Wednesday, December 30
Tuesday, December 29
Monday, December 28
Sunday, December 27
Saturday, December 26
Friday, December 25
Thursday, December 24
I listen, as I blog here, to Diane's Christmas CD, which she produced some years ago to raise money for charity. Diane has recently moved from Albany, where she was the morning anchor for Fox News, to South Carolina where she informs a bigger audience - a Top 30 market, in fact.
"The martini: the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet."
--H. L. Mencken
Wednesday, December 23
But back to the black labs- Madeleine wants one. I want one. And we came pretty damn close over the summer with the house and all. Our problem the 9 to 3, or when the house empty while the Shakespeares in school. And holidays - kenal costs £25 a day and that adds up. Maybe one day yet.
Madeleine watches the home decoration channel. Me: "Why on earth are you watching that?"
Madeleine shrugs: "I don't know."
I fascinate myself with various shapes and forms before us - following the long-haul flight, I appreciate, most not their best still it strikes me how unattractive the human race. All this money spent on botox and make-up or clothes - better in the bank. Yet there is beauty in the masses: families unite, lovers squeeze and friends whoop.
Eitan and I check out the older dude with white beard, skinny tie, with cane and unsmoked pipe (Eitan: "He is definitely a spy or something"). Or the Japanese with tight black trousers, funky trainers and shiny faux-down jacket, purple of course. His hair a gelled mess. Cool. I scope the outliers - younger women with chop-stick legs, painted jeans and high-heels; usually with scarf thrown across chest and casual make-up. Greeted by drivers or boyfriends - where to? I make a final point of reviewing glasses - yes, my vanity. I have been four eyes since 1986 and interesting how specs change. I love my Buddy Holly blacks.
Eitan: "Ew, Dad! I can see the dandruff in your hair!" (Very loudly)
Eitan: "You look awfully silly in that hat."
Eitan: "You arae going bald, you know."
Eitan: "What is taking that woman so long?"
Tuesday, December 22
Sunday, December 20
So Kingston, which is not all that bad, I suppose. The city on the majestic Thames, after all, where it offered the first upstream crossing from London Bridge. The area once occupied by Romans and later a royal residence. There is record of a council from 838. All good history. There are two fabulous state secondary schools - Tiffin School and Kingston grammer. Kingston mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, which perhaps forecasts today: one giant shopping mall. Visitors drive from near and far for the brands, especially Boxing Day when JL slashes prices by 70% to clean its colon of inventory along with the rest of the holidays bloated High State. The queues all the way to the A3. But why wait for the mark-downs? Today these Brits flush: junk, junk, junk they buy like the instant soup maker or turbo espresso machine. There is an ice crushing thingy and a chrome vegetable masher. All this crap slammed down on the John Lewis credit card and to hell with our consumer debts. A young cashier tells me the chain has set record sales the last two weeks, "surprising everybody" she gushes. Indeed.
Yes, today's visit wears on me. The traffic. Lack of parking. Grotesque, damp, housing estates and faux fat Santas with advertisements flashing on their cardboard sleigh. Christmas carols belt too loudly down the main street. It is just .. so .. American. I spend the rest of the afternoon indoors, under the covers, reading the Times. Now what is that Tiger Woods up to?
Madeleine: "I still got that thing that I got."
Me: "Can you be a little more specific?"
Madeleine: "I still have that thing that I got."
Eitan, during dinner: "Can I have an after-snack?"
Me: "What is an 'after-snack''?"
Eitan: "It is a snack after dinner but before desert."
Me: "Congratulations. You should start a company with that idea and make lots of money."
Eitan gets a thimble glass and pours himself several glasses of ginger-ale: "Look, I am so drunk!"
Eitan: "Do you still think Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world?"
Eitan: "So why is he in so much trouble then?"
Me: "Because he got caught lying to his family and gambling and drinking and smoking cigars and having sex with women he should not have been having sex with."
Eitan: "You mean he smokes?"
Unexpectedly I toss an ice cream bar to Eitan. He: "Gee, it must really be Christmas."
