Mad About Mahler & Gustavo Dudamel

Mozart and Vivaldi are the two classical composers who’s music touched my life. Among all the classical concerts our choir had, Mozart’s Requiem (we did both by Fauré and Duruflé) and Vivaldi’s Christmas Concert are two of my favorites. Next to that is the “7 Last Words” in Latin by Theodore Dubois.

Unity Choral Festival
Hungry Tourist at the 2011 Unity Choral Festival in LA.

Now that I saw Mahler 8, I’m officially Mad about Mahler! His music transcends me to another space and time. Part I is a tight symphonic setting of the Latin Hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus”. Part II a more rhapsodic setting of the final part of Goethe’s “Faust”. These two texts fuse religion and humanism together, with Faust symbolising mankind redeemed from wrongdoing through Love. The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire. Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the “Symphony of a Thousand”.

Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mahler No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand”

Mahler 8 is a story about “Faust” a man that despite his scholarly eminence, is bored and disappointed. He decides to call on the Devil for further knowledge and magic powers with which to indulge all the pleasure and knowledge of the world. In response, the Devil’s representative, Mephistopheles, appears. He makes a bargain with Faust: Mephistopheles will serve Faust with his magic powers for a term of years, but at the end of the term, the devil will claim Faust’s soul and Faust will be eternally damned. The term usually stipulated in the early tales is 24 years.

During the term of the bargain, Faust makes use of Mephistopheles in various ways. In many versions of the story, particularly Goethe’s drama, Mephistopheles helps him to seduce a beautiful and innocent girl, usually named Gretchen, whose life is ultimately destroyed. However, Gretchen’s innocence saves her in the end, and she enters Heaven. In Goethe’s rendition, Faust is saved by God’s grace via his constant striving—in combination with Gretchen’s pleadings with God in the form of the Eternal Feminine.

Mahler 8

I was privilleged to see LA Phil’s music director Gustavo Dudamel at the concert rehearsal of Mahler 8. My friends, members of Chamber Singers in Los Angeles performed with the 1000 choirs and two orchestras gave me a ticket to see the show.

They said only once in a hundred year you will see a great conductor, and one of them is Gustavo Dudamel. I’m so lucky and blessed to see him, and humbled too.

Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel

If your picture of a music conductor is like that one of the terror professors, well he is nothing like that at all. He’s got a great sense of humor. I laughed so many times during the rehearsals. This video is from another hereasal but just to show you how funny he is. He uses a unique metaphor to explain to the orchestra how to play this particular passage from Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony.


I know not everyone is into classical music. So here’s a treat… “Mambo!” by Leonard Bernstein. This is FUN FUN FUN!
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra Simón Bolívar and the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble. With Alexis Cárdenas & Ensemble.

Shrine Auditorium
Hungry Tourist at the lobby of Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA
Gustavo Dudamel Signature
Gustavo Dudamel’s autograph

Beautiful Flowers in Spring

It’s spring once again, my favorite time of the year. The flowers are blooming, the weather is not too hot nor too cold. What a beautiful season! It just rained in 2 consecutive days and the sun came out today. Clouds will hide the sunshine from time to time but the rain is gone. I took pictures of the flowers in our garden for all of us to enjoy.

Spring flower

Rose bud

Planting & Growing Herbs at Home


I went to Micheltorena Community Garden to get herbs that I will plant in our garden. I’d like to try growing my own herbs for cooking. That way, I’m sure that it is grown organically and without pesticides. It’s also fun taking care of plants and see them grow… and eat them.

Micheltorena Community Garden
Micheltorena Community Garden

“By filling our garden with multifunctional plants and other elements, we create a dense web full of many niches of wildlife, and a rich place for humans as well: a wealth of food, flowers, medicinal herbs and other products, and a place of beauty. Diversity offers a cascade of benefits.” – Toby Hemenway “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture.”

Digging mint herb
Frances digging mint herb for me
Soil with compost
Soil with compost
Mint (welcome to your new home)

I love mints! I like them in chocolate, food and drinks. Mints should be planted where they will not encroach on other plants, as they spread so readily that, unless curbed, they are likely to become a pestiferous weed. It is ideal for container and hydroponic culture.

It revels in deep, rich, moist ground and requires little care except manicuring or fertilizing in the spring. However, as the stems grow rapidly and the leaves become thin and small as the season advances, it is advisable to cut down from a third to a half of the patch when 6 or 8 inches high, drying the leaves and putting them in tight jars for winter use. Then soak the cut over area with liquid manure to stimulate a second crop of foliage. A month later, treat another area similarly. Thus a succession of succulent foliage may be had all season.


Cilantro yields a fast crop; plants are barely up before they try to flower and set seeds. So those tasty leaves aren’t around long, especially in warm weather. To keep leaves coming, you can sow seeds every two weeks for a continuous cilantro crop. I use cilantro for cooking Filipino and Thai food. It’s also great for making Mexican salsa!

Lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seedlings

Like spinach and other spring ephemerals, lettuce forms a low rosette of leaves in early spring, then sends up a flower stalk when summer heat and dryness set in. Lettuce turns bitter once the flower stalk begins to form, so harvest before a central stem starts to form.

If you’re growing lettuce in the summer, in all but the most northern climates, shield it from the mid-day sun. Try growing lettuce in the shade of taller plants, and make sure it gets plenty of water. Romaine or Batavian lettuces are more heat-tolerant than other lettuce varieties. A mobile Salad Table allows you to move lettuces to full shade in hot weather.

Hungry Tourist
Frances & Hungry Tourist

Frances helped me picked the herbs and green. She’s also patient answering my questions regarding how to grow herbs at home.

Micheltorena School and Community Garden is a shared project between the school and community, and is open every Saturday from 10am to 2pmfor people to come harvest and eat produce, commune at the picnic tables, or take a class taught by local experts. The garden is located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Micheltorena Street in Los Angeles, CA.

=== 03/26/2012 UPDATE ===

It rained 2 straight days here. This morning I went to check the lettuce seedlings at the garden and found 2 small holes on the leaf. There was also a worm with many feet that drowned in the water. Will my plant still live? Any advice to rehabilitate?

Day 3. Lettuce is bitten by a worm.

On the other hand, the mint and cilantro are looking healthy!

Mint Day 3
Day 3. Mint is growing beautiful.
Day 3. Cilantros are growing healthy.

=== 04/20/2012 UPDATE ===

I have a new herb and name it Basil Valdez after a Filipino singer.

Reference & Links

Micheltorena Community School and Garden

Which herbs to grow

Your Edible Garden