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Colorful, Humorous Exhibit Bugs Viewers at Harvard

September 30, 1987|ANN CONNORS

They're often deemed pesky, and frequently end up under someone's foot. But the organizers of "Beetlemania" at Harvard University believe their beloved insects are a work of art. "If you think of beetles, you think they're all small and black and uninteresting. But a lot of them are quite dazzling," said Scott Shaw, the curatorial associate who dreamed up the collection on display at the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Indeed, many of the bugs from Latin America and Asia are so brightly colored that they have been used as jewelry. And as if the riotous colors weren't enough, the exhibit has been lightened with humor. An exhibit of weevil beetles has been tabbed "Weevil Overcome," the predatory diving beetle is labeled under "Blazing Paddles," and the bark beetle responsible for Dutch elm disease is titled "Nightmare on Elm Street." But the display isn't for everyone. "This is disgusting," shouted one viewer.

--For many, winning $400,000 would be a gift of divine proportions, but one lottery winner has turned his back on the princely sum because "it was against his religious principles." A 29-year-old technician from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who was not identified, "refused to take the money because he said gambling was forbidden by Islam," said Rathi Haji Ishak, general manager of the Social Welfare Lottery Board that manages the government-backed lottery. Rathi said the man told the board he bought the ticket on the spur of the moment and "was certain he would not win." The money has subsequently reverted to the nation's treasury.

--For 50 years he had immersed himself in a world of dragon slayers and towering kings. Now, at age 90, Samuel Noah Kramer is a scholar of mythic proportions himself, having successfully deciphered the 4,000-year-old clay tablets that unlocked the door to the ancient civilization of Sumer. His achievements were recently honored at a ceremony hosted by his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, where it was noted how, for decades, little attention had been paid to the collection of 30,000 reddish tablets at the university's museum. It was Kramer who first attached great historic and cultural significance to the cuneiform tablets unearthed in the Mesopotamia Valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now Iraq. "Sam . . . fit the different pieces . . . to give the first unified view of the whole society. It is a stunning achievement," said Craig Eisendrath, executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, which gave Kramer the council's distinguished humanist award.

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