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Sunday, June 03, 2018

Home again--

Pieter Brueghel the Elder,
The Tower of Babel, circa 1563
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Public domain usage.

One of many marvelous things seen along the journey...

Just home from Europe early this morning after two full days of being bumped from flights, flight cancellations, delays, and missed connections. I had a wonderful time in Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Munich before that, and I will catch up on all things bloggian some time in the next week, after I stop being exhausted and get over the bug I acquired at the close. Friends and passers-by, hope the last few weeks have been sweet to you! Happy to have been away, happy to be home.

detail of The Tower of Babel.
Public domain / Wikipedia.

In several places you can see that the tower is a kind of wrapping around a mountain,
a choice by Brueghel that I think especially interesting, since traditionally a mountain
is the feature where Moses, Christ, and others went to be closer to God. Brueghel takes the
mountain--the natural ladder toward the higher--and transforms it into something
mechanized and belonging to men. Symbolically, then, man transforms the domain of God
into a thing meant to usurp God's prerogatives and tower into the heavens.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Robinka! Nice to talk on facebook today...

  2. Today's NY Times has an article commending airport stays. In the days when I traveled for work, I spent a lot of time in airports. They did not recommend themselves to me as they have to this writer. They reminded me of the debtors' prisons in Dickens: you couldn't really leave, the amenities were available at too high a price, and though really you were there through your own decisions, the punishment inflicted seemed disproportionate.

    Catch up your sleep before you catch up on things bloggian!

    1. Agree! Debtor's prisons in Dickens sound just right. I don't remember quite so much absurd money-grubbing on my trips to Paris and Japan last year. Maybe things have changed? Have to say that the contrast with U.S. airlines and airports was pretty clear--gouged unmercifully for headphones, drinks, and just about everything in European lines and airports, whereas United was free. I paid almost $6 for a mere bottle of soda for Michael in the Frankfurt airport at the gate.

      And Europeans must find it startling that we don't charge to use the toilet anywhere... When you charge to pee, outdoor odors increase. Another Dickensian element! Yet Europe remains so beautiful. I hope the urge to destroy and build skyscrapers dies down.

      I fell asleep talking to my mother, poor woman, so I guess I'll catch up on the sleep whether I want to or not. This is a wake-break, but I'm going back to bed.

  3. "Happy to have been away, happy to be home."

    I know that feeling! Wilkommen zurück—hope you had a great time.

    1. I did, I did! Walked up to 16 miles a day and gawked mightily!

  4. "Symbolically, then, man transforms the domain of God
    into a thing meant to usurp God's prerogatives and tower into the heavens." And the entire tower is built of stones that God made, so you have pride shaking a finger at God, not seeing the irony.

    I remember standing in front of this painting when Mary and I were in Vienna five years ago, after a few days in Prague. Anyway, welcome back to your native hemisphere! Do get lots of good sleep.

    1. Yes, precisely! Oh, I loved that room so much... (And we did the same, moving from Prague to Vienna, then Salzburg. Just a smidge of Munich.)

    2. A woman was making an exact copy of the painting, and her hair was the same reddish tint as the tower-top!

  5. Your experiences in the Old Country (ies) may have encouraged you to imagine the cantankerous Brits who voted Brexit - in effect to leave all that behind - were justified. In Woody Allen's words: "To jump into bed, adopt the foetal position and turn the electric blanket up to eight."

    I would caution against it. Britain in the last year has become a Banana Republic, as banana-ish as anything in South America. People burnt to death in a jerry-built London tower block that did not support life, train companies that have torn up their timetables, social services ruined through an ideological attachment to austerity, the imminent threat of the whole country switching off commercially and psychologically

    I look south-ish for aural comfort in the footprints you have impressed: Prague (Symphony no. 38 in D, Köchel 504), Vienna (Song, "An die Musik", D547), Salzburg (Piano concerto no. 9, Eflat major, Köchel 271), Munich (String study, Metamorphosen), averting my eyes from the atavistic posturing of Jacob Rees-Mog. It's all over. Don't bother returning, you'll court disappointment.

    1. I think the most obvious thing that changed in my opinion of things European is that my assumed opinion of German efficiency and organization was entirely dashed! But yes, I have heard many disturbing things about Britain and am so sad about them, and not just the Grenfell disaster, so grievous and dramatic in its wrongs. And I also hate the lack of understanding about what needs to be preserved from the past, and the replacement of beauty with ugliness.

      Now that I think of it, somebody here was just telling me today that they would not want to go to England because of the 800+ acid attacks in London. So many problems to solve!

      We live in a strange hyper-materialist time that values so many wrong things. It hurts every aspect of life, alas.

  6. I confess. I cannot travel anymore. My wings have been clipped. But I vicariously soar with others. BTW, I will be soaring with the Abbess of Andalusia at revived blog:
    Perhaps you have some thoughts on the most recent provocative posting.

    1. R. T., I will try to come by, though it seems I may have to fly South right away...

  7. I've often wondered about property prices in the Tower of Babel. At the top you get the view but you also get the climb. And ascending by car looks perilous - no Armco. People at the bottom, near the harbour, will feel safer but under-privileged, living under a constant avalanche of wheelie bins carelessly put out late at night by those above. It is rumoured that the upper levels can afford liquor.

    Closer inspection reveals that the zone halfway-up is being re-developed tastefully in brick. Could this herald a nascent middle-class? Soon there'll be doilies.

    1. Antimacassars! Tupperware!

      Clearly there's hierarchy. All symbolic mountains have hierarchy, and Babel-Tower is just a man-made symbolic mountain that over-reached! I expect each level has its own market, tooth-puller, blood-leecher, Toastmaster meetings, and so forth. And I've seen men pushing tourists uphill in foreign countries: there's probably a thriving trade in wheelbarrows and goat-carts and sledges.

      Then down it goes! And then they'll have to wait for Pentecost to understand one another again...


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.