Here is a very cool image taken by Devi Gill, who I used to swim with in grade-school. So the Big News is Barack Obama, who arrived sometime today for the G20 and stays in undisclosed Mayfair for meetings in Westminster and at the Excel Conference Center in the East End. Naturally, protests have taken place since Sunday, and the general theme seems to be the Developing World, which must not be forgotten. I think also the Brits love a good parade - who doesn't - as long as they are not on record nor front-and-cente. Join the crowd! Otherwise, the President's car, fondly named "The Beast" at the January inauguration, on site to chauffeur Obama through town. A full-page Times spread notes the bullet-fortified plates, air-tight seal (for chemical gas or biological whatever), spike-rejecting tires and internal weaponry including anti-missile and machine gun. To get to the Excel Center, Obama will use the Air Force helicopter also equipped with the latest gadgetry... so all this begs the question: why in earth's name is the G20 in London instead of an off-shore military safe-site? The NATO headquarters outside Brussels, for instance, fully locked-down and near an airport. Save the tax-payer a buck, for Pete's sake, and let us drive in the streets.
I have been pondering Dick Cheney's recent self-defeating appearance on CNN where he told John King the country less safe now that Obama the president. Such unbecoming and unprecedented sour grapes and even Bush has, rightly, not questioned the new leadership - so why would the Vice President (other than the fact he's a asshole)? Well, for one - Obama a master at slipping in the knife - just ask Bill Clinton, then Hillary and finally McCain, who all merrily self-destructed whilst taking on the under-rated new-comer. Next, Obama allows his opponents to do the damage - McCain has nobody to blame but himself for Alaska. Finally, he keeps them left-footed. With Cheney, Obama fuels public anger re torture &c. by side-stepping a formal investigation - at the same time releasing information, primarily internal memos, that connect Bush and Cheney and Gonzales and Yoo et al to contraventions of the Geneva Conventions. While it's warm, it brews.. . Cheney, I think, now desparately using his last podium to change the story-arc; if not, he may find a gentle tap-tapping on his shoulder at some foreign airport.. the Spanish now debate, for instance, whether to bring the Bush cabinet to trial, in abstention, in an international court of law. How soothing... ahhh.
It is "checkers-day" and the kids allowed to wear black-and-white to school. Eitan draws a chess board and tapes it to his chess; Madeleine wears black pants and white flannel shirt which she otherwise sleeps in.
Tuesday, March 31
Monday, March 30
I spend the day in Amsterdam and even take my camera - but only have time for this lame-ass picture at the departing airport. Oh well. Did you know that KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name and has 30,118 employees? Wikipedia told me that. I do have time to visit the Rijksmuseum and revisit Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" and Vermeers' "The Milkmaid" which is so beautiful I well up for a moment. Somehow he captures his figure inhaling as she pours milk - simple, totally, and yet a perfect moment captured at day-break with light beaming into a shabby room which he imprints perfectly. Bravo. I also enjoy Frans Hals and Jan Steen; van Gogh has his own nearby museum but sadly I miss this time. So anyway, I arrive yesterday sacrificing a cherished Sunday afternoon to make The Hague (though Eitan, standing by me right now burping, farting and laughing his head off makes me wonder .. ) I have a meeting this morning with Jos, the head of one of the world's largest pension schemes by asset-size and we go head-to-head. Jos always contrarian, loud and loves an arguement. So this morning we talk about the state of venture capital, and whether it remains an asset class. The problem, you see, the last eight years when nobody has made a return, though if we go back twenty years from 1987 to 2007 (admittedly missing the last critical twelve-months but data not ready) we see that venture's median gross performance 16% and top quartile around 35%. This beats everything including buy-out, hedge fund and long only strategies and so forth. It also tells me that when a fellow like Jos this negative it is exactly the right time to invest in venture capital. Despite this little chestnut, I am otherwise unable to convince Jos of anything but this does not mean I don't enjoy our conversation - in fact, the opposite. It is the rare occassion I learn something private equity related that is not industry gossip. Jos may be difficult but he has been investing capital in Europe and North America in all strategies for >20 years and has lived several recessions and at least one bubble, so his opinion counts. Our two+ hours together I hope as useful for him as me.
Madeleine returns from Pizza Express.
Eitan: "What did you have?"
Eitan: "What else?"
Sonnet to me: "Hello, luv. I've missed you."
Me to Eitan: "What do you think people do at work?"
Eitan: "send texts and write emails?"
Saturday, March 28
Eitan, for some reason, decides to read on the stairs - complete with blanket which was a baby gift from Spencer and Alex. Spencer was a colleague in business school who hit it big at a hedge fund but before he became one of the immortals we suffered our relocation to London, for our wives, by drinking vodka martinis on Friday nights. Wives included, of course. Those were good moments and we were full of London and its newness. Alex was on the fast track at JP Morgan before putting it aside for Spencer and their three children - they now live in Westport, Connecticut. On her I say: stay tuned.
