Tuesday, October 30

Three Zees

We get some sunny weather while the rest of the world concentrates on Sandy which hits the Eastern US with energy equivalent to 10,000 nuclear explosions.

Zebulon (far left) has discovered programming : he spends his free time making computer games and describes a creation where squares appear on-screen in various places and the player must "tap" each to disappear; their speed increases with the user's skill. Another applies a gravitational formula to mimic lift.  Zebulon did not sleep for three days while doing this.  Zakkai and Zephyr hold their own : the former into theatre and drama; the later football.

Theirs a suburban family that bicycles everywhere so I am surprised that none of the boys own a "chopper".  In my day, this was the ride : small front wheel, banana seat, "U" handlebars and back support with orange fiber-glass pole and flag attached (for the blind corners). Baseball cards in spokes optional.  No, today's yuf own mountain or racing bikes as sleek as their parents' SUV or hybrid. They might be more functional but where is the thrill in that ? Left in the 70s, no doubt.

Monday, October 29

Monday Morning

Madeleine at Starbucks.

Sonnet and I start the day at Cafe Nero, something we rarely do, and it is a good way to sync the various activities. The kids engaged in Week Two of their half-term break and so far neither has submitted to me their reports on various selected activities (museum visits, Kew gardens and etc).  The three Zs ("zeds") over for the night.  I am off to Canada tomorrow and shall miss the pumpkin carving.

Sunday, October 28

Sunday Run

On my Sunday morning loop of Richmond Park, Rusty jumps on a guy, Alex, in a high-tech lyrcra outfit  with dual water packs and sipping straws. He is on his way to 3X the park, 21 miles, in preparation for the April Marathon des Sables, a six day, 151 mile endurance race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco.  I learn 900 athletes driven by army trucks one full-day into the barren sand - no roads exist.  Runners carry their equipment - sleeping bag, vaccinations, gear - all this weighing 7 kgs before water.  Aid stations are 14 km as the crow flies and "the drip" for dehydration a disqualifier.

Four years ago Alex picked up running and completed his first marathon in 4:15 minutes, dropping 20 kg.  His next was 3:45 and a couple of weeks ago he finished Berlin in 2:55.  He is my age and encourages me to take another swing.

Elm Grove defeats the Fleet Colts 5-1, placing the All Starts tops in their division.  For reward, Eitan zonked in front of the TV for Manchester United v. Chelsea.

Saturday, October 27


The Enterprise faces a "beserker," a planet-eating machine made by a long-dead alien race

"Doomsday Machine" : my all-time favorite Star Trek episode including the movies which, other than "The Wrath of Kahn," are bunk, and excluding Next Generation and Deep Space 9, which I never got in to.

Episode: TOS 35 - Doomsday Machine
Season 2, Ep. 6
Air date: 10/20/1967
Stardate: 4202.9

NCC 1701

USS Enterprise NCC 1701

Star Trek hit hard in the 3rd or fourth grade, introduced to me by neighbour Todd.  The iconic, dual-phaser firing USS Enterprise was the perfect after-school pre-supper show. Todd and I drew the Enterprise in various battle scenes on printer paper (perforated side strips for 'grip') pinched from the earliest computers at UC Berkeley where Todd's dad worked in the sciences.

The Enterprise BTW designed by Matt Jefferies and no kid ever questioned its ability, with those gigantic thrusters, to zip around galaxies at 'warp speed' (I did sometimes wonder about 'Space 1999' whose out-of-orbit moon arrived, every week, at objects many thousands of light-years away).

The NCC 1701 registry, according to Jefferies, from "NC" being one of the international aircraft registration codes; the second "C" added for differentiation while the "1701" chosen to avoid ambiguity: according to Jefferies, the numbers 3, 6, 8 and 9 are "too easily confused". It also suggests the ship the 17th cruiser design with the first serial number of that series.  The "USS" should mean "United Space Ship" and the "Enterprise" a member of the Starship Class (all this explained in 'The Making of Star Trek').

