So Many Things; So Little Time (23 cents)

1. The Movie: We saw a 1968 Alain Resnais film, “Je t’aime, Je t’aime”, on Saturday. It is typical Resnais in that it deals with memory and travels back and forth through time. But this time, the time travel is part of the science-fiction like plot. The movie takes place in Belgium. The main character has tried to commit suicide and failed, but clearly does not care if he lives or not. A group of scientists, working so far only with mice, have figured out how to travel the mice into the past, and is looking for a likely human subject. Our hero is perfect: he is emotionless, has no family, and is filled with curiosity. He is sent back for a short trip to the past, but things go wrong, and the scientists are having a hard time getting him back. His voyage is in spurts – he is locked in a weird contraption, and disappears into the past, and reappears into the present. His visits to the past (his own past, not eons back) last seconds, or minutes at best. You get to see him relive a sufficient number of these snippets that you put together the story. Unfortunately, you also see him attempt to commit suicide again, which leads to all sorts of complications. The cinematography is terrific, the acting is fine, the story is sort of silly, but the concept (as I see it): we all live our past in our minds continually, replaying things that have happened to us, and what has almost destroyed us before still has the power to destroy us anew. I think it is a good message, something to think about, so I give the movie high praise. But it is excruciating to watch.

2. The books. I actually have read four since my last potpourri posting – Douglas Feith’s “War and Decision”, about the decision to go to war following the 9/11/01 attack, when Feith was an Undersecretary of State. I enjoyed the book, although I found its logic frustrating and the governmental process in the Bush administration, as portrayed, embarrassingly amateurish, and filled with extraordinary personal and agency rivalries, petty grudges, and people who know little about a subject, but think they know it all, and think that they can determine how to plant seeds that will in effect control the future actions and thoughts of people half way around the world. Sad, sad.

Then, I re-read Thornton Wilder’s “The Bridge at San Luis Rey”, about the rope bridge over a gorge in Peru that fell in the 17th century leading several to their deaths, and the attempt by the local priest to see why God would choose to end their lives, thus proving once and for all, the extent of divine influence in human affairs. I am not sure this book has withstood the test of time 100%, but it is smooth reading, and demonstrates Wilder’s clear, yet complex, writing style.

The third book is one that few have probably read. Gordy Slack’s “The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything”, a journalistic account of the attempt, by the school board of Dover PA to have “intelligent design” taught along with evolution in the school system’s sciences classes. This led to litigation, where intelligent design was forbade from being taught, both as being unscientific, and as being a subterfuge to bring unconstitutional religious thinking into public schools.

The final book, also an odd one to pick, is titled “Unknown Sands” and was written by John W. Kropf, who worked for US AID in Turkestan for two years between 2000 and 2002. A very interesting anecdotal account of the life of a curious and far from cowardly American, in a very remote and totalitarian country.

3. The restaurants. Nothing particularly positive to report. A number of mediocre meals. Perhaps the weakest was at Surfside in Glover Park, a low key seafood restaurant, where the fish was beneath par. And after having a couple of very good meals at Hank’s Oyster House, a rather mediocre meal last Thursday. Perhaps we just ordered wrong.

4. Theater. I wrote about Zero Hour a few days ago. Today, we went to the final day of the annual Page to Stage festival at the Kennedy Center. We saw a staged reading of a play called “Diagram of a Paper Airplane” by Carlos Murillo. There were four friends – a married couple, two single men. They were all in theater, and were going to create their own venue. Something happened and they didn’t speak for twenty years or more. Then one of them dies, bringing the others together (as well as his daughter, who is also the daughter of his ex-wife, one of the four friends), to read a play that he has written, just for the occasion. And, boy, does the past resurface with a vengeance. Beautifully read by well know local actors, and hopefully to be staged by the Forum Theatre, who was the sponsor of this particular offering. We also went to the Synetic Theatre’s production, a preview of “Dracula”, to open in October. We saw Synetic do “Dracula” five years ago, and the production was good. This one looks to be much better. We look forward to its opening.

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