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Jidai Festival, Kyoto

Gion Festival & other Kyoto goodies

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Bee dance

July 15th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

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Bee dance

a bee dances on the cusp

of an orchid’s unbridled imagination,

along a brazened path that gives vent

to wildest dreams,

 

dreams high upon the wings

of an angel’s euphoria,

where graced by natural presence,

in high noon spellbound,

the bee entrusts its soul.

 

sustenance aplenty:

compass of heart

citadel of spirit

chalice of being;

 

amidst that persona

ambrosia, nectar, sugar,

a saviour’s redoubt,

tribute to all life

 

fluttering little bee,

nestling with its pink beauty

in the flower of life—

and on silken wings

pollination, honey sacs, awe

 

alighting spirit

in preordained design

in symbiotic embrace

in solaced destiny.

 

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

President

Interface Inc.

©2016

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Golden Triangle, Golden Thailand

July 8th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

 

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In the Kingdom of Siam

sitting Buddha everywhere

avatar of divine, calming presence

sentinel of peace and respect

 

Verdant space,

jungle magic and mysticism,

elephants that paint and protect,

symbols of strength and patience

 

Rice farmer, shopkeeper, doorman, teacher:

each welcoming in traditional greeting,

prayer-like palms pressed toward heaven,

weapon-less gesture bestowing friendship

 

Black House, White Temple:

mausoleums to vault artistic whim;

in the food a complex jumble of flavor and aroma—

all spice and more in Northern Thailand.

 

At the golden triangle convergence:

tripoint of three countries, confluence of two rivers;

to the northwest red poppies of Myanmar

obscure budding signs of freedom.

 

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

President,

Interface Inc.
©2016

 

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Hill Tribes in Thailand

June 29th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Karen Long Neck Bride—Baan Tong Luang

Karen Long Neck Bride—Baan Tong Luang

 

When you are in Northern Thailand, a very beautiful part of the country (as much as anything because of the graciousness of its people), a most interesting thing to do is to visit Baan Tong Luang, a small community of Hill Tribe Villages. They include the Karen long neck people and other tribes: Lalu Shi Bala, Pa long, Hmong, Kayaw, Yao and Akha.

These tribal people originated in China, Mongolia, or Tibet and migrated from Myanmar, Laos or Vietnam to their present location in Baan Tong Luang, an approximate 12 kilometer drive from Chiang Mai. If you are “game for it,” you ride by elephant to the Hill Tribe Villages from Maesa Elephant Camp and walk to Baan Tong Luang right at the end of an adventurous trek through the jungle.

The Hill Tribe Villagers have preserved their traditional culture for centuries. The women weave their beautiful clothing or farm. The men often work to train, care for, or guide the elephants. The village people are Christians but also believe in night spirits and ghosts. They are very friendly to tourists, as you can see from the photos they were happy for me to take. I only wish that I had brought a polaroid camera to give them a copy of the pics, especially for the beautiful kids.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

President

Interface Inc.
©2016

 

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entrance to a hill tribe village

 

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bucolic village landscape

 

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village sculpture to ward off evil spirits; there is also a bit of Freudian reference here (coital)

 

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fishing in a rice paddy

 

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Muay Thai

June 24th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

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I used to box in high school and university and have a special admiration for Thai kickboxing, or Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as the martial art of eight limbs, the fighter’s entire body simulating weapons of war.

These kickboxers are light(40-60 kilos), muscular, and amazingly fast, fighting with hands, feet, knees and elbows.

The martial art traces back to the 16th century and was made famous in 1767 when the legendary fighter Nai Khanomtom won freedom in hand-to-hand combat with his Burmese captors. Part of the attractiveness of watching Muay Thai includes the ritual preceding each bout, when fighters enter and parade around the ring wearing colorful armbands and Mongkol, a decorative headband meaning holy spirit, luck and protection.

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All the best,

Warren J. Devalier
President,
Interface Inc.

©2016

La Riviera

June 10th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

If you are ever looking for ideas to enjoy a luscious vacation, consider the fabulous Riviera, on the French side to include Antibes; on the Italian side to include San Remo, Portofino and Cinque Terre. Enjoy these photos I shot this spring around Nice and towards the Italian border.

 

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

President

Interface Inc.


uoeIs

The Sea

The Red Villa

Promenade Anglais Nice

Paloma Beach, east of Nice

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La Conchiglia

Eye of the Needle

Evening Shadows in Nice

This is Chagall!

