Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Surrounded by sounds of entertainment

Anyone longing for a bit of live music can simply stroll to the Zocalo in the heart of Oaxaca almost any time of day. Student orchestras and the full state band perform regularly, often challenged by street musicians trolling for tips nearby. Guitars, flutes, marimbas, horns, accordions. Wedding parties parade around town on weekends followed by bands and dancers.

The Zocalo attracts couples who have danced together for years, hardly needing a nudge from partners to stay completely in step executing the most complicated maneuvers of traditional danzones. But the youthful exuberance encountered on a Friday night in Parque El Llano was a refreshing hoot. The high heels and tennis shoes in the photo above managed to partner up for dancing at the end-of-the-week party.

But who brought on the clowns? Clowns increasingly amplified with wireless microphones. People of all ages crowd around, laughing and applauding as on cue.

This enduring affection for street performers clowning around is found throughout Europe. It never translates into anything close to amusing for me.

I grew up laughing over Bozo the Clown and the Three Stooges. How did I get so jaded?

Clowns make me frown, but music makes me smile.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: ‘Creating with thumb, hand, head and heart versus robotics’

The odalisque-type figures lolling about on the pastel mosaic friezes of the Budapest Hall of Art appear idle, but the creative Hungarians whose minds envisioned items featured in the 2017 National Salon obviously have been working overtime during the past decade.

The salon we viewed in May, “All Around Us,” was organized around eight applied art and design areas. According to Erno Sara and Joszef Sherer, curators of the exhibition:

“The Art of Everyday Life, Inevitable Design” – we could add as an explanation, and as a subtitle in some cases. Both the title and the subtitle are accurate, since the displayed materials comprise artworks we live with, artworks that are part of our everyday life, objects that we use and that contribute to our everyday comfort….

Our material culture is characterized by explosive attitudinal and technological development…. Archaic techniques and futuristic concepts meet in a warm embrace here…. The futile opposition of Craft and Design are replaced in this exhibition by the nature and possibilities of their mutual interaction.

The architectural designs lining the streets of Budapest reflect a culture reverent of the importance of adding appealing embellishments. But Gyorgy Szego, the artistic director of the hall formally named Mucsarnok – Kunsthalle Budapest, sounds an alarm for the future:

Somewhat more than 150 years ago, the relation between objects and people became a key civilizational issue. Since then, with the exception of “periods of grace…,” creative masters making and using their own tools have been forced on the defensive. The vectors of the curve describing this trend point in the direction of robotisation in an ever-widening scope of products. Resolving the conflict that exists between machine and man, technology and nature has to this day been a recurring, heroic and convulsive challenge faced by architecture and the applied arts….

How can we continue if artificial intelligence overwrites everything? Will the thousands-of-years-old practice of creating with thumb, hand, head and heart versus robotics eventually bring about the end of human existence?

We both had our favorites. I so can picture this cheerful green cocktail pontoon lazily cruising in the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River. Or a spa or little sunbathing pontoon smoothly sailing out of a landing by Hotel Emma. The pontoon boats are electric, so they would be extremely quiet on their relaxing journeys. The collection was designed by Zoltan Peredy.

The Mister, on the other hand, was drawn to Peter Uveges’ metal and glass guitars. The slide and fretless guitars are designed to be particularly appropriate for playing the Delta blues.

Unfortunately, the explanations of his designs are in Hungarian, but the instruments speak for themselves:

During our wanderings throughout our stay in Budapest, the human element in design and invention seems well engrained in and safeguarded for the future by Hungarian culture.

Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Where fiestas erupt all the time

(We briefly interrupt the series of postcards from Budapest with breaking news from Oaxaca.)

Out for a stroll last evening with no room for dinner after a major lunch at La Biznaga, I requested a route that would pass by the front of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad. The Mister was not fooled. My real mission was the Plaza Socrates in front of the basilica, home to a dozen ice cream vendors.

But, before I could even begin to ponder the flavor options, music erupted on the street below. Brass bands and dancers with floral arrangements crowning their heads were gathering for one the city’s numerous exuberant processions, Las Calendas, to call out townspeople to celebrate, usually in advance of a saint’s day. This one appears to be a warm-up for the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary, El Día de la Asunción de María, on August 15.

The festive dancers, fearless as castillos showered sparks around them, gigantes or mermotas, stilt-walkers, a truckload of little angels and the woman in blue bearing extra rockets and castillos to set off every couple of blocks completely distracted me from my original mission.

I shall return to both the delayed delivery of postcards from Budapest and to Plaza Socrates another day.

That leaves me time to ponder whether I want to order rose or chocolate-chile ice cream. Those wouldn’t pair well in one dish, would they?