"We've got to risk implosion. We may explode into the biggest fireball this part of the galaxy has seen, but we've got to take that one in a million chance. "

--Captain James T. Kirk in 'The Naked Time'

Friday, October 26

St James's The Divine

Eitan catches the 33 bus to Hammersmith where he meets Sonnet for the afternoon. Here he is at St James's cathedral to listen to pianist David Schofield  (photo from Sonnet).

St James's and St Martin-On-The-Field offer noon-time concerts which is one of my favourite things to do in London. The performances a tune up for an evening orchestra or students seeking an outlet for their hyper talent. I listen to Bach, Beethoven and Wagner in this fashion and have been introduced to the alphorn and the oboe, which has a clear and penetrating voice.

St James's bracketed by bustling Picadilly with its red double-deckers on one side and Jermyn Street  the other (Jermyn St famous for its shirts including Turnbull & Asser where Bond buys his - a classic two fold sells for £315). A stone's throw is Simpsons (now Waterstones) which offers five floors of books in a modern art deco building and Fortnum & Mason for a quick lunch (or late breakfast). 

Thursday, October 25

Generation Jinxed

Madeleine in Italy this summer

So here is another thing to consider : in the UK, pensioner income has risen faster during the past 35 years than the general working population.  Retired households, on average, had disposable income of £17,700 in 2010-11 or nearly three times the 1977 equivalent of £6,585 in today's prices or 2.7X.  Working income has grown £35,000 vs. £16,486 or 2.1X.  The pensioner's gain at the expense of young workers : an FT analysis covering 50 years suggests that living standards for Britains in their 20s overtaken by those of their 60 something grandparents for the first time.

There once was a fuzzy old bear
Who suddenly lost all his hair
And though he was sad
He knew it was bad
To cry and completely despair
--Eitan limerick (from 2009)


Voyager 1 a 1,592 lb probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and the interstellar medium (photo from NASA). Operating for 35 years, 1 month and 19 days as of yesterday, the spacecraft receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network. At a distance of about 122 AU (1.83×10 to the 10th power km) it is the furthest manmade object from Earth.

Voyager 1 now at the outer edge of the heliosphere where the sun's solar winds slow (called "termination shock").  In June, NASA noted that Voyager 1 may soon enter interstellar space becoming the first manmade object to leave the Solar System.  The primary mission BTW ended November 20, 1980, after the probe zipped by Saturn.

Voyager 1 a toaster by today's standards - recall the cars made by America back then ? Imagine what our kids will see. 

We watch Steve McQueen in "Bullet".
Madeleine: "What are those?"
Sonnet: "He's buying TV dinners."
Madeleine: "Do you have to eat them in front of the TV?"

A car spins off the road, top speed, hits a gas tank then explodes. The passengers shown burning in the molten metal.
Madeleine: "Are they dead?"

Wednesday, October 24

Slumber Par-tay

The boys up until at least 2:30AM or the last time Sonnet tells them to settle down (in the morning they brag about who sleeps least). Here are the little dears at breakfast : I offer flaxseed oil but no takers (Eitan rolls his eyes). Aneta and I watch them run around the backyard torturing the dog, whose tail wags away.  Girls not on the agenda but that tsunami coming.

Tuesday, October 23


Me and Kate in St Germain

Joe, Luke, Shahin and Cyrus (Jack cannot make it) over for Eitan's belated 12th birthday slumber party.

I arrive from Paris to find the little spasses shrieking and wonder, as every parent does, can the house take it ?  Now they watch "The Hunger Games" and, since rated 12, Cyrus (who is 12) must get mom's permission and it is 50:50 while the other boys shout : Violence !

Madeleine fits right into the scene, in a big arm chair, feet on the wall. I pay no mind and, since Sonnet at a swim team meeting, the kids get away with murder.