May 17th, 2016 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Blog Front

 

If you need an excuse to visit Nice, the Chagall Museum alone justifies a trip. Marc Chagall donated the art to the museum and actually was involved in determining where his work should be placed in it. His most memorable paintings, illustrating the first two books of the Old Testament—Genesis and Exodus—are part of the museum’s permanent collection. These are stunning large-size paintings that capture Chagall’s genius.

Admission to the Chagall Museum is free on the 1st Sunday of every month and for EU residents under 26 years old. It is located on Avenue Docteur Ménard- (Angle Bd. de Cimiez). To reach the museum, take bus No. 15 Rimiez behind Galeries Lafayette, and get off at the Chagall Museum stop. It’s a very lovely walk downhill of about 2 kilometers on your return to downtown Nice.

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All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

President

Interface Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jidai Matsuri

November 1st, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

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Festival of the Ages—

rite of passage through time

through halcyon days of unwavering homage

to demi-gods basking in the frail autumn sun

Here venture the nobility of varied stations:

in crested armor a legion of samurai, stoical and proud,

poised with a quiver of arrows and angst;

mounted on stallions bridled with unbounded energy

Now maiden beauties in painted visage

trail in their footsteps

diadems of plum and fuchsia poppies

adorn heads of unabashed charm and humility

Townspeople draped in hues of crimson and gold,

bearing chests filled with the Shogun’s treasure,

walk steadfastly to the Heian shrine

resplendent and welcoming to the gatherers

An orchestra of flute players, a sole conch shell trumpeter

wail a siren call for war or peace

primordial blast of the human condition

mantra of sound and promise

What hope this procession carries with it,

despite modernity’s stealthy encroachment;

banished are the topknots, the long and short swords,

piercing wind and mist, certain in their ambition;

buried in a scabbard of ironclad disbelief

Omnipresent are the waistcoats, the girdled hems,

parlor charlatans ushering in reformation,

feigning pacific time, hawking the industrial age

of stilted progress, of guns and machinery

Across swollen waters the maudlin sky dampens,

its teardrops in remembrance of past glory;

bruised temperament, mottled dreams

lure the casual observer

On Kamogawa River, a skein of egrets flies to the heavens

while satiated, weary-eyed onlookers saunter homeward,

the festival gala ringing in their memories,

a brief respite in the drone of their lusterless routine.


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Japan’s World Champions

June 3rd, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General, Leadership

2015 World Kendo Championships

A major event took place in Tokyo this past weekend at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. Held were the 16th World Kendo Championships, and Japan swept the games across-the-board, winning 1st place in the men’s, and women’s individual and team competition.

Men’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Tadakatsu Amishiro        Japan

2nd Place  Yuya Takenouchi            Japan

3rd Place  Man Uk Jang                   Korea

3rd Place  Hidehisa Nishimura       Japan

Women’s Individual Matches:

1st Place  Mizuki Matsumoto           Japan

2nd Place  Yung Yung Hu                 Korea

3rd Place  Bo Kyung Won                 Korea

3rd Place  Yukio Takami                   Japan

Men’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             Hungary

3rd Place                                             USA

Women’s Team Matches:

1st Place                                              Japan

2nd Place                                             Korea

3rd Place                                             USA

3rd Place                                             Brazil

Japan Men’s Team Winners

Men's Team Winners Receive Their Awards

The US Team

Japanese Men's Team alongside the Italians, good fighters

I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed that these championships were not widely covered in the Japanese press, although NHK TV did broadcast the men’s team championships on the last day, Sunday.

The World Kendo Championships represent the “World Cup” of Kendo and are held every three years in rotation around the world ever since the first world championship was held in 1970. They have only been hosted four times in Japan, the first one in Tokyo, the 4th one in Sapporo, the 10th one in Kyoto, and the 2015 championships back in Tokyo. The next World Kendo Championships will be held in Inchon, Korea.

Internationality at its best

This is a truly international contest, with nearly 50 countries participating from Asia, Europe, and Latin America. I’ve wondered why this truly magnificent martial art isn’t included in the Olympic Games (along with Karate) and was pleased that the Vice- President of the International Kendo Federation indicated that for Kendo to join the Olympics was his goal.

Curiously, Hawaii had its own men’s team apart from the US team, as did Taiwan, Macao, and Hong Kong and China. Not surprising, most of the players on the Hawaiian and US teams were Asian-Americans.

