Saturday, April 25, 2009

Volume 20. 8 X 5

Following is a list of some of the finest films I've seen the past few months. All 8 of them 5 Stars. Many of them are life affirming films. Something we need more of during these rather bleak times. Some of them are funny. Some suspenseful. Poignancy even pops up! If you haven't seen these films... run, do not walk, to your nearest video store. I think you'll be thrilled.

The Singing Revolution is the brilliant story of these lovely people, the Estonians, who simply want their independence. Here's what the director had to say about it.

A Special Message from filmmakers James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty:
"Most people don’t think about singing when they think about revolutions. But in Estonia song was the weapon of choice when, between 1987 and 1991, Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation. During those years, hundreds of thousands gathered in fields to sing forbidden patriotic songs and to rally for independence. The Singing Revolution documents how the Estonian people regained their freedom and helped topple the Soviet Union along the way. We learned of the Singing Revolution while teaching filmmaking at an Estonian university in 1999. We not only were amazed by the story itself, we were amazed that we knew virtually nothing about it. Unarmed people facing down tanks; 300,000 people singing forbidden songs under the eyes of Soviet authorities (even the Soviets couldn’t figure out how to arrest people for simply singing); incredibly clever parliamentary and street theater maneuvers that vexed Moscow at every turn (including working within the Soviet system to officially make the hammer and sickle an illegal symbol in Estonia, implemented while still occupied by the Soviet Union!). We called all our friends to ask if they had ever heard of the Singing Revolution. Virtually no one had. And even those who had heard the phrase knew close to nothing about what had actually happened. We looked at each other as husband and wife (which we are as well as filmmakers) and said, “This story has to be told.” And if not us, who? If not now, when? And so we embarked on a four year journey trying to understand what was behind the miracle of this bloodless revolution. This is not a history film. It is not even an Estonian film. It is an inspirational film. Although Estonia’s occupation began under the most murderous and oppressive means by both Soviets and Nazis, not a single person was killed during this 4-year revolution, and the strategies used to achieve this were just brilliant. David vanquished Goliath without even the use of a slingshot, and yet no one knows about it. Ironically, had people been killed during this revolution, it probably would have received press attention. We think the fact that no one was killed kept the story out of the international news. From 1940-1946…in just six short years…Estonia lost more than 20% of its population through successive brutal occupations by Stalin, then Hitler, and then Stalin again. They suffered a persistent attempt at genocide…by direct executions at first, by population dilution second, and then by an attempt to wipe out all symbols of the nation of Estonia. And yet, the people survived…and when their moment came, they seized it. They seized it and won a victory for all of humankind. If this were fiction, you wouldn’t believe it. But we have the footage to prove it. The Singing Revolution took place in the late 1980s, and it was documented. There is no argument. Creating “The Singing Revolution” changed our lives. We learned a lot about what humans are capable of enduring, and what they are capable of achieving, under the most horrible of circumstances. We hope you consider watching “The Singing Revolution”. It might change your mind about how to change the world, and it might open your eyes to much greater and higher possibilities than you now think are possible. And as dark as some of the above history is, your faith in humankind will be uplifted and energized after viewing this film."

Academy Award nominee Mike Leigh (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, Vera Drake, 2004), delivers the delightfully fresh and cheerful comedy Happy-Go-Lucky. Free-spirited and effervescent, Poppy is a schoolteacher whose unstoppable optimism guides her life. Bubbling forth with giggles, laughter and jokes, life's a bowl of cherries even when she comes across a few pits. Whether it's a cranky driving teacher or a fiery flamenco instructor, Poppy embraces life on the sunny side of the street. It's a joyous, feel-good film you'll find irresistible.

I fell in love with Sally Hawkins and want her to have my children.

Balanced gracefully on a ladder, deftly carving with his electric hedge trimmer, Pearl Fryar has the elegance and strength of a dancer. He is, by contrast, a topiary sculptor, an artist whose medium is discarded or junk plant life and whose canvas is his magical and fantastical garden. A MAN NAMED PEARL chronicles the story of Pearl's dazzling garden as well as his extraordinary life, both of which serve as inspirations to his family, his community, and the thousands of visitors who come to experience Pearl's world each year. The film traces Pearl's journey from a small town sharecropper's son to an internationally-acclaimed artist, focusing in particular on his position as the celebrated cultural and spiritual icon of his impoverished town. Now 68, the soft-spoken Pearl has just one wish for all those who wander through his living art; they must leave feeling differently than when they arrived.Stirring and profoundly uplifting, A MAN NAMED PEARL offers a captivating window into the life a man who turned obstacles into breathtakingly beautiful possibilities.