Shahin: "Mr Orenstein can we watch another movie afterwards?"
Me: "Sure, stay up all night. What do I care?"
Ensemble: "All right!"
Me: "This is the part where they kiss. Look away. Look away!"
Eitan: "Dad can you just leave please."
Me: "Cyrus I don't know about this kissing stuff. I might have to agree with your mom here."
Me: "I am definitely calling Liz."
Eitan: "Please go away now."  


Nothing says France like a gendarme - here, these happy fellows guard the elysée where monsieur de la presidente resides.

A gendarme different from your run-of-the-mill copper in that a gendarme a soldier employed on police duties. Not surprisingly, then, that they raise a certain emotional reaction for often the gendarme responsible for cracking a few heads together during your normal French protest against the elite or whatever.

Kate in Paris for a Board Meeting and we dine in the 6e - here we are at her wedding.

I tell the kids they have to test me three things they will do over the half-term break and then write a half-page report one each (I go light on them). Here is what Madeleine sends me:
"Stuff I'd like to do
1. Kew gardens with family
2. Go out to dinner
3. and i'm going to the VA, HOLLYWOOD THINGIE

Monday, October 22

A Polaroid and A Paris Taxi

Sonnet and Marcus, 1977

The first thing one notices in Paris, assuming one takes a taxi, is that the taxi drivers are clueless.  Last night, for instance, I go from Gare du Nord to the Hôtel de Crillon, as known a place as any and like the Waldorf or the London Savoye (for the record: I do not stay at the Crillon which otherwise serves as a reference point).  My guy asks : où ?  Mentioning Place de la Concorde and the American Embassy does not get us any further - the driver stumped without a postal code for his sat nav.  Of course he may have sized me up for a long-ride chump (most likely) but either way this would never happen in London

Saturday, October 20


Robert Plant in '75

Man - to be at Earls Court, May 24th, 1975.  Led Zeppelin at the height of their power and Robert Plant as close to God as any mortal could ever be : 111 million records sold in the US and maybe over 300 million total.  Plant's voice screams from somewhere else : hurt, pain, lost-love ..  I appreciate the band more today than then : I was never into the heavy metal stuff, which was hugely influenced by Led Zeppelin, and less so today.  But Led Zeppelin a mixture of Plant's alien voice, blues, and rock and roll ..  each song somehow raw and meaningful ("Going to California" stands out).  In any case, "Stairway To Heaven" impossible to navigate as a teenager - there you would be, rubbing up against some girl, and the song shifts from slow into high gear leaving everyone off-step and awkward.  Those are the good memories.

"Made up my mind to make a new start, Going To California with an aching in my heart.
Someone told me there's a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.
Took my chances on a big jet plane, never let them tell you that they're all the same."
--"Going to California" by Led Zeppelin

A Bone For Everyone

Rusty gets a bone.  I'm not sure what it is - a joint of something. A pig maybe ? But I think too big. So a cow. Rusty don't care. At first he does not know what to do with his prize and darts into a secret place in the backyard. He then wants to bring his greasy treasure, now covered with dirt, into the house so I put a stop to that,  rinsing the thing off first.  We sit around the table having lunch while the dog gnaws away : gnarly, too. And loud.

Sonnet speaks at some conference at the museum so I am with the kids - Madeleine to football practice and Eitan has an unusual day off since half-term. Our day goes well until about noon time when he ignores me and the backyard chores. I threaten with football, he tells me I always do so, and I call Coach and he is now off the team. Ka boom.

Madeleine wanders into the house sensing a bad vibe. She tip toes up to her room and .. .gently . closes. . ..the door.

Friday, October 19

Friday Half Term

Parisian walking her dog off the Champs Elysee

Concluding the week, it is Friday.  The receptionist watches the minutes tick backwards from 3:45PM.  I plunk about on my new Macbook listening to the rain hit the glass sky-roof..  The dog sleeps by the door (earlier he barks at some dude - bad, Rusty). The only people doing anything are Ralph & Russo whose army of seamstresses and models keep to their unusual hours.  Today begins the kids' half-term break : two weeks, no school.  (Working) parents across Southwest London exhale in a collective groan.

