Good salads, bad fish, no coffee and loud music (2 cents)

I was concerned that we were going to be the oldest at the Teapacks concert last night by far.  We may have been the oldest, but clearly not by far.  In fact, the audience although not extremely large, ranged from toddlers to us.  I would guess that the median age was probably mid to late 30s.  Our table neighbor suggested that the Teapacks were very popular in Israel 10 – 15 years ago, and that a lot of the audience were their fans then.

I don’t understand why the music needs to be so loud.  When playing the same music on a CD, no one would reach this decibel level.  The problem is that it drowns out much of the subtlety of the music, and certainly makes the words (irrespective of language) hard to understand.  In fact, Kobi Oz, the Teapacks lead, announced that one song would be in Gibberish, “so it doesn’t make any difference if you don’t know the language”.  It might of been Gibberish, but it could just as easily been the English or the Hebrew.

The words, which Oz writes, are very clever (of course, I take that on faith, since there is so much I couldn’t follow).  And much but not all of it expresses strong social positions.  In addition to “He’s Gonna Push the Button” (see the Youtube clip below several posts), there is a song trying to determine what is more important, peace or food.  The song is “Salaam, Salami”.  There is another song about the capitalists taking over the world, with a great line that reads something like “Go ahead and sue us, our lawyers work like snails”.  And there is a pounding song that attacks the audience directly:  “You’re so dumb, you’re stupid, stupid, stupid, and all we do is make money off of you.”  The audience loves it.

There was quite a bit of dancing.  Or maybe not.  Because the dancing seems to be bouncing.  You stand in front of the band, you do whatever you want with your hands (you can just let them hang, you can wave them back and forth, you can do anything) and you bounce like you are on a pogo stick.  You can do it with a partner, with your friends, by yourself.  You don’t even need to know if you are dancing with anyone.  Perhaps this is the way it is at all rock concerts now?

The members of the six man band (guitars of various types, drums and a keyboard/accordianist) look like you would expect them to, more or less.  Tall, thin, motley dressed, never been to a hair salon.  But Kobi Oz, who is the lead, and who sings ALL of the songs (it was a 90 minute set) is a small bundle of energy.  Small = maybe 5’2″  Bundle = compact, non- angular  Energy = rapid, kinetic, frantic, uncontrolled, awkward, graceful movement, without even a hint of slowing down.

The venue (State Theatre in Falls Church, right on Route 29) is quite nice.  I was told that they often have up to 700 people for a concert and, for the reggae and a few other concerts, they remove the tables and can fit in 1000.  (I assume that none of them is the fire marshal.)  They have a rather complete menu and friendly servers (“No, no, you’re not the oldest person we’ve ever had here, are you kidding?”), and the ceasar salad and the guacamole were first class, but watch out for the frozen, one-size-fits all salmon, which was dry and tough and not possible to really eat.  And their coffee brewer was broken, or so they said.

I’d go back to the State Theater, but would be a fish out of water at most events, so probably won’t.  But some upcoming programs seem interesting.  Anyone want to go with me to see Girl in a Coma?

The Ethicist

Here is my ethical dilemma.  My friend Bob has already given me his thoughts (you can expand on them if you wish, Bob), and I would like to hear from the rest of you.

When in Boston, if I have time and the weather is nice, I go to the Brattle Book Store, off Tremont Street near the Common, and roam through the many old books that they display on racks on their outdoor lot.  Occasionally I pick up something interesting.

Last week, I found a small book entitled “A Little Confederate Girl’s Recollections of the War”, written by a Kate Waller Chambers and privately published (“for her children and grandchildren”) in 1910.  The author was five years old when the Civil War broke out, living with her family in Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy.  She remembers her family life, her relatives and her parents’ friends going off to war and (most of the time) returning, often injured.  She remembers the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as president.  She remembers how life changed in general, how food became scarce, how medicines were unavailable and old traditional remedies came back into vogue, how clothes were all homespun.

This is a rare book that I can not locate on any of the Internet used book sites.  It was probably printed in a very small edition. It is rarer still, I assume, because it is inscribed by Chambers.  The inscription reads:  “Kate Waller Chanbers, Crows Nest, Bronxville, May the tenth, 1911.  For my dear Uncle..”

Here is where the ethical dilemma arises.  The book was at one time part of the collection (actually, the ‘special’ collection) of the library of Coker College, in Hartsville, South Carolina.  Coker College, now a co-ed liberal arts school, was founded as a Baptist girls college in 1908 by James L. Coker.

James L. Coker, it turns out, was Chambers’ uncle, the husband of her mother’s youngest sister (her mother’s oldest sister was married to a Confederate general, W.B. McClellan).  So it seems clear that at some point Coker, or Coker’s family donated the book to the college library.

There is nothing in the book to show that the college library ever disposed of the book.  So, I don’t know how it wound up at a used book store in Boston, much less on an outdoor bargain rack.

I looked up Coker College on the internet and went to the very attractive website of its library (complete with a quote by Michael Moore, something to the effect of “you may think that librarians are quiet meet people, but it is not so; they are really planning the revolution”) and looked at its on line catalog to see if there was anything shown by Kate Waller Chambers.

There was.  It was not this book, but another, privately published a few years later, which seemed to be a history of her family in general.  The “Little Confederate Girl’s Recollections” was not listed.

So, friends, here is my dilemma.  What should I do?

Musing on a Monday Night

Unfortunately, I did not make the talk on Alice Roosevelt Longworth at Politics and Prose. The reason? The vagaries of the DC Metro system.

I am not complaining, because these things happen, but my Red Line train stopped between Farragut North and DuPont because of mechanical difficulties on the train in front of us. We sat for about twenty minutes, long enough for me to miss the first fifteen minutes or so of the author’s presentation. So instead I came home.

And started thinking about Benazir Bhutto. I must admit that I know relatively little about Benazir Bhutto, but she is one of my favorites. Why is this? It is because when I went to my 25th college reunion, she was giving the commencement address. This would have been Harvard in 1989. She was unbelievably inspiring in talking about Pakistan and its future. And to my knowledge, she was quite a good prime minister (her father had been prime minister as well, and assassinated). She then had to leave the country, largely because her husband (I think they are still married) was accused of financial shenanigans. Whether the charges were legitimate, I do not know).

Pakistan clearly has more than its share of Islamic crazies. Look at what happened to Daniel Pearl, and I assume that the picture given of Karachi in the movie about his murder was fairly accurate. And we all know about the lawlessness of the hills separating Pakistan from Afghanistan.

But I have also seen many of the Pakistani diplomats in this country. They are, to a person, suave, intelligent and very western in their mannerism.

This must be an unbelievably complicated country.

So, Bhutto returns to her home, there is an assassination attempt, 135 people are killed, chaos results. I saw a brief interview of Bhutto today, conducted by Ann Curry, who is also in Pakistan now. Bhutto admitted that she expected trouble. Curry asked if it was worth having all these people killedbhutto1.jpg.curry.jpg

Bhutto’s comment was surprising. She said, you know, all of these people (I think there were over a million) put their lives voluntarily at risk to show support for democracy in Pakistan. I put my own life at risk. We think it is a necessity and that it is worth it.

You have to give her credit. And, by the way, Ann Curry is another of my favorites. To see them together was a treat.

As we know, there has been a lot of emigration from Pakistan.  Could this mean that only the crazies are left?

I hope not.

My Sunday So Far

I did go to the lecture of Bayreuth, but it turned out not to be first on my list. After a short stint at the gym, and a short read through the Sunday Washington Post, I saw that today was the final day of the four day book sale sponsored by the AAFSW (Association of American Foreign Service Women, or something to that effect) at the State Department and that it was, therefore, half price day.

I usually enjoy this sale, because you can never tell what will turn up, since the books are primarily donated by State Department or foreign service families. It’s only problem (and it is a problem for AAFSW I am sure) is that the Foggy Bottom State Department is so ringed by security that access is difficult (i.e., several steps) and parking nearly impossible. But I assume they will remain there because the four day sale really last a week and four days, with the eligible purchasers during the first week State Department employees only.

You would think that they would take the cream of the crop, and perhaps they do, but I did find some bargains. Three picture books. The first is a book on the painting that is done for the labels of Mouton Rothschild wines (the book itself sells for about $40) signed by Baroness Rothschild and inscribed (warmly) to Colin Powell. chmoutonr204-w.jpgThe second is a coffee table book about the Churchills written and signed by Mary Soames, who is the daughter of Winston and Clementine. The third is a beautiful book, where photographer Michael Collopy follows Mother Theresa around. Collopy signed the book. There are no signed copies of the Collopy book or the Rothschild book listed. I also bought a nice signed copy of Tom Clancy’s Shadow Warriors and Augusten Burroughs’ memoir, Dry, also signed. Seventeen books in all.

