Sunday, June 08, 2008

An Alteration Of Plans

The “theater day” our landlady and Joshua and I had planned for this weekend was cancelled.

Because of performance schedules, it was not possible for us to see “Harvey” and “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” on a single day—neither production offered a Saturday matinee or a Sunday evening performance this weekend, and we did not want to undertake two separate theater outings this weekend.

Further, our landlady, who makes a point of seeing practically every theatrical production in town and who knows practically everyone in the theater community in the Twin Cities, had been informed that the “Harvey” production was somewhat of a disaster, miscast and misdirected, and that there was nothing that could be done at this point to salvage the show. That turned her off “Harvey”, and that also turned Josh and me off “Harvey”.

Our landlady had also been informed that the production of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” had not settled yet, and that it would be advisable for us to wait and catch a performance later in the run. That turned her off seeing “Sherlock Holmes” this weekend, and it did the same for Josh and me.

Consequently, we did not attend any theater performances this weekend. Instead, on Saturday night, Josh and I had dinner with our landlady. She gave us a dinner of pasta, seafood and vegetables, all served in a cream sauce. After dinner, we watched the television movie, “Sybil”.

Our landlady had seen an earlier television version of the same material, and she had read the book on which both television productions were based. “Sybil” was new territory for Josh and me, but we did not care for it. It was not our cup of tea.

Today, after church, my parents and our landlady and Josh and I went out to lunch, and afterward we went to see a film: “The Rape Of Europa”, a documentary about art theft in The Third Reich and the efforts, over the last decade, to identify stolen artworks and to return them to the surviving members of the families that used to own the works.

This is a fascinating subject, much in the news over the last few years, because the U.S. government has been the leader in pressing this issue worldwide, both enlarging potential causes of action and extending applicable statutes of limitations so as to allow claimants to file suit in American courts, thereby forcing European governments—which had tabled the matter decades ago—to re-open and re-examine a thorny issue that those governments believed to have been long settled.

As a result, since early in this decade, museums throughout Europe have been required to cough up artworks and ship them to their rightful owners, who most often reside in the U.S.

This has caused a great deal of resentment among European governments and European museums—state museums in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Britain and the Netherlands have been required to give up ownership of some of the finest masterworks of Western art, only to see them re-appear weeks later in U.S. collections.

Had this issue been adequately addressed in the decade following the war’s end, it would have been long since resolved. However, European governments in the late 1940’s had other, more pressing matters to address—feeding their populaces—and they either ignored the issue of art restitution, tried to sweep it under the rug, imposed proof-of-ownership requirements that they knew could never be satisfied, or legislated absurdly low-ball figures for compensating art owners (the latter two routes were chosen by Germany and Austria).

Art restitution issues have festered for over half a century, and many Europeans believe that recent recovery claims are all about heirs making a quick buck, and not about returning stolen artworks to their legitimate owners. To such Europeans, I say: your chickens have come home to roost.

The documentary film covered a fascinating subject, but as filmmaking it was entirely inept and as a serious examination of the issues it was facile if not crude, lacking all thought and nuance.

Why was this documentary even given a theatrical release? Rightfully, it belongs on PBS.

After the film, we all went to my parents’ house, where we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening. Our landlady loves my mother’s pork roll made with a special apricot-apple filling, so my mother prepared that for dinner, as well as two completely different kinds of cole slaw—one sweet, one sour—that go especially well with the pork roll. My mother also made a special potato dish, made with onions, cheeses and cream. For vegetables, we had steamed lima beans and glazed carrots. For dessert, we had raspberries and ice cream.

The dog had a nice dinner, because he was served not only his Sunday-night chicken but some of the pork roll and potatoes as well. I’m surprised that my mother didn’t cook him a steak, too!

Josh and I have nothing on the schedule for the coming week.

For the last week, Josh and I have been talking to my brother in Denver and Josh’s sister literally every night, preparing for our trip to Southern England. We have been discussing what attractions to visit, confirming open days and hours, checking theater schedules, and making hotel reservations. We have been keeping everyone up-to-date on our progress.

We have completed the first five days of our itinerary, soup to nuts, and Josh and I will take a break for a few days before we go back to work on the remaining thirteen days of our itinerary.

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