Eitan shows Sonnet and me a glass of liquid.
Me: "What's up?"
Eitan: "The oil is separated from the water."
Me: "Sciences?"
Eitan: "I am just double checking it is so."

Super Spinny Chair

Thursday, October 18

Fashion Dept

Young women at the V&A

Well, so much for the ease of Apple.  The last 36 hours spent synchronising IMAP, Yahoo, pop and Outlook with various mac applications.  I know how Grandparents feel (sorry Moe, Grace and Stan).  Apple has excellent customer service, readily available and, even if the dude did not call back as he said he would when he could not figure out the iCloud account , he was at least friendy (nor in Bangladesh).  To be expected from the most dear company in the world.

Sonnet hosts a round-table of Italian academics who fly in for a day of validating 'La Moda' joined by Christopher (who heads the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Dept), Mark (head of the V&A Press) and other various do-ers and go-getters at the museum.  I hardly get a morning kiss these days as Sonnet out the door before dawn, with Madeleine, who she accompanies on the 337 bus to school (adding a further 30 minutes to her commute).

Wednesday, October 17

Hollywood Costume

Sonnet at the V & A

The main entrance to the museum transformed into a champagne cocktails lounge with red carpet to the bar under the chandelier.  Martin Roth, the "new" Director (though over one year) greets people in a charming sort of way : I like his white comb-backed hair and black glasses but I was there first.  (Sonnet introduces me to Martin who is nicely complementary of her. Maybe it is for me but more likely it is not) Over there is Tim Burton with Helena Bonham Carter. There are the Mittals. I recognise a few finance guys and Paul Rudnick charming as always.  I was hoping for Catherine, who considered being the museum's patron, but no such luck.

I can see why Hollywood Costume will set attendance records : it is fun and mesmerising and the best use of media technology I have seen in a museum exhibition. The displays enhanced with movie clips, tablets and 3D.

And what a collection. Sr Curator Debora Nadoolman Landis pulls every favour from her 30 yeas as film and theatre costume designer - notable films include Animal House, Three Amigos and Raiders of the Lost Ark  - Indy's fedora and whip on show, but of course.

Dinner follows in the Raphael Cartoon Gallery and I am next to Russian/NY former CNN journalist Vicki who now buys civic art for Palo Alto (married to a vc) and Heather, 20 years at the World Bank now practicing homoeopathy.  I talk to both at ease.

Tuesday, October 16

Tuesday Night Affair

I depart for dinner with Sonnet and the Good and the Great. We anticipate the opening of the Hollywood Costume exhibition which is expected to break attendance records (Superman's suit, Dorothy's slippers, Travis Bickle's army jacket). My cuff links and studs are from Stan.

I pick up Eitan, Luke and Joe from football at Hampton.
Joe: "Say 'grandma's under pants' after everything I say."
Joe: "England."
Eitan, Luke: "England grandma's under pants"
Joe: "France."
Eitan, Luke: "France grandma's under pants."
Joe: "Europe."
Eitan, Luke: "Europe grandma's underpants."
Joe: "You looked up grandma's underpants! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Eitan, Luke: "Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Me: "That doesn't even make sense."
Joe: "Oh, boy, that was a good one Mr. Orenstein."
Eitan: "Dad it's not that complicated."

Monday, October 15

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan, ca 1946

With one exception, the 1950s-'60s jazz scene (the golden era, my opinion) dominated by men. Sarah Vaughan often overlooked during a career that spanned from 1944's 'Sarah Vaughan and Her All-Stars" to "Brazilian Romance" in '87 and 53 recorded albums in between. She played with the Greats: Duke Ellington and Count Basie while her work with Clifford Brown in '54 accepted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; the National Endowment for the Arts bestowed upon her the highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award, in 1989.

"One of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century.
--Scott Yanow, American jazz commentator in the '50s