The Film - Synopsis

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight follows the gripping adventure of six Tibetan teenagers who set out to climb the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest. A dangerous journey soon becomes a seemingly impossible challenge made all the more remarkable by the fact that the teenagers are blind. Believed by many Tibetans to be possessed by demons, the children are shunned by their parents, scorned by their villages and rejected by society. Rescued by Sabriye Tenberken - a blind educator and adventurer who established the first school for the blind in Lhasa, the students invite the famous blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer to visit their school after learning about his conquest of Everest. Erik arrives in Lhasa and inspires Sabriye and her students Kyila, Sonam Bhumtso, Tashi, Gyenshen, Dachung and Tenzin to let him lead them higher than they have ever been before.The resulting 3-week journey is beyond anything any of them could have predicted.

Be With Me the new film by Eric Khoo (Mee Pok Man, 12 Storeys) is a tapestry of stories woven around the themes of love, hope and destiny. The characters lead separate lives but are bound by one common desire - to be with their loved one. The protagonists in the movie are fictitious bar one - Theresa Chan, a courageous deaf and blind woman whose life story inspired
Be With Me.

From one of the producers of the Academy Award winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Best Picture, 2007), comes this critically acclaimed, postmodern Norwegian coming-of-age story. REPRISE follows two aspiring novelists and lifelong friends journeying down different paths after one's first novel receives wild acclaim and the other a pile of rejection slips. Filled with infectious energy, filmed in French New Wave style and featuring a stellar up-and-coming young cast, REPRISE is an extraordinary film you'll want to experience again and again.

Stephen Collins is an ambitious politician. Cal McAffrey is a well-respected investigative journalist and Stephen's ex-campaign manager. En route to work one morning, Stephen's research assistant mysteriously falls to her death on the London Underground. It's not long before revelations of their affair hit the headlines. Meanwhile a suspected teenage drug dealer is found shot dead. These (apparently unconnected) events expose a dangerous habit within modern government of dancing too closely with the corporate devil. Friendships are tested and lives are put on the line as an intricate web of lies unfolds.

I saw this BBC Series before the american movie was released and cannot imagine that the film could have anything on this.

A stylish, contemporary thriller series. The Cold Case team is a crack squad of police investigators who reopen unsolved murder cases, using new technology to re-examine evidence that hopefully will lead to the killer. They are at the cutting edge of modern police investigation, but they have been given just one year to prove their worth.

Another great BBC presentation.

(Product descriptions from Amazon or the films official website)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Sad Day in the Literary World

J.G. Ballard

Sunday the world lost a very gifted writer whose works I, and many of you no doubt, have enjoyed. His novels, the movies made from them, and music inspired by them, have been wonderful.

