Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang


The New York Philharmonic concert in Pyongyang on February 26, conducted by Lorin Maazel, will be broadcast live, worldwide, on satellite television, a statement from the orchestra said on Friday, January 25.

The announcement of this historical concert was made on December 11 in New York during a press conference to which participated Pak Gil Yon, alongside the orchestras president Paul Guenther and Zarin Mehta, who has been music director since 2002.

The orchestra will perform the American and North-Korean national anthems, then will proceed to play the Prelude to Act III of Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin, Anton Dvoraks ninth symphony, “From the New World” and George Gershwins An American in Paris.

The concert will take place in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater, at the end of a tour that will take the New York Philharmonic to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. The musicians, who will be staying in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from February 25 to 27, will then go to Seoul, where they are scheduled for a concert on February 28.

The live broadcast of the concert will be co-produced by the Philharmonic and EuroArts Music International (a Medici Arts company), the South-Korean television channel Munhwa Broadcasting Company (MBC), ARTE France and the EBU (European Broadcasting Union). The broadcast will be directed by Michael Beyer, with Paul Smaczny and Thomas Baer as executive producers. The performance can be watched on Thursday, February 26 at 8 p.m. (ET) on Thirteen/WNET New York GREAT PERFORMANCES on PBS (check local listings). The DVD of the event will be released in spring 2008 by EuroArts.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Below the Surface


Saw the “Contemporary Dance Showcase, Phase 2: Japan + East Asia” at Japan Society on Friday. A good variety of performances, i.e., tones and colors. In a nutshell, a very strong show, funny, angst-filled at times, beautiful in the most traditional sense of the word.

I found Lee Yong-In’s solo performance to be the strongest, if not necessarily the most original. The sharp precision, the austerity of the movements, and the beauty of the dancer: a very nice piece.


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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Discreet apocalypse: bits of avoidance/abstention

He thought about the time when he had slept with them. Both were pretty. One was the daughter of a preacher, and a philosopher at that. The other was a doctor, a cellist with a slow, husky voice. He thought about how he pulled off that one; not how he ended up in bed with them, but more how he actually avoided sex with them.
One of them was a stronger temptation. The other, of course. It always had to be. At some point, he thought he was not going to do it.

Once again, he was falling short of doing the deed, and was blurring the lines between the failure to go all the way and his sempiternal penchant for incompletion. He kissed her goodnight, got off the cab and simply walked home, drunk and dissatisfied.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Becoming Slash

I’ve been somewhat consumed by both Guitar Hero AND Rock Band lately. A bit of a distraction, but it feels great playing/being Slash for a few hours, I have to say.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Celebrity Skin

“Have you ever felt so used up as this?
It’s all so sugarless
Oh, just go nameless
Honeysuckle, she's full of poison
She obliterated everything she kissed
Now she’s fading somewhere in Hollywood
I’m glad I came here with your pound of flesh”

Hole, “Celebrity Skin”

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A portrait of the world in 2008


Happy new year!

What will 2008 be like? As is customary at the beginning of a year, most newspapers and magazines are trying to predict the events and personalities that will have an impact on the world in the next twelve months. Daniel Franklin, the editor of The Economist’s special annual publication, The World in..., (since 1986) reflects upon the traditional journalistic exercise of trend-forecasting in an editorial he wrote for The Guardian. There are usually three forms of prediction, or rather, of event, according to the journalist.

The surefire events

First of all, there are events that will definitely take place, one way or the other. Thus, Daniel Franklin can safely affirm that the US presidential election will hit the headlines this year. China will also be a headline-maker, and not just because [of[ the summer Olympics in Beijing”, but also because “with America’s economy slowing, possibly even contracting, China will be the country that contributes most to global growth next year”.

Similarly, the Financial Times, which boasts “great success in predicting the events of 2007”, assures us that the reality of the power in Russia will remain in the hands of Vladimir Putin, who will step down as president and take the post of prime minister, “given his personal popularity”. Chances are that a constitutional change will transfer more power to the executive branch. As for the Middle East, the paper predicts that “Iran could produce enough material for a nuclear weapon in 2009 at the earliest”, and Iraq will still be a “broken country – broken by dictatorship, war, invasion and occupation. For most practical purposes it already has disintegrated”. The situation will worsen unless there is “a broader rapprochement in the region between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia”. When it comes to global warming,"there will be real progress on climate change (...), but it will often feel as if the world is taking a few steps back for every stride forward”.

More trivially perhaps, 08 will be a lucrative year for 007, since it will be the 100th anniversary of James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming: a book and a film will come out on this occasion. Also, the Chinese will celebrate the Year of the Rat, while the United Nations has declared that 2008 will be the International Year of the Potato.

Speculations and surprises

In the second category of predictions, Daniel Franklin classifies the events about which one can only speculate, at the risk of getting it completely wrong: for instance, China may be the country that will earn the largest number of gold medals at the Games, or a woman will gain access to the presidency of the United States for the first time in history (or maybe not).

This is nevertheless an event that the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times bet on: “the Democratic nominee [Hillary Clinton] will win the election, so great is the unpopularity of this administration” (Financial Times). Mr. Franklin prophecies another trend for the year 2008 : “America (quelle horreur !) will overtake France to become the world’s biggest consumer of wine.”

Last, there are the imponderables, the unpredictable: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, pandemics, financial crash(es)... “some of these will occur in 2008, making nonsense of the best-prepared scenarios.” concludes Daniel Franklin. We just don’t know what they are. If we did, the predictions game would be far less fun.”

Against the experts in predictions

The forecasting game does not make all journalists happy. In a provocatively entitled article “If you want to know what’s going to happen in 2008, there are lots of experts who can’t tell you .” – published in The Independent, Dominic Lawson lashes at the motley crew of improvised forecasters solicited by the press at this time of the year. “A couple of days ago, the British writer reports, BBC Radio 4 got its three top men in North America to predict (...) who would be the next President of the United States of America. ‘Hillary Clinton’ said expert No. 1, confidently. ‘Barack Obama’ shot back expert No. 2, with equal conviction. ‘John McCain’ insisted expert No. 3, in a similarly self-assured manner. Anyone for Huckabee? Well, it’s just a game, isn’t it?”

Some papers go even farther and do not hesitate to try their hand at an exercise that reads a lot like experimental or science-fiction. The New York Times fondly remembers an editorial from January 1st 1908, which tried to envision New York and the world as the would be... in 2008. In the same perspective, various people from radically different walks of life were invited to imagine the world in 2108.

Ken Perlin, professor at New York University, believes that “everyone’s eyes will be implanted with tiny displays. All the information we need about the city will be accessible to us without conscious effort”. Less optimistic, choreographer Bill T. Jones thinkts that 2008 will be remembered “as a glorious last hurrah”. By 2108, “we will lose the battle with global warming” and “a nuclear device will be exploded somewhere on the planet”. “The less fortunate will go hungry and some may be crippled, but there will be enclaves of great opulence”.

Admittedly, few (if any) of these predictions are not to be taken literally, they are useful insofar as they help us contemplate a variety of possible scenarios for the future. Whethere or not they should call for further action or contradiction is anyone’s call.

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