When I went to the library for the lecture, I did not know what to expect. I was going to be surprised if there was a crowd.

I asked at the front desk where I should go, and I was told to take the elevator to the first basement level, and make two left turns until I found Room A10. I had never been on that level before. Talk about halls and rooms without personality. Room A10 would hold maybe 50 people at most. It has white cinder block walls and no windows. It had folding chairs set up, a movie screen in front and a small table serving as a lectern. There were fewer than 20 in attendance.richardw.jpg

The presentation was sponsored by the Washington Wagner Society, known as WagnerOpedia. The group was a mixed group, but all white, and none under, say, 50. I was a little ill-at-ease in this group, because of the anti-Semitism of Wagner, I was concerned that these Wagnerites might also reflect similar feelings at their meetings. If they do, they didn’t today.

In fact (in the “news of the weird” category), the chair of WagnerOpedia is (a) a woman, (b) Jewish and (c) hard of hearing. Go figure. In fact, she is someone I have seen from time to time at my synagogue.

Dr. Sven Friedrich, who directs a number of institutions at Bayreuth devoted to Richard Wagner and to Franz Liszt, was a rather formal presenter. His English was quite good, but he did not believe it was. And so, he told us that he was going to read a paper, rather than speaking from notes. He also told us that, although the advertised topic was “Bayreuth: Past, Present and Future”, he was going to give a lecture on Cosimo Wagner, Richard’s wife. He apologized, but said that this was a lecture that he had written out and had had translated into English. He then said that his reading would take approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. Whew!

It was actually quite interesting. He touched on how Cosimo, married to another, decided that Richard, also married to another, was the guy for her, and how she pursued the relationship until it blossomed into separations from their spouses, having children together, moving in with each other and finally marrying. After Wagner died, Cosimo took it on herself to continue and expand the fledging festival that her husband had started, and how successful she was. How she made sure that her son Siegfried would take over the festival after she retired (which she did shortly after the turn of the century, although she lived another twenty years or so, until she was well into her nineties), how she helped arrange his marriage to Winifred, and how her daughter sued her for failing to treat her children equivalently with regard to the festival, how the suit became very public, and how mother and daughter never spoke again. The question of anti-Semitism came up, but in a rather matter of fact manner. Wagner was anti-Semitic, as was Cosimo. But their overall approach to life was apparently quite different. Cosimo was an aristocrat in her manner and leanings, and Wagner was much more a man of the people, so that the festival became much more of a upscale society event that Richard ever dreamed it would be, or should be.

I did not stay for the questions and answers, nor far the pay your own supper which was to follow at a nearby restaurant.

Whether Friedrich expected more people, I don’t know. He gave no sign. He is on a U.S. tour, giving this lecture in about a half dozen cities. He was in New York yesterday; Washington was his second stop. On his way to Chicago tomorrow.

Rock Creek at Mazza

Bob, Nona, Edie and I had dinner at Rock Creek at Mazza, a relatively new up-scale restaurant at Mazza Gallerie, on the third floor with the AMC movie theaters, so that you walk out to the smell of popcorn. For a fancy place, the restaurant is fairly uncomfortable, and the staff a bit stuffy. I must admit that the venison (served medium with just the right amount of Swiss chard, mushrooms and turnips) was delicious. The first course “market salad” was nothing out of the ordinary. For a drink, a salad, a main course and a cup of coffee (all but the coffee for two), the bill was $100. Again, the venison was delicious. But when set next to the price, and the general lack of comfort, this is not a restaurant to go back to.

Coming up This Week

Yes, I do have to work this week, but I have some other plans as well.

Tomorrow, I plan on attending an afternoon lecture at the Martin Luther King Library. The topic is “Bayreuth: Past Present and Future” and the lecturer is Dr. Sven Frederich, director of the Franz Liszt Museum. The venue is strange, the time unusual, and will see if anyone but me shows up. I don’t know anything about Frederich, but Bayreuth is most interesting to me because of the relationship between the Wagner family and the Nazis. Some years ago, I came upon an unusual find in my book-searching, a copy of Der Sohn, the life of Wagner son Siegfried Wagner, published in Vienna in 1969. The book was written by Zdenko von Kraft, but is inscribed as a birthday gift to someone named Elfi by none other than Winifred Wagner, Siegfried’s wife. Winifred was English born, but raised in Germany by friends of the Wagner family. As the Bayreuth festival was intended to be passed on from generation to generation, and as Siegfried was much more interested in men than in women, it did not look like this would happen. That is why the Wagner clan decided that Winifred (once she turned 17) should marry Siegfried (then in his mid 40s), and she did, and had four sons before she turned twenty. She was very close to Hitler, and is said to have smuggled to him in prison the paper on which Mein Kampf was written. After her husband’s death, she remained close to Hitler, and managed the Bayreuth Festival until the end of World War II. She lived until 1980, apparently never renouncing Hitler or her Nazi beliefs.

