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January 2, 2009     Post-Gazette
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January 2, 2009

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Page 2 POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 2, 2009 ancestry.., our lineage.., our roots. HERMES AND MERCURY Hermes was the Greek god of herds, commerce, travel, and messenger of other gods. Mercury was the name of his Roman counterpart, and both are considered to be one and the same. Trickery, cun- ning, inventiveness, and versatility were his major characteristics. These be- came apparent from the moment of his birth. Stories about his'escapades sound incredible, but then, that's what legends are all about. Before noon on the day he was born. he found a tortoise shell, made holes in the op- posite ends of it, and drew cords of linen through them, and thereby invented the lyre. Later that same day he stole fifty head of cattle from his brother Apollo, and then hid them in a cave before bedding down for the night in his cradle. Later, this young god was ordered to re- turn the cattle, however, he had so delighted his brother by playing the lyre, that Apollo made him a gift of the cattle. Mercury was also made herald to the gods in addition to the guide of the dead in the lower world. This god was also wor- shipped as the one who be- stowed the benevolence of fertility on the herds and their pastures. Again, leg- end tells us that he spent a considerable amount of time in those pastures, and an equal amount of time wit the wood nymphs, be- stowing the blessing of fer- tility on them also. He be- came the father of many children by these nymphs, Pan and Daphnis being the most widely known. Pan, as you may recall, became a god of the fields, forests, flocks, and shepherds. He was usually represented with horns, ears, and legs of a goat. Daphnis became the Sicilian shepherd that taught Pan to play the flute. Daphnis was also consid- ered to be the inventor of bucolic (rustic or countrified) poetry. Hermes (Mercury) pre- sided over commerce, gym- nastics, thievery, and every- thing else that required skill and dexterity. As the god of commerce and guardian of the roads he showed his benevolence to all men. Any- thing found on the roads by travelers was considered to be a gift from this god. Mounds of stones were raised in his honor at rural crossroads as every passerby added a stone. Square posts were set up in streets, open spaces, before entrances, and as mile stones along certain roads. These posts were made from wood or stone, and the head of the god was carved at the top. Some of these posts were carved with proverbs or riddles, while others con- tained the names of those who had fought and died for their country. This con- cept was also used in Rome as a decorative feature in houses, villas, and for gar- den rails. As the father of Autolycus, the prince of thieves, Mer- cury bestowed upon his son. the gift of changing stolen goods so as to rdake them unrecognizable. By this gift, Autolycus became the first stolen goods "fence" in world history. Mercury was represented in art by some of the world's greatest sculptors. Most fa- mous. no doubt, is the form which is similar to the FTD florists' emblem. The origi- nal statue, now in the Bar- gello of Florence, was done in bronze by the Florentine sculptor named Giam- bologna. He showed Mercury as a slender youth with calm features, winged hat, and winged sandals. In one hand Mercury holds a purse, the symbol of the mischievous little thief and the god of gain, while in the other hand he carries the "caduceus", emblem of his influence over the living and the dead. This caduceus, the winged staff with two serpents twined about it, is the symbol of the medical profession today. As the gods of sleep and sweet dreams, Mercury could open or close the eyes of mortals. This is the rea- son why the last libation of the day was offered to him, and if forgotten, became a good excuse for just one ore nightcap, salutel NEXT WEEK: Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love Boston Water and Sewer Commission The Boston Water and Sewer Commission will have a representative from the Community Services Department at the following temporary location: Our representative will be available to: Accept payments (check or money order only - no cash please). Process elderly or disabled persons discount forms. Resolve billing or service complaints. Schedule meter tests and special meter readings. Arrange payment plans for delinquent accounts. Should you require further information, please call Thomas Bagley, Manager of Community Services, at (617) 989-7000. 980 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02119 (617) 989-7000 Fin an cially S p e a ki n g with Ben Doherty 2009 OUTLOOK Weak financial markets, credit markets frozen, home prices crumbled, oil prices soared, and battered con- sumers stopped spending, which accounts for 70% of the economy, which stopped growing. We are in the middle of the worst Reces- sion since post WWlI as em- ployers slash two million jobs. and are projected to cut another two million jobs in 2009. according to most fore- casts. The unemployment rate now @6.7% will hit 9.4% by the end of 2009 the worst since 1982 when unemploy- ment hit 11%. This will be the longest and deepest Recession since WWlI. The current Recession has lasted a year with the optimists calling for it to last 17 months. The longest re- cessions was in 1973-75 and 1981-1982. each lasted 16 months. Normally lower interest rates help, but the Fed has lowered the rate to zero. as banks stopped lend- ing. President-elect Obama is suggesting a stimulus package that will include tax cuts, public works projects, and extended un- employment benefits. Con- gress is buying securities backed by mortgages and other consumer loans to put money in consumer's pockets. Oil prices have helped going from 84.00/ gal., to under $2.00/gal., this is the equivalent of a 8250 billion tax cut. Fallout from a dismal holiday sales sea- son are causing many re- tailers to rethink business plans and prepare for a large number of bankruptcies and store closures. Goody's Family Clothing, a South- east apparel retailer, 287 store chain, as its holidays sales were below plan, and financing it was counting on. didn't materialize. Other retailers are saying they will trim inventory and re- duce the number of suppli- ers causing a ripple effect and causing others to fail. We will have a lot fewer stores by the middle of 2009 says Nancy Hoehn, professor of business at Harvard. Dur- ing the holiday season when retailers typically generate 40% of sales. Americans cut their spending. Total retail sales were down be- tween 2.5%-4% from the same period in 2007. We had the worst holiday season of all time, says Michael McNamara, VP of Master- Card. Many retailers are either preparing to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy or scrambling to avoid that fate. Several retail chains, in- cluding Ann Taylor stores, Talbots, and Charming Shops, are closing stores similar to Linen's and Things, Mervyns and Steve and Barry's. that have already closed in 2008. Liz Claiborne is cutting store expansion until the economy improves, as is Lord and Taylors. Saks and Neiman Marcus, have al- ready announced they would cut their merchandise that doesn't perform, hurting companies such as Jones Apparel Group, which gener- ates 50% of sales from department stores and only 10% from others. Some stores are planning to sell 25% less retail this year. The Euro, which neared parity with the UK pound ad'anced against the dollar in thin trading as exchange markets remained in gen- eral mode. No economic re- ports were filed as most markets remained on holi- day. The Russian ruble is down 20% since August against the dollar. Oil closed @ $37.7/bII, as OPEC cut ex- ports by two million barrels/ day. It's time to make your New Year's resolution for 2009. Mine will be for a better stocl market as I'm tired of writ- ing glum news and want to write more positive articles. so my goal in 2009 is to write more positive articles about the economy and here it is. I want a fiscal stimulus pack- age from Barack Obama "that causes the stock market to rise and businesses to soar." ! wish you a very happy, prosperous and healthy New Year. 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