fashion label from a groovy shop on Kensington High Street in the '60s and '70s. So the storage: "A sixties warehouse filled with over-flow from the V and A's collection, architectural remnants, broken bits of pottery, mannequin and lots of dust" she says.The last point not surprising since the building's other neighbor a cement facility.

It is another glum London day - surprise - made worse by the rain which starts once I am in town without umbrella. I go from meeting to meeting, ending the day with a colleague at the National Gallery reviewing the Impressionists, one of my favorite things to do and much better than another cup of coffee in some nondescript conference room (I have already been to the Wolseley). We only have an hour or so but this more than enough to check in with van Gogh's sunflowers and clouds.

Me: "Anything you want to say for my blog?"
Sonnet: "Like what?"
Me: "I don't know. Be creative."
Sonnet: "I am looking forward to spring."
Sonnet: "How about 'I painted my toe nails purple."
Me: "Really?"
Sonnet: "Lavender, actually."
Eitan: "You're a hippy!"
Sonnet: "You should talk with your hair growing down to your shoulders."
Me: "Touche."

Eitan: "Dad, I hate to break this to you, but you have a rash of pimples my friend."

Wednesday, February 17

Dad Night And A Break In The Weather

Here we be before dinner. Sonnet, who has been suspiciously absent from my blogging, at the Design Museum for a cocktail schmoozer. Initially, as I have the Shakespeares to myself, I thought ice skating and Chinatown but that nixed by Manchester United v. AC Milan ("David Beckham playing for AC Milan!" Eitan yelps) and kick-off at 7:45PM (thanks to the dead Monty we still have no TV so Eitan goes to Jackson's). We cycle through different options - Persian, Fish-and-chips, burgers or noodles before agreeing on the ghastly "Giraffe" which provides African themed fair with accompanying plastic toy cartoon animals. Sambo's lives. Even this thwarted by road-works to Richmond village so we end up at a local Thai (dumplings "lovely" - rest, thumb's down). So the venue .. forgettable on (another) rainy night but we do have engaging conversation. Madeleine blurts that a girl professed her love for Eitan making our hero distinctly uncomfortable. Madeleine, meanwhile, teased for pal Marcus "and we most definitely are not getting married." The first blush of the opposite sex - could it be?

Magically, the skies clear and the temps rise and I am reminded why we live here. It is green. Daffodils poke up. I run along the sweet smelling Thames while the tide is "in" and the rowers eye-level creating a strange optical allusion (river seems convex). The water volume shifts line 8-10 feet from high to low-tides - skullers prefer the tide-out as their lower position shields them from wind. This a long winter and any improvement welcome especially when as glorious as this evening's sunset.

Tuesday, February 16

Winter OOOOO

Nodar Kumaritashvili ripping down the track before his untimely death on the same course (photo from the These dudes race at speeds up to 100 mph around narrow high-banked curves experiencing centrifugal pull of up to 7G. Seven gee! From my way back physics I recall that a g equals the force on the body from acceleration or gravity, in units equal to one g. So the 200 Kumaritashvili experienced forces of 1,400 pounds. Steering is done by flexing the sled's "runners" with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Kumaritashvili's ending tragic yet I would suppose that this why the sport seductive - the joy a razor's edge.

Me: "No matter what, I will always love you."
Madeleine: "I know, Dad. You say that all the time."

Me: "That bus driver sure has a lot of responsibility. What other jobs have responsibility?"
Eitan: "A plane pilot?"
Madeleine: "A teacher!"
Eitan: "An accountant."
Madeleine: "A dentist."
Eitan: "An orthodontist!"
Madeleine: "I Prime Minister. Or that other thing."
Me: "A President?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, that one."
Eitan: "Being you."
Eitan: "Well, it's a lot of responsibility taking care of us."

Rain (Again)

It has been over-cast and grey every day for three months (my unscientific assessment). Today I am forced to wear my wellies and poncho but at least I arrive to work dry however I may look. Eitan was to up-early for football practice but one look outside and no way ("today would be a good day to go bowling" he laments). So Periodically I am forced to write about London's climate - it is an easy blog - sort of like GQ Magazine reporting on shaving. So here goes: London has a temperate marine climate, like much of the British Isles, so we rarely see extremely high or low temperatures. Our winters chilly, rarely below freezing though in January 1795 we set the record low of -21.1C. Back then river froze. And while snow uncommon (urban heat makes London up to 5C warmer than the surrounding areas), it does happen every now and again.

For me, it's not the cold and wet that depresses. No, it is the loss of sunlight since we are 50-degrees Latitude. This means 1,461 hours of sunshine a year. I count every minute (all data from the Met Office).

The troubled EMI, owned by Guy Hnds, has put their Abbey Road Studios up for sale, which must be terribly demoralising for anybody at EMI. Recall Hands needs €120 million cash by June or he loses control of EMI and his mult-billion €uro bet.