Monday evening, I am going to attend another lecture, this one by the author of a new book on the life of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Teddy Roosevelt’s very independent daughter). It will take place at Politics and Prose, and will be by author Stacy Cordery. Roosevelt also fits into my book collection in a couple of ways. During the presidential administration of her father, she accompanied him on a trip to Puerto Rico. She was presented with a copy of The History of Puerto Rico by R. A. van Middeldyk (the librarian of the San Juan public library), who inscribed it thus: “Respectfully presented to Miss Alice Roosevelt as a souvenir of her viist to this island. The author. San Juan, P.R. March 30, 1903”. The book is in good condition, but there is no sign that the then 19 year old Miss Roosevelt read the book. It is a very different story with a copy of Edward Teller’s 1958 book, Our Nuclear Future. It appears that Ms. Longworth obtained this book on her own and read it cover to cover. It is filled with her marginal markings. She bought the book in March (signed and dated it as her book) and in April invited to dinner Teller, along with William P. Rogers and James Killian. In her reading of the book, she noted an error, that on page 56, the word “neutron” should have been narrowed to “free neutron”. She obviously informed Teller at dinner, who inscribed at the front of the book: “To Mrs. Longworth hoping that in my next book she will find the mistake before publication. Edward Teller”. She had Teller (“E.T.”) initial the change she had made on page 56, and had Rogers and Killian sign on as witnessing parties.

That only brings us to Tuesday, when we hope that we are able to go and hear the “Teapacks” in concert at the State Theater in Falls Church. The Teapacks are an Israel hip-hop-like group (actually the ad says that are pop-punk international, which is probably more accurate) whose leader comes from Sderot, the town bordering Gaza towards which the Palestineans launch the Kassam rockets on a regular basis. They are the group who composed and performed “He’s Gonna Push the Button”, the parody on Iranian president Ahmedinejad and his threat to destroy the Satanic State of Israel and the idyllic life of the Israelis. Once I figure out how to load videos, I will make this one available. It was Israel’s entry into this year’s Eurovision song contest, and advanced as far as the semi-finals. We don’t usually go to concerts like these, but this one seemed to good to pass up.

Wednesday, we will go to our second Washington Caps game. We do this with diminished excitement as the Caps’ first three wins were offset by three losses. Playing the Islanders on Thursday night (our first of the year), they dominated in the first period but could not score, allowed three power point goals, scored no power point goals out of six tries, and looked by the end of the game like the last placed Caps of last year. On the positive side, their new red uniforms are fantastic. But you don’t win games by the quality of your clothes. They need to move beyond where they appear to be, but even with their new skates (Backstrom, Nylander, Kozlov, Motzko, Poti), they looked like they could not hold their own. They lost 5-2, and this was after a 7-3 loss to Buffalo. They play the Penguins tonight. Perhaps we will see part of the game on television; we are going to supper with friends Bob and Nona first.

The mother of a friend passed away, and we may make a shiva call on Thursday. Then on Friday, I have an afternoon retirement party for one of my ex-partners (at which I should see many more ex-partners), followed by supper at friends’ new condominium. Then next Saturday, it is a pumpkin cutting party in Springfield VA, followed by supper at our organic produce provider in Lexington Park, MD. We should be collecting frequent driver miles.

Daughter Hannah’s Blog

Having had a blog on for some time, and having looked at daughter Hannah’s blog on for some time, I have come to an obvious conclusion.  Her blog is much better than mine.

Therefore, I have decided to try to do more of what she does.  And my first copy-cat action was to move my blog from blogspot to wordpress.

Not a big move, you say.

I agree, but let’s see what else I can do.

Here is what Hannah does.  First, most of her posts fall easily into categories:  without tracking the names she has given them, they seem to be related to her work in theater, places she goes or wants to go and who she goes with, news stories which interest her (particularly if they are on a Jewish theme, or involve the death of someone she respects), and vintage clothing.

I am going to try to have categories, too.  And more pictures, and I am going to try videos.

I am sure it will take me a while to get comfortable with my new neighborhood, but……

read on, please.