LONDON (AP) - Author J.G. Ballard, a survivor of a Japanese prison camp whose vision was so dark and distinctive it was labeled "Ballardian" and who reached a wide audience with the autobiographical "Empire Of The Sun," died Sunday, his agent said. He was 78. Ballard was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. He had been ill "for several years" and died in London at the home of his long-term partner, his agent Margaret Hanbury said. She did not give the cause of death. "His acute and visionary observation of contemporary life was distilled into a number of brilliant, powerful novels which have been published all over the world and saw Ballard gain cult status," Hanbury said. Ballard was born in Shanghai, China, and was interned there in a prison camp by Japanese troops in 1941 - an experience he drew upon in the 1984 novel "Empire of The Sun," adapted as a film by Steven Spielberg, an early effort by the director of "Jaws" and "E.T." to tak e on more serious material. The movie, released in 1987 and starring a young Christian Bale, didn't attract the usual blockbuster crowds of a Spielberg film, but it did receive six Academy Award nominations. Ballard himself had fond memories of Spielberg ("an intelligent and thoughtful man" who even allowed the author a brief appearance in the movie) and a mixture of awe and confusion about the film's opening in Hollywood. "A wonderful night for any novelist, and a reminder of the limits of the printed word," he wrote in 2006. "Sitting with the sober British contingent, surrounded by everyone from Dolly Parton to Sean Connery, I thought Spielberg's film would be drowned by the shimmer of mink and the diamond glitter. "But once the curtains parted the audience was gripped. Chevy Chase, sitting next to me, seemed to think he was watching a newsreel, crying: 'Oh, oh . . . !' and leaping out of his seat as if ready to rush the screen in defense of young Bale." Known for his dystopian narratives, Ballard was also admired by such rock bands as Radiohead and Joy Division and by songwriter-producer Trevor Horn, who claim that Ballard's short story "The Sound-Sweep" inspired "Video Killed the Radio Star," performed by the Buggles and the first song ever aired on MTV. Spielberg wasn't the only filmmaker drawn to Ballard. His 1973 novel "Crash," which explored contentious themes about people who derive sexual pleasure from car accidents (and which featured a character named James Ballard), was made into a 1996 film by David Cronenberg. Messages left for Spielberg's publicist and Cronenberg were not immediately returned Sunday. Ballard would eventually be deemed worthy of his own adjective, "Ballardian," defined by the Collins English Dictionary as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard's novels & stories, esp. dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes & the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments." The writer moved to Britain in 1946, where he lived until his death. As a young man Ballard was torn between writing and medicine and he struggled for years to catch on, working at an ad agency and selling encyclopedias while writing science fiction stories that few read. His first novel, "The Wind From Nowhere," came out in 1962 and sold well enough for Ballard to become a full-time writer (although the author himself disliked the book). Other works included the novels "The Drowned World" and "The Crystal World" and the story collection "Vermilion Sands." In the 1980s, he was finally ready to take on his childhood and so began "Empire of the Sun," the story of a young boy living through Japanese occupation of Shanghai, detailing his struggle and complex emotions toward the invading forces. "In fact, I found it difficult to begin the novel, until it occurred to me to drop my parents from the s t ory," he wrote in 2006. "My real existence took place in the camp, wheedling dog-eared copies of Popular Mechanics and Reader's Digest from the American merchant seamen in the men's dormitory, hunting down every rumor in the air, waiting for the food cart and the next B-29 bombing raid." Born James Graham Ballard, the author was a sharp critic of modern politics, who once mocked the West's search for "near mythical weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, in the buildup to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Ballard focused heavily in his work on what he saw as the negative effect on mankind of advancing technology and rejected the belief that humans can constantly improve themselves. Ballard often portrayed social and technological developments as adding to a sense of human worthlessness, rather than aiding the progression of mankind. "The Enlightenment view of mankind is a complete myth. It leads us into thinking we're sane and rational creatures most of the time, and we're not," Ballard said in a 2003 interview with Australian newspaper The Age. Ballard was educated at Cambridge University and served as a British Royal Air Force pilot before working as a writer. He revealed in a January 2008 interview that he had been diagnosed in 2006 with advanced prostate cancer. Ballard married Helen Matthews in 1954. She died of pneumonia in 1964, a tragedy that he fictionalized in "The Kindness of Women." He is survived by their three children.
There was no immediate word on funeral plans.

(Reported by The Associated Press)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Volume 19. Me-oh My-oh Milano!

I am always amazed when there is so much going on in one place.

So little going on elsewhere.

This week Global Around Town visits a very happening Milan,

where there are a million and one amazing activities

going on all at once!

So much to do and so little time!

Hopefully you're en route & have some time to explore.

Strap on your racing shoes.

You're going to need them!

First Stop - Thousands upon thousands of Art Enthusiasts will be in attendence at:

The International Modern Art Fair.
"An unmissable date on the Italian and International art calendar...
showcasing the finest galleries specializing in 20th century art"
Through April 20th

Next up... The Design World

If you are interested in Design then Milan will be the place for you this week! The Salone Internazionale del Mobile is the biggest exhibition in the Milanese design calendar. It showcases the hottest and most influential figures in the world.

With pieces for the office, kitchen, & bath.

It is running April 22 - 27.

Then, as if that's not enough...
Running concurrently with the Design Show you must attend:
Tokyo Fiber "Senseware"
A fascinating exhibition that highlights Japan's
innovative use of avant garde materials.
For free at
La Triennale of Milan.

So let's see... you've got tons of Art, tons of Design,

and there's more...