So I am finishing Polish writer Lem Stanislaw's sci-fi classic Solaris - from the jacket: "When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface he is forced to confront a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others suffer from the same affliction and speculation rises among scientists that the Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates incarnate memories, but its purpose in doing so remains a mystery . . .
'Solaris' raises a question that has been at the heart of human experience and literature for centuries: can we truly understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?"
I connect Solaris to this week's New Yorker story and isolation, which 25,000 US prisoners face in solitary confinement - in some states, as much as 7% or 8% of the prison population. Studies show, and POWs confirm, that lack of social contact for ten days effects personality and over three months presents extreme trauma and loss-of-self. The New Yorker's rhetorical question: "Is this torture?" Indeed, our nation too easily slipped into Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib but the foundation laid for twenty years when America began building maximum security prisons with isolation centers .. shows like "24" and violent mainstream media and video further de-sensitized us to our treatment of citizen convicts .. and all prisoners for that matter. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, these people are more of a (violent) societal threat when returned to freedom. Contrast this to Britain which has also monitored prisoner violence creep - the government here decided not punishment, but integration the best route and, in fact, environmental change dramatically tempers aggression. So America must ask: are we, as individuals, not equal to how we treat the poorest and least privileged? Are we making our society better or safer?
Friday, March 27
Here is bad-ass Josh Redman who plays Ronnie Scott in SoHo last week, selling out three nights. Josh was in the Berkeley High Jazz band with Katie, who was on the flute. Both performed at the Monterrey Jazz Festival and Casedero Music Camp, graduating same year and attending Harvard. Josh stuck with his music and now, famous in his own right, no longer needs his dad Dewie's introduction; Dewie of course a jazz legend. Sonnet and I saw Dewie in a rare performance at the Jazz Cafe in Camden some many years ago and I spoke to him briefly about Berkeley and knowing his son. The old man had a presence and watchful, intelligent eyes I recall. We have seen Josh several times at the same venue and others like the London Jazz Festival. He's one to be proud of.
More tall buildings, more strange angles (crap photo from mobile phone). This time, in Boston and the one in the back is the John Hancock Building. I fly into town yesterday to meet the fellows at Correlation Ventures, but arrive tardy for dinner as my flight delayed. I take a sleeping pill and wake up a the crack of dawn to lift some weights then have breakfast with Todd, which is always a load of fun. As ever, we crack jokes about First Boston and the stressed out jackos we worked with. From there, it is an afternoon of due-diligence and then.. the airport. No time even for a museum. I pop another pill and sleep on the plane and presto! back to London and my office. I would rather have it this way then miss a weekend of family. So back to the tower, which is fun to riff on. The 60 stories completed in 1976 with all sorts of problems: the initial foundation warped damaging utility lines, the sidewalk pavement and nearby buildings including the historical Trinity Church across the street. Then there was the new mirrored blue glass .. windowpanes detached from the building and crashed to the sidewalk hundreds of feet below .. and if that not enough, the building's upper-floor occupants suffered from motion sickness when the building swayed in the wind. I feel a bit nervous frankly being anywhere near the thing but, really, it is a beautiful structure and iconic. It gives little Boston its own steel and glass building just like Midtown. Too bad about those Yankees.
Wednesday, March 25
The UK's retail pricing index (RPI) indicates the country is entering a deflationary period. Combined with recession, this an omen. To explain, there are two types of deflation: good and bad (so simple). Good deflation driven by demand, which increases production to meet the demand .. increased production introduces economies of scale and per widget prices fall .. fuelling more demand netting an expansionary economy, jobs and a nice, happy, little society. This is what occurred during Britain's industrial revolution or the US in the 1920s. Bad deflation is supply driven - there is too much of it. Unsold inventory forces discounting, lowering income and reducing profits should cost cutting not match -which eventually it does.. people laid-off reducing purchasing (demand) further and down we go. Worse, in bad-deflation we cannot trust earnings forecasts by public and private companies we invest in, which means they may be.. worthless! If one considers that the standard MBA discounted-cash-flow model applies 80% of an enterprise's economic value in the terminal value (ie, multiple applied after, say, the fifth-year forecast) and earnings declining due to deflation.. well, you see the idea. This is why so critical to stim-u-late today and not get distracted by the vast amount of Federal debt. Recall that the Great Depression ended thanks to WWII (not FDR, but he set us on the right path) - the war produced the greatest government works program known to man and saw our leverage to GDP ratio surpass 120%. Today, despite trillions, we are not above 20% - a freaky number for sure but the alternative, should today's progam not work, is a generation of economic stagnation. See Japan for the details.
A car picks me up in 20 minutes to Boston via Heathrow.
Wonderful photo from Richard Franke. I had a couple XXX ideas, you know - of limpness- but not appropriate for Moe, Stan and whomever else reading.
