Mini-Potpourri (Two concerts, one author talk, one film, plus some food)

1. I went to two delightful lunch time concerts this week. The first, at Epiphany Church featured a pianist (Soyoon Yim), a violinist (Jon Kim) and a soprano (You Seong Kim), and featured work by French composers (Satie, Milhaud, Poulenc, Honneger and others), and the second, at the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center, featured the Beau Soir Ensemble (Carrie Rose, flute, Dana Rokosny, Viola, and Michelle Myers Lundy, harp), featuring work written or arranged for this unusual combination of sounds, composed over a broad period of time and including arrangements of 16th century pieces, a triosonate by Telemann and a Fantasie by Saint-Saens.

2. The author talk at Politics and Prose by Georgetown professor Thane Gustafson, and his new book Wheel of Fortune, about the Russian oil industry after the fall of the Soviet Union. He spoke about the leading characters (many from what he called Putin’s St. Petersburg mafia), the size of the oil industry and the dependence on the government for oil revenues, the arrangement between the goverenment and the entrepreneurs – the government gets 95% of profits – and the technical status of Russian oil exploration and extraction. While I am not sure I need to read the book (I think the details would overwhelm me and slip through my mind), it sounds like the book is a very important one for those who have the need, or interest, to know more than I do. I must also say that the questions from those in the audience were excellent – not one was wasted, and each gave the speaker a reason to talk about an area that he had not time to mention in his prepared remarks.

3. The film is a German/Austrian one shown at this year’s Washington Jewish Film Festival (we are going to see a second film on Saturday), “My Best Enemy” (or “Meiner Bester Feind”). It is a somewhat, sometimes lighthearted Holocaust movie that is also a thriller, and that I thoroughly enjoyed. I must say, however, that my enjoyment of this film seems to have surpassed many who have seen it, and that I enjoyed it because I thought it was well acted, slickly filmed, and carried me right along, not because it had a profound message. The Jewish Kaufmanns have a major and well respected gallery in Vienna and are surprised when the Austrian premier called for a plebiscite on joining with Germany and when the Germans marched into the country. They recognized that they had to close their gallery, wanted to move the art work to Switzerland (turned out not to be possible), and especially wanted to protect a Michelangelo drawing of Moses, which had come into their possession, but which they denied having. The son of a former housekeeper, whom they thought was a friend, but turned out to be a closet Nazi betrayed them (and came out of the closet). The Kaufmanns thought they had fooled the Nazis by providing them with a masterful copy of the drawing, but the Germans soon learned that they did not have the original (which Hitler had promised to give to Mussolini, returning it to Italy) and sent off on an extraordinary campaign to get it back, knowing that only the evil Jews knew where it was, and promising great punishment on the loyal Germans who had been duped by the switch. No more hints at what happens – all I can say is that, recognizing the shortcomings of the film, I still thought it terrific.

4. There is not much to report on the restaurant front except that we did give one more chance to our local Jamaican restaurant, 876 (that’s the Kingston area code), but this was it. How can you be out of the spinach/pear salad? How can you be out of lemons, so that tea must be served with lime slices? And how can you be out of penne pasta and substitute something the seemed more to me like inedible egg noodles? Perhaps, it is just like Jamaica.

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