There's The Last Samurai Exhibit at Palazzo Reale

At Galleria Carla Sozzani you can view Memphis Blues: A celebration of the beautifully designed works of Ettore Sottsass and his Memphis Group.

At Fondazione Stelline marvel in Futurism and its founder Marinetti whose Futurist Manifesto follows & should inspire all!


1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man. 8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
9. We want to glorify war - the only cure for the world - militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.
11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

Now what can one possibly say after reading that?! Such excited words and imagery.

And yet upon our stimulating quest,
we do need sustanence,
and maybe in this particularly fashionable city,
a little shopping?

You can stop in at any number of stylish fashion houses:

Miu Miu
La Perla

But I think I would spend most of my time at the wonderfully hip

10 Corso Como.

Here's what Dolce had to say about it:
“I like to have lunch at 10 Corso Como Cafe. It’s the latest addition to Ms. Carla Sozzani’s world-famous 10 Corso Como store and gallery. She has one of the most exquisite stores and galleries in Milan, with a very interesting concept based on her extraordinary taste. She has combined Moroccan and Asian influences to create a modern ambience. The restaurant offers a selection of natural foods and drinks: fruit juices, smoothies, Asian salads, hummus, couscous, and a great selection of teas.”After lunch, take a walk through the Corso Como’s racks and displays, which include the world’s best bookstore dedicated exclusively to art and fashion, housewares, clothing, accessories, a mini art gallery, and much, much more. You could linger for days in the Brera district, dropping into antiques shops and staying until dinnertime, when charming restaurants fill and the fortunetellers set up their tables on the candlelit street. When you depart Corso Como, say at around 3, you’re probably almost sated with shopping."

For dinner you may want to try:

Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia
Via Montecuccoli 6 - I - 20147 Milan
2 Michelin Stars

- The scampi: raw with couscous flavored with herbs and octopus - marinated with red berries - crispy in Tuscan pine-nuts crust
- Spaghetti made with Senatore Cappelli durum wheat with Spring onion and hot pepper sauce
- Veal tenderloin "Tschirren" style with raw ham, ginger juice and pine-nut from Pisa
- Hot pie of extra bitter chocolate from Venezuela with smooth heart of extra virgin Nocellara olive oil and chocolate
Closed: Saturdays at lunchtime; Sundays all day; 1-9 January; August


Via Ascanio Sforza 77 - I - 20141 Milan
2 Michelin stars

Specialities: Lobster carpaccio, mayonnaise of white tomatoes and heart of chicory salad, Pan fried crustaceans, broccoli cream, croquettes of lemon, crispy potatoes and dried tomatoes.
Closed: every day at lunchtime and Sundays; 3 weeks in August.

I am primed for Milan!

I hope you are.

Ciao Bella!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Volume 18. A Recipe Straight From Hell's Kitchen

Some people do many things well.

My brother Eric is one of them.

When he painted, it would come out like a Picasso.

When he played piano, he'd rollick like Fats Waller.

He even danced like James Brown!

Lately he's been cooking up some real delights.

Here's his recent contribution to the Jewish Culinery World:

"O.K. all you little fressers....
here is the long awaited (and mouthwatering) recipe for

Pineapple Coconut Matzoh Farfel Kugel.

First we'll kinda go by the recipe on the box (originally for Apple Kugel) and then customize it (dick around with it til it's REALLY good and too sweet to be good for you......but God knows it's Jewish and therefore heavy as lead, so why not really jazz it up?)
So the boring box recipe is as follows (but I left out apples and walnuts) :
Here's what you need.......

3cups of Matzoh Farfel
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar....(only I use brown and way more than a you do the same.)
1/2 t-spoon of salt
1/4 cup of melted butter or margerine.
Margerine for the Kosher and butter for the not.
You know who you are. And butter ALWAYS tastes better.

(The big secret is that even when I make this for Passover....which is the only time I ever do..... I sneak butter in even if it's only for the topping. Who's gonna know anyway???)

And use more to taste.
1 t-spoon cinnamon (more...these recipes are so STINGY!!! Just throw in more of all the good stuff !!!)
A couple tbs of vanilla extract...

Now here's the stuff that's NOT in the boring recipe on the box:
2 16 to 22 OZ cans of crushed pineapple ( I'm not sure what size they come in and I don't have any in the house at the moment. I'm looking at a can of baked beans and a can of Progresso Minestrone....somewhere in that size vicinity.)

