I want to catch up on a few things that have happened since last I wrote. It seems like it has been a long time, although it has only been a week. So, these will be short and, for the most part, sweet.
1. Speaking of sweet, I have to say that I am working my way through a jar of Smucker’s Low Sugar Sweet Orange Marmelade, and finding it very tasty. Thought you’d like to know. Especially since I had decided to avoid Smucker’s products after visiting their factory/store somewhere in deepest rural Ohio and being shocked at the commercialization of it all. Why I was shocked, I am not so sure, but I always imagined Smucker’s, like Hebrew National, answering to a higher authority. In HN’s case, God; in Smucker’s, Willard Scott.
2. And, while I am touting products, let me add Red Bicyclette Merlot (I have the 2005) and Poggio al Tufo’s Rompicollo (I have the 2004). Two very inexpensive wines (under $10) which seem to be highly drinkable, and consistently so.
3. Moving on…….We saw one final film in the Washington DC International Film Festival, this one made by a combine of Serbian and Slovenians, it appears. Called “The Tour”, it tells the story of a group of veteran stage actors in Belgrade (all seem to be Serbian, except for the leading lady, who is Croatian) who, in 1993, are convinced (against their better judgement but at a time when they are all very upset at their somewhat dictatorial artistic director) to go on a short excursion to the a small town miles from the capital to give a couple of performances, with the prospect of earning some quick money. They hesitate, because there is a war going on, with Serbians, Croats, Bosnians and others all involved, some Christian and some Moslem. But they are convinced that where they are going, it is safe.
Not so, as they are caught in a number of ridiculous situations, involving shortages of food and shelter, moving across the ever changing front lines, avoiding land mines, etc., etc. Do they perform? Yes. Do their audiences appreciate the performances? Not at all. They have more important things on their mind.
It’s a comedy set within a tragedy. As one character says: what is all this fighting for? all of these people are identical! They are the same people.
It is a funny movie. It is not a pleasant movie. It is a very well acted movie. And the message is right there in your face – along with the nonsensical brutality of war.
4. We ate at Hank’s Oyster Bar last night – halibut served on a bed of greenbeans and mushrooms. Quite good. We also ate again at Indian Ocean – I had a “butter chicken”, which is quite a trick since the restaurant cooks without any butter products. It was the least satisfying of the many good things I have had at the restaurant; I told the owner that I was surprised how mild it was. He told me it was the dish that they recommended to customers who didn’t like anything spicy. Who knew? We also had lunch at Ruby Tuesday in Fairfax County – just a salad bar and something to drink. It was surprisingly good. I think we may have decided at one point that we were never going to go to a Ruby Tuesday again. If so, we broke the promise (funny what hunger will do), and were not sorry. And there is one thing more to add here: I had a home made, raspberry lemonade, which was for a short time last Saturday, my favorite all time drink. Try it the next time you are at Ruby Tuesday – or try the strawberry version.
5. I have to admit I enjoyed reading the article in the NYT Sunday Magazine, excerpted from Christopher Buckley’s new book on his parents, but frankly am getting tired of seeing it reviewed and excerpted in so many places. Their PR person is being too efficient. No one will have to buy the book.
As to books, I am still reading Victor Klemperer’s “I Will Bear Witness”, and in fact found a cheap hardback copy with much larger print. I am also reading Frank Gervasi’s “The Violent Decade”, about his foreign reporting from 1935 – 1945, which I am finding very interesting. Both are rather long, and are somewhat slow going. So, it will take me a while to finish. I’m not in a hurry.
6. I did read one other book, in the meantime. Frances Perkins’ “The Roosevelt I Knew”, written shortly after FDR’s death in 1945. Perkins, the first woman to serve in a cabinet position, was Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor for the 13 years of his presidency. The book is not so much a memoir per se, as a series of recollections of her involvement with Roosevelt, which was extensive, from his days as New York governor onward. It’s an interesting book, but I think much more interesting today than it would have been a year or two ago. This is because it goes into great detail of the way the Roosevelt administration fought the Depression. It does not concentrate on foreign affairs, nor on economic policy, because this was not Ms. Perkins’ area. It concentrates on job creation, on employment legislation, on labor-management relations, and on social service initiatives, such as the development of the social security programs. The similarities in the approaches of the Roosevelt and Obama administrations (putting aside the differences in the country in 1933 and 2009) are striking, and it is interesting to look at the Roosevelt initiatives, some longer lasting than others, in light of the passage of 70+ years, as a way of gaining some perspective on what is happening today.
7. Finally, at least to mention, the Caps, as they move into the Eastern Division semi-finals against the Penguins. We will be at Verizon Centre on Saturday for game no.1. The Caps got off to a bad start against the Rangers, and were forced to win the last three to defeat New York in the series. We don’t want to dig ourselves into a hole like that again. By virtue of our records, we should beat Pittsburgh and then face Boston in the Eastern finals. That will be the tough one. One note related to all of this: the six game suspension of Donald Brashear for elbowing a Ranger and injuring him for the rest of the series. Hate to say it, but I think he got what he deserved. And this it too bad, becuase I think that the Caps play with Brashear much better than without him.
Turning to baseball, I am concerned that the economics of the Nationals and Nationals Stadium are disintegrating along with the fan base, which I find disappointing for all of the obvious reasons. The Nats are now something like 4-14, or so. Their hitting is top-notch (they have the 4th best on base record of all 30 MLB teams), their fielding has been much too spotty and their pitching has been, for the most part, abysmal. It doesn’t make any difference if you score 6 runs per game, if you let your opponents score 7. At some point, this will even out some. But what is important is that the games I have seen (only one in person so far) have all been very, very interesting games. That seems to be something that too few people appreciate.
8. Finally again, Annie Hall. Theater J’s current production is “The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall”, a play based loosely on Woody Allen’s movie or, more specifically, on the attempt by a young writer to turn it into a musical. The play was very funny, I thought, and made more so by Josh Lefkowitz’s portrayal of the narrator (the Allen-ish character). The remainder of the cast (who, along with the director, are I believe each friends of one or both of my daughters) also did a wonderful job, but I thought that Lefkowitz outshined them all. (To prepare us for the show, we did rent the original “Annie Hall” movie. I had seen it 30 years ago, and had mixed, at best, feelings then. Still feel the same. Some funny lines, but by and large not a likeable film. Of course, I know I am a member of the smallest of minorities on this one.)