Thursday, March 31

Oscar And The Aesthetes

I attend last night's opening party of the wonderful V&A exhibition "The Cult of Beauty, the Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900." The reception in the main entrance under the magnificent Chihuly chandelier, which is now a permanent fixture (previously on loan). The Great and the good ensemble drinking champagne flutes while nibbling hors d'oeuvres. We are escorted into the gallery and treated to romantic bohemians Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Whistler and Frederic Leighton and G.F. Watts. Oscar Wilde surely has a part to play and so receives a commemorative (from the V&A gallery):

"Oscar Wilde, the Aesthetic Movement and Satire

"The figure of the Aesthete, with his super-subtle sensibility and passionate responses to poetry, pictures and interior decoration, had first appeared in the 1870s. Associated with "unhealthy" and possibly dangerous foreign ideas, he was greeted with suspicion by critics and public alike

"However, by the 1880s the long-haired, velvet-clad Aesthete had become the butt of more affectionate satire. Targeted with extraordinary precision, the Aesthetes were ridiculed for what Gilbert and Sullivan called their 'stained-glass attitudes', overly precious speech and enthusiasm for 'pale lilies', sunflowers, peacock feathers, blue-and-white chine and Japanese fans.

"Oscar Wilde, inventing himself asa the first celebrity style-guru, astutely adopted the role of the Aesthete and rose to prominence through lecturing on Aesthetic ideals. His name and appearance became synonymous with the movement to such an extent that his fall in 1895 discredited the Aestheticism for a generation."

Mercury And Barney

NASA's Messenger spacecraft began orbiting Mercury on March 17, and will remain here for another year or so taking photographs and measurements. The Messenger arrived at its final destination after a 6.5-year loop the loop through the inner solar system. A 15-minute engine burn slowed the spacecraft sufficiently for it to be captured by Mercury’s gravity. By design, the Messenger circles around the planet on a highly elliptical orbit, dipping down as close to 160 miles to Mercury’s surface and rising as far up as 9,300 miles.

Says mission chief scientist Sean Solomon: "Mercury has had an exposed surface for at least 3.5 to 4 billion years and some of those surfaces are extremely cratered to the point where there are so many craters they start to obscure one another."

My genius friend Barney, who sold his search company to Microsoft and now the chief architect for Bing local search, tells me he is"moonlighting" as co-founder and CTO of Moon Express which is building an autonomous robotic lunar lander to support exploration and resource development on the moon (Think: mining platinum from the asteroids that impacted the moon). The company is now 8 FTE and has contracts with NASA.

Since Barney's bio on the web, here is a relevant interesting paragraph paragraph on Barney:
From 1993-1998, Dr. Pell worked as a Principal Investigator and Senior Computer Scientist at NASA Ames, where he conducted advanced research and development of autonomous control software for NASA's deep space missions. Dr. Pell was the Architect for the Remote Agent and the Project Lead for the Executive component of the Remote Agent Experiment (RAX), the first intelligent executive to fly onboard and control a spacecraft (the Deep Space One mission). Remote Agent is widely considered one of the top achievements in the history of Artificial Intelligence and was awarded NASA's "software of the year" award in 1999. Dr. Pell was also Co-Lead for the Autonomy Integrated Product Development Team for NASA's New Millennium Program, responsible for planning and managing technology maturation and demonstration of autonomous systems technology for future use by NASA."

Wednesday, March 30

Marc; Eitan Does Whitney

This one of my favorite photos : Marc in Singapore. He is a wheeler dealer in advertising media and owns a small agency.

Eitan at the Rose Theatre in Kingston to sing with his and other borough quires. I fail to get a ticket in advance and so do what my mother would have done: sneak into the circle box for the final song. Good lessons BTW. A couple hundred kids on stage accompanied by a orchastra. It takes a couple moments to identify Eitan then I spot him in a middle row and get a timid wave then the peace sign, which he has seen me do on occasion. They sing Whitney Houston's "One Moment In Time" which Whitney performed at the Grammy's where it won an Emmy. The song for the '88 Seoul Olympic athletes and equally appropriate for the little tykes on stage.

Tuesday, March 29

Eitan Butterflies

My photo from the school borough swimming championships last week - Eitan (green cap) places sixth overall in the butterfly.

Meanwhile, Cal held off defending champion Texas 493-470 1/2 to win its first men's NCAA swimming championship in 31 years Saturday night. The Bears' Graeme Moore, Josh Daniels, Tom Shields and Nathan Adrian clinched the title by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay in 2 minutes, 47.39 seconds. Je-sus that is fast. Adrian also won a third straight 100 freestyle in 41.10 and was named the meet's top swimmer. Cal's women's team took their second NCAA swimming in three year the week before. Holy Catfish.

“It's kind of like a funnel. Meets are just stops along the way and everything funnels down to that goal.”
--Nort Thornton, Cal mens head swim coach, 1974-2007

"My goggles came off and I couldn't really see anything."