A can of pineapple rings

A 7 oz bag of shedded coconut or more. (I know that sounds like a weird size but they came in 7 or 14 OZ sizes) I always multiply this recipe times 3 or 4. So I go through like 21-28 OZ.

You figure it out for yourself if you're multiplying. My philosophy is more is always better.
1) Preheat oven to 350

2) throw the farfel in a collander run some water over it.drain it or squish it but get the majority of water out of it.

3) Beat eggs.

4) Combine melted shortening w/sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add eggs and beat the whole mess together.

5) Drain liquid out of crushed pineapples.

6) Mix combined shortening etc. w/farfel and one can of crushed pineapple and mix all this together well. That's right stir and stir and stir some more. You'll need a good strong arm for this. I always use a wooden spoon. Using modern appliances is cheating. Your grandmother didn't (and I'd like to see the modern food processer that could slog it's way through a lump of all this !!!).
Throw in 5 OZ's of coconut ( just leave 2 OZ's for the topping I haven't told you about yet.) And keep stirring.

7) Put all this glop in a well greased 2 quart pyrex or aluminum or whatever you like to bake with casserole or pan. I don't know from a 2 quart or a 7"X13" or how these things are measured, but the resulting kugel should be approx 2 or 3 fingers deep. So adjust pans to how much you're making. This year I made a huge one,a medium one and a small one. I like to use PAM, but you use whatever you like. And obviously you'll need more baking pans if you make more. And remember...if you use a really big one it'll take longer to bake.

8) O.K., so I forgot to tell you that you needed more butter and sugar for the topping. So melt some more shortening (like a stick.) Add 1/2cup more of brown sugar and stir. Now add the other can of crushed pineapple and stir it in. Pour like about 1/2 of it on top evenly. Arrange pineapple rings on top of that.(Helpful hint:I like to cut them in 1/2 and make little patterns) Then sprinkle lots of coconut evenly on top. Remember you still have some topping left.

9) Bake at 350 for approx 45 min. Or until golden brown. I go by the "O.K. the edges are slightly browner and starting to seperate from the sides of the pan and the middle feels firm and not gooshy" rule.

10) Take out of oven and smear on the rest of the topping and some more coconut. Toss it back in and crank that sucker up to 500 or for the daring....the broiler. But keep a close watch on it.
It won't need more than a minute or 2 to kinda crunchify. And you don't wanna burn the coconut black.

Okey Dokey.....I think that's it. I don't think I left anything out but if I did....too bad. Life's tough and remember Jews have to suffer for everything and that goes double for making Passover Seders.

(But actually it's fun to make this.)

So let this cool down for a while. 5,10,15 min., 1/2 hr is fine, but if you have to bring it to someone's house for a seder and it takes you a while to get there, that's O.K. too.
Serve hot, warm, luke, whatever. But of course......the best way to eat it is as leftovers right out of the pan, straight from the fridge, secretly in the dark of night.

p.s. Variation: Skip pineapple and coconut and make apple or apple/apricot. Use canned apple pie filling and canned apricots. Also throw in lots of raisins &/or chopped walnuts.

For topping just use some shortening and brown sugar.

Oh yeah, btw.....the recipe on the box says it'll serve 6-8 people, but the way I did it is probably good for that AND a whole LOTTA leftovers which of course are way better than the 1st time around.

Ciao for now!!!!

Love, Eric "

Vat a Kugel!

Vat a guy!

Perhaps in the future, if we're lucky, he'll grace us with his Meatloaf and Turkey recipes!

Thank You Eric!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Now here's a line I hope to use one day.

I love Eliseo Subiela's films.

Particularly Man Facing Southeast,
The Dark Side of The Heart,
and Don't Die Without Telling Me Where You're Going.

And I love it,
when in The Dark Side movies,
the protagonist Oliverio approaches a woman in a bar
with this:

"I don't care if a women has breasts like magnolias
or like dried out prunes.

Or skin like a peach,
or like sandpaper.

I could care less if in the morning her breath is like an aphrodisiac,
or if it's like an insecticide.

I'd be more than willing to accept a nose
that would win first prize at a carrot show.

But there's one thing.

I'm very strict about this.