Men's Japan, Korea Teams Square Off

The most exciting matches were between the Japan and Korea teams. The Korean players were powerful—tall, muscular and aggressive— but the Japanese outpointed with their finesse, grace, agility, and technique. These qualities are great Japanese strengths to be very proud of.

In for the "Kill"

Korea and the US Lock Swords

A champion in the making

Whenever I see champions in any field, whether in the martial arts, other athletes, the arts, business or government. I am always reminded and sometimes chastened by the extraordinary effort that any champion makes. We recognize the greatness but can’t fully grasp the “blood, sweat and tears” that these champions experience to get where they are.  Raw potential is not enough no matter how great. It’s the effort, the hard work, the toil that brings a champion to the winner’s stage.

The All-Japan national championships will be held at the Nippon Budokan next November. It is such a splendid and fitting venue for such a beautiful art, reflective of the Samurai spirit.

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

Interface Inc.

©2015 Warren J. Devalier

The Game of Squirt

May 6th, 2015 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture, General

Retiro Station, Buenos Aires

A balmy Sunday morning. Maya blue hues the sky as far as Palermo, and an unabashed Sun bathes the high-rises in golden temperament. A pleasant breeze pushed by the mammoth Rio de la Plata makes it delightful to walk the streets of Buenos Aires, through its magnificent gardens and prime neighborhoods in Barrio Norte and Recoleta.

Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires

“Henry, let’s stroll past Plaza San Martin to the Botanical Gardens and then visit the Evita Museum,” Silvia suggested. “It’s such a gorgeous day and I’ve read in my guide book that the Evita Museum is a top spot in Palermo. Could we do that?”

“Sure Silvi,” Henry said, “if you’ve feeling up to a nice stretch of around 20 kms to and from. “After the museum we can take a late lunch, Argentine-style, and either walk or taxi back, depending on how energetic you feel.”

“It’s so quiet here,” Silvia remarked. “I suppose the Argentines sleep in on Sundays and brunch late.“

“For sure,” Henry confirmed. “But up ahead, you can already see a few old ladies making their daily walks, chit-chatting, gossiping, chirping like the courtship serenade of Blue Martins. These are upper middle-class neighborhoods. Look at the beautiful old buildings, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, when Argentina with its great wealth and flirtation with things French was said to be the Paris of Latin America.”

“The impact of technology never ceases to amaze me,” Henry went on. “The development of the windmill and sawmill provided Holland with cheap energy and construction of ships that made the country a global economic power. Likewise, the invention in the late 19th century of trains and ships with refrigerated containers turned Argentina into a major exporter of plentiful beef to Europe.”

That’s my Henry, Silvia reflected. Always equipped with his little mini-lectures. I wonder where he finds the time to pick up such information.

“I rather think of Buenos Aires as a mélange of three European cities, Madrid, Rome, and Paris,” she replied, returning to the subject. “What was it like when you first came here?”

“Buenos Aires was my entrée to Latin America,” Henry said, “though it wasn’t safe then.” There were terrorists operating here, members of the People’s Revolutionary Army, Ejercito Revolutionario del Pueblo or ERP, as they called themselves. I was constantly vigilant and changed hotels frequently. Usually I disguised my identity with a wig, beard, or mustache,” tugging at his chin as if a faux goatee were still there.

“And the caution was well-founded,” Henry explained. Later on my senior colleague was kidnapped and ransomed for US$11.2 million after a long captivity. As brilliantly managed as the company was, it had a cultural blind spot. Carlos, our negotiator, kept telling executives to pay up, but they were stubborn. In the end, the ransom payment increased a million bucks.”

“Well, we’re safe now, aren’t we?” Silvia asked, an apprehensive tinge in her voice.

“Safe as a sea turtle beneath its shell. There are no sharks around these upscale neighborhoods,” Henry quipped. “The most you have to watch out for is water dripping from the overhead window air conditioners in the older buildings and dog shit on the pavements. Rest easy.”

“Anyway, I’m glad we left our passports and credit cards in the hotel,” Silvia commented “I read in my guide book to avoid carrying around much cash, wearing fancy jewelry, or needlessly flashing electronic stuff.”

French Embassy, Buenos Aires

“Hey Silvi, not to worry!” Henry said, putting his arm around his partner. “It’s not like we’re in Peru, or Columbia. Guidebooks sometimes overdramatize safety, risking that you become paranoid as a tourist. This is Buenos Aires. Incidentally, there’s the French embassy across the street, in all of its stately pomp and circumstance.”

