Saturday, October 23, 2010



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For other uses, see Admetus (disambiguation)

In Greek mythology, Admetus (pronounced /ædˈmiːtəs/, in Greek: Άδμητος Admetos, "untamed", "untameable"[1][2]) was a king of Pherae in Thessaly, succeeding his father Pheres after whom the city was named. Admetus was one of the Argonauts and took part in the Calydonian Boar hunt.


Etruscan vase depiction of the farewell of Admetus and Alcestis.
Admetus was famed for his hospitality and justice. When Apollo was sentenced to a year of servitude to a mortal as punishment for killing Delphyne, or as later tradition has it, the Cyclops, the god chose Admetus' home and became his herdsman. Apollo in recompense for Admetus' treatment— the Hellenistic poet Callimachus of Alexandria[3] makes him Apollo's eromenos— made all the cows bear twins while he served as his cowherd. [4]

Apollo also helped Admetus win the hand of Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus. Alcestis had so many suitors that Pelias set an apparently impossible task to the suitors — to win the hand of Alcestis, they must yoke a boar and a lion to a chariot. Apollo harnessed the yoke with the animals[5] and Admetus drove the chariot to Pelias, and thus married Alcestis.

Admetus, however, neglected to sacrifice to Artemis. The offended goddess filled the bridal chamber with snakes and again, Apollo came to Admetus' aid. Apollo advised Admetus to sacrifice to Artemis, and the goddess removed the snakes.

The greatest aid Apollo gave to Admetus was persuading the Fates to reprieve Admetus of his fated day of death. According to Aeschylus[6]Apollo made the Fates drunk, and the Fates agreed to reprieve Admetus if he could find someone to die in his place. Admetus initially believed that one of his aged parents would happily take their son's place of death. When they were unwilling, Alcestis instead died for Admetus.
The scene of death is described in Euripedes' play Alcestis, where Thanatos, the god of death, takes Alcestis to the Underworld. As Alcestis descends, Admetus discovers that he actually does not want to live:
I think my wife's fate is happier than my own, even though it may not seem so. No pain will ever touch her now, and she has ended life's many troubles with glory. But I, who have escaped my fate and ought not to be alive, shall now live out my life in sorrow.
The situation was saved by Heracles, who rested at Pherae on his way towards the man-eating Mares of Diomedes. Heracles was greatly impressed by Admetus's kind treatment of him as a guest, and when told of Admetus' situation, he entered Alcestis' tomb. He repaid the honor Admetus had done to him by wrestling with Thanatos until the god agreed to release Alcestis, then led her back into the mortal world. The most famous of Admetus's children was Eumelus, who led a contingent from Pherae to fight in the Trojan War. He also had a daughter Perimele.

Friday, October 22, 2010

These scientists see a need to be worried

Scientists Under Attack

Scientists Under Attack

Photograph by: Courtesy of Festival du nouveau cinéma

One wishes Scientists Under Attack was ... well ... science fiction. Doubtless, there will be detractors who will attempt to dismiss the findings of German director Bertram Verhaag in this chilling documentary as the stuff of fiction.

But Verhaag has gone to great lengths to furnish facts and testimony, and to prove his case that scientists are indeed under attack when they dare to challenge those more concerned about matters monetary than the greater good of mankind. 

The story may now be a familiar one, but it gets increasingly more terrifying. And that would be the story of genetically modified foods and their impact on all critters great and small as well as the environment.

Scientists Under Attack - being screened Friday and Saturday at the Festival of Nouveau Cinema - is a followup to Verhaag's aptly titled doc David Versus Monsanto. His latest is no one's notion of upbeat, but it is must-see viewing for all, and particularly for those under the illusion that big business (hello Monsanto once again!) and government always act in the best interests of those who populate this planet.
Verhaag focuses on, among other scientists, microbiologists Arpad Pusztai and Ignacio Chapela. They had the temerity to speak up about the potential hazards of rushing genetically modified foods on to the market before testing for such trifling matters as, say, toxicity. 

In Pusztai's case, he lost his job at a respected research institute in Britain after talking about his findings in a lab experiment on TV in 1999. He noted 36 significant differences - affecting everything from immune systems to mental states - between rats eating genetically modified potatoes and those chowing down on regular potatoes. His research had the support of 23 renowned scientists in the field. No matter, Pusztai was blacklisted and labelled a nutbar. 

