Périgueux & A Most Beautiful Farmers Market in France

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2017-05-27 10.18.45

The delicious red strawberries at the Saturday Farmers Market of Périgueux.

With an apple I will astonish Paris. Paul Cézanne

The impressions of the sights and smells of cuisine, of tea, of sweet and warm baked madeleines, of savory asparagus, permeate the towering pages of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. The still life paintings of Paul Cézanne helped shift perception in the visual arts to a new way of geometric seeing, the French translation of still life, nature morte, a telling Gallic metaphor for a symbolic death. The musical fruits of Erik Satie would astonish a dismissive public when he wrote Trois morceaux en forme de poire.

Cuisine, with all its timeworn clichés, still defines France.

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A Few Berlin Stories & A New Hall for Pierre Boulez

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2017-06-07 16.49.00

Enjoying Caspar David Friedrich in Berlin

Berliners love to talk – with a blunt directness which is both rude and friendly – and even in their grumbling there is a note of pleasure. Christopher Isherwood

I’ve benefited from a good dose of internal California breathing space after visiting Berlin last month. The city was long overdue for me to experience and this was my first chance. And my lasting impression is not of monuments, museums, concerts or one of the best bus systems on the planet. No, my memory remains fixed on one thing.

Charming, grumbling, and usually laughing Berliners!

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The Hamburg Elbphilharmonie & Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder

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2017-06-18 15.11.00

The shining new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

If you’re curious why Alan Gilbert is leaving the New York Philharmonic for Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie, here’s a statistic for you. My friend Kent Nagano’s entire ten concert season at the shining new hall with his Hamburg Staatsorchester is already completely sold out. How long did it take? One hour.

Welcome to Hamburg!

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Who Knew? Chez Janou and 80 Types of Pastis in Paris

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Jan at Chez Janou.

Invariably, when one searches the internet for restaurant reviews of places to go in Paris, the general observation includes a few “rude service” comments. Personally, I’ve never experienced what they’re talking about, but that might be because I have a decent amount of French. I’ve always found Parisians pretty easy going if you just say “Bonjour” when you walk into a restaurant or a shop. You aren’t the first tourist they’ve ever seen. Smiles always help you.

Jan and I are in Europe for planning meetings for next steps for our Hà Nội New Music Ensemble in Việt Nam. Things are moving forward, for while we’re in Europe, my Vietnamese colleagues have concerts in Hà Nội with the directors of the Münchner Biennale and then tour to the Guangxi Festival in Nanning, China. By dividing our resources we’re getting ready for an ambitious future.

Allow me to share with you where a Parisian friend recommended we meet for dinner? And the staff is friendly and fantastic. Feel free to make your own reservation!

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Nine Chapters of the Rain at the Manzi Center with the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble, Friday May 5

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The Hà Nội New Music Ensemble will be at the Manzi Art Center on Friday, May 5.

2017 is the Year of the Fire Rooster. Which means that, if you appreciate the worldview of Asian lunar astrology, it’s a time used best for ambitious planning and strategy. Political events will demonstrate obnoxious “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo’s!”, from missile tests launched by Pyongyang, protest marches in the United States, Brexit negotiations between London and the EU, or another divisive election, this time in France. Add the element of FIRE to your alarm clock and you’ll at least understand the shared global anxiety about coming events.

However focusing, perhaps nervously, on these incendiary realities misses the best opportunity provided by the Year of the Fire Rooster. There is no need to panic.

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The Markets of Mérida and Valladolid with a Glass of Xtabentún

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Happy to meet the owner of Pescaderia La Tempesta in MEérida.

“…poor México, poor United States, so far from God, so near to each other.” Carlos Fuentes The Crystal Frontier

“Hola, amigo gringo!” The friendly fishmonger of Pescaderia La Tempesta looked at me kindly as I was admiring his catch of the day at the Mercado Lucas de Gálvez in downtown Mérida, the capitol city of the Mayan Yucatan.

“I’ll hire gringo immigrants when La Naranja finally drives you loco! Come here, put on an apron and visit my shop.” Little did my new friend know that I’d grown up in a white apron, working for my parents in our family restaurant. I was not a fish out of water.

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Mérida and the Paseo de Montejo, the Champs Élysées of México

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2017-01-27 11.43.52

The vivid color pallette of Mérida is easy to see.

There is something about walking quietly on the streets of México that captures and holds my heart. The distressed walls or new vivid colors take me away from the pervasive black and white world of North American function. The smell of corn masa tortillas and frying pork lard seem to permeate the country. I hear music everywhere.

“Once you have the dust of México on your clothes, it will never come off,” was a proverb my uncle gave to me as a young child. And so my walks in México help me contact his angelic presence.

But maybe it is the sleeping sense of history that made me fall in love with México.

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In the Land of the Jaguar: My Mayan Diary of the Yucatán

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The Pyramid of Kulkulkan at Chichén Itzá.

“Trust me, you will find your life divided,” predicted my best friend Ricardo Gallardo, director of the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble in México City. “There will be your life before the Yucatán, and then your life after the Yucatán.”

And Ricardo was right. After experiencing the vanished myths blending with the contemporary reality of the Maya Empire for the first time, a world that still spreads itself from Chiapas and the Yucatán Peninsula in México south to Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador in Central America, I am forever changed.

A visit to the birthplace of the sky? You can find it in the Yucatán.

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The Only Sign in Chinese: The Women’s March in Los Angeles with Joan Huang

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The Sister Cities of Los Angeles by City Hall.

“I just wish more American’s had passports.” CNN’s Anthony Bourdain to President Barack Obama in Hà Nội, Việt Nam.

All of us in Los Angeles aren’t surprised that our City of Angels had one of the largest turnouts in the United States on Saturday January 21, 2017 for The Women’s March. Our County, which has a population larger that 42 states in our country, is represented by a female majority of Supervisors, effectively making them equal to many U.S. governors. Our State is represented in Washington D.C. by Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris, whose parents are Jamaican and Indian.

And if you thought Los Angeles only lives in its cars, you didn’t ride the Metro yesterday!

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A Question of Continuity for the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble

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Rehearsing a new quartet by 19 year old Nguyen Minh Nhat.

Rehearsing a new string quartet by 19 year old Nguyễn Minh Nhật.

The New York Times launched a series of articles the weekend of January 8 to focus attention on the Vietnam War, or from a different perspective, the American War we fought in Việt Nam. This season of bizarre political transition makes the series well timed for the American reader. The obligatory colon in the title sums it up. Vietnam: The War That Killed Trust. Before the first article begins, the editorial introduction states “the legacy of the war still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it.

And some us are old enough to remember it.

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