I will not permit, under any circumstances,

a woman who can't fly."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Volume 17. Buried Treasure

Welcome back Dear Readers.
So nice to be with you again.
As many of you may recall, a few weeks ago my hard drive went and my Music Library was desimated. Since then I have gone through three new hard drives.
The first two were too small, as it turns out.
The third one, which I installed myself saving $125, is 500 GB and should allow for continued growth.
The installation was a piece of cake.
Restoring things, that is transferring everything from one computer to the next, was a bit trickier, but I got it done.
As I write this, I have completely restored and even added to my beloved Music Library.
What a relief!
And yes, I did learn my lesson...


In recreating my library I refamiliarized myself with many recordings.
I even discovered some CDs that I'd never opened.
The Malipiero recording at the top of the page is one such example.
And too bad for me!
What beautiful music poured forth from that recording.
What beautiful music I'd been depriving myself of.
Dreamy, perfumed meanderings reminded me of Sorabji.
There were pastoral moments that sounded like John Ireland or like Vaughan Williams' The Lake In The Mountains.
There were shimmery cascades of sound that brought Debussy to mind, and Messiaen - like bird calls.
All this had been sitting there waiting for me, neglected for years he said sheepishly.
How silly that I had missed this.
And if truth be told, there were others.
But let's save them for another rainy day.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bravo Gustavo!

I just got back from the Kennedy Center where
Gustavo Dudamel led The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuala
in a very, very good & lively concert.

The Program:

Ravel - Daphnis et Chloe
Castellanos - Santa Cruz de Pacairigua
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring

The playing by these very professional youngsters was very articulate, vibrant and exciting. Gustavo's conducting athletic and animated.

There was impressionism in Daphnis.
Spice in Castellanos.
Muscle, power and delicacy in The Rite .

After the first encore, the lights went out.
When they came back on, the orchestra had thrown on red, blue and yellow baseball jackets with Venezuala emblazzened on them.

Then the orchestra launched into another couple of fun encores, dancing around, tossing their instruments in the air, playing with spirit.

What fun!

I can't recall seeing anything quite like this in The Kennedy Center.

While I listened to this energetic concert,
I wondered about young athletic, dexterous musicians
older more seasoned musicians with more experience.
Should orchestras be made up of one or the other, or both ?

At times I wondered if the music had been dissected so much, that when it was reassembled for performance it sounded telegraphed.
Perhaps a bit too clearly emphasized, if possible.
Was this a result of these youngsters relative inexperience?

All in all I found it to be a wonderful, heart warming concert.
To see these 180 talented young musicians and Gustavo playing so beautifully was a real treat.

I wish The Obama's could have been there to experience it.
I would love to see our country adopt a program similar to El Sistema so that we could bring more talented, young musicians into the world.

(Thanks to Wikipedia, and the Gustavo Dudamel and Deutsche Grammophon websites for photos)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Volume 16. SF, LA, NYC

Dear Readers,
we should all be so lucky.

Global Around Town Senior Travel Correspondent Doug Wingate spins like a top from one place to another. Here's a quick recap of some of the fun he had in San Fran, L.A. and NYC the last few weeks.

San Francisco

1. Stayed at: the classic PALACE hotel, part of the Starwood (of Sheraton, St. Regis, W, Meridien, Westin) properties' "Luxury Collection". It has the MOST beautiful glass domed breakfast and tea room, originally a porte cochere when the new hotel was built after the 1906 quake destroyed the original.

2. Saw: BURN THE FLOOR, an Australian-born ballroom dance spectacular that elevates TV's Dancing with the Stars fever to a white-hot review that is acrobatic, elegant, and steaming, steaming, steaming. Unfortunately, their month and half gig in San Fran ended on March 15. Look for 'em elsewhere now. For more traditonal dance lovers, enjoy the great SAN FRANCISCO BALLET, the U.S.'s oldest company (yes, it's not NYCB, or ABT), where the FIRST U.S. version of the Nutcracker debuted sometime in the 1940s (amazing it wasn't earlier, given what a standard Nutcracker is in the repertoire of every U.S. ballet company nowadays). The season continues through May 8. We saw performed not only two debuts, but also a superb rendition of Jerome Robbins' comic masterpiece THE CONCERT
March 12–March 25, 2009 Program 4 Mixed Repertory
On a Theme of Paganini
Jardin aux Lilas New!
The Concert

3. Dined at: LE GITANE, a terrific new Mediterranean/Spanish restaurant emphasizine tapas along with a GREAT watering hole in the wondrous hidden little alley that is Claude Lane (GITANE was opened by the folks at the eponymous Cafe Claude; the famed true French bisto charming the City by the Bay for over a decade now)
6 Claude Lane (at Bush), San Francisco; (415) 788-6686 or
Dinner 5:30 p.m.-midnight Tues.-Sat. Reservations and credit cards accepted.