"I'd like to be under the sea
In an octous's garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus's garden in the shade"
--The Beatles, from Abbey Road

Monday, February 15

Mr Squash

Some of you may have wondered - just who is Mr Squash? following yesterday's blog below. Well, here he is purchased, I might add, with Madeleine's hard earned dough from toy store Pandemonium.

You may have also noticed that my photos are not as sharp as they should be. This because of rain endured whilst walking Manhattan with Tim. At some point I will A) take my beloved Canon to the shop or B) buy another camera. Of course B depends on A.

The Shakespeares on holiday - they lay in this morning listening to Harry P, yaawwn - and Natasha remains sane by arranging play-dates ridding the house of Eitan while Madeleine entertains Ella chez nous. I like Ella, who is the new kid in the class following the departure of Madeleine's pal Mattie to South Africa, poor kid probably still does not know what hit him. Sonnet and I secretly interested in Ella since Madeleine otherwise has shun all girls. Exhibit A: 8th birthday party. Exhibit B: 7th birthday party. In class Ella is a cheerful presence with hand up often, unintimidated by her peer group. Sounds like Madeleine. I like.

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And then there seemed to be nothing beyond
Then daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!

Then the gardner suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
and the ducks all quacked as if they were daft,
And it sounded as if they old drake laughed.
Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
When Daddy fell into the pond!
--Alfred Noyes

Saturday, February 13

Spenger's & Condé

I find - and scan - this old post-card "Spenger's Fish Grotto" which has been in Berkeley for, like, ever. Johann Spenger, a Bavarian immigrant, opened a crab counter here in 1890 to complement a small fishing fleet. His son, Frank Sr., opened a restaurant in 1930 and died in '73, leaving it to his son, Frank Jr. This was in the way-back when the Berkeley pier an important dock for bay and Pacific crawlers and before the 80 separated the restaurant from the water, though the highway surely increased Spenger's customers - for many years it was the number one restaurant in America by volume and revenue. Go figure. The neighboring Brannon's, a blue-collar, old school Irish Bar with 75 cent vodka tonics as recently as last decade was in the Top Ten thanks, I would assume to Spenger's - what better way to hit the road then a belt of something following dinner? Moe and I used to go to Brennan's for carved roast beef and sour-dough sandwiches on the way back from his law office where I sometimes joined him on Sundays.

My earliest memories of Spenger's from six or seven - I associate it with The Rockford Files, which I was allowed to watch afterwards and a treat since well past my Friday bedtime. I took a date there once in high school and was mortified by the geriatrics crowd which, sadly, had become the main customer - just look at the picture and you can see why. The food was awful, killing a good memory. The restaurant closed some years ago but the area around it - 4th Street - yuppiefied with book shops, restaurants and clothing stores and, of course, a Pete's coffee. Spenger's made it possible.

Switching gears, the kids on half-term which means no school for the week. Eitan and I plan to go bowling, mano-a-mano, while I think of something equally enjoyable (?) for Madeleine. We spend the day with Emily and James, who recently took a job at Condé Naste, where he is on the main Board and responsible for the company's digital strategy - James at Yahoo for many years then an early guy at Skype (which was bought by eBay for a gazillion dollars). Condé has 80 publications including our favorites The New Yorker and Vanity Fair and, like print everywhere, readership down. His has a big job and is the guy to bring it on.

Me: "Dinner is ready - please listen when we call you."
Eitan: "I was out of the bath but I was listening to the radio."
Madeleine: "Eitan when you go upstairs will you get my Mr Squash?"
Eitan: "No."
Madeleine: "I knew you were going to say that. Dad, will you ask Eitan to get my Mr Squash since he is going upstairs?"
Me: "Who is Mr Squash?"
Madeleine: "He is one of my buddies."
Me: "And what makes him special for dinner tonight?"
Madeleine: "He just is. I have been missing him."

Eitan to his football: "Stranger, we meet again."

Ps: the post card photo from Ray Haywood during my year in Switzerland. We exchanged letters frequently.

Friday, February 12


Eitan and Madeleine on their way to mufti day at school. So I investigate this expression. mufti, and here is what I learn: "Mufti, or civies (slang for "civilian attire") refers to ordinary clothes, especially when worn by one who normally wears, or has long worn, a military or other uniform." (Wikipedia). Now it is a day where schools allow the students and staff to wear normal clothing instead of their schoo uniform. In return, students are usually required to pay a small fee whose proceeds go to fund raising efforts - today, for Haiti.

While Eitan's mufti does a '60s musician, Madeleine aims for the 1940s which her class now studies. I was with her the other morning and the children exposed to London during WWII which is recreated by discussion, film and work shops, which sees the kids acting out various rolls - tearful mom, brave older son and scared younger daughter; a BBC reporter and so and so forth. Thousands of children evacuated during the bombing and this resonates immediately with the youngsters. The main thing to get the kids thinking about how it felt during those desperate dark times.

Alexander McQueen - RIP

Alexander McQueen took his life in Mayfair yesterday. At 40, he had become known for his unconventional designs and shock tactics. McQueen worked as head of Givenchy for five years before founding Alexander McQueen and McQ Labels. McQueen's dramatic designs, worn by celebrities like Rihanna, Bjork and Lady Gaga, met with critical acclaim and earned him the British Fashion Designer of the Year award four times. I first became aware of his work with his "lobster shoes," pictured, which are like nothing else - they are alarming and horrific, changing the model's dimensions and making her that much more objectified for it. Brilliant. Sonnet notes she acquired one of McQueen's costumes days before his death.

"If you ask any lady they want to be taller, they want to be slimmer, you know, and they want a waist. I'm not here to make people look like a sack of potatoes."
--Alexander McQueen

Thursday, February 11


Re this pic, Eitan says: "I think I look famous and my teeth are whiter then usual and I look a bit broader." Yes, Eitan experiments with hair gel. The jacket, meanwhile, "is turned inside out because in the 1960s the jackets were very important." Tomorrow, you see, the weirdly named "muftie day" where the children dress as they wish and the theme ... 1960s. The kids study art - Art Week! - and the '60s seem to have some .. resonance. Eitan jingles "Lucy In The Sky Of Diamonds." They also do and watch drama and must bring in a re-construction of a London something. Most kids, including Eitan and Madeleine, do Big Ben though the craftier bring the London Eye or Tower Bridge. I suppose it depends on the parent's involvement and on this one we ain't.

Death And Drink

This one from this morning, shortly before departing for school (Sonnet to work early and I get to do the school-run, lucky me). Our sad news yesterday: Monty died following a brief illness which sapped her strength. Madeleine momentarily destroyed considering how the hamster may have suffered. Eitan, too, upset but he internalises his grief without a tear. We tell Monty stories on the walk to school, like the time she was on the lam and the whole family on hands and knees to trap her excluding Sonnet who stood on a chair - who would have thought such weakness? Eitan notes that "our house shouldn't have a pet" following four goldfish and now the second hamster. I assure the kids this the way of the world: pets die and you get another one. Monty compares nothing to the passing of Robin's beloved Ray and I make sure, without undermining grief for Monty, that we keep life in perspective.

Today I enjoy a Malcolm Gladwell (author of "The Tipping Point") story in the New Y orker about cultural influences on drink. Enjoying, that is, until he notes: "On the Brown University campus, beer -- which is to Cama rum approximately what a peashooter is to a bazooka -- was known to reduce the student population to a raging hormonal frenzy on Friday nights." Well, I assure you, that back in the day we drank Ortlieb's beer, which I have never known outside of Providence, and it is plenty strong. A case was less than a fiver.

This presents a nice segway to college which, indeed, included a lot of booze. Brown ranked the country's 13th "party school" by Playboy Magazine my Freshman something, no doubt, we felt proud of. Such honour, it seemed to me, about right given the school's popularity, which made Brown the most competitive school to get into that year (excluding the military academies). How appropriate, then, my first college night spent playing "Pixie" which had something to do with paper cups filled with Ortliebs and smashing empties on one's forehead. Or that old stand-by "quarters," ie, bouncing a quarter into a cup then picking the drinker. Brown's social scene enhanced by Greek fraternaties, dodgy non-carting dives like Oliver's and off-campus parties - we sought 'em all. New York and Smith not far away when otherwise dull. Yes, drinking an important lubricant but what I remember most that first year was the dancing - every Thursday "Funk Night" and the parties and frats all spun beats until the early hours. Once I caught an evening train to Manhattan, spent the night at the Palladium discotheque, then a morning train back to school. Yes, it all went together. Not easy with all the other demanding pressures but ah, what a time.

Wednesday, February 10

Car Crash

Check this out: data from 1961 forward, looking only at periods where growth was positive in every quarter (thank you, The Secret Economist). This is nominal Non-Financial Debt growth regressed on Real GDP growth. Debt grew slower than GDP prior to '73 and then blasted off - check out Georgie from '01 to '07:

Period DtGrowth Rsq
61-69 0.37x .98
71-73 0.59x .98
75-80 1.34x .96
82-90 2.8x .98
91-00 2.07x .998
01-07 6.02x .984

Since the 2001 recession, nominal nonfinancial debt has grown at almost 10x the rate of GDP to current data. This is unbelievable.

The US debt laden economy now features (end 2008 data) nonfinancial debt per household in excess of $280,000 with a median household income of $69k. Every $1 trillion in incremental non financial debt is roughly $8,000 per household, well over 10% of median income.

Does the Fed think it can raise the rate of inflation so that it will raise free (real) cash flow in the economy? What is going to be the impact on this country if (when) the government debt bubble deflates like the Nasdaq or housing? For this there is no backstop. Be afraid.