Wednesday 25 June 2008

State of the Art

Vienna's late June afternoon heat makes me long for nothing more than to retire for a nap in a darkened high-ceilinged drawing room, cooling off under a slowly turning ceiling fan. French doors open to the north to let in a breeze; the slowly passing hot hours of the day filled with languid dreams of sitting on a porch somewhere on Southern shores, balancing a frosted silver cup with mint julep in one hand while reaching for a refreshing cucumber sandwich with the other.

Every now and then, during these midsummer's dreams,
a voice kept whispering to get up and write a blog,
to which I countered that it's been a quiet week in Vienna,
with the women still strong
with all the men good-looking as always,
and all the children still above average
.” *)

Little did I know that "Vienna’s cultural life has come to a virtual standstill as the city has been gripped by Euro 2008, the quadrennial soccer championship"! I would have never found out, were it not for that bane of modern life, the World Wide Web, infiltrating my drawing room, tempting me to glance at the "New York Times".
"O, woe is me, to have seen what I have seen,"
for having laid my eyes on Michael Kimmelman's article
"In Battle for Vienna: Soccer 1, Culture 0"!

Having attended Cecilia Bartoli's "Maria Malibran - La Rivoluzione Romantica" concert at Vienna's Musikverein only the evening before, and with tickets at hand for a night at the Volksoper to see Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" performed by Russia's St. Petersburg Mariinsky Ballet Company, with Vienna expecting Plácido Domingo, Anna Netrebko, and Rolando Villazón to perform this Friday at Schönbrunn Palace, furthermore the Vienna Philharmonics under Zubin Mehta set to play there with Lang Lang two days later, I was stunned to read that, according to The New York Times,
"Vienna’s cultural life has come to a virtual standstill".

I am still stunned, but I have decided to take Kimmelman's assertions as not meant to be taken seriously (he may have been in need of a bit of comic relief, after all he has had to report, during May and June alone, from such varied places as Manhattan, Budapest, Captiva Island, Berlin, Dublin, Spain, Baden-Baden, France, and Italy!).
After all, was it not Vienna that gave rise to the legend that one can survive even the bubonic plague under, and thanks to, the influence of alcohol?
In other words, better yet with the words of the popular Viennese song, "O, my poor old Augustin
Augustin, Augustin,
O, my poor old Augustin,
Culture or soccer,
They just can't win

Here is the link
to the above-mentioned article in the New York Times,
written by Michael Kimmelman for the "Art and Design" section,
published on June 26, 2008:
In Battle for Vienna: Soccer 1, Culture 0

I hope I will be forgiven for wanting to linger a little longer
over this delicious bit of newspapering (as I see it),
and bestow on the writer
a hundred Golden Fleece Antimacassar Points **),
for using soccer championship, Maria Theresa, Burgtheater, Goethe, Shakespeare, New York, East Side, and, take this, antimacassar and Carla Sarkozy (!), within a single article about Vienna's soccer and culture clash.

The Blue Filet Crocheted Antimacassar
(size 10 thread, 5x4")
shall be awarded for the creative use of "narcoleptic"
("crowds have been almost narcoleptically well behaved,"
always bad for a slow news day, isn't it?),
and the heroic combination of "mobs" and "opera audiences"
("mobs in the FanZone were quieter than some opera audiences,"
as in "no riots", i.e. bad news!).

A Yellow Card instead for writing that “Austria is gripped by what you might call the small-country syndrome.”

Finally, the Red Card for this:
The tournament, the nation’s bid to join the global sporting big time, has been a passing disaster for the city’s cultural institutions, which for ages have supported the local economy and given Vienna its glorious, albeit somewhat undeservedly, antimacassared reputation.”

*) "... the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average" (original quote by Garrison Keillor, “A Prairie Home Companion”)
**) it takes 50,000 points for a one-way ticket to Aries, a 100,000 for the roundtrip.


  1. Cultural life NEVER comes to a standstill.

  2. Certainly I've never seen antimacassar used in such a manner! What a delicious post.

  3. What a beutifully crafted post (again). You were so lucky to see Cecilia, I saw her in concert in Birmigham a couple of years ago.