Wars And Depression (1914-1950

(From the FT) In common with the rest of the world Britain suffered severe dislocation during the two world wars and the intervening years. The unemployment rate rose to 15% during the Great Depression, but in many ways the early 1920s were even worse, with deflation exacerbating the postwar recession. An inflexible exchange rate caused problems of adjustment throughout the period and the 30% devaluation of sterling in 1949 finally underlined that Britain was no longer a dominant power. The return to a peacetime economy after demobilisation saw a populace determined not to repeat the experiences of the past 30 years.

Monday, March 28

Rana - Darya - Madeleine

Somewhere in the 7th arrondissement.

French fund Astorg Partners closes last week at €1 billion. Otherwise it is interesting times for the 1,600 or so buyout firms worldwide raising $600 billion when cash-strapped institutional investors have already spent much of their allocations for 2011. Industry insider Prequin notes that only 33% of institutions have money for pe funds. Yet partnerships that raised in '06-'07 face the opposite problem: they can't spend their money fast enough. Buyout businesses reluctant to invest in '08 and '09 due to the economy and reduced borrowing now sit on a record $958 billion cash - which they either have to sink or give back to LPs, along with the fees.

Sea Snake

Sunday, March 27

Snails In Paris

Madeleine leaps into my arms following her week-end in Paris. Snails! Post cards! The Eiffel Tower! Room Service! Here is our darling woofing down a snail at Terminus du Nord.

Last night I go to Lisa's 40th surprise party which is anything but. Without Sonnet, I fend for myself. It brings back the best of the old days when the cocktail party schmooz-fest sooo much part of the Internet. I meet a bunch of husbands, backs against the wall, nursing spirits and I jump in .. about the dog. Somehow this more neutral than the kids. Paul runs the UK and European operations of some company he describes as "an enterprise cloud computing company that distributes business software on a subscription basis." And: "we are known for its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) products, like" I have never understood CRM. Maybe Roger can explain it to me. Paul's company floated on NASDAQ in '07 and has a market cap of "two or three billion" - you know, give or take a couple hundred million. He joined after the IPO which may explain his detail. Ah, the go-go years still alive for some.

Eitan sings: "Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't. Almond Joy has nuts, Mounds don't."

Saturday, March 26

Life Is Good

After the races we head to Bellini's, the neighborhood pizza joint. Madeleine reports from Paris that she has enjoyed "snails in butter and oysters."

Crystal Palace

Eitan and I are mano-a-mano as Sonnet and Madeleine in Paris to see Rana and her daughter Darya. Rana a London friend who lives in Brooklyn's Park Slope with her children; she worked for Newsweek (business editor) until poached by Time when Newsweek merged with The Beast in one of those weird new media meets old media deals.

So I have the boy and the dog. This morning we (me and the boy) head to the Crystal Palace National Sports Complex for the Surrey Swimming Championships. Eitan in two relays swimming freestyle and butterfly. The pool a proper 50-meters encased in concrete which must have been a marvel in '64, when it opened, but now dated. Soon the palace will be superseded by the new athletic complex for the 2012 games including a sw-e-et pool. Eitan tells me he's nervous before his race then looks at me suspicously when I suggest us middle-aged dads would kill to be on the pool deck, a part of the competition. This isn't really the encouragement he seeks.

Meanwhile the transmitting station above is (only) London's third tallest structure at 720 feet behind One Canada Sq (771) and Heron Tower (756); it was, indeed, the tallest when it went up in the '50s. Though hideously ugly without an ounce of the Eiffel Tower, the structure useful : it carries London regions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1 and Channel 4 in analogue, as well as all six digital terrestrial television multiplexes, with range of about 30 miles for DTT and 60 miles for analogue. The tower is also used for FM radio transmission of several local radio stations BBC London 94.9, XFM, Choice FM and Absolute Radio, as well as a low powered relay of the 4 BBC national FM services and Classic FM.

Friday, March 25

Notting Hill

I walk about Notting Hill before a late afternoon meeting at Electric. The sun is shining and this a lovely part of town where I have not been in maybe three years. We used to frequent this neighborhood following a stroll along Portobello Road from the flea markets on the Golborne Road side to the antiques in North Kensington. While the weekends draw crowds, it is otherwise a somewhat lazy, affluent, and fashionable part of London with attractive terraces of large Victorian townhouses (A Daily Telegraph article in 2004 used the phrase the 'Notting Hill Set' to refer the young Conservatives including David Cameron and George Osborne. It captured the idea perfectly). My friend tells me (with a twinkle) that he bought his house in '78 for 78 Grand and it is now worth around £8 million. This was not a certain bet given the IMF bailed out the UK in 78 and the Notting Hill race riots of '58. Notting Hill's fate sealed by Julia Roberts and her "Notting Hill" movie in '99. The consequences : Starbucks, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and American Apparel.