Government, surveillance and military intertwined and threaten our civil liberties - today, it is announced that British Ministers pursue access, sans judge or legal order, to our individual private Internet usage, including social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo which have tens of millions of accounts. This likely counters European law and civil rights activists are rightly upset. For the record I have no problem targeting websites spreading damned mischief+monitoring visitors to those sights, under a court's guidance. Random investigations into my, or anybodies Internet usage a treasure chest: buying habits, health concerns, sexual orientations and so forth can all be pieced together rapidly. While thinking about this, check out the latest US military arsenal - pictured. This little baby mounts a weapons platform onto a Talon robot which is part of The Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System, or SWORDS system. It allows soldiers to fire small arms weapons by remote control from 1,000 meters away (picture from the 24th Army Science Conference). The Talon not yet in Iraq but maybe soon. One would say never in a civilian population but who knows - surveillance drones being tested in British cities. How would you like to be nabbed shop-lifting with one of these things?
Tuesday, March 24
This the last of a series of photographs from Sunday. We were crossing the Lambeth Bridge (five wrought-iron, lattice-girder spans supported on cast-iron columns with ornate capitals carry two railway tracks across the river) and my image faces East; here is the same facing West from the Golden Jubulee Bridge (three flat ferro-concrete arches are faced with Portland stone). Otherwise, Sonnet at Jury duty for ten weeks on a murder trial which she refuses to discuss with me, per judges orders. Boooring. Last night I met Ruth Simmons who is in London raising shekels for student-aid. Simons being Brown University's 18th president and first black president of an Ivy League institution (I think also first female, but unconfirmed). I tell her my era was wonkish Howard Swearer who was replaced by the brilliant and loved Vartan Grigorian - who, though I had met him only once or twice on campus, remembered me with a big smile when I bumped into him on the Upper East Side ten years post graduation. Like Vartan, Simmons has amazing presences and instills confidence, though she is not as academically unusual and more administrative - like many Americans she is unafraid to ask for money and proudly announces her "Boldly Brown" campaign of $1.4B ahead of pace despite the climate with $1.32B in the bank. When I was a student, we were last in the Ivy and today our fundraising third after Princeton and Dartmouth. Just shows what leadership can do. So I tell Ruth (as she likes to be called) that Sonnet went to Smith and "we have been watching your career with great interest." I was tempted to ask her during a Q&A whether the 13 story Sciences Library ("Sci Li") still sinking, as every Freshman believed in '85. Probably best that I kept the smart-ass to myself.
Monday, March 23
Shot on the South Embankment, from Westminster Bridge facing West. The tall building Millbank House or the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Lit up by the sunset, I think, the MI5 which is the British Secret Intelligence Service or James Bond and Money Penney and all that. On that subject, Google maps is now at street-level, similar to San Franciso. Googlers can see one's block or their neighbors .. or Tony Blair, Super Gee and Kate Moss .. but not Matt Brittin who runs Google UK. His is a black-out. Go figure. I'm not sure how I feel about this BTW - I kind of like the anonymity of one's home in the Big City - certainly several dudes photo'd by Google entering a sex-house weren't especially pleased to see their faces turning up when that block searched.. now their faces scratched out. Is there no privacy? And where does this go? We already have the highest concentration of CCTV anywhere in the world by a long shot.. and the police testing surveillance drones above Manchester .. not to mention a children's database being built reported by yesterday;s Times which is a clear violation of our children's and our civil rights. What scares me really is "the creep" of it all... nobody protests the small stuff then - bam!- Big Brother knows everything.
Yuval and Ynon and Shai - we spend the afternoon together on the Southbank catching up and talking about kids, the recession and other things effecting everything. Our friends and us are squarely in the middle of the financial and economic melt-down. '97 MBAs are along in their careers and comfortable with a lifestyle .. and now if not taken away, certainly we are worried. The younger generations I feel for - I met a Brown guy recently who had been into the first year of Lehman's Analyst program or the same one I completed at First Boston, immediately post-college. He is now looking into other areas, anything, and the truth is there is nothing. By the time the inevitable return occurs there will be another wave of fresh faces to fill the holes. My advice to him: medicine. But he wants the bucks now and not willing to invest another eight years in education though he completed pre-med in college and his parents both doctors. I suppose at least he can live at home - I did for a couple years before grad-school and while working for non-profit Help The World See. And you know, I am grateful for that time with my parents. I got to know them as an adult - thanks mom and dad for feeding me. Anyways, Shai runs one of Richard Branson's business and has always been humble despite his success - like nobody I know, he tells it straight and is respected for it. Guys like this are valuable in good times and more so today.
If anyone curious how I get Madeleine to sit still - going charge is £1 per pose. Here we are in the main gallery of the Tate Modern, where the current display is - as always - weird. In this case, it is French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerstar who works with video and installations filling the turbine hall wall-to-wall with empty bunk beds holding science-fiction and Nazi literature; in the center, an enormous steel spider+egg sack surrounded by A) one dinosaur skeleton, B) marble obelisk; C) Apple core (pictured) and D) video screen showing 1950s and '60s sci-fi. Neat. Gonzazalez-Foerstar won the Marchel Duchamp Prize in 2002 for similar work.
