Sunday, July 29, 2007

Phoney Priest

From the Telegraph:
Police are searching for a phoney priest who conducted funeral services before making off from each with hundreds of euros left by mourners in the collection plate.
Father Marco, as he called himself, told genuine priests at a series of cemetery chapels in Sicily that he had been asked by the families of the deceased to carry out the service.
Dressed in a dog collar and full Catholic robes, the "priest" conducted the funerals helped by two "altar servers" who were his accomplices in the scam.
At the end of each ceremony the "servers" passed among the congregation with a collection plate, before making off with the cash.
The deception was uncovered after the real priest at the Rotoli cemetery, near Palermo, Father Giuseppe Calafiore, was asked by mourners why he had not taken the service himself.
The police said the trio had carried out the swindle at several cemeteries across Sicily, picking out their victims by carefully scanning newspaper death notices.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Austen in the News

From the Times:
Mr Lassman, 43, had spent months trying without success to find a publisher for his own novel Freedom’s Temple. Out of frustration – and to test whether today’s publishers could spot great literature – he retyped the opening chapters of three Austen classics: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
He changed only the titles, the names of the characters and his own name – calling himself Alison Laydee, after Austen’s early pseudonym “A Lady” – then waited for the offers to roll in.
Instead he received yet another sheaf of rejection letters, including one from Penguin, which republished Pride and Prejudice last year, describing his plagarised chapters as “a really original and interesting read” but not right for Penguin.
Mr Lassman concocted his plan after returning from the Greek island where he had been writing his own novel and found himself facing a brick wall. “I was having a hard time getting it published and I was chatting to friends about it, saying I wondered how Jane would have fared today.
“Getting a novel accepted is very difficult unless you have an agent first, but I had no idea at the scale of rejection poor old Jane suffered.”
The literary agency Christopher Little, which represents J.K. Rowling, regretted that it was “not confident of placing this material with a publisher”. Jennifer Vale of Bloomsbury publishers turned down Northanger Abbey,renamed Susan, saying “I didn’t feel the book was suited to our list.”
The one publisher to recognise the deception was Alex Bowler, assistant editor at Jonathan Cape. His reply read: “Thank you for sending us the first two chapters of First Impressions; my first impression on reading these were ones of disbelief and mild annoyance, along with a moment’s laughter.
“I suggest you reach for your copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I’d guess lives in close proximity to your typewriter and make sure that your opening pages don’t too closely mimic the book’s opening. After all, there is such a thing as plagiarism and I’d hate for you to get in any kind of trouble with Jane Austen’s estate.”
Last night a spokeswoman for Penguin admitted that Mr Lassman’s submission may not actually have been read. She said: “We don’t take anything that is not agency-led, so I doubt the person would even have read it. I can’t comment on this individual case but I don’t think we have done anything bad.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Italian Necktie - Under threat?

From the Telegraph:
With temperatures soaring, and air conditioners running at full blast, Italians have been ordered by the government to shed their ties in order to cool down.
Livia Turco, the health minister, has sent a memo to "all government employees and private Italians" which states that the "small gesture" can lead to "an immediate fall in body temperature of between two and three degrees".
She said that if ties were taken off, there would be "health benefits, and consequently there would be less need to use artificial air conditioning".
Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, the environment minister, said he had already told his department to doff their ties. He even claimed that ties made their wearers hotter than jackets.
A tie-less culture has been quickly embraced by many Italians, including Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, and Riccardo Illy, the coffee baron and regional governor of Friuli.
However, some Italians said it was a sartorial disgrace. Alain Elkann, a writer and the husband of Margherita Agnelli, the Fiat heiress, said it was impolite.
"I have never failed to wear a tie in public in 40 years," he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. At most, he would remove his jacket.
Personally, I'm on the side of the tie-wearers.