Nineteenth Century Pre-eminence (1850-1914)

(From the FT) Britain 160 years ago stood alone as the first industrial nation, with the highest output per head in the world. 1851 was perhaps the zenith - the Great Exhibition underlined the astonishing scientific and industrial innovation in the "workshop of the world", while the census of that year revealed that for the first time a major nation had most of its population living in cities and towns. Government involvement in the economy was essentially restricted to maintaining order at home and extending the empire abroad, with minimal social protection from the vagaries of the business cycle.

Painting by LS Lowry, "Canal and Factories"

Thursday, March 24

The Brass And Liz Taylor

Madeleine performs and I dash home from Eitan's swimming gala (Late!) then across town (Traffic! Madeleine fidgets) arriving in a nick of time (Sonnet worried look; music teacher irritated !). Once seated, the brass plays Miles and we are treated to "Kind of Blue" including a wonderful trumpet solo by Madeleine, which she nails. The large dedicated audience cheers the kids - there are five or six ensembles covering various different instruments - and we stay until the very end including a synthesizer "display." All in the name of art and love.

Liz Taylor passes at 79 - the last of the Hollywood Greats from a bygone era. The kids have no idea. I recall a sunny morning at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd and Burt Reynolds lounging in the pool talking to three young bikinied women who, when given Burt's name, are like: "who is Burt Reynolds?" For all of us who have seen "Deliverance," which in 2008 selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," this comes as a blow. Worse for the actor.

Borough Finals

Eitan competes four events in the borough swimming finals following the trials two weeks ago. The gala opened to all local schools, state and independent ( US private), drawing maybe 600 kids. I see happy healthy faces at the finish line - no obesity here, which is fast becoming a problem with UK youngsters. Yesterday's 65 events cover years 4, 5 and six with finals in each discipline+relays. Eitan is sixth in the 33 meter butterfly (year 5) and second in the backstroke though I have never seen him actually train backstroke. Eitan's year-5 squad place second overall earning the boys a plaque - I overhear a referee: "you have done your school proud" she says. The Mall's year-six boys break the 4X33 meter freestyle relay record which has stood since 1983.

Wednesday, March 23

Monday, March 21


Grace and Moe land in San Francisco following the Peace Corps and traveling around the world.

"I want a big career, a big man and a big life. You have to think big - that`s the only way to get it."
--Mia Farrow, 1965

Sunday, March 20

200 PSI

I haven't held this much force since my painting days when I power-washed a house before the job. Back then we had a gas fueled machine that blasted 300 pounds per square inch and man, that could strip about any one's paint (often unwantedly). Oh how I recall hanging my bare ass off a soffit trying to hit some impossible spot on the third floor, live power lines everywhere and more likely than not, clinging to an aluminum ladder. If it had come to an end, it would have been quick. As for today, my rental just fine for the backyard stones which take seven hours to clean - six hours more than anticipated. The neighbors look at me curiously but walk quickly by when they see my half-crazed glare. Just any DIY Sunday.

Eitan completes the 200-meter freestyle in 2:38 at the Surrey Championships, "a personal record by ten seconds" he exclaims.

Eitan, over dinner: "I have to write one thing I learned about from the Roman visit."
Me: "What's that?"
Eitan: "The guy who came into our classroom dressed as a Roman. We have to say what we learned."
Me: "And?"
Eitan: "Well, I learned that there was a woman named Bouddica, who was a Celt, and when the Romans invaded Britain she got really angry and so she did horrible things to the Roman and Celts.
Me: "Why the Celts?"
Eitan: "Because she did not know they were Celts."
Me: "What did she do?"
Eitan: "She popped their eyeballs out. She peeled their skin off. And she slit them open and put burning coals in their stomach so that they burned from the inside."
Me: "Woa."
Sonnet: "They're teaching you that?"
Eitan: "The Roman guy was quite obsessed with the executing and stuff."

And Here We Go Again

Madeleine adds it up.

"Today I authorized the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun."
--President Barack Obama, from Brazil, March 18, 2011

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”
--Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, West Point, New York, February 25, 2011.


Eitan has a swimming gala so the morning logistics complicated. Sonnet up at 6:05AM to drive Madeleine to the pool then returns to get me and the boy, returning to the pool so she can pick up another swimmer then Guildford and me with Madeleine to bring her home on the bus, pictured. We take the the top of a double decker which, even to this day, thrills - look out, said the passenger, we're going to hit those tree branches. Busdriver don't care.

We visit Cafe Nero for a hot-chocolate and a chocolate muffin.

Last night Sonnet and I make an appearance at a school fundraiser themed "Robbie Williams" which means dancing and an open bar. The DJ plays Big Band a la Frank Sinatra - he's pretty good, too - while I watch Sonnet shimmy in front of me, high heels accentuating her curves. How lucky I am. Aneta remains with the kids and surprised - surprised! - when we walk in the door at 10:45PM. In her book, the evening just starting at this hour for Pete's sake and last weekend she tip toed upstairs, 6AM. If ever there was a reminder I am on the other side of youth it is her incredulous look: "you are home already?" she asks redundantly.

