Hockey Musings for the Day (1 cent)

Yesterday, the Caps looked better than the Bruins and lost.

Today, the Caps looked better than the Penguins and lost.

A playoff berth is growing as remote as a Clinton nomination.

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A Book, a Movie, Two Sporting Events and a Record

The Book: “The Lost Gospel” by Herbert Krosney, published in 2006 by National Geographic in connection with their exhibition centered on the papyrus Coptic “Gospel of Judas Iscariot”, which was shown along with other artifacts at its museum in Washington that year. The Gospel of Judas Iscariot was found in Egypt in the early 1970s by peasants (that’s what they always call them), who knew a good thing when they saw it. But it traveled around the world looking for a permanent home (and a buyer with a lot of cash) for over a quarter of a century, being stored in odd places in Greece, Switzerland the U.S., disintegrating as it went on its way. The book itself is revolutionary in that it shows Judas not as a betrayer or Jesus, but as a co-conspirator of Jesus, fulfilling Jesus’ wish to be turned over to the authorities. (With all due respect, I always assumed that is what happened.)

The book is 15% about the document and the various interpretations of the role of Judas, and 85% about the, sometimes comical if it weren’t so important, history of this text from its discovery until it was finally provided with a home (in Egypt) and appropriate restoration and translation. The story is fascinating, and teaches you that nothing is inevitable.

But I can’t imagine who thought this book was ready for prime time. Its organization is weak, it is unbelievably repetitive, and every time a character is introduced, you have to read through his c.v. again (for some it happens almost every chapter). And there are no footnotes. I would recommend the book, but if I needed to have a book written, I would not turn to Mr. Krosney (who is described as more of a documentary film maker, anyway).

The Movie: “Nanking”, about the Japanese attack on the then Chinese capital in 1937. It is estimated that about 200,000 people died in Nanking, but that about 250,000 were saved by a bunch of British, American and German (read Nazi) foreigners living in the city, whom the Japanese were apparently hesitant to cross. Very interesting, and as depressing as watching a film about Auschwitz.

The movie itself had three components: (1) old footage, either from newsreels, official photos, or purloined photos, (2) interviews with octogenarian Japanese veterans and Chinese victims, and (3) a group of actors portraying the foreigners (none of whom are apparently alive at this point), reading from interviews or letters that were actually given or sent. There is no “script” and there is no action; the contemporary actors are all simply sitting down telling you something.

That does not make for the most clever of documentaries, but the story is so riveting, you don’t care about technique. Caps owner Ted Leonsis was the producer.

When I got home, I got curious about World War II casualties. We all know about the 6,000,000 Jews, but I thought: how many Chinese? According to Wikipedia, 20,000,000. And 23,000,000 Soviets. And over 70,000,000 altogether. (If you look at the Wikipedia site on casualties of world war ii, you will see that the deaths are divided between military and civilian, and the Jewish deaths are separated as well.

70,000,000? What goes on on this planet?

The Sporting Events: I saw both on TV. The Caps beat Boston last night 10-2 (I saw the last two periods). Why couldn’t they have done this on Saturday, when we were at the game? And I saw a Nationals/Dodgers spring training game today; Dodgers 5, Nats 3. Boy, is spring training boring. And the Nats did not look that sharp. But congratulations to Chad Cordero, who did his best in his 9th inning appearance. And Matt Chico, in his 3 innings looked poor. And there are all these guys playing who won’t make the team; they are just there. Non-roster invitees, they are called.

The Record: I have all of these autographed classical records, and I decided finally (after 5 years) to play one. I chose excerpts from La Boheme, with Carlo Bergonzi and Luci Albanese, with the orchestra conducted by Thomas Schippers. An Italian LP from the early 1970s. Boy, can those guys sing. And now, I am listening to Boris Christoff singing Moussoursky.

Quick Takes: Other Doings

1. The movie: “Mephisto”, directed by Istvan Szabo, at the National Gallery Saturday afternoon. Was it as good as “Taking Sides”, which we saw two weeks ago? Maybe it was; it was very, very good. Won the 1982 Oscar for best foreign film. Starring Klaus Maria Brandauer as Hendrik Hoefgen, Hamburg actor in the 1920s, whose goal is to make it big in Berlin. A member of a left wing political theater in Hamburg, he becomes, when the Nazis take over Germany, the favorite of the Nazis and the head of the Prussian State Theater. A movie about what it means to be an actor and to have theater as your life, and the important relationship between theater and politics, how your politics can director your theatrical enterprises, and how your theatrical enterprises can themselves be redirected by the politics of others. Brandauer did a fantastic job playing a role that was composed of many roles. You saw him on stage, and you saw him playing Hoefgen, a meek individual who, in his private life as well, was always playing one role or another. Based on a novel written by Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann’s son (who committed suicide in the south of France), based on the true story of his brother in law.