GARY DANKO, the renowned temple of haute cuisine in the Fisherman's Wharf area, that is not only the City's favorite according to Zagat's but also it's most highly rated. Its small plates offer a diversity of California/French cuisine that is astonishing. Book months in advance, or just take your chances at the-first-come-first-serve bar where the entire menu is also available.

PISCO LATIN LOUNGE, a hipster hangout on upper Market, where Peru's traditional cane based alcohol of choice, Pisco, is featured, along with other cocktails and a Latin American tapas menu. They also claim to have rediscovered and now serve San Francisco's oldest naitive cocktail here, made from a secret recipe that even the Bar doesn't have; some local guy supposedly comes in periodically to supply this historic mixer. 
 http://www.piscosf. com/

TOWN HALL, the SoMa (South of Market) spot for downtown culinary cognoscenti that serves deeeeeeeeelicious New American food in a New Orleans like setting.

Special delights shopping:
RECCHIUTTI CONFECTIONS in the fabulous Ferry Building (where one can catch a ride to Sausalito or Tiburon, to visit or commute) which has become a foodie's paradise that is home base for myriad haute artisanal shops, for everything a gourmet can want from cheeses, to bakeries goods, dairy specialty items, and organice produce and coffees. RECCHIUTTI sells a genuinely addictive sweet: its tres cher Fleur de Sel caramels. AMAZING!


Visited CATALINA ISLAND -- my first visit.

It's essentially Italy's Capri, conveniently located off the Southern California coast. The Wrigley family (yes, the Chicago-based chewing gum empire) bought up this island in 1919, and has ensured its ecosystem (which incongruously boasts a hale herd of Buffalo, brought there in 1924 for a silent movie based on a Zane Grey novel [Mr. Grey's Catalina Island home has been turned into a historic hotel]) through a conservancy that promises that some 88% of the island will remain undeveloped forever. The Wrigleys also built a grand island mansion that today is a deluxe bed and breakfast called the Inn at Mt. Ada, with deluxe prices to match the million dollar views its seven suites have. However, here's a tip. This pricey place does allow non-inn-guests to enjoy the place too, with a daily lunch-only special, where non-inn-guests can enjoy all the luxury of the place for 3 hours for a modest $35 or so, with ... all-you-can-drink excellent California vintages to boot (or micro brews too). It's a hard to beat deal indeed.
The Inn On Mt. Ada
Breathtaking Ocean Views

New York:

1. New Broadway shows:

BLITHE SPIRIT: Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersole are back in Noel Coward's famed fantasy frolic of ghostly shenanigans. Lansbury, 83, is a comic tour de force, and all of the players are in top form. Coward's 30s book is a bit creaky, but the players are so good, that the laughs are still genuine, and it's ultimaely well worth the chance to see the legendary Lansbury having the time of her life.

HAIR: A group of youngsters bring last summer's acclaimed Shakespeare-in-the-Park production to Broadway. The music is still infectious (LET THE SUN SHINE IN, AGE OF AQUARIUS, etc.), and the youthful cast full of fun. I remember the original in the 60s, so am biased, but I loved it!

33 VARIATIONS: Jane Fonda is back on Broadway in a star turn that uses Beethoven's obsession with a minor waltz, late in his career, to comment on the difficulties many of us may have finding our places late in life. Although the show is somewhat cerebral, its full of intentional humor too, which saves it from wallowing in didactic preachiness. Fonda is excellent, as is a supporting cast that includes Colin Hanks, son of Tom and Rita.
For discounted tickets to most shows, go to, and avoid having to wait in a long line at TKTS in Times Square or the South Steet Seaport in the Wall Street area.

Whew! What a guy! How does he do it? A regular whirl wind!

(Thanks to Wikipedia for many of the photos)