Note Madeleine's work-book - she records her dailyl activities and pastes all sorts of things - one page, for instance, bird feathers of various sorts most dramaticly one that is bright yellow. From where?
The Tate Britain yesterday, where we catch the boat to the Tate Modern with Shai, Ada and their boys. The Britain houses our treasures including the largest collection of JMW Turner who I personally cannot stand.
There have been three instances since arriving in the UK where I have been caught off guard by the mainstream, which is to say something happening within the wider British culture which I have missed or misunderstood. Two of them include Jade Goody, whose death from cancer this weekend at age-27 has caused a national outpouring while the third being Diana. Jade thrust herself into our national psyche when she appeared on Big Brother 3 in 2002 (the Queen's jubilation celebration year BTW); Big Brother for those somehow unawares was the first reality TV program in the UK showing 11 self-imprisoned co-eds ("housemates") bitching, loving and hating each other live, 24-7 - slowly thrown off the show by popular vote. There have been umpteen spin-offs since cheep, puerile entertainment. Jade was the target of ridicule for displaying a severe lack of general knowledge for a British native. Goody, for instance, thought that the English city of Cambridge was in London. On being told that Cambridge is in East Anglia she thought Africa and referred to it as "East Angular." My exposure to Big Brother occurred at the very ending when final contestants remained and I woke up blinkered to see the final hours played out in the national press whilst an estimated 45 million viewers tuned. There are 61 million of us here. Goody went on to write books, launch a diet and remain in the press's eye - perfect for the wired-all-the-time-short-attention-span-titillate-me era. She made a brief comeback on BB 5 when accused of racism for attacking "Shilpa Pashwa whoever you fucking are" - Shilpa being the most famous movie star in Ballywood. Riots ensued. Then perversely on Indias Big Brother in August '08 where Jade trying to make amends, she learned of her cervical cancer on the show. Ever since, she has opened her life to the media in order to put aside enough money for her two boys to go to private school and be taken care of. For Jade, who came from nothing and described as "Diana, but from the wrong side of the track", the rise a Cinderella story of rags to riches .. listening to an interview of her from 2007 I admit to being struck by her pluck - she noted the '02 BB was a vacation from her sick mother and abusive boy-friend. Ultimately, she raises awareness of cancer and becomes a roll model - anybody can pull themselves together and out. Jade did it.
Sunday, March 22
I am not a ruby fan but watch transfixed last nights Six Nations Championship between Ireland and Wales - no sissy cricket this. The annual international rugby union competition includes England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The game is the most brutal of any, excluding boxing, and the players hurl themselves at their opponents and blood often everywhere. Within minutes of the start two lads are fighting - punches! - and the refs defer to the other players to separate the pugilists. Surprisingly, given the er roughness, rugby is the elitist sport played in the public schools (ie, the private schools) across Britain .. of course in the US it is suburban soccer which considered upper-crust while baseball the blue-collar companion. Our friend Richard, who used to play competitively, unknowingly broke his neck in a scrum - coach wouldn't let Richard back in the game or he would not be with us now. Eventually he went to the hospital for the pain .. where he waited four hours in emergency. When he was finally examined - boom!, on the ground with nine care-providers circling him and likely saving his life. No way will Eitan be doing same. So anyways, last night's game down to the final five minutes when Ireland scores the go-ahead cross kick for 15-13 then, no time remaining, Wales unable to convert a 48m penalty kick which falls short by a meter. If successful they would now be champions but instead, heartbreak. It doesn't get more exciting than this in any sport, though Cal's '82 Big Game not to be surpassed. For the record, Ireland's Grand Slam title their first time since 1948, and they also take the Triple Crown by beating England, Scotland and Wales. I can almost feel Dublin's hang-over this morning ..
Photo uncredited from the www.
Sunday morning and Madeleine does her Kumon - with usual healthy resistance. It is a lovely spring morning and her brother at football so all she really wants to do is go to the park. She begs - pleeeaaaase mum -until Sonnet gives in and promises to do so after making afternoon meatballs. Me, I'm out the door early to run around Richmond Park preparing for the marathon. The first mile or so always miserable but afterwards it is all good - park mostly empty and a brilliant early sunshine. I see chef Gordon Ramsey cruise by .. he's impossible to miss since his party lines run deep into his face .. I understand he runs London every year and he sails by at a pretty fast clip. Yesterday Eitan goes bowling for Orlando's 8th birthday party and I pick him and pal Tobias up in Kingston, post-action. I like Tobias who wears his hair below his shoulders - I ask him casually whether he puts it into a pony tail and when he will cut it next - he tells me yes, and when it reaches his waste. The boys consider this for a moment. Tobias's father a musician in the London orchestra and German, so I ask Tobias to speak his foreign tongue .. when he can't think of anything off the cusp I suggest: "you smell like a dead cat." We crack up. I add helpfully: "tu sent comme un chat mort" telling them that is how you say "you smell like a dead cat" in french. More guffaws, Eitan rolls his eyes but loves (I think) my attention at their level. On the drive home through Richmond Park we discuss bands, football and favorite foods - this is what is on their mind.