Saturday, March 19

Five Rings

This week tickets for the 2012 games went on sale, online, and Visa cocked it up, unable to take payments from cards ending August 2011 or in like five months. If that weren't bad enough, the Omega count-down clock in Trafalgar Square quit inside 24-hours. It is all starting to feel a bit like the Millennium Dome and boy oh boy that is another something we don't need. Still I and we have great faith in Seb Coe, the games organiser, and no doubt the glitches will be worked through. Meanwhile, the Olympic-rings greet passengers arriving to London St Pancras from Paris, as I did yesterday following a return voyage and lunch.

Said Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games and designer of the Olympic rings in the 1912 Revue Olympique:
"The emblem chosen to illustrate and represent the world Congress of 1914...: five intertwined rings in different colors - blue, yellow, black, green, and red - are placed on the white field of the paper. These five rings represent the five parts of the world which now are won over to Olympism and willing to accept healthy competition.."

Friday, March 18

Thursday, March 17

Parent Teacher Consultations

Sonnet and I attend the kids' mid-term parent-teacher consultations. How strange that such things now "old hat" as we look upon anxious moms and dads whose children in the earlier years. Madeleine has made big improvements in spelling, hand-writing and concentration. She enjoys drama and wants to participate in class discussions. We are told her hand always up for participation and "she is an enthusiastic contributor to the classroom discussions." Eitan, meanwhile, continues to be an imaginative writer who excels "in punctuations." We're told he recently scored 20 of 20 on a "mental maths" test and, strangely, 17 of 25 when solving the same equations on paper (Eitan says: "I hate showing my work - it is so much easier to do it in my head."). We are delighted with the reports, which we convey to the kids over dinner.


Eitan has been studying the Romans and today .. dressed as a Roman.

Me: "So what did you do for Roman day?"
Eitan: "We did chariot races."
Me: "How'd you do that?"
Eitan: "We learnt the rules, then we did it."
Me: "More, please."
Eitan: "So, like, there were three people on each team. And there were two teams and each team had a horse and one charioteer. The teams had to keep hold of each other and run around the loop four times."
Me: "Horses?"
Eitan: "For 5B, it was Sophia and Tobias."

D-Day: "War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one."
Bluto: "Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
Otter [whispering]: "Germans?"
Boon: "Forget it, he's rolling."
--From National Lampoon's Animal House

Oh π

Pi (π) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. And Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th (In the mm/dd date notation: 3/14); since 3, 1 and 4 are the first three digits of π. March 14 is also the birthday of Albert Einstein and the two events are sometimes celebrated together (Freaky, dude) Pi = 3.1415926535.

With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating. The symbol for pi was first used in 1706 by William Jones, but was popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737.

There are a large variety of ways of celebrating Pi Day and most of them include eating pie and discussing the relevance of π. The first Pi Day celebration was held at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, with staff and public marching around one of its circular spaces, then consuming fruit pies. The museum has since added pizza to its Pi Day menu. The founder of Pi Day was Larry Shaw, a now-retired physicist at the Exploratorium who still helps out with the celebrations.

MIT often mails its acceptance letters to be delivered to prospective students on Pi Day. Of course they do.

Wednesday, March 16

Transonic Go!

An F/A-18F Super Hornet crosses the speed of sound while performing at New York Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York on May 23, 2009 (photo credit?). The condensation of water we see around the plane caused by a rapid expansion and consequent adiabatic cooling of air parcels induced by the shock (expansion/compression) waves caused as the plane outruns sound waves in front of it. Me, I just thought this was a cool photo for a Wednesday.

Emanual School

Sonnet and I visit Emanuel School for Madeleine. Emanual located in Battersea near Clapham Common, southwest London - an area that boasts the highest concentration of young families in Europe, so I am told. Consequently the school's intake of 680 from the excellent local state and public primaries like Honeywell, Thomas's and Eaton House. The grounds are, strangely, on an elevated triangle-wedge bracketed by two rail lines heading to Clapham Junction. Yet, for an urban school, the trees and greenery bountiful with rugby, football and cricket pitches next to tennis courts. The towering red-brick main building imposing especially on a grey London day like now. Of importance for our girl, Emanual emphasizes art and drama; it is not inclined towards league tables, which it removed itself from last year. Despite this, the academics very good and, while not equal to London's best, Emanual offers students a rounded experience"Just like an American high school," Sonnet observes. The gal who shows us around certainly sensible - she fields my usual queries covering physics, "clicks" and cigarette smoking without batting an eye.

Here is what is on the brochure: "Emanuel School is a co-educational, independent school founded in 1594. At the time Lady Dacre wrote that one of the main aims of the Foundation was 'for the bringing up of children in virtue and good and laudable arts so that they might better live in time to come by their honest labour'.

Photo from work shop, using my bb.

Tuesday, March 15

Yohji Yamamoto

Thinking of Japan, which was struck by a 9.0 undersea earthquake that caused a giant tsunami, killing thousands and, possibly, damaging a number of nuclear power plants.