“Wow, Argentina did have a love affair with France,” Silvia commented. The older buildings around here remind me of Paris.”

“They were built between 1880 and 1910,” Henry edified, “together with the splendid parks and expansive avenues you see, in the tradition of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.”

“I’m sorry we missed the Jacaranda blossoms,” Silvia lamented. “My guidebook says the gorgeous purple flowers peak in November. Oh Henry, don’t look now but there is a man walking behind me carrying a menacing wooden stick!”

“Those are working poor, Silvi, and I have a great respect for them. They self-employ to pick up and recycle whatever they can find in those green garbage bins you see all over the city,” Henry explained. They wouldn’t hurt a flea. Watch and you will see he passes you up and uses the stick to keep the bin lid open while he rifles through the garbage.”

Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"

“Walking around here, and the Casada Rosada on Avenida de Mayo,” ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina’ is ringing in my ears,” Henry added. “I can’t wait until we reach the Evita Museum.”

“Well you won’t have to wait long. I see the museum banner right up the street,” Silvia remarked. “They said she bought the house in 1948 to temporarily lodge women coming to Buenos Aires for work. Lucky women. The museum is described as a reflection of colonial Spanish and Italian Renaissance architectural styles,” she added, glancing at her guidebook.

Light, coherence and spontaneity mark Evita’s home, beautifully appointed in its original furnishings, a cultural treasure house of artifacts and antiques. Subdued is the museum’s lighting and tone, celebrating the most iconic woman in Argentine history. The tiles on some floors and walls have a Moorish taste reminiscent of Andalucía.

In style is the characteristic usage of moldings for the door frames and white walls with deep niches for windows. The walls echo the spirit of Evita, who offered women a shelter as long as needed— until they found work and a more permanent home— in her words “a table, a bed, consolation and motivation, encouragement and hope.” Evita’s clothes, hats, shoes, paintings, writings and other memorabilia adorn the many rooms, snuffing out the propaganda films of Juan Peron. Whether one does not know her, knows her but wants to learn more, or comes just to pay homage, this is Evita’s place. Her spirit is omnipresent.

Evita Museum, Buenos Aires

cynosure of all eyes

“Coming here you really get a feeling for how much good social work Evita did,” Silvia remarked, “much more than what came across in the movie: her building schools for orphans and for nurses, and buying homes for transient women. It is hard for me to imagine a residence for them as grandiose as this place. The other thing that strikes me is how elegantly simple, pure and stylish was Evita’s clothing. Her dresses would look so good on our daughters,” she commented further, walking away from the showcase with the flourish of a model.

“Indeed they would,” Henry says, “as fashionable as anything coming out of Paul Smith these days. “Anyway, if you’ve seen enough, let’s go find some place to eat. I’m hungry, aren’t you Silvi?”

A family restaurant in Buenos Aires

Milanesa de Ternera

Silvia relished the cozy Argentine trattoria Henry chose for their late lunch and found the milanesa de ternera, carbonara, and mixed salad she ordered especially delicious, washed down with a superb glass of Argentine red wine.

“What’s this wine?” Henry, she asked. “It’s exquisite.”

It’s hard to find a bottle of Argentine Malbec that isn’t smooth and hearty,” Henry said, “but if truth be known, my taste buds aren’t sensitive enough to pick up the blackberry, plum and raspberry flavors described on the label, and I can’t really sense the floral, sage and thyme aromas,” he added with a smile and a wink. “To me, it’s just succulent, inexpensive red wine characteristic of Argentina. The Malbecs produced in Mendoza like the Catena Zapata we’re drinking top my list.”

“Oh Henry, that was such a nice spot,” Silvia remarked later. “I’m pleasantly full. Why don’t we skip the taxi and walk back, along the way we came, past those lovely residences and boutique leather shops. It’s a good way to digest our meal and a little training for our trek across northern Spain next year.”

“I too found the lunch delightful,” Henry replied. “You can find these neighborhood family-type restaurants everywhere in Buenos Aires. If we get started now, we can be back to the Plaza San Martin to watch the sunset from the park.”

Considering the long way home, Silvia began to have second thoughts, but the window shopping along Calle Arenales had a mesmerizing effect, and she soon got over her hesitation, sometimes walking a few feet behind Henry, stopping to notice and comment on a store item, sometimes stepping ahead.
Henry’s walking was leisurely at best so that most of the time she set the pace.

