Friday, October 2, 2009

Around Town - Culture and Conflict

Or perhaps a better name for this post would be
Gardens and Gulags
because I was fortunate to attend two interesting but very different lectures yesterday.

The first was a presentation sponsored by the Friends of Virgina Robinson Gardens
by Erik Haskell, Professor of French Literature
and author of The Gardens of Brécy: A Lasting Landscape
The gardens of the Château du Brécy in Normandy, are one of the finest examples of 17th Century garden design in France. You are of course familiar with the vast gardens designed by Le Nôtre at Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles. Unlike those in terms of scale, the gardens at Brécy are a petit 4 acres. After decades in ruin, they were painstakingly recreated by the current owners of the Château, Didier and Barbara Wirth, and are now a little bijoux on a human scale of the cultural heritage of France.

Note: Even if you are not particularly interested in French History or Landscape Design, if you have an opportunity to attend a lecture by Professor Haskell, do go. He is fabulous speaker and charming man. And of course, buy his book!

Then last night I attended a speech by Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Prime Minister of Norway, and the founder of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

The speech, sponsored by PEN and The Beverly Hills Women's Club, was well attended not only by the BHWC members and their husbands, but by diplomats from Switzerland, Uruguay, Belgium and of course Norway.
The Oslo Center's mission is to promote dialogue, democracy and human rights, which is all awesome.
But with a focus on Eritrea, North Korea, and Burma...I'm not sure that "dialogue" does really any more good than singing a rousing chorus of Kumbaya. But I admire any organization that focuses attention on the North Korean gulag and mistreatment of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
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