Sonnet takes Madeleine to the opening last week Thursday, the night before everything changed.

"The V&A presents one of the most influential and enigmatic fashion designers of the last forty years, Yohi Yamamoto. Yamamoto is a visionary designer who has made a vital contribution to fashion, challenging traditional norms of clothing with his avant-garde style. This is his first major solo show in the UK and is an installation-based retrospective showcasing over 80 women's and menswear garments, which are most representative of his work.

Central to Yamamoto's design are bespoke textiles made to his specifications by crafts people in Japan. Over the years, Yamamoto has also worked with a number of collaborators in photography, film and theatre to produce iconic works and images. The exhibition will explore the work of a designer who has proved and inspired the fashion world."
--V&A brochure; exhibition from 12 March to 20 July, 2011.

Reading Bowl

Sometimes I wonder who has better manners - Eitan or the dog. At least the boy can read.

Monday, March 14

Yankee Doodle

I am reading Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With The Wind" which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 (it was her one and only book). Anybody who thinks this a frilly romantic novel sorely mistaken. It is the story of the rape of Georgia during, and after, the Civil War. But this is not my blog. Instead, I have often wondered about the lyrics to "Yankee Doodle" sung by the Confederates known by every American grade-schooler:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

Why did yankee doodle stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni? In Pre-Revolutionary America the song not referring to a pasta "macaroni"; rather, "macaroni" a fancy ("dandy") style of Italian dress widely imitated in England. By sticking a feather in his cap and calling himself a "dandy," Yankee Doodle was proudly proclaiming himself to be a gentleman of some social standing though, as known by the Southerner humming the tune, he had none.

Sunday, March 13

Japanese Tsunami

Waves from the 8.8 earthquake off northwest Japan Friday are off the charts reaching 12 feet in some locations. The above graphic, by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the wave sizes as they move halfway around the world.

The waves at their highest point near the earthquake's epicenter, then taper as they travel across the Pacific reaching South America 24 hours later. My Dad reports minimal damage in Northern California but the coastline a mess in some areas and dozens of boats damaged or sunk.
NOAA monitors wave heights by using buoys that are strategically placed across the Pacific rim.
Japan's estimates for dead and missing surpass 10,000 people most of whom killed by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

Pancakes And The River Café

Our Sunday morning so far: Sonnet up at 0620h to wrestle the kids from bed and swimming practice. Myself, I awake an hour or so later to make coffee and a run with Rusty, who resists for all his life (strangers in the park look at me kinda funny as I drag the unwilling pooch). Rusty supposed to enjoy these things I thought. Sonnet makes pancakes etc. and I read the Sunday Times which I have come to enjoy though a poor comparison to the NYT. Last night we join friends at the River Cafe, which has become our favorite; The RC our first "serious" restaurant in London back in '97.

"The River Café specializes in Italian cuisine and owned and run by chef Ruth Rogers and until early 2010, Rose Gray. Located on the north bank of the Thames in Hammersmith in the former Duckhams oil storage facility modified by architect Lord Rogers, the husband of Ruth Rogers (Lady Rogers). Opened in 1987 as the employee café of the architectural partnership, there is a garden with views of the River Thames.

River Café brought to London the flavours of Italian home cooking with an emphasis on the finest ingredients, and an all-Italian wine list. The restaurant also brought to London a modern, open-plan kitchen and dining room with a buzzy atmosphere. "Sourcing, sourcing, sourcing" is the mantra of Rogers and Gray. Menus are tweaked constantly (sometimes twice a day) to respond to the seasons and what is best in the market, with simplicity the key. Signature dishes include: wild mushroom risotto; Dover sole (which I have last night) and John Dory smoked in the restaurant's own wood stove; and rich Italian desserts including lemon almond cake or the chocolate "Nemesis" cake.
The restaurant earned a Michelin star in 1988 and is critically acclaimed, although sometimes criticised for high pricing.


Saturday, March 12

Water Can

Hmmm Madeleine and Nicki upstairs washing Rusty while I sit in the kitchen, here, at my notebook, writing. The boy and I spent the last couple hours getting the garden ready for spring. Our big excitement this morning the discovery of frog spawn in the pond - yes, they are back and this time we will aim to have a frog unlike last year's failed nurtury (I hear screaming and yelping so upstairs I go).

Friday, March 11

The Perry and Marty Granoff Center

And, voila!, Brown's new performing arts building (picture from the NYT). I am reasonably certain the location in a parking lot next to the sciences building two or three blocks from the main campus. Freshman rumor suggested the science building's late night and unusual smells from burning animal carcases, post lab-room dissection. I still might believe this - indeed, I cut up a shark and a few rats back in the day.

The center's 35,000-square-feet include three studio work spaces supported by a multimedia studio, a recording studio, a robotics studio, art galleries for student showcases and a 200-seat recital hall. Neighboring RISD will enjoy access. The center's architects Diller, Scofidio and Renfro were behind the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall.

