The Rat
Saturday, June 29, 2002
      ( 1:37 PM ) The Rat  
"Why don't you want to admit that there is freedom of thought among women?"
"Because, brother, according to what I have observed, among women it is only the freaks who think freely."
Fathers and Children

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:37 PM

Friday, June 28, 2002
      ( 6:58 PM ) The Rat  
A POST TO ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEE THAT BLOGADDER WILL NEVER MARRY ME. Thoughts on his remarks re the new Rutgers study of young men’s attitudes toward marriage:

To begin with, yes, the median age for men is as low as 27. (It’s 25 for women—which is why I already know this though Blogadder and I were born in the same year.) We’re only used to a higher age because people who do stuff like (as he notes) pursue advanced degrees, do tend to marry later.

However. I’m surprised he tries to argue that the permissiveness of cohabitation has nothing to do with men’s reluctance to marry. Is one's desire to marry then completely divorced (sorry) from the rewards or risks that go with it? Omnia vincit amor may be a nice thought (I have my doubts), but that doesn't make it true.

Necessary disclaimer: I’m not by any means pretending that everyone used to live up to the virgin-bride, blood-on-the-honeymoon-sheets ideal. Obviously there was plenty of free love going on decades and centuries before it was culturally ratified (some have speculated that the mobility occasioned esp. by WWII probably had a lot more to do with the liberalizing of sexual behavior than even the Pill-powered Sixties did). Still, there is a big difference between a society in which people tend to restrict sex to people they would marry, and a society in which, for a sizable proportion of the young, it's not that strange to shag a guy whose name you never quite did catch over the music.

To take an extreme (but not uncommon) case: shotgun weddings. The rise in the number of unwed mothers has far more to do with the decline in shotgun weddings than with any actual increase in the amount of sex being had. This isn't just the fault of the men btw—I still remember a friend, unintentionally pregnant at 20, explaining earnestly that it wasn't that she didn't love the father; she just didn't love him enough to marry him. Given that, by at least one estimate, children born out of wedlock live with their fathers for an average of six months, I think we can call this a problem.

And to pull out another whipping-boy: cohabitation. Even leaving aside that couples who cohabit are likelier, if they do marry, to subsequently divorce, cohabitation is a losing bet, especially for women—a fact that unfortunately few of us have wised up to. But it’s simple math: a man’s prime marriageable years last considerably longer than a woman’s. When Diana and Brad shack up for the four years between 25 and 29 and then discover that things “didn’t work out,” Brad hasn’t lost as much time as Diana has. Is it “romantic” to expect her to make the sacrifice/gamble anyway? If romance definitionally includes women getting screwed over—and for a lot of guys, it does (something like 40 percent of people now say they wouldn’t marry someone unless the person agreed to cohabit first)—well, then I suppose that’s romance.

And then there’s oxytocin, the hormone women release immediately after childbirth, while breastfeeding, and during sexual climax, and which is believed to foster attachment. Some believe there’s a hormone men release during sex with exactly the opposite effect: i.e., that triggers commitmentphobic panic. Whether the tales about the latter are true (I unfortunately don’t even remember the name of the damn thing), the fair amount of work done with oxytocin seems to argue that for women, sex and love are much more tightly bound than they are for men. This work then won the prestitious "Duh!" award, since anyone with half a brain could have observed the reality empirically (even if you prefer to word it as “Women are annoying and clingy”). (There is, or was, a saying among prostitutes to the effect of "Men don't pay you to have sex with them. They pay you to leave.") This naturally puts us at an added disadvantage in a culture of courtship-for-sex rather than courtship-for-marriage.

And finally, frankly, one reason people used to marry earlier was—at least in part—because they were horny. The people who spend their time looking at stuff like this have found that married people have more sex than any other group except cohabiting singles. And they sure as hell have more sex than non-cohabiting singles do. Given that, and if your choice is between all the sex you can eat with no real encumbrances (except for the whole dealing-with-the-tears-and-recriminations-and-finding-a-new-apartment thing) and all the sex you can eat with the demands of a lifelong promise—only an idiot, a sentimentalist, or someone with express orders from God or his subsidiaries would go for door no. 2.

I no more want to denigrate romance than Blogadder does. Hell, Maggie writes more passionately about it in the last chapter of this book than an entire bathhouseful of sexual revolutionists could ever dream of doing. Nor am I suggesting that every chick who doