Gadget Yearnery

I’m glad to read this from Tyler Cowen about the Kindle – I had wondered:

The best part: For fiction — that is fiction I’m actually going to read — I would rather use this screen than a traditional book. It is somehow easier to have a more focused appreciation of the words without being distracted by the book as a whole.
The actual worst part: For non-fiction it is not fast enough for real scrolling, flipping through, browsing and reading. The machine is best for linear, sequential consumption of the text.

So, for things you need to flip around in (non-fiction, professional reading) it’s not so hot. For fiction though…I could have brought a LOT more books with me to Rome! Except that you can’t download in Europe yet?
I think I would agree with Prof. Cowen’s review – for non-fiction it doesn’t sound so useful. I’m an inveterate flipper-around. I usually start professional reading at the back, then zip back to the preface, then flutter around. Settling down and reading straight through is my last response to a book-in-field.
Oh well – that might save me some money.

And we forgot to take a picture!

We’re so close to finished that my colleague and his family are preparing to leave Rome on Thursday for a month of travel around Italy. I had them over for a farewell luncheon. There was prosecco – and there should have been photography. Then we walked to Giolitti, where there was gelato (Elena – I had visciola in your honor, along with coco and zabaglione). I hugged Nick and Nissa and the kids goodbye and went to a bookstore to drown my loneliness in consumer spending.
There’s still some work outstanding – which is perhaps outstanding work, but how can one tell until it arrives for grading? We had an appointment with the director of studies at the Scuola to pick up the Italian grades this afternoon, so we’re feeling finished – and that helps a lot!
I’m hanging around Rome until the end of April. The knee is doing better, but I don’t think I’m up for foreign travel and tromping around a lot. I hope to get up to Venice to see the Romans and Barbarians show – and maybe over to Milan from there. I’ve never really been to Milan (changing trains and running outside the station to look around doesn’t count).
I have to admit though that another two weeks in Rome won’t kill me. I never use it up. A day trip here or there, perhaps – but I’ll enjoy free wandering without a program, deadline, or rendezvous with students. I like being places but I don’t really like travelling – when I get somewhere I tend to drill in for depth rather than running around for breadth.
So – it’s been a great semester. I hope you enjoy reading about my two weeks of freedom. I know I’m going to enjoy living them!

Berlusconi wins, but the Communists REALLY lose

Repubblica gives them this headline: Sinistra Arcobaleno disastro: Bertinotti lascia. The alliance of the Refounded Communists, the Communists, and the Greens won NO seats in either Parliament or the Senate. Walter Veltroni’s center left alliance party, the new Democratic Party, seems to have pulled a bunch of center left and left voters together; not enough to come close to Berlusconi’s majority, but his is an alliance of parties as well.

Visibile Cities

Yesterday I visited Tommaso Buzzi’s la Scarzuolo – a model city? An ideal city? A Theosophist dream? A folly? Maybe all those, but maybe more.

I have a friend in Rome who is a specialist in 20th Century architecture and is working on a book about Buzzi – he organized a quick trip up to see this amazing place in Umbria (and supper – supper was pretty splendid in itself).

Buzzi was a big-time inter-war architect, born near Milan, worked for lots of elite clients. According to my friend Sandro, he worked for Gio Ponte until the early 1930s then broke with him, but had enough wealthy folks who liked his style that he never suffered. Sandro, of course, wants to see him as an antifascist. After seeing la Scarzuolo I think he was just – um – hermetic. Odd?
This is an amazing site – absolutely stunning. The lines of sight are very carefully planned so that every corner is a revelation of near and far, large and small.
Buzzi bought (or got?) a ruined Franciscan convent called Santa Maria del Scarzuolo in 1959 and started fiddling. He died in 1981, but a nephew has the property now, including the Buzzi archives (I saw some sketches – could that man draw! yikes!) and adds things to fulfill the plan.
Near Montegabbione in Umbria.

Reform of the reform

One reason I haven’t church-hopped much this year in Rome (well, besides this week, when I might have had trouble getting on and off busses to do so or last week when I didn’t go to Mass at all because I didn’t leave the apartment Saturday, Sunday, or Monday until 3 p.m.) is the 11 a.m. Missa Canta at Chiesa Nuova. They have a small but excellent (to my ears*) schola singing in Latin. The ordinary is in Italian, but the mix is good for my Italian, too. Not an ad orientem mass, but six candles and a crucifix across the altar. Brick by brick.
*I am tolerant of people who don’t know much about art but know what they like because I don’t know much about music but I know what I like. Toleration does not imply letting people like them on committees to make decisions about buildings or letting me on liturgy committees with control over music. These are not highly transferable skills – many people who do music I like very much like art I find distressing – and they also are willing to do music I find distressing. I’m sure they feel the same about my willingness to coexist with good modern architecture.

The Elections

Even though the price I pay for skipping this portion of the American campaign season is being here in Italy for all of theirs (see my flickr set with a lot of campaign signs and now a rally), Italians frequently ask me who will win. Until yesterday I was saying that I wasn’t sure. Now I’m sure it’s McCain – though Obama still might win the D primary I don’t think there’s any way after his recent remarks to the millionaires of San Francisco about the ways of small-town Pennsylvanians that he can win a general election. I’ve seen people post audio versions – and then there’s this lovely post of the venue for his statement, Billionaires’ Row in San Francisco.

