Saturday, March 25, 2006

In the news....

From the Telegraph:
Police in New Zealand who stopped a speeding motorist were shocked to discover that he had no arms and was using one foot to steer the car while operating the pedals with the other.
The 32-year-old unemployed man, who told officers that he had been without arms since birth, claimed to have been driving for years without incident.
He had no driving licence or insurance and had never taken a test.
His automatic car was of standard factory construction and had never been adapted for anyone with a disability.
Senior Constable Brent Gray said that when he approached the driver's window he saw a foot up on the dashboard and noticed that the seat was reclined.
The police officer said that at first he thought that the driver had an "attitude" then he noticed the man's armless torso.
From the Times:
BRITISH and Italian archaeologists have recovered for the first time a painted Roman statue with its colours preserved.
The head of a female Amazon warrior, shown exclusively to The Times, was retrieved this week from the debris of a collapsed escarpment at Herculaneum, the seaside resort for the rich and powerful of ancient Rome that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.
Domenico Camardo, the archaeologist who dug the head from the volcanic rock, said that when a workman first alerted him to the discovery, he “hardly dared hope” that the bust would be intact. “Only the back of the head was visible, and I was afraid the face would have crumbled,” he said.
The nose and mouth were missing, but the hair, pupils and eyelashes were “as pristine as they were when Herculaneum was overwhelmed by the eruption”, Monica Martelli Castaldi, the restorer of the team, said.
“Those eyes are alive, looking at us from 2,000 years ago,” she said. “To find this much pigment is very, very special.” Although it had been known that Roman statues were painted, only faint traces of pigment had been found before now. It had also been assumed that classical statues were painted brightly. In fact, the colouring on the head is a delicate shade of orange-red, which, although faded, indicates that classical colouring was subtle and sophisticated, Jane Thompson, the project manager, said.

Via ANSA, a sartorial piece:
Religious outfitters raced to kit out Princes of Church
by Denis Greenan (ANSA) - Rome, March 24 - Pope Benedict XVI on Friday named his first clutch of new cardinals - an event that has stirred the usual stew of speculation about shifting power blocs among the Vatican elite .
But for Gammarelli, Vatican tailors par excellence, it has meant just one thing: fitting out the bishops making a beeline for their little shop behind the Pantheon .
Gammarelli worked around the clock after the advent of the cardinals was announced a few weeks ago .
"We had to block all our other work," said head tailor Massimiliano Gammarelli, 43, explaining that all their other customers had been put in a holding pattern until after Friday's ceremony - called a consistory - at which the new cardinals were elevated .
The number of newcomers to the cardinals' college is relatively small compared to John Paul II's time, just 15, But to keep Vatican snippers happy again, the work has been spread around Rome's other three clerical tailors .
A fair number of them went to Gammarelli's main rival, Euroclero, which scored a coup in the 'battle of the tailors' when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger announced after his election he would continue to use their services .
Gammarelli, however, has retained its official title of tailors to the pope .
And the concistory has again seen Gammarelli, "the Rome-based equivalent of an ecclesiastical Brooks Brothers" in the words of a Catholic website, pip its rivals to the lion's share - just as in 2001 when a pack of 44 incoming cardinals, the biggest consistory in history, gave the bespoke religious outfitters their biggest headache yet .
"We're doing just under half of the new cardinals again," Massimiliano said recently, surrounded by bolts of red and black wool and silk on the shelves of the softly lit, unassuming premises .
Asked how many popes the Gammarellis have dressed, Massimiliano was typically cautious: "The last seven popes for sure...before that things are a bit mistier." Reporters have said the weirdest things about the Gammarellis: that they use the most exotic plumes of a rare South American bird for part of the pope's white outfit, for instance, or that they use the finest wools from Andean beasts for their cardinals .
All nonsense, of course, Massimiliano says: "All we use is the best Italian wool: the best, not the rarest." The only other materials are the silk that goes into the sashes, buttons and braids and the linen used for the flowing, embroidered surplices, he said .
All the outfits are handmade in the same style and the work is carried out in the time-honoured, lovingly crafted way that maintains the shop's name .
"Our work is the best publicity we have," said 77-year-old Annibale Gammarelli, patriarch of a clan that also includes his other nephew, Filippo, 64 .
The tailors' reputation is so high that they are inundated with requests from the laity, some of which they accept: a tuxedo, perhaps, or an officer's uniform. Former French premier Eduard Balladur, a man with refined dress sense, ordered his red socks from the little shop .

Also from ANSA:
(ANSA) - Ravenna, March 24 - The tomb of Italy's greatest poet, Dante, is to be restored .
The tomb in the northeastern city of Ravenna will be cleaned up in a seven-month project starting after Easter, officials said .
The Florentine author of the Divine Comedy died in exile in Ravenna on the night of 13 September 1321, aged 56 .
His ashes were placed in a sarcophagus in cloisters next to a Franciscan church - and later hidden in a wall when Napoleonic troops forced the friars guarding the tomb to disband .
The friars had refused repeated requests from Florence to return the remains of the Tuscan city's most famous son - even when backed by two Medici popes and Michelangelo .
The ashes were only rediscovered in 1865 when a big neoclassical building was built to house the remains .

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