The NY Philharmonic arrived in China to begin their Asia tour that will also touch North Korea (Associated Press video here, via the Los Angeles Times). The tour, sponsored by a Communist fifth column, Credit Suisse, has immediately become quite massively controversial in the press ("Arrogant vanity" is one of our favorite slams, especially because in the editorial the unassuming Marty Peretz calls Lorin Maazel egocentric) and on the Internets because, as we all know, when Glenn Gould (who was Canadian, ok ok) toured Russia back in 1957, the West immediately lost the Cold War, all because of a weird nerdy guy sitting down and playing the piano (Gould's tour was also an automatic endorsement of decades of Soviet human rights abuses; little known fact: as soon as he came back home, Gould painted his pet polar bears red).
Maazel tried to explain himself here. To no avail, because North Korea is not only Communist, but also rabidly nationalist (unlike China: see Tibet and Taiwan) and it is a shockingly medieval country (unlike Saudi Arabia). To play in North Korea is very bad. To borrow cash from China to pay for Saudi oil, is OK.
More things to keep in mind whenever we slam Maazel: North Korea is a no-no, but it is fine to go play all over the various music festivals like Dubai's and others, even if those countries not only boycott Israel but will not allow you to travel there if you're Jewish.
It's also cool to go to Starbucks even if they accepted to segregate their stores all over Saudi Arabia and agreed to change their logo to cover up the siren's barely-discernable chest because Saudi Arabia is a moneymaker for Starbucks, unlike Israel, where Starbucks closed down their stores in 2003 (laying off 120 people) because Israelis don't drink as much coffee as the Saudis. Starbucks has stores in Turkey, too -- just don't mention the Armenian genocide while you're sipping on that frapp.
All the above things are OK; Beethoven in North Korea (where the politically/financially connected and the generally powerful will get all the good tickets, unlike, say, what happens at opening night at la Scala or the Metropolitan, where floor tickets are easy to find and free).
So remember kids: boycott the NYPhil tour of North Korea because immortal works of classical music do not spread democracy.