And here is what we know about Marty Granoff (from the Brown website):
Granoff, a University trustee emeritus, is a veteran of the textile industry. He is the founder and chairman of Val D’Or, a knitwear manufacturer that merged with Cannon County Knitting Mills Inc. in 1995; vice chairman of Koret of California, which makes women’s brand-name clothing; and chairman, founder, director, and majority owner of National Textiles, a manufacturer of open-end and ring-spun cotton.
During his service as a University trustee, Granoff was a member of the Corporation committees on Advancement, Admission and Financial Aid, Budget and Finance, and Student Life. He also is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Brown University Sports Foundation. He also serves as a vice chair of Boldly Brown: Campaign for Academic Enrichment.
The parent of a member of Brown’s Class of 1993, Granoff spearheaded the Brown Hillel campaign to build the Glenn and Darcy Weiner Hillel Center, which was dedicated in February 2004.

Thursday, March 10

Easter In Czech Republic

Madeleine and I use up the accoutrement's from yesterday's story time.

Happy birthday Stan!

Sonnet takes Madeleine to the Yohji Yamamoto opening party at the V&A. Sonnet notes Yohji-san a fashion designer "known for his unusual constructions."

Sonnet: "What do people do for Easter in your village?"
Aneta: "Do?"
Sonnet: "Are there any traditions?"
Aneta: "You mean like what we do?"
Sonnet: "Yes."
Aneta: "Well, the boys they have a big stick. And they chase the girls."
Aneta: "And they try to tap them, the girls."
Me: "Is everybody naked?"
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "Well, they might be."
Madeleine: "Are they naked Aneta?"
Aneta: "No."
Sonnet: "Where do they tap them?"
Aneta: "On their bottom." (Aneta points to her bottom)
Madeleine: "Woa."
Me: "Are they drunk?"
Aneta: "Yes, the boys are very drunk. The girls, they don't like this so much. So when the boys come by before lunch . ."
Sonnet: "They are drunk before lunch?"
Aneta: "Yes. When the boys come by before lunch the girls can splash water on them. They don't like that so much."
Me: "What happens after lunch?"
Aneta: "The girls cannot splash water then."
Madeleine: "We are going to have an Easter Egg Hunt."

Auntie Katie

After my class-time story, Madeleine shows-and-tells "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked" which is, afterall, consistent with the theme of "fantasy." Our dear fills with pride as she describe's her Auntie Katie: "a writer who lives in New York city with lots of really tall buildings."

Go On, I Dare You

So I wonder - has Tucson changed anything? (On January 8, 2011, near Tucson, AX, 19 people were shot, six of them fatally, during an open meeting that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Those killed include US District Court for the District of Arizona Chief Judge John Rolland one of Rep. Giffords's staffers. Gifford was shot through the head at point-blank range, and her medical condition was initially "critical"). Congress's then boldly pronounced corrective initiatives have so far netted one proposal: a ban on the sale of ammunition clips that allowed the gunman to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds. Seems reasonable. But no, the gun-clip ban has zero Republican supporters, which is a problem since the Republicans are the House majority. Meanwhile in the states, there is legislation for more guns in more places (public libraries, college campuses, Starbucks). Gail Collins in the NYT notes that Georgia allows guns in bars, Arizona eliminated concealed weapon permits and Utah has designated its own official state gun. Should we be surprised?

And how about those colleges? A number of states are considering laws to prohibit colleges and universities from barring guns on campus. Excuse my French but this is fucking madness. Does anybody in the Republican party remember Virginia Tech? Says Daniel Crocker, the southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus: “It’s about people having the right to personal protection.” Concealed Carry on Campus BTW is a national organization of students dedicated to opening up schools to more weaponry. Every spring it holds a national Empty Holster Protest “symbolizing that disarming all law-abiding citizens creates defense-free zones, which are attractive targets for criminals.” Retards.

All this to blow the NRA, whose annual budget of $200 million gives them plenty of insider influence. Go on, become a member, and get your discount on a muzzled shot gun. While doing so, think about the 270,000 Americans who have died by guns in the United States since 2001.

Speaking of blow jobs and Republicans, Newt Gingrich says his passionate hard work for his country contributed to his marital infidelity. Really, he said this in an interview posted Wednesday by The Christian Broadcasting Network. Gingrich -- who recently converted to Catholicism of course -- said he had sought God's forgiveness for mistakes in his past. Recall the married Newt was screwing his intern with gleeful tongue wagging abandon while demanding Clinton's impeachment for the Monica Lewinsky affair. Now Newt wants to be President. With prescience, Gingrich should have suggested Clinton's Oval Office dalliance a trifle but, sadly for him, his best nature kicks him in his groin. Again.

Photo by Mister Tim from the www.