Chapela has so far held on to his gig at Berkeley, but he has incurred the wrath of many, simply for stating that humans should not be guinea pigs for experimentation. This came on the heels of his shocking studies on corn in Mexico that was mysteriously genetically modified.

Chapela merely has to live with being discredited. He points out that some nameless group invested much time and money to invent two bogus doctors to post blogs on the web stating his findings were false and flawed. So now when his name is googled, that's what emerges at the top of the list.

He, too, has learned that if a scientist finds a problem with genetically modified foods, they invariably get mugged by the bio-tech and pharmaceutical empires. 

Small wonder that the full title for this film is Scientists Under Attack: Science in the Magnetic Field of Money. (And that is about as powerful a magnetic field as there is.)

Yes, but we have democratically elected governments to come to our rescue. Not necessarily. And certainly not when some of our political leaders depend on the largesse of these empires.
One-line reviews by Jeff Heinrich, Page C4

Not that we need reminders on this front, but director Verhaag does produce a frightening example with then-U. S. vice-president Dan Quayle announcing in 1992 "reforms to speed up and simplify the process of bringing" genetically modified products to market without "being hampered by unnecessary regulation." (A few days later, the FDA policy on non-regulation was unveiled.) 

Perhaps the most major concern addressed in this documentary is that fewer and fewer scientists will dare to challenge the well-oiled and well-funded biotech and pharmaceutical empires. That they will be stifled by fear of lawsuit. That they will be tarnished by negative PR through a well-orchestrated viral attack on the Internet. Or that they will simply be co-opted and bought by the system. 

And that eventually there will be no more real independent science. That we will live in a world where scientists are beset by conflicts of interest and commitment. And that the biotech boys and girls will have a free hand in manipulating life, all the while fattening their wallets.

Be alarmed. Be very alarmed.


Scientists Under Attack

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Seip Mound, built by the Hopewell Indians for burials, is surrounded by earthworks, while the mound still stands at 30 feet high and 240 feet long by 130 feet wide, these earthworks have eroded quite much. "

Silence - a Fable

Silence - a Fable

by Edgar Allan Poe
'Eudosin d'orheon korhuphai te kai pharhagges'
'Prhones te kai charhadrhai.' ALCMAN. (60 (10),646.) 
The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags and caves are silent.
"LISTEN to me," said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head. "The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the borders of the river Zaire. And there is no quiet there, nor silence.

"The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and they flow not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many miles on either side of the river's oozy bed is a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude, and stretch towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod to and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur which cometh out from among them like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sigh one unto the other.

"But there is a boundary to their realm--the boundary of the dark, horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, the low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the gray clouds rush westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery wall of the horizon. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And by the shores of the river Zaire there is neither quiet nor silence.

"It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall and the rain fell upon my head --and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.

"And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist, and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock which stood by the shore of the river, and was lighted by the light of the moon. And the rock was gray, and ghastly, and tall, --and the rock was gray. Upon its front were characters engraven in the stone; and I walked through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone. But I could not decypher them. And I was going back into the morass, when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and looked again upon the rock, and upon the characters;--and the characters were DESOLATION.

"And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of the rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover the actions of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form, and was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct--but his features were the features of a deity; for the mantle of the night, and of the mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with thought, and his eye wild with care; and, in the few furrows upon his cheek I read the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind, and a longing after solitude.

"And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned, and he sat upon the rock.

"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

"Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

"Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightful tempest gathered in the heaven where, before, there had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest --and the rain beat upon the head of the man --and the floods of the river came down --and the river was tormented into foam --and the water-lilies shrieked within their beds --and the forest crumbled before the wind --and the thunder rolled --and the lightning fell --and the rock rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; --but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

"Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed, and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to heaven --and the thunder died away --and the lightning did not flash --and the clouds hung motionless --and the waters sunk to their level and remained --and the trees ceased to rock --and the water-lilies sighed no more --and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and they were changed; --and the characters were SILENCE.

"And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld him no more."

Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi --in the iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth, and of the mighty sea --and of the Genii that over-ruled the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven. There was much lore too in the sayings which were said by the Sybils; and holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves that trembled around Dodona --but, as Allah liveth, that fable which the Demon told me as he sat by my side in the shadow of the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all! And as the Demon made an end of his story, he fell back within the cavity of the tomb and laughed. And I could not laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me because I could not laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face.


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