Saturday, August 23, 2008


That's me on the couch at the Sigmund Freud Museum, though of course not on the couch that Freud used for his patients. It was the main object in a room at the museum and represents, I suppose, a contemporary version of the psychoanalytical setting. What struck me most at the museum was the way Freud surrounded himself in his work by objects that figured in his thinking about the psyche.


Six days of sightseeing, even in a city as interesting as Vienna, are plenty. One has to be selective, and the only thing I really missed out on, for the true Vienna experience, was the opportunity to attend a performance at the famous Burgtheater or the opera. On the other hand, there was this public toilet where, for 60 cents, you could use the facilities and hear music by Johann Strauss.

I naturally made it to the Schönbrunn, the summer residence of the Habsburgs, a few miles from city center. The rest of the year they resided in the Hofburg (thus, the "Burg" theater) Here I am in the "backyard" of  Schönbrunn with Anna Paula, a lovely Brazilian gal I met on the city bus tour.

Another charming residence was the Albertina, that of Archduke Albert (1738-1822) and his wife, Marie Christine, favorite daughter of Maria Theresa.

Here (on the left) you have the staircase, leading up to what are called the "Prunkräme" (below right), meaning "sumptuous rooms," and indeed they are that.

Not to forget the more intimate writing room (below left), with a picture of Maria Theresa on the wall in the back. The Albertina is also a museum, with a changing collection of artwork.

More to come in my next posting, especially on the art I saw and my reflections on the difference between "classical" and "modern" art.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Because I am a consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I have the opportunity to be inside the Museum when no one else in there. I feel very privileged at these times. Here is a picture of the Great Hall, taken at 6 p.m. On a normal day it is otherwise filled with people from all over the world.

Here is a shot of the beautiful corridor containing mostly Roman copies of ancient Greek art, likewise empty of people (except me) at 6 p.m.

I think I like bestwalking through the Arms and Armour galleries, one of the most visited galleries of all at the Met, when it is full of people, including lots of kids.

But see what a good job my new camera does! I had been without one for months.

Tomorrow I am off for a week in Vienna. P.C. will stay here by himself and have the opportunity to play his music as loud as he likes (including of that Viennese composer Mahler). When I return, more about Goethe, who by the way never visited Vienna.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Way We Live Now

Well, no, this is not the way we live now. Presumably the photo shows an ordinary Chinese person cleaning up after dinner in a very small amount of space. The humble arrangement contrasts starkly with the opulent display of the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. (Note the small figure of Mao set before the screen. Click twice on picture for larger version.) Still, there is that color TV. I was in Berlin in 1990, at the time of the currency union between East and West Germany, when the East German DM was put on equal par with the West German DM. All the East Berliners who had saved money for so many years found themselves with some real purchasing power overnight. Among their first purchases were television sets manufactured in the West. Vacation trips to Italy were also popular.

I could not help thinking that the Chinese person (is it a man or a woman? I'm not sure) washing up would give a lot to work as a busboy at one of the Chinese restaurants in Manhattan. He might have to live in a single room with five other busboys, but they would at least have running water.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Art Scene in Chelsea

P.S. (personal supervisor = husband Rick) and I like to go to the galleries in Chelsea, mostly to see the neat people. It's August, most of the galleries are closed (all the art types go to the Hamptons, after all), but two were open on our recent outing. Coincidentally or serendipitously, the election was the theme at both. Here was the scene at Amsterdam Whitney (, on West 25th in Chelsea:

and here was the artist himself, Guy Wilkins:

Next up was White Box gallery ( on West 26th, where these cool people were to be seen, including the impresario Amanda (third picture down), who told us that White Box would be moving to the Bowery in September.

The colorful eye-catching  window display gave some indication of what was in store:

Here was the scene when we arrived (no wonder this exhibition space is called "Six Feet Under"):

As per the sign ("Exit Poll Cocktail Toll"), you had the choice of being polled on various issues, including the crucial one:

Or the following one (in case you can't read it: "Would you like to see a history of the birthday gifts each candidate has given his wife?"):

What would your answer to the following supposedly indicate about your choice for president?

You displayed your response by taking a glass --


and filling it up with one of the colorful vodka drinks. Naturally, P.S. got into the spirit of things.

When finished, you place your empty glass on one side or the other. (So relieved that no New Yorkers voted to join the EU!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Way We Live Now

Street corner fashion

Preparing dinner

Contemporary art

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

World Literature (1)

"National-Literatur will jetzt nicht viel sagen, die Epoche der Welt-Literatur ist an der Zeit, und jeder muß jetzt dazu wirken, diese Epoche zu beschleunigen" (Conversation with Eckermann, January 1827)

World literature is the subject of my current research. The (1) in the title above indicates that more on that subject will follow. Goethe began using the term "Weltliteratur" in the 1820s, but even before then he was impressed with the extent of "internationalization": by the early 19th century worldwide commerce and trade were beginning to introduce a certain uniformity in the lives of Europeans of the upper orders. More and more people traveled across the oceans, to earn profits, of course, but the contact with different peoples and the new goods that were brought back began to shrink the world in a  real sense. Goethe imagined that "intellectual commerce" -- in the form of books and translations and communications among writers -- would produce an international marketplace of ideas. "World literature" was the name of this marketplace, which would have the effect of making men (and women, too) more "worldly," in other words: less provincial, less national, less ethnocentric.

(Credit for image: Espéculo 34 (2006)

Monday, August 4, 2008


"Ich gebe gern zu, daß es nicht die Natur ist, die wir erkennen, sondern daß sie nur nach gewissen Formen und Fähigkeiten unsers Geistes von uns aufgenommen wird" (letter to Schiller, January 6, 1798)

Most of us view the natural world -- "nature" -- without concerning ourselves with the processes by which this world came into being or with its continuous transformation. I would venture to say that not even scientists think about this when viewing a sunset. We exist; the world outside us exists. But in Goethe's time, some people sought to articulate a connection between the two that gave dignity (freedom) to each.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


"Der Anfang ist an allen Sachen schwer;/ Bei vielen Werken fällt er nicht ins Auge."

This blog takes its name from the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), who is the subject of my scholarly research. Just as Goethe did not limit himself to poetry, so this blog will also be about many subjects.