Friday, March 20
The school kids are allowed to wear whatever the hell they want today, so Eitan goes as a clown while Madeleine a frog- pictured. She's utterly cool of course. After the school run, Sonnet and I awknowledge spring having lunch in Richmond next to the Thames. I recover from a most excellent evening with high-school pal Dan who is in town to interview Fergus Henderson for Men's Journal - Fergus being the founder chef of favorite St John's restaurant. Since Dan has been at St John's all week, we dine at La Caprice then Sonnet and I head for Soho to see saxophonist Joshua Redman at Ronnie Scott's - Josh another Berkeley High grad who famously turned down Yale Law School to pursue his father Dewie into music, thank goodness for us. Sadly we are unable to get tickets so instead find ourselves at the Lab bar and consequently I am a bit slower for it today. No complaints, mind you - it has been a while since Sonnet and I have enjoyed an evening in the city's underbelly.
I ask Eitan about my classroom story yesterday - replies he: "It is the longest we have ever gone in school without learning anything." (Ouch!)
Thursday, March 19
David awaits his son Bertie, who swims in the heats before Eitan. David and I have known each other many years watching our boys and girl on the football pitch - spring, summer, fall, winter - yes, we have been sun-burnt, soaked, frozen and miserable but there has also been great joy watching our kids advance. David runs an executive placement business and before that, University Newcastle and a farm where he grew up. He is true-blood English and his season tickets to Chelsea an endless point of ribbing or congratulating, depending on the team's performance.
We're back at the Richmond Pool for the Gala Championships Final. Given the limited space accommodating a maximum 250 parents and their 200 children, the thing is remarkably efficient right down the starting-horns which beep the racers off. Eitan swims the 33meter freestyle in trials - pictured, green cap, by lane two - placing fourth overall and making the evening's finals which take the top-six. In between, he sits around with his class cheering his team-mates and looking kinda bored which is kinda me in the stands. Being a parent is being a spectator. When I was a swimmer, the down-time - and there was plenty of it - filled with endless games of "hearts", music walkmen and flirting. Probably all to come for Eitan but who knows? Finally his race arrives and he anxiously, dutifully files up to his starting block which he won't use preferring to go from the wall. The boys shake their arms furiously and look to the stands for.. approval? Support? Eitan ignores me which is par for the course when I have my camera. And they're off! But Eitan's goggles fall from his face - he stops - then churns his arms furiously for ... fourth place! But wait - the winner disqualified for a false start and Eitan gets a meddle! All of us thrilled, especially he. Eitan's squad takes second place for their age and brings the school a healthy trophy.
Wednesday, March 18
From the Daily Mail, by Penny Marshall: "Like a real porn star, Becky is heavily made up and lying naked on the bed as the camera flashes. She could be just another glamorous model as she poses provocatively with practised moves. But she isn't. Shockingly, Becky is just 17 and still at school. She's filming herself in a friend's bedroom in a large, detached house in leafy suburbia as her school friends party downstairs."
It is inevitable, my prurient self supposes, that I would catch the trend of "sexting" and comment on it - how not in this social digital blather? As a middle-aged parent and observer, it is titillating and threatening- and illegal. "Sexting," for those older than me, is sending provocative photos of self to others via a mobile phone. It is almost always younger girls and last year 90 children in the UK cautioned as a result of posting sexual material of themselves or their underage friends in this manner. Given the noxious combination of binge-drinking, video gaming, sexual media and advertising in the UK and US, no wonder teen-agers find sexting normal practice. So here is another generational divide I am left to ponder. When I was young (oh la la la) adolescence confusing enough without pornography - at least we had "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty In Pink" to guide us. Today, there would seem to be a clear relationship between imagery and activity: 'The age at which people have their first sexual experience has fallen dramatically. For women it dropped from 21 in 1953 to below 16 in 2006. 'Teenage pregnancies are higher in the UK than anywhere in western Europe, at 27 in 1,000 compared with only five in the Netherlands." (The Good Childhood Study). A Radio 4 investigation suggests that by age-16, and as young as eight, kids include 'sexual surfing' as part of their normal online experience. Britain offers no parental or other guidelines - though this problem now receives mainstream attention and the sexualisation of young teenage and pre-teen girls through clothes, videos, and music lyrics, and a possible link with sexual abuse and violence, is under a fact-finding review by the Home Secretary. So once again our government - or schools - sought to fix a social concern that should be firstly cared for at home. I, for one, won't let Eitan and Madeleine have a television or computer (for now) and surfing done in a public place - even if only harmless Fabregas Top 10 Goals. Are not there some obvious measures to (re)gain a control?