Wednesday, March 9


Here is how Sonnet/I accommodate two evening sessions at different times and pools: 5:30PM pick up Eitan, Madeleine (double-check for goggles, swimsuits, towels and gear), drive to ABC pool and watch Madeleine for 75 minutes; (double-check goggles, swimsuit, towel and gear) race across southwest London to drop off Eitan at XYZ pool. Drive home, Madeleine dinner. Back to the XYZ for Eitan (double-check goggles, swimsuit, towel and gear) then home, dinner, brush teeth and bed by 10PM. Eitan can stay up as late as he wants.


I visit Madeleine's class to tell a story - this time, about "fantasy" which is being taught as part of the curricula. Madeleine is my trusted assistant elf. My on-the-fly tale about Bobby Bogart (which gets a chuckle) who enters Middlearth, via a hidden basement door, finding himself at the "Strange and Wonderful Creatures" ball where he is the only human-child, surrounded by witches, ogres, trolls, elfs, dwarfs and wizards. To return home, Bobby must retrieve Princes Leia who slumbers under a spell at the end of a long, dark cave inside a mountain guarded by a dragon. Nobody will go with Bobby except a troll and I tell the adventure from the troll's perspective, dressed for the part including a wicked nose, walking shaft and orange red hair purchased at "Party Palace" (agree, this is an interpretation). On the way to Leia, Bobby and the troll discover three ogre-brothers debating whether to kill a girl and grind her bones or roast her on the fire spit; a botched rescue finds Bobby and the troll in the same predicament with the sun-up in two hours - trolls, we know, turn to stone in daylight. Bobby negotiates everyone's release in return for gold, to be found in the dragon's mountain. The ogres keep the girl for recourse and promise to eat her in 21 days if no treasure. Eventually Princess Liea freed, the dragon thwarted, the girl saved. All made possible by the help of kind elves (Madeleine) and therein lies my message to the kids: whenever faced by life's challenges, ask for help and it can usually be solved.

I am granted two extra minutes and revive class favorite "Kit Kat Cowboy," who returns to make sure the classroom working hard and doing well. Nothing else to match my day.

Tuesday, March 8

Red Riding Hood

Many of you may recall that my (little) sister wrote a book "Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of A Fairy Tale" which was an Amazon best-seller and has gone through several printings (go on, buy a copy). Last night Katie attends the Hollywood film premier "Red Riding Hood," pictured, staring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman and co-produced by Leonardo Dicaprio. Katie makes an appearance in the movie and provides the narrative for the DVD release, which includes the history of the fairy tale and interviews with various meaningful players. The Warner blurb:

"Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Max Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter are planning to run away together when they learn that Valerie's older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village. For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon's arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them. As the death toll rises with each moon...

Sunday, March 6

Monday Morning

Sonnet bolts early and I walk the dog. I will swim a few laps soon - beats taking a shower. The kids wander downstairs dressed and ready to go and in a happy mood - Madeleine notes thumbs "middle to up" which is as good as it has been since last summer. Maybe it's the sunshine which floods into the conservatory and warms the kitchen.

Eitan makes breakfast.
Me: "What is that?"
Eitan: "I'm making cinnamon toast."
Me: "All I see is a lot of sugar."
Eitan: "That's the recipe. Sugar, cinnamon and toast."
Madeleine: "Eitan's not supposed to eat sugar in the morning."
Me: "Thank you, Madeleine. That won't be happening again."
Eitan: "Ohhh it's heavenly . . .."

Madeleine pokes her head into the bedroom as I am about to take a nap.
Me: "Hey, kid, what are you up to?"
Madeleine: "Um, nothing. I'm going to play the trumpet."

Eitan, lying on the floor with Rusty: "Rusty just stepped on my balls."

Madeleine, over the sink, drinks from a ladle.
Me: "What are you doing?"
Madeleine: "Discovering a new way of drinking."

First Spring

The first bulbs poke their way through the topsoil searching for sun and I know how they feel. I stamp my feet to ward off the cold on the sideline watching Eitan's KPR lose to the Whitton Wanderers in a must-win game for the blues should they wish to advance to the Premier League next season. Alas, our star goalie Maxime sick and the lads go down 5-3 in a game never that close. Eitan scores two goals and the team plays well but they squander their chances. KPR will be top of the mid-table. Eitan collects his thoughts afterwards and I give him his space.

Manchester United trails 3-0 against Liverpool.
Me: "It's not looking like a very good football day for you."
Eitan: "They still have a chance but it's not looking particularly good."
Eitan: "They have 24-minutes to score three goals."
Me: "There is still hope."
Eitan: "It is not very likely though."

Skip Kenney

Stanford wins its 30th consecutive Pac 10 swimming championships in Long Beach, Calfornia. Will and I disappointed as Cal favored going into the week end. The Cardinal racked up 911 points, followed by the Bears (864) USC (534), Arizona (483), Arizona State (273), UC Santa Barbara (184) and Cal Poly (158). 30 in a row - the last time Stanford lost the title I was a Sr at Berkeley High. For Pete's sake.