Then in the afternoon . . .

Sacro Cuore del suffragio

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

Did I mention my knee is more achy yesterday than today? Well, in the afternoon I made the mistake of going out again instead of sitting quietly at home. At least I saw a great church – the only Nordic Gothic Revival church that I know of in Rome, Sacro Cuore del Suffragio in Prati (I’ve blogged about it before – go here for an exterior detail of the West window). The site of the Vicariate of Rome suggests that the church was established in 1890 – that’s the best date I can find.

The interior lived up to expectation. And in the Sacristy, the Museum of the Souls in Purgatory! They have a number of things like prayer books and night caps showing scorch marks from fingers of souls returning from the fires of Purgatory to ask for Masses to be said – or reproaching relatives for not having the Masses said that the suffering soul provided for in his or her will! Great stuff.

My aching knee . . . Churchgoing

I overdid it a little yesterday and am paying the price today. Luckily, the Italian pharmacy system is happy to refill American prescriptions, and I brought an anti-inflammatory for the gout. For euro 1.45 I got 25 capsules – enough for a run at reducing the swelling.
So yesterday I hit the Celian Hill (by bus! The 81 runs from Largo Argentina right to via Navicella), looked at the aqueduct remains, Sta Maria in Domnica, and Santo Stefano Rotondo. Unfortunately, the Mithraeum under the last church is only open on 4th Saturdays – so I’ll try to make it back then.
The apse mosaic it Sta Maria in Domnica is one of my favorites in Rome. It shows Pope Paschal I (817-824) holding the foot of the Virgin, who is enthroned with the Christ Child and surrounded by a heavenly court of angels. The inscription is remarkably fine.
Paschal also built or rebuilt Sta Prassede and Sta Cecilia in Trastevere – and the apse mosaics at least survive at those two churches as well.

Santo Stefano Rotondo

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

So here’s the core of Santo Stefano Rotondo. The Corinthian columns support a 12th Century structural intervention – a diaphragm wall that ends up being strangely beautiful in the space, even though it cuts the cylinder in half. The Ionic rotunda is late 5th C – spolia columns but with freshly-carved capitals and entablature. Santo Stefano is a strange church – much reduced from its original circumference, but still beautiful. The main exedra with its 7th C apse showing two military saints is unfortunately for me very much in restauro; I wanted to look at it up close to compare it to the 9th C mosaics made for Paschal’s churches.

The finds never stop – but Metropolitana construction does

Yet another halt to a Metro C dig while they deal with a pretty big chunk of equestrian sculpture found under the pavement around the Colosseum. They’re thinking it might be an emperor.
Here’s the Sopritendenza Archaeologica di Roma’s take on the project – clickable!
via Archaeology in Europe. I haven’t bought a Roman newspaper this week.

My Life in Res Ed

Yesterday we spent all afternoon visiting the 4 apartments with their landlords. There were remarkably few problems, I suppose, though there will be a little billing for damages. The young will tape things to walls with invisibile tape – or with lo scotch, as they say in Italian. My knee held up pretty well – it was getting in and our of taxis that hurt the most. Maybe I’ll actually risk a little museumery today after more grading. Grading. Grading.
Yes, I know, as my baroquista friend says, everything is better in Rome, but grading is still grading.


Sorry for the low interest blogging – but the price I pay for having my semester end now is having my end of semester grading madness now. And we get quasi-dean roles thrown in, too – Nick and I have an appointment to visit all the student apartments this afternoon in company with someone from the rental agency to survey damages.

Book list for Layers of Rome

A commenter asked for the book list – and I realized that I hadn’t put one up! I thought I had done so back in December when we were packing to come to Rome. Here it is below.
Next time I’ll bit the bullet and use Krautheimer for the second half – it’s back in print and it’s not expensive. It’s a fun book, but not really organized in a way that I find useful. The reproductions are not very well-produced, either. Claridge is a great thing for my class – readable, filled with information but not too full, and lots of good drawings instead of bad photos. The maps could use some work.
Claridge, Amanda. Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide Oxford University Press, USA, 1998. [great book!]
Any textbook of Roman Art:
Wheeler, Mortimer. Roman Art and Architecture. Thames & Hudson, 1985. [most of them bought this – very inexpensive]
Ramage & Ramage, Roman Art

Kleiner, Fred, A History of Roman Art [I had used this recently as the textbook for a course – one student had taken the course and had this book – very useful but quite expensive.]
– – – – – –
Mathews, Thomas F. The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art. Princeton University Press; Rev edition, 1999.
ANY edition or translation of the Bible
Lots of duplicated readings, to be distributed in Rome. [I made less use of these than in the 2003 version of the course – this was almost all primary source excerpts printed off the Internet Medieval Sourcebook and its ancient sourcebook sibling.
Krautheimer, Richard. Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308. Princeton Univ Press, 2000 [Next time I’ll try to use this as a textbook.]

And they’re finished!

And they’re finished!

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

The last presentation in the last group – Diana had already presented Tiber Island – Kelsey was showing us the facade of Sta Cecilia in Trastevere.

I’m very sad that the last 11 students had to present in my living room, but I’m very happy that my leg is not going to fall off – and I’m afraid it would have if I’d walked all over Rome for two more presentation sessions. Here’s a list of everything I’ve heard about this week.

My colleague thought of this solution – thanks, Nick!