Potpourri (16 cents)

Let’s see what I can remember about the past several weeks.

1. Jewish Literary Festival at the DCJCC

a. “Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams” by Professor Charles King of Georgetown University. A very good talk on what I am sure is a very interesting book about a clearly interesting and unique city. Odessa, on the Black Sea, was founded in the late 18th century, making it much newer than most Russian (now in the Ukraine) cities, and esablished as a frontier city, Russia’s window on the south, cosmopolitan port city, with Russian, Jewish, Italian and Greek citizens, and the star of the famous Eisenstein film, “Battleship Potemkin”. Prof. King dealt with the Jewish community of Odessa (now forming 70% of the Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach population), but much more. A worthwhile evening.

b. a program on Israel and the nuclear bomb, two authors (Avner Cohen and Ronald Rosenbaum), moderated by journalist Marvin Kalb. A decade or so ago, Cohen wrote a fascinating book called “Israel and the Bomb”, which gave the story of why and how Israel developed a nuclear capacity early in its national history, a program led by David Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres, and helped by its allies, including in particular France. The book was praised and criticized, and for a while Cohen was accused of giving away what are still state secrets. He has now written a second book on the subject that he describes as more philosophical – what are the legitimate defense reasons for Israel to have a bomb, and what are the moral issues surrounding its use. Cohen does not believe that a situation will arise which will lead Israel to launch nuclear weapons. Rosenbaum, on the other hand, is much more pessimistic and thinks it quite likely that there will be a nuclear war centered in the middle east, that it will emanate from Pakistan, not Iran, and that it’s only a question of time. An interesting evening, but VERY sobering, and VERY disturbing.

c. An evening with three young American Jewish writers of fiction – David Bezmozgis, Haley Tanner and Nadya Kalman, a panel moderated by Faye Moskowitz. This evening was less successful – it was advertised as exploring the modern Russian emigre experience, but it turned out that Tanner’s grandparents had immigrated to the United States well before she was born, and the others’ parents were not part of a recent emigration but have been in this country more than 30 years. Each of the authors read from their most recent work – what they read was enjoyable, but I can’t say that I was induced to want to read the entire books. As to their discussion of their background and home life, you could have picked any three people from the audience and had just as interesting a conversation.

2. “The Habit of Art” a the Studio Theatre. It’s been a few weeks since I saw this play, but I don’t think I mentioned it. Written by Alan Bennett, it portrays an imaginary meeting between an aging W.H. Auden and an aging Benjamin Britten, and concentrates on their homosexuality, which Auden broadcast and Britten hid. A well performed play, especially by Ted van Griethuyson as Auden, it was a bit over the top, I thought, with much to much unnecessary conversation and bantering about certain body parts (or should I say body part).

3. A brief stay at the Inn at Perry’s Cabin in St. Michaels MD, including dinner at its Sherwood Restaurant, provided a first class break. Pricey, but very highly recommended. And, speaking of dinner, we had supper at Le Vieux Logis in Bethesda last week on a Groupon. We expected little, but wound up having wonderful fish dinners in a very friendly and comfortable environment. They are having a special now (I guess it’s a special), where you can get three courses for $29. Only open for suppers, and closed Sunday and Monday, I recommend it highly.

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