Saturday, December 19
Somehow Eitan's hair smoothed enough for a few clips and Mission Accomplished. Wish I could say the same for Copenhagen, which serves up a bagel despite 119 heads of state in attendance - the largest-ever United Nations gatehering of leaders and governments - and further representation bringing the figure to 193 Nation member countries. In the end they agree to "take note" of the non-binding Copenhagen Accord. Milk toast. Here is what we, the planet's citizens, get: $100 billion of annual fundraising commitments by 2020 to help poor countires adapt to global warming. Developing countires will involve themselves in a climate change pact with stated emission-reductions accords, but not legally binding (hello, China and India, you beautiful gluttons of coal). There is no plan to renew the Kyoto Protocal which has accounting, compliance and reporting measures built into its structure. As for targets, industrialised and developing countries will list their pledges by Jan 31, 2010 while developing countries must communicate their efforts to "limit" greenhouse emissions every two years. This is sorta like asking Eitan to monitor his "Carmel Chew Chew." Or trusting Madeleine and Kumon. In the grandest understatement of the week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon states: "It may not be everything we hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is an essential beginning." We're toast, dude.
Madeleine: "Dad, have you ever got vegetables from Santa?"
Madeleine: "Not even when you knocked down the Christmas tree when fighting with Auntie Katie?"
In photo: Eitan watches "Sponge Bob Square Pants" and, while completely beyond me, is (begrudgingly) funny. Today's episode sees Sponge Bob capturing Plankton, a plankton, who has a plan to end the world. But then Sponge Bob accidentally electrocutes him and - poof! - he explodes. It deserves a guffaw but the boy does not raise an eyebrow.
Madeleine and I at toy store Pandemonium. Madeleine: "Dad, do you think this is a good Christmas present?" (she shows me a plastic skull and cross bones).
Me: "Sure. It is a wonderful gift."
Madeleine: "If you were getting it, would you want it?"
Madeleine: "Maybe I will get you something else."
Friday, December 18
While Hadid's structure spares no cost, London's Olympics won by suggesting the construction of a world class sports center and the regeneration of the city's East End possible without bankrupting the country. The initial cost-estimate was £2.4 billion. Fat chance. Anybody who followed the Millenium Dome knows what a good budget in England means: about twice that. Ken Livingstone famously informed us that the costs of a London Olympics would be 38p per week "the same price as a walnut whip" (whatever that is). The Olympics now stand at £12 billion. Still, this is doggone cheap compared to Beijing which came in at £20 billion, according to The Guardian, though others conservatively suggest $65 billion when the new airport and transportation lines included. London will be less splashy, accepting the Aquatics Center which becomes the center piece of the show - like the Bird's Nest stadium for China. And to pay for the honour, Londoners incur various surcharges and taxes .. it all adds up. Closer to home, Livingstone shifted a substantial burden of the Olympics cost on us, Richmond, who - he said - "can afford it." Rat bastard.
I am delighted we are hosting the games. Britain will shine. London will shine. It will be an extravagant month and wholly appropriate for the world's Greatest City.
"I swam my brains out."
Thursday, December 17
Last night kids carols at the local and Eitan and Madeleine and their school chums belt out Christmas cheer. The teachers, too, dress up in red and colour to serenade us, the parents of the neighborhood. I try to keep a low profile while Sonnet chats and makes eye-contact with the Shakespeares (Madeleine in particular peeps over rows of uncombed heads). Between songs, the chosen read about baby Jesus or the Holy Mary or Bethleham or whatever. Eitan's name probably disqualifies him since otherwise he participates in the "Challenge of the Books" with three others chosen from his year. Jesus was a Jew, wasn't he? We are entertained by the recorders and, in a coup de grace, the trumpets conclude the evening. Oy, vey.
Madeleine: "Alphie is getting neutered tomorrow."
Me: "Do you know what neuter means?"
Eitan: "It is when they cut your balls off."
Me: "Poor dog, he'll never be the same again, will he?"
Eitan and everybody cracking up: "You said 'willy'!"
"To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."
"Nothing is worth more than this day."
Since my photo may be viewed as, ahem, voyeuristic I may as well stick to pervy and report on Mrs Bibi Giles who is suing her gynaecologist, Dr Angus Thomson, for sexual assault and sexual harassment - very serious charges. Mrs Giles says Dr Thomson gave her an intimate examination that caused her to have two orgasms in less than two minutes. Mrs. Giles, 50, is married to Peter, 65, you see. Her case turns rather limp when one considers a suggestive text message, sent by her and aired in court, where Mrs. Giles asks Dr Thompson to "christen" her with his "Angus beef sausage." Wonder if the judge had a boner?
Well, before we give up on Britain completely given Mrs Giles and everything else, a team of scientists here has unwound the genetic code of two of the most deadly cancers. Eventually a simple blood test could lead to accurate "made to measure" treatment that identifies, attacks and kills each patient's cancer. Should we rise above ourselves, our children will experience unimaginable human achievement.