small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Thursday, April 24, 2003

The DC Filmfest begins tonight, and I went to my first movie, Crazy Like a Fox, which was all right. It's about a Southerner who's forced to sell his farm because of debts, and we're supposed to sympathize with him over the land developers who buy it, because he represents tradition. To make this easier, the couple who buy the property are made as annoying, unethical, and dislikeable as possible. Even so, it's a near thing whether I can root for this completely unrealistic old coot whose black servant talks about how wonderful it's been working for his family. If there's a problem with development destroying farm culture and historical properties, I'd prefer to see a systematic government solution with a clear legal framework than some ad hoc "justice should triumph over law!" rhetoric.

Still, if I turn off my politics and my dislike for Southern aristocracy, it's a reasonably well-made, interesting film. I gave it three stars (out of five) on the audience ballot.

The Avalon Theater, where the film showed, just reopened tonight. It's a historic theater that was run down by the movie chain that owned it, then closed and gutted. They tore out the seats and equipment, over the pleas of community groups hoping to save it, to keep the building from reopening as a theater. Nevertheless, the community managed to come up with a business plan that satisfied the building owner and raised enough money to restore the theater. It's a grand old theater, not quite as nice as the AFI Silver Theater, but still very nice.

Not as accessible as I'd like, though. I took the Metro to Van Ness and walked there, which I had been told was possible. It is, but it's a very long walk. On the way back I caught the L2 bus, which I knew went past the Van Ness Metro stop, and which it turns out goes all the way to Dupont Circle. That worked out much better.

Brief addendum: I was annoyed by some of the legal errors in the film. For instance, the movie claimed that there was a federal law requiring people to sell property to whoever met their asking price, which is nonsense. (Generally, if your listing agent brings you a full-price offer and you refuse, you're liable to them for the commission, but that's a matter of contract law and it's not something the prospective buyer can enforce.) There's a bit about the old coot and the government citing him for animal cruelty that sounds like something out of the Stella Awards (i.e., bogus). The asking price on the property was only $90,000 over the total mortgage debt, which seems dumb on a $2 million farm, and contrived to make us feel more sympathetic to the stupid old coot. If this kind of nitpicking strikes you as pointless, then you'll likely enjoy this movie more than I did.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
I just got back from a condominium association meeting discussing the capital improvement projects for the next few years. The big projects are replacing the entire heating/cooling system, some electrical and miscellaneous work in the hallways, replacing all the windows, replacing the roof, replacing the exhaust ducts on the roof with mushroom fans, and replacing the cooling tower on the roof. This adds up to about $3.5 million overall. In addition, unit owners are responsible for replacing the convectors in their units. The condominium is planning to coordinate a group purchase, which will probably cost me a couple thousand dollars. Overall, my share of all this work will come to around $20,000.

I'm in pretty good shape, since my mortgage is down to about $30,000 and my apartment is worth five times that, so refinancing should be simple, or I can get money from my family. And the work isn't expected to be too disruptive, except for people on the first floor, which I am. Oh well--even that should only be a few days of hassle.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Tonight was my birthday dinner, and the day was pretty full as well. First I went to see Maxwell Anderson's Elizabeth the Queen at the Folger Library, which was very good, although certain events seemed somewhat implausible. We went back to my apartment after that, where I hauled out my Wordsworth Dictionary of Shakespeare, looked up "Essex", and confirmed that everything past the point where the history seemed to go off the rails was, in fact, made up. Just as we were getting ready to leave for the restaurant we got a call from my sister to tell us that they were just arriving, so we came down and met them and walked to the restaurant together.

I had originally thought of going to Asia Nora for my birthday dinner, but they're closed on Sundays, so I picked 15 ria instead. I notice an ad for the restaurant in the Studio Theater program a couple weeks ago, walked past it on the way home, and decided it looked worth trying. It's located at 1515 Rhode Island Avenue (hence the name), just a couple blocks from my apartment.

I had a salad with goat cheese and marinated cherries to start. It was a good salad, although the cherries were not a successful touch. My entree was a wild mushroom shepherd's pie, which was certainly visually striking. It was a layer of mashed potatoes on top of a layer of spinach on top of a layer of mushrooms, arranged in a flat cylindrical cake and roasted, on top of a red wine sauce. Very, very good. I also shared a side dish of white asparagus, sweet peas, and fiddlehead ferns with my father, which were also delicious. And for dessert I had a very good strawberry-rhubarb compote topped with vanilla ice cream. Everyone else seemed very pleased with their meals, so I expect we will be returning there sometime.

After dinner, I had planned to go to Bob le Flambeur at the AFI Theater with Marie and John, so when it looked like time was starting to run short we left the table. Only we couldn't remember whether it started at 8:30 or 8:45. After a little discussion, we decided it started at 8:45, but we got there a minute or two before 8:30, so it didn't matter. The tickets said 8:45, so we went to the bathroom, and looked at a few exhibits, before going into the theater and discovering that it actually started at 8:30. We found separate seats and nothing important had happened, so it didn't really matter, and the movie was fun.

I took the Metro home, and got back just after eleven. I considered making a late night of it and finishing a documentary I'd started about Jewish refugees after World War II, The Long Road Home, but I decided to make a short night of it instead and turn in. After blogging, of course.


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