Stanford's success no doubt because of coach Skip Kinney (photo from Stanford), who has been with the Cardinal since '85. Not surprisingly, given yesterday, he has been the NCAA Coach of the Year six times and Pac-10 Coach of the Year 21 times; he was Head Coach of the US Men's Swimming Team at the '96 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and assistant coach at the '84 and '88 games. Like Mike Troy, Kenney from the military: Marine Corps, with combat in Vietnam for 13 months in 1965 to 1966; four months spent as a sniper. Kinney brings a military sensibility to training: "Whether you are racing or in combat, for you to be at your best, your mind takes over and your body follows. Your expectations rise." No shit - getting chased by the Cong in a 500 freestyle would bring the best out of anybody.

When I was a youngster I spoke to Kinney about swimming for Stanford though I would have been hard pressed to score a point at the Pac 10s looking at today's results (nor was I accepted to Stanford). Kinney was quiet and intense - few words but big presence - and he always had a smile or nice word when I saw him at swimming meets around Norcal.

Saturday, March 5

Stupid Drivers

Maybe it's the cold grey morning but I've seen a few shocking things which confirm that most people are mindless or stupid. At the gas station, an Audi Q5 pulls up too far from the pump so the driver (male, 40s, wearing mocasins) stretches the hose while petrol sploshes about everywhere. Retard. A few moments later, a BMW (women driver, probably a local mom) mis-judges traffic and so stuck on the level crossing as the warning lights go so she honks furiously then guns her motor around incoming traffic. Or the various countless idiots who text while driving. Again, this morning: I watch a near-miss collision at a busy circus as some mope talks on his cell phone.

Here is the UK road kill from the Office of National Statistics:

In 2007, 646 pedestrians were killed in road accidents in Great Britain; this was 22 per cent of all deaths from road accidents, a 78 per cent decrease from 40 years ago when pedestrian fatalities were 2,964.

The total number of deaths in road accidents fell by 7 per cent to 2,946 in 2007 from 3,172 in 2006. However, the number of fatalities has remained fairly constant over the last ten years.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of people killed in road accidents were car users in 2007. Pedal cyclists and motor cyclists represented 5 and 20 per cent of those killed respectively. Occupants of buses, coaches, goods and other vehicles accounted for the remaining 5 per cent of road deaths.

The total number of road casualties of all severities fell by
4 per cent between 2006 and 2007 to approximately 248,000 in Great Britain. This compares with an annual average of approximately 320,000 for the years 1994-98.

The decline in the casualty rate, which takes into account the volume of traffic on the roads, has been much steeper. In 1967 there were 199 casualties per 100 million vehicle kilometres. By 2007 this had declined to 48 per 100 million vehicle kilometres.

The UK has a good record for road safety compared with most other EU countries. In 2006 it had one of the lowest road death rates in the EU, at 5.4 per 100,000 population. The UK rate was also lower than the rates for other industrialised nations such as the United States (14.3 per 100,000 population), Australia (7.8 per 100,000 population) and Japan (5.7 per 100,000 population).
Photo from the www.

Friday, March 4

Five Years And Blogging

To celebrate my fifth online anniversary I somehow feel the above vibe, captured at the American Ambassador's home in Regent's Park, London, in July 2005, appropriate seeing how the website began . . . .

To you, my family and dear friends, I write, in this otherwise vast and empty universe. Thank you for hearing me shout. And a special holler out to the Shakespeares, who make my life worth living.


Wazza's Bicycle Vs City (Getty Images)

Thursday, March 3

Golden Jubilee Bridge

Here I am on another river crossing, this time the Golden Jubilee Bridge and one of two nouveau walkways bracketing the Charing Cross Bridge connecting the railway station/ Victoria Embankment and Waterloo across the way. Since you ask: There are 12 `public` bridges in London's centre+three rail bridges (Blackfriars, Charing Cross and Grosvenor Rail); A further 17 bridges cross west of Battersea Bridge until Hampton court bridge which is the last in London. Going East you also have the Queen Elizabeth Suspension bridge near Dartford. So the grand total is 33 bridges crossing the our mighty river.

BTW that small pointy thing next to the dude facing us will soon be Europe's tallest building.

Sonnet tak
es Madeleine to a Japanese restaurant for dinner.
Sonnet: "So, how am I doing as a mom?"
Madeleine: "I like the fun things you do with me ..."
Sonnet: "That's nice."
Madeleine: "But sometimes you say 'no' too much."
Sonnet: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "And, you know mom, sometimes we could have more sweat treats."
Madeleine: "And sometimes you get my hopes up."
Sonnet: "Like when?"
Madeleine: "Today it was the play date" [Sonnet got the day wrong which made Madeleine cry].
Madeleine: "Oh, and then there was that other one. It was bigger than a play date. Oh, I know! It was the walk with Natasha. You promised me that two weeks ago.. ."
Sonnet: "Thank you for telling me."

London Fashion Week 2011

Sonnet at last week's cat walks; below Mathew Williamson (first two shots) and John Rochas. Photos by Sonnet.