Obelisk, Buenos Aires

“Lookit, Silvi, with all the shops sights to capture our attention, we’re already past the Avenida 9 de Julio and just a few blocks from our hotel,” Henri said, looking forward to a relaxing sauna in the hotel’s fitness center. “It sure has gotten quiet, almost as if Buenos Aires were deserted.”

“Henry, damn if I didn’t get splashed from oil or something dripping from the air conditioner above,” Silvia shouted, turning around. “Oh my God,” Henry, it’s all over your shirt too and in your hair and on your backpack,” she shrieked. “What a mess!”

A middle-aged woman approaches Silvia offering tissue paper to wipe the oil and Silvia thanks her graciously in the basic Spanish she has acquired. She then invites Henri over to wipe the soiling on his shirt. Another passersby approaching from the other side also offers Henry tissue paper, gestures towards the building balcony above, and says pájaro, meaning bird in Spanish, but Henry waves him away, embarrassed.

“That sure was a nice Argentine lady,” Silvia said, as they walk towards the hotel. I guess she lives in one of the apartments in the neighborhood. But this oil smells awful, like rotten fish.”

“The Argentine guy who came up behind me said it was bird shit,” Henry pointed out, “ironic because I was telling you to watch out for the dog shit on the pavement. When we get back I’m going to wash my hair a couple of times. Whatever it is that fell on us, it sure stinks,” he repeated, echoing Silvia.

“By the way, did you notice the lady that helped you sitting in a taxi?” Henry asked. “I guess she was in a hurry to get home. For a second I thought she was going to offer us a ride back to the hotel.”

Back in the hotel, Henry and Silvia shower and change into fresh clothing. “Let’s get these stinky garments down to the laundry as quickly as possible,” Silvia said. “I can’t get rid of the smell of that oil or whatever it was.”

“You bet,” Silvi, “I’ll ring for the chambermaid. Can you fetch a few dollars from my wallet to give her? It’s in my backpack.”

“Oh no Henry, your wallet isn’t in your backpack!” Silvia shouted. “Don’t tell me you brought it when we were walking to the Evita museum,” she gasped out the words.

Gravesite of Evita Duarte, Buenos Aires

A flock of blue-green collared feral pigeons sweeps down on Florida St., changing directions in a flash of movement to feed on the scraps littered by fast-food consumers scurrying to Retiro Train Station, inured to the incessant Cambio, Cambio chanting of blue-market money changers. While to the northeast near Recoleta Cemetery, Evita’s final resting place, a taxi driver in on the scam and his two passengers patrol the streets scouting around for their next prey.

Interface Inc.
©2015 Warren J. Devalier

Nice, une place magnifique!

July 31st, 2014 | Posts By Devalier | Filed in: Culture

Green Parrot in Le Vieux Nice

There is an Italian flavor in the city of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. This is not surprising considering that the city, France’s fifth most populous after Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, and Toulouse, jockeyed back and forth over the centuries between Italian and French control. In 1561 the Duke of Savoy established Italian as the official language in Nice. In 1860 Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, was ceded to France as a reward for French assistance in the Italian War of Independence against Austria.

Overlooking the Promenade des Anglais

Nice Centre

Nice Plaza

Classically Italian

Easily accessible by hi-speed trains that run frequently (and comfortably) from Gare de Lyon station in Paris to central Nice in about 5 ½ hours, Nice is home to one of the world’s most beautiful beach scenes: its beach culture unfolds for kilometers along the Promenade des Anglais. Stroll along this paradisiacal walkway to the rhythm  of the Mediterranean Sea, nature’s breathing, where plankton paint shades of blue, azure, and turquoise waters.

Châteauneuf-de-Grasse

Châteauneuf de Grasse

Nice is a place whose beach captivates you immediately, and as you come to know it beyond this initial dazzle, recognize that it is a city immensely rich in much more than beach culture. Drive 45 minutes north and you will find some of the most beautiful old French villages imaginable, like Châteauneuf de Grasse (pop. 3,000), or pristine wilderness that communes humans with a natural environment of mountains and rivers that would catch Thoreau’s envy.

Stained Glass Window in Chagall Museum Nice

Nice is home to the Musée Picasso (adjoining community of Antibes), Musée Matisse, and Musée Marc Chagall, in themselves a stand-alone reason to visit Nice. The Chagall Museum is among the most impressive museums I have been privileged to tour in the world, and I have been to most of them. Chagall donated 17 large paintings from his Biblical Messages series including 5 versions of the Song of Songs and personally assisted in the arrangement of this largest museum collection of his work.

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Nice, une place magnifique!

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier

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