2. The book. I finished The Orientalist by Tom Reiss, and recommend it extremely highly. The story of Lev Nussimbaum, also known as Essad Bey, also as Kuban Said. Jew, Moslem, author. A man of mystery, writer of best sellers in Europe during the 1920s, when many Jews were looking east to their oriental roots, and others looking to escape their Judaism through adventure, rebranding, and sometimes new faiths. Nussimbaum died of Reynaud’s Syndrome while still in his thirties in exile in Positano, where he was penniless (he was for most of his life wallowing in money, either his parents or his wife’s) and known only as “the Moslem”. Beautifully written and researched. Learn about early life in oil-rich Baku, the escape across the Caucasus when the Bolsheviks took over, Constantinople, Paris and Berlin, when they were home to Russian emigrant communities. Meet the Nabokovs, and Freud and Einstein, and George Viereck, and Werfel and Zweig, and even Joseph Stalin who, as a young man, was a friend of the Nussimbaums in Baku.

3. The game. Toronto beat the Caps 3-2 in a just awful game.

4. The restaurant. Another great meal at Jaleo (no need to repeat was has been said before; this place is very consistent)

5. The exposition. The antique flea market at the Dulles Exposition Center. Just too much stuff. So many exhibitors, packing and unpacking and setting up and packing and unpacking. Big stuff. Furniture, for example. Fragile stuff. Hundreds (no, thousands) of glass and pottery pieces. Want post cards? Probably a million there. Vintage clothes? Old kitchen supplies or hardware? So much. There was one political ephemera dealer who most have had 40,000,000,000 buttons (more or less). Where do they get it all? How much of it do they really think they can sell?

Ice is Nice But Liquor is Quickor

Did Ogden Nash really write that? Or was it Dorothy Parker? I am not sure, but let’s talk about both.

First, we had a mini-ice storm yesterday and last night. The roads were a bit treacherous although the city came through it quite nicely, thank you. When I opened the window this morning, I saw a little ice on the tree limbs, and when I opened the door, although the rain that fell through the night took care of most of the ice, there were pockets of danger lurking when least expected.

It was because of these pockets, I assume, that Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense fell and broke his arm. (And remember diet Dr. Robert Atkins who some years ago fell on the ice in Manhattan and did much worse; he died.) Gates’ broken arm reminded me, as such things always do, of the time Lana Turner slipped in the bathtub and broke something else. I would guess this was 1950 or so. My grandmother’s reaction was classic. “Can you imagine,” she said, “with all that money.”

Well, the Secretary of Defense is paid to provide for the common defense, as they say, and how can he do that if he is willing to be tripped up by a little ice?

When I felt that global warming had taken sufficient effect to make movement safe, I ventured out to my car. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my scraper in the car (of course, I didn’t look in the trunk where I assume it was (is). So, I took out my plastic ball point pen to spear the ice on the windshields, while the front and back defrosters were going full blast. I sat in the car at first, and opened the back windows, hoping that the closing window would automatically knock of the ice. But it didn’t. In fact, with the window down, the then sheets of ice remained vertical, supported by nothing extrinsic. It was quite beautiful, but they soon notice their predicament and came crashing down. Rather than falling outward, they fell inward, into the back seat of the car. It is still wet.

Ice was on television tonight as well, in an arena in Atlanta where the Caps were playing the Thrashers. We watched on television, while I was doing some home administrative chores and answering questions that Hannah had as she was filling out her financial aid application for graduate school (like “I don’t think we will give you any money” and “if they only knew that you had your great grandmother to support”; things like that). The Caps outplayed Atlanta in everyway but goal scoring. They lost in overtime/shootout 3-2. There is now a 3-way league leading tie, three teams with 60 points each.

So, let’s move to liquor. I have finally found a Spanish red wine that was undrinkable. Very hard to do, but there were clues. First, the wine was about $8 a bottle. More importantly, the wine is called Wrongo Dongo. The real question is: why did I buy it?