This week (11 cents)

1.  The Restaurant.  Le Chat Noir, a French restaurant on upper Wisconsin Avenue, is my new favorite.  And that is saying some, since we have had so many nice meals lately.  We went there on a Saturday night.  I had a cold, lime-marinated thinly sliced grouper in a 360 degree ring around a perfectly dressed and generous spinach, celeriac and red onion salad.  My companion (i.e., spouse) had baked cod in some sort of a red (in color) anise (in flavor) sauce with what looked like a fresh artichoke heart vegetable stew, and a scoop of yellow (Yukon?) mashed potatoes.  I think it is her new favorite, as well.

2.  The Music.  We sat out on a blanket last night at Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda, where during the summer they have free Wednesday night programs.  Each is different.  This was is Latin jazz played by a group calling itself Calle Sur, with four musicians, the leaders of whom were a blond Colombian whose last time is Stein, and a Panamanian, whose last name is East.  Go figure.  The music was very enjoyable – relaxing, intoxicating, not overly challenging to the ear, familiar to a large extent, fun.

3.  The Magazine.  While watching Calle Sur, I had a chance to read through this month’s Vanity Fair (one of my more enjoyable regular monthly pursuits).  While I really had no personal interest in Heath Ledger’s last days, and not much more interest in what Christopher Hitchens thinks about the British Labour Party today, there were three articles that are worthy of everyone’s attention.  Todd Purdum’s article on Sarah Palin gives a good rundown of all the embarrassing things that have beset her, and some insight on the feelings that developed amongst the McCain campaign advisors as time went on (Palin did not cooperate with the article).  Likewise, Nina Munk’s description of why the Harvard endowment portfolio lost billions of dollars, and its effect on the university has some interesting comments on how the endowment was managed, and how endowment funds were over committed, conflicts between administration and fund management, and departure of many fund managers.  And, best of all, Michael Lewis’ article on AIG provides a lot of information as to how that company all of a sudden began backing subprime mortgage funds and ignored all of their previously tightly scrutinized financial research, attributing it to a personnel change at the top, which led to a change in the entire atmosphere at the company.

4.  The play.  Having heard a reading of The Cherry Orchard last week, this time we went to hear a reading of The Three Sisters, all in preparation for the full staged production of The Seagull which we will see tonight.  The reading was very good, the play very funny (it was the David Mamet version of the Chekhov original), but we left at the intermission, largely because the reading was delayed almost a half hour, and it was clear that the full reading wouldn’t be over until close to 11, which is pretty late for a school night, when we had early morning commitments.

5.  The book.  I recommend Noah Efron’s Real Jews, the story of the extraordinary division between ultra-orthdox and secular Jews in Israel.  Read it and weep, but read it.  The question is (as it is in various Islamic states) whether religious fundamentalism can co-exist with democracy, when the tenents of the religion are so anti-democratic in a western sense.

6.  The baseball games.  We saw the Nats beat the Braves on the 4th of July, but since then……….As a recent columnist put it: this team is so much less than the sum of its parts.  I still would start with a change of manager.


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