concept to publication

Month: November 2010

Dear me!

future me

Want to send an e-mail to your future self? is there for both of you.

(Why doesn’t gmail have delayed-send capability?)

Make me a spritz

The other day I blogged about the Venetian spritz, which is made from aperol, wine or prosecco, and soda water, over ice, with a garnish of orange, lemon, and/or olive. Here’s a video tribute by Sir Oliver Skardy & Fahrenheit 451 in which you can see the drink being made.

And here’s a how-to video:

Travel photo: Castel Vecchio Museum courtyard, Verona, Italy

castel vecchio museumcourtyard, verona, italy

While we’re in Verona, here’s a picture from the courtyard of the Castel Vecchio, which is a handsome museum indeed. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect they slyly chose the planting to coordinate with the banner for the Maria Morganti show.

Travel photo: Venetian gondolier

gondola on a canal in venice, italy

This photo amuses me because the gondolier reminds me of the Eric Blore role in the Astaire/Rogers film Top Hat.

eric blore (manservant in top hat)

Travel photo: a street in Verona

Please bear with me while I post a few photos from my recent trip to the Veneto and Upper Adige.

I travel with a little (maybe 12-inch) tripod, but for photos at dusk like this one I usually just set my camera on something steady, like a trash bin or fire hydrant, in order to get a longer exposure. Usually I’m able to hold the camera steady for quite a long time in such situations.

It’s a small world aperol

spritzes in trento, italy

Spritzes al fresco in Trento, Italy.

During our recent visit to the Veneto I developed a taste for spritzes, which were being drunk everywhere. When we checked into our vacation rental in Venice our host took us out for spritzes, which was the beginning of the end for me (Carol never got hooked). We spent about a week in Venice and Verona, and then several days in Trento, where I was press checking a book, and everywhere all sorts of people, from ladies in heels to laborers in boots, were knocking down the same bitter, fizzy, rosy concoction. The image above was taken in the central piazza near the Duomo in Trento — you can see about six spritzes on the tables.

The main ingredients in a spritz (pronounced “spriss” in Venice) are white wine, aperol, and bubbly water (“acqua frizzante”). In place of aperol campari can be used, but aperol is the more common ingredient. (I tend to favor campari; aperol is used in the Sir Oliver Skardy video, “Fame un spritz.”) Both Aperol and Campari are amari, which is to say bitter aperitifs that can be drunk on their own, as opposed to “bitters” proper, which are used as flavorings. BevMo, where I picked up a bottle of Aperol (just now being made available in the U.S.) says that its unique flavor and color is acheived [sic] through a subtle blend of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and an array of herbs and roots, using a secret recipe that has been unchanged since 1919.”

Although variants abound, the basic recipe is pretty simple:

3 ounces white wine (preferably something like a pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc)
1-1/2 ounces aperol
1-1/2 ounces soda water or prosecco

At least, that’s more or less what I read in the New York Times, which says the drink is catching on in the U.S. The Times advises to garnish the drink with a green olive (“Gently stir all liquid ingredients over ice in a tumbler and add olive”), but all the ones I saw on this visit were garnished with slices of orange (I don’t remember seeing so many spritzes on three previous visits). The Times also says to use prosecco instead of plain white wine, but if you used prosecco it doesn’t seem to me you would particularly need the soda water. The ones I saw made used white wine from the Trentino region.



1616 and the Golden Age

My forthcoming book 1616 begins with an account of a masque performed at the court of King James and Queen Anne in Whitehall, London, called The Golden Age Restored. I am interested in the way the various cultures of the early seventeenth century defined themselves by reference to what they saw as the golden ages of the past. The following is a draft paragraph on this concept of the golden age. I’m a little uncertain about the Japan and Vietnam comments. I’m also unsure how the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals might have thought about this concept. Can any readers can provide insights into these questions?

Throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries,  Western scholars, mindful of European success in colonizing other areas, viewed Europe as historically exceptional, developing in radically different ways from other regions. The West was seen as more dynamic, rational, and democratic than any part of Asia, for example, which was portrayed as monolithic and despotic, unchanging across centuries. But in fact the early seventeenth century was a time of enormous change in most regions of the world, change largely driven by a new maritime globalism that accelerated trade and exchange of goods and ideas. In the face of such unsettling changes, many cultures looked back nostalgically to earlier times as “golden ages,” and these eras served also as models legitimizing emerging states that were consolidating regions once made up of numerous small, independent principalities. (In Europe five or six hundred poliical units would eventually merge into just a couple of dozen; in mainland Southeast Asia a couple of dozen states would resolve into just three; and so on. This consolidation was the result in large part of the new availability of firearms and cannonry, which compounded the political advantages of centers of wealth.) While Renaissance Europe looked back to ancient Rome, Ming China looked back to the pre-Mongol Song dynasty as a golden age, Tokugawa Japan to the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, Romanov Muscovy to early Orthodox Christian Kiev Rus, Burma to Pagan, Siam to Angkor, and the Vietnamese states to early Confucian Dai Viet. During this period artists, writers, and political leaders throughout the world struggled between evolving new forms and respecting the models of the glorious past.

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