  4. Merisi, I can't find the link to that article. Help?

  5. Oh POO...I spit on Kimmelman...spppttt...opps, just spat on my blousefront...dam it...let me try that again...Oh POO...I spit on Kimmelman and hopefully mispell his name...spppptttt....hehheh, made it that time...the cucumber sandwiches are ready, the mint juleps are on the verandah and afterwards we will go sit and dream at Swan Lake, my very favorite Ballet in the world...I can hardly wait!
    hugs to you

  6. What a smile came to my face when I saw that you had left a message on my site....yea! She's back! Let's go see what's going on in Vienna!! What? The cultural life of Vienna coming to a standstill? Haven't read this man's article yet, but was he even in Vienna during the World Cup? Like David said, "Cultural life NEVER comes to a standstill.".....the World Cup just brings one more facet to the already existing jewel of culture that Vienna provides. He needs a vacation!! Welcome back, Merisi!

  7. Hi M,
    silly article in the Times since culture in Wien never comes to a stop. Remember the famous quote by K. Krauss that the strees of Wien are made of culture while the pavement of other cities is made of aphshalt (sp?) How true.
    Loved your photos - better than the article.

  8. I love the way you blend a post and show so many views of life.
    I think some die-hard sports fanatics think Life just revolves around a simple ball.

  9. @ David McMahon:
    Mark Twain's "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated!" echoes in my mind. *giggle*

    @ tut-tut:
    I shall have to think of this each and every time I sit down in an airplane seat again! ;-)

    @ Maalie:
    Thank you! :-)
    Cecilia was bravissima, it was an unforgettable evening (the concert took place in the Musikverein's Golden Hall, btw).

    @ Constance:
    You should be able to open the article by clicking on the (turquoise coloured) words "Here is the link" - I have added one more link, clicking on the headline will take you there too now.

    @ SANDI:
    I would love to join you, especially since you live right down near some of my favorite places in the whole wide world! ;.-)

    @ ALLIE:
    Thank you! :-)
    (From what I understand, he was at least checking out the bar at the Burgtheater. Maybe hobscotching with some fellow journalists?)

  10. @ SUSANVON:
    It saddens me to have to read in the New York Times an article like this.

    There are die-hards on both sides who somehow think one must necessarily exclude the other. I for once have spent more time in theaters than soccer fields during the last month or so, but loved both equally.

  11. well, at least the cafes are still open, serving pastries and cakes and lemonade and all those yummy goodies :-)

    Glad to see you're back blogging merisi.

    Here in Jamaica everyone is focused on the Olymic athletics qualifiers and the Euro 2008! :-) Sports all around.

  12. Anonymous27 June, 2008

    Yesh! Can't Vienna have a little fun now and then? After all, when is the next time they are going to have the Euro games there.

  13. But Vienna is culture !!!! I love this post.

  14. From the summer heat, to dreams, to refreshments, to writings, to news articles, to soccer, to music and many goodies packed neatly and presented to us beautifully in one sweet post. Thank you.:)

  15. Good to see you back in the blogosphere!
    Vienna sounds so wonderful and culture-filled - as is New York.
    we aren't quite so gripped with the soccer though.
    Have a lovely weekend.

  16. So you can write well too!

    A quiet week in Vienna! The BBC regularly show the "fan zone" in front of the rathaus and it is far from quiet!

    By far the best Euro tournament ever, stadia, fans, football, even the weather since we have had all types. Congratulations to both Austria and Switzerland, plus they are both places well worth visiting in their own right. Shame England didn't qualify!

  17. A wickedly funny post - welcome back! I've missed the photos and commentaries on life abroad.

  18. NOW where are you off to??
    I need a shot of Vienna!

  19. I don't like soccer at all.....

  20. I read this article today in the papers here and I immediately thought of you. I can understand the frenzy of soccer, but I dont think cultural life ever stops

  21. great post, sugar! i watched the match here while under a severe thunderstorm, humid, overcast and actually quite gorgeous outside in that strange southern way! xoxox

  22. Just goes to show... Never, never, never read the New York Times!


  23. Merisi, how I do so love these glimpses of Viennese life and architecture. Thank you for sharing these photos and your wealth of abundant knowledge. I am getting to know Vienna with you as a capable ambassador.

  24. Thank you all so much for taking the time to leave a comment, each and every one of you is appreciated, as are all you visitors who simply pass through here.
    A family birthday to be shared today, and tomorrow another busy day, but I hope that by Thursday I can be back with a new post.
    With warmest regards,
    Yes, there was lots of football/soccer, but I also managed to sneak in "Swan Lake" (just in case you were wondering *smile*).

  25. Always a pleasure to see your viewpoint.


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