Joshua and I did not do much this weekend.
We stayed home Friday night and did our laundry and caught up on our reading.
We stayed home all day yesterday, too, and continued to catch up on our reading. Yesterday afternoon, Josh wrote about one of the books we just completed, “A World Undone” by G. J. Meyer, a one-volume (but nevertheless fairly comprehensive) history of World War I. I think it is the best thing Josh has ever written.
One of the books we are still plowing through is an English translation of “Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, And The Nazi Welfare State” by Goetz Aly, the German journalist and lecturer. “Hitler’s Beneficiaries” is a 488-page argument, poorly-advanced, claiming that the reason the German populace supported Hitler’s regime throughout the war was largely due to generous tax breaks, lavish welfare programs, prosperity based upon theft from Europe’s Jewish population as well as theft from occupied countries, currency manipulation, and a constant stream of luxury goods imported into Germany from all over the world in order to bribe the German people.
Aly’s is an extremely irritating book, partly because his arguments are not tight and do not hang together, partly because the research cited is not logically organized or comprehensively analyzed (nor is the research necessarily complete, or even reliable), partly because Aly ignores any facts contrary to his controversial proposition, and partly because Aly is simply bone-headed, demonstrating a typical German resolve stubbornly to refuse to accept or address or consider anything not purely consistent with his hypothesis.
Aly’s book has been received with great acclaim in some quarters, and with great dismay in others. I reserve final judgment until I finish reading the book, but I can state, without reservation, that the standard of scholarship demonstrated in the book is shockingly low—and, unlike others, I am not convinced that the book was written solely to be provocative. I believe Aly has convinced himself that what he has written is eternal truth.
There is definitely something very wrong with the German mind and the German character.
Last night, Josh and I had my parents over for dinner, an early Mother’s Day gift for my mother. Josh and I had not seen my father for exactly two weeks—we had last seen him on the evening of April 26, when we had seen him off at the airport.
Josh and I had deliberately left my parents alone on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the first two nights after my father’s return from Taipei, and we had declined my parents’ invitation to accompany them to a Friday night concert by the Minnesota Orchestra.
From my parents’ accounts of that concert, we did not miss much. The orchestra played Schubert’s Eighth and Mahler’s Ninth under Mark Wigglesworth, and the concert apparently was not any good in the least. My parents said that Wigglesworth was totally at sea in the Mahler, and that numerous concertgoers had in fact walked out, with departures picking up steam as the Mahler symphony progressed. It must have been a truly awful account of the Mahler, both because the Mahler Ninth is such a cherished work and because Minneapolis audiences are generally far too polite to walk out during a performance.
Ten years ago, I thought that Wigglesworth might turn into a major talent. I no longer believe that.
His career appears to reflect that assessment—it is a career going nowhere. The Detroit Symphony took a serious look at Wigglesworth shortly after Neeme Jarvi retired, but it took a pass on Wigglesworth, and his name has not cropped up on the lists of any other orchestras currently seeking conductors.
It was the very thought of Wigglesworth conducting Mahler that had prevented me from wanting to attend this week’s Minnesota Orchestra subscription concerts in the first place. If a good Mahler conductor had been engaged, I very well might have attended one of the concerts.
While we were preparing last night’s dinner, Josh and I caught up with my father on what had happened in Taipei. Happily, my mother and the dog did not object to having to hear the details of his trip a second time.
Josh and I gave my parents a good dinner. We gave them a dinner of fresh tomato-cream soup, followed by a garden salad with shrimp, followed by stuffed pork chops, escalloped cheddar potatoes, lima beans, carrots and an apple salad. We gave them homemade vanilla pudding with delicate, lacey French chocolate cookies for dessert (the cookies were from a bakery). I think my parents had a nice evening. The dog certainly enjoyed his pork chops and pork chop bones! We sent the box of cookies home with my parents, because both my mother and my father love that particular kind of French cookie.
During dinner, Josh and I asked my parents whether they wanted to attend today’s matinee performance of Theater In The Round’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”. We thought that might make a nice Mother’s Day outing for my mother (and my father, too). They declined—probably an act of naked retaliation for our refusal to join them for that Wigglesworth Mahler!
So today, after church, Josh and I went downtown by ourselves to catch the Sunday matinee performance of the O’Neill, the final performance of the run.
I thought the performance was quite poor. I did not think anyone in the cast was up to the demands of his or her role. I readily acknowledge that “Long Day’s Journey” is a demanding if not exhausting play, and that its actors are called upon to go through a draining, if not agonizing, range of emotions throughout the course of the lengthy drama. Nevertheless, this production was nothing to write home about.
One of the company’s actors had become seriously ill during the rehearsal period and had had to be hospitalized, setting back both rehearsals and performances for over a week (the entire first week of the run had to be cancelled). I sympathize with everyone associated with the project, because that illness had to have thrown a major monkey wrench into the production’s development.
The text used by Theater In The Round had been judiciously pruned, but the production nonetheless came in at three-and-one-half hours (there were two intermissions), making for a very long afternoon in the theater. To be endurable, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” must soar. This production did not soar.
My parents did not miss much, as things turned out (which is what they had heard from friends).
After today’s matinee, Josh and I went to my parents’ house and we picked them up and we took them out to an early dinner, another gesture to my mother for Mother’s Day.
We went to a nearby French restaurant, which some persons insist is the best French restaurant in the Twin Cities (while others insist that it is not). Josh had never visited the restaurant, and neither my parents nor I had been to the restaurant in ages and ages and ages.
The menu is a la carte, so we had to be mindful what we ordered (we all took a pass on the $79.00 seafood appetizer, for example).
We all ordered the same thing: a very simple dinner of Salade Lyonnaise, Steak Dianne, Pommes Frites and Green Beans Amandine. We skipped dessert, but we did ask for and accept the waiter’s recommendation for a bottle of wine to accompany our meal.
It was a nice dinner, I thought, and I believe my mother enjoyed it very much.
After dinner, Josh and I took my parents home, and we stayed for a bit to chat and to play with the dog and to eat some of the lacey French chocolate cookies.
Josh and I have nothing on the schedule for this coming week—although we are thinking about going to hear the Minnesota Orchestra at lunchtime on Thursday (if we go, it will be to hear only the second half of the concert, featuring three rarely-performed choral works by Brahms).
Next weekend, I think we shall go up to the lake for the first time this year.