Image from David Cronenberg's '83 film "Videodrome"
Tuesday, March 17
Hat from the V&A exhibition (photo from V&A publications). Government has spurned chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson's call for a minimum price of 50p per unit alcohol to cut consumption. Super Gee notes ".. as we crack down on binge and under-age drinking it’s also right that we do not want the responsible sensible majority of moderate drinkers to have to pay more or suffer as a result of the excesses of a small minority.” The minimum-charge for a 12% bottle of wine would be £3. This floor, the chief medical office models, nets a 7% decrease in booze and 10% in the binge-drinking younger set (the current bottle goes, on average, for around £4 in Britain). This nets 3,200 fewer drinks-related deaths per year and saves the UK economy some £20-30 billion in recouped wages and lost time from hang-overs. It also reduces hospital and emergency care in the tens of thousands of visits per year. Seems like a good investment to me since it also saves our center-towns from louts and drunkards who cavort, fight and vomit like a bunch of wild animals embarrassing all of us. The real pressure on Super Gee not the voters but the drinks industry and its influence over Big Politics. I do not doubt for a minute their ability to steer the debate, and indeed I listen to a spokesperson on Radio 4 discuss alternatives to a tax - like labelling and education. Fair enough, but the problem is that such measures, in place for years, don't work. There is something in this British culture about letting go - France, where the average bottle of wine is £1.70 has no similar problem .. so why the difference? Britain is a messier place and perhaps old habits die hard - unlike the Gallics who live inside tolerance Britain loves to let it rip.
Today St. Patrick's day which celebrates Saint Patrick (AD 385–461), one of the patron saints of Ireland. It's also a good reason to get pissed especially if you live in Boston or New York. In my yuf, when I lived on 85th St., the local pub McLeer's was all things green and especially today, 17 March. Located on 80th and Amsterdam, it was an Upper West Side destination which often kicking off a bar crawl ending at the Raccoon Lodge or some other seedy all-you-can-drink joint. Unlike the others, McA's was reasonably legitimate outside of the weekend - a blue collar hangout with the down and out crowd it sponsored - ugly bar, basic family tables, ancient television set showing sports, open until who-knows-when. In short, the perfect place for one's 20s with your male friends on the cheap. Chics might be there too but not for the ambiance, that's for sure. I think I celebrated my last night at First Boston here. So back to St Pat's: the Queen Mum used to fly bowls of shamrocks from Ireland to members of the Irish Guards made up of, well, the Irish; in 2002, London mayor Ken Livingstone organised an annual Saint Patrick's Day parade which takes place on weekends around the 17th usually in Trafalgar Square, though we shan't be going thank you very much. In 2008 the water in the Trafalgar Square fountains was dyed green. The world's first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in Boston in 1761, organized by the Charitable Society while today's largest in Dublin attracts over 500,000 people. And there you have it.
Me to Madeleine, who compares everything to her brother: "You know, it all evens out over the long run."
Madeleine: "What about those shin pads? Eitan got them last year and I never got a pair."
"May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you."
Old Irish blessing
"The Irish ignore anything they can't drink or punch"
Monday, March 16
The boys in action. Spring has arrived in London as temperatures in the balmy low-60s. Strangely, the Royal Family has been out of the news since the New Year - I mean, no Wills and Kate Middleton action nor Harry cock-ups (other than calling the Pakis... well, Pakis). This week sees Prince Charles and the duches touring South America complete with sambo dancers in Rio De Janeiro. Now that is an awkward moment - Charles surrounded by voluptuous Latinos dying to mug with him - could anything prove more demasculating? It is not like Charles tries .. he is simply sooo formal that even the suggestion of titties throws him off his game. To his credit, Charles does a considerable amount of charitable and honourable work - he exports an image of Britain lost long ago: smugly confident in its world view, wealthy though not dashing. White. And while the Buckingham mansion no longer messy nor interesting without Diana and her foibles (who can forget James Gilby recorded telephone conversation: "Ohhh Diana were I tampon .. .") it is somehow reassuring. The country may have 2,000,000 unemployed, a yuf drinks culture and knife problem but we also have the Queen - always somehow practical and pragmatic, a bit dour and with definite taste - us subjects know that we are in good hands. Oy.
“Never underestimate the capacity of angry populism in times of economic stress."
Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley
Eitan plays his first "friendly" representing his new club Kew Park Rangers against the Kew Association. There is a bit of heat in the match as KA is a spin-out from the larger KPR and left the club so the younger lads could play competitive matches from age seven; KPR follows the England FA guidance of over-eights so Eitan won't have the real competition until he turns nine in September. The main contention, of course, is the players KA took - generally the best, most eager boys (whose parents) want outcomes early. And play they do - KA has had over 20 matches this season so far and their game generally well oiled. The last time the two groups together, before Eitan, KPR suffered outcomes of 9-nil and so forth... KA has one player, Jack, contracted with Chelsea for his later years - the kid is eight years old. He's also butter on the pitch. So it was exciting to watch the close action and though Eitan's squad loses both matches 3-2 and 3-2, they play admirably and are always in the game. Eitan reminds me of Kelly in the Bad News Bears - he raises the level of play. He also neutralises - and outplays - Jack which has the sideline tongues wagging. The coach, pictured right, who loves his boys and a serious sort comes over to me afterwards all smiles: "Aye-tan was brilliant" he says in an English brogue. The boy and I lounge around the rest of yesterday in front of more football on TV while Sonnet takes Madeleine to the British Museum and dim sum in Chinatown.
The boy in yellow BTW is the goal-keeper or generally the worst job on the field. He's pretty damn good at it though.
Friday, March 13
Owning an electric avoids London's £8 congestion charge and carbon-emission tarrif which can surpass £500 per year depending on car-class. Is this enough to get rid of the Range Rovers, unaffectionately known as "Chelsea tractors" used to shuffle kids back and forth from primary school or road-hogs yapping on their mobile whilst driving? Probably not, but a start anyway. Former Mayor Ken Livingston wanted to charge £25 per day for high-emission cars like the SUV but Boris has shied away from something so politically unpopular. Oh well, I'm left to curse under my breath (full disclosure: on holiday I get the biggest damn car I can drive in America and love it).
I have breakfast with Brad who visits London from Chapel Hill to talk to oil and gas guys and investors in his gas-renewables project. Brad is partnered with all kinds of heavy weights like Siemens and ExonMobil and if anybody can make a buck while energy prices down, it is him. And I expect him to retire when rates up, as is inevitable. Brad and I met early last year while he and his family in London and he running $billions for Babson Capital (Mass. Mutual); we enjoy each other's company - Brad rather formal and a converted Republican - and his sense of humour allows us to joke around the edges and appreciate each others views. He's also a maths genius and a John Motley Morehead Scholar at Univ. of North Carolina where he got his BA and JD. I now envy his suburban lifestyle complete with barbecue grill and UNC basketball games. Since the Tar Heels ranked #1 I am told in good faith that getting tickets requires $25,000 donation minimum to the athletics department. This season sounds like a bargain. Says Brad: "reality is the yellow line in the middle of the road" which I think applies to many a thing.
Here's another nice reason to love W. Bush: The Federal Reserve reports today that U.S. households lost $5.1 trillion in the final three months of 2008. What American family would ever have voted for the Iraq war knowing the disastrous return on our investment in this silly, ill-planned and unnecessary war? Sure, I buy that the 50 leverage cycle unravelling but recall, Dear Sir, that 50% of the run-up occurred from 2004 squarely under Bush's watch - a president, BTW, who promoted asset ownership, primarily property, whilst the market flooded with cash thanks to Greenspan's low interest rates and failure to understand anything at all about the economy. And who could forget el President's "this sucker could go down" on September 28, 2008? At least Super Gee has not hit the panic button and seems to understand Britain and the world's troubles. As does Obama I feel, though I am sometimes worried that he is giving attention to plans outside the critical-path of banking and liquidity - afterall, if we don't get the economy's heart pumping you can say goodbye to education, welfare and all that.
Thursday, March 12
Marc and I reunion after four years on the Bankside - behind us, across the river, an old friend - wherever you are, there is the Wren. Marc and I formed a poker club back in '99 with a number of new media luminaries who have made a fortune or started over. Many of them now gone from London, including Marc who lives in Texas and invests for a family office. He is a pretty good poker player and probably has some of my money yet. So here is the latest sign the world is going to hell: the wonderfully named "lollypop ladies," who stand curbside and ensure our children cross the streets safely, are being armed with cameras secretly placed in their signage to capture aggressive motorists (at a cost to the counsel of £1,000 a pop). These mostly elderly volunteer gentle women and men are a treasure which I recall from my earliest memories. To think that British drivers go out of their way to ignore them or worse, threaten their safety and the children is outrageous. Unfortunately I don't have the facts to suggest whether this an over-reaction somehow similar to cameras everywhere in London but the local councils taking louts seriously, and to this I cannot argue. Another sign the end is nigh: Michael Jackson booked solid for 25 nights at the O2 Centre with tickets going for £1000s. Actually I wouldn't mind seeing Jacko myself . .. .
Here, the breathing city, around 10AM - image from the Southbank facing East towards the city (Tower 42 and the Gherkin mark the financial district). Note the cranes - this the end of an era as nothing new going up - in fact, the London Shard, which was to be Europe's tallest building located at the Tower Bridge, is now off. The Millennium bridge, pictured, connects St Paul's Cathedral, The Globe and the Bankside Power Station (now the Tate Modern) - I love the idea that the Pre-Norman, Shakespeare and Britain's industrial age brought together by a modern footpath over the river that gives this place life. Londoners BTW nicknamed the bridge the "Wobbly Bridge"after unexpected swaying caused its closing after two days - after some embarrassment and some further modifications the "wobble" was eliminated entirely - the designers had not modelled foot-traffic stepping ensemble which is what happens on on the sway. Go figure.
This morning the family breaks into spontaneous disco-dancing when I play the Scissor Sisters - Sonnet leads interpretations of "the chicken," "the swim," "the lawn-mower" and "the dog" which sees her raising her leg to the beat. The kids crack up and we know Sonnet has it in her to not be serious all of the time.
We have a discussion as to why I might wear a heart-rate monitor:
Eitan: "To see what time it is?"
Madeleine: "to see where you are?"
Eitan: "to weigh your heart?"
Madeleine: "to see how fat you are?"
Eitan: "to see how fast your heart is going?" (finally!)
Madeleine adds helpfully: "To see that you are dying?"
Sonnet leaves early and I find Madeleine under her bed: "what's up?" I ask? She: "Nothing, Dad, I'm just missing mum."
Tuesday, March 10
Alison posts this wonderful photograph of us in our prime - Berkeley High School our Senior Year or "Kicking it live and busting out of the hive in '85" (our school mascot the yellow jacket). I could name most of the people but for now glaze over the individuals to revel in our youth. Picture on the steps leading to the school auditorium where we gathered for lunch between class every day from Sophomore to Senior year (ninth grade at West Campus, a weird Berkeley-only public school experiment in a bad part of town). And yes, that is me on the left in flooding jeans. Très cool then, I should think.
My day off to an interesting start - running late I arrive at The Wolseley to find that I have two dates converging at the same time unexpectedly. Since my name on the reso, everybody perplexed before I arrive. It was all a bit awkward which I handled appropriately by sweating inappropriately. Afterwards I see the dismissed party taking them flowers - a nice welcoming since they are French and have started a new investment business in Mayfair. Probably they are not otherwise receiving bouquets, to my credit. My evening ends at yoga and now the couch where I watch a UEAFA Cup qualifier which Eitan begs his way into - past his bedtime. Liverpool trouncing Real Madrid 3-nil when I send Eitan off to bed grumbling. Meanwhile, I tell a restless Madeleine that her teacher has threatened to tie her up in chains and hang her from the classroom ceiling. Says Madeleine with some worry: "do you swear, dad- do you?" The game is up when Sonnet rolls her eyes (as ever) and Madeleine informs me she knew I was lying because my ears red. This leads into a lengthy series of lies, no-lies with questions like: 'you snore in your sleep' or 'your mother screamed bloody murder when you were born.' Just any old night of the week this could be.
Monday, March 9
If this graph was not so horrifying it would be funny - straight from a New Yorker cartoon. I am having a rousing conversation with at least one of my conservative friends who already accuses: "he (Obama) has so far been a disaster for the economy, with ambition to wreck far more than just the financial sector." If only six weeks, what will we be after four years? Many of us liberals are also becoming concerned about the deficit spending but I agree with the President's broader agenda: correcting the extreme wealth imbalance that has occurred since Reagan and accelerated during Bush thanks in large part to the Bush tax cuts. Besides, what other option is there other then borrow and spend? Our backs against the wall. Most economists agree too including Nobel price winners Stiglitz and Krugman. The disingenousness of the Republican party strikes home repeatedly - they carp about the deficits yet wasted 2% GDP on Iraq which has produced no ROI; their spending on top of the war ran our deficit to trillions; Republicans voted without exception against the stimulus package and blow-hard Rush Limbaugh demands the Presidents failure, which is really the failure of America. So I ask: what do you call a Republican standing in the bread line? A Democrat.
Here is another posed image - poor kids - at the outer edge of London on Richmond Hill. This a favorite spot near the Richmond Hill entrance of Richmond Park overlooking the Thames facing west. Behind the kids is Surrey. The week end whizzes by with swimming, football and more football - this time, it is Manchester United vs. local Fulham at Old Trafford. Eitan and Joe Y-H watch the 4-nil trouncing at Joe's house; Joe then comes over for an over-night, goes home at 10PM then returns for breakfast. It is all good and Joe a great pal which reminds me of Jeff Morgan from my same age - what could have happened to him? His brother Louis had cancer so Jeff and I often found ourselves together after school. But back to now: before Joe's departure, the kids decide to sleep downstairs on the floor with Madeleine on the couch. Not missing the action, she. They gorge themselves on ice cream and television and why shouldn't they? Friendship something to celebrate.
Eitan sits next to me and perched before his notebook providing me and Madeleine factoids about a horse, which he studies in school. Did you know that a horse can live 25 years? Charlie lived until 29 so he had an extra long life, Madeleine notes with teary eyes. The number of teeth a horse has equal to its years. Old Billy, the oldest recorded horse lived to 62, though I cannot imagine he had room in his mouth for 62. A horse spends more energy lying down than standing up A horse's head weighs 11,84 pds on average; its heart- 10. I am commanded to bring home horse pictures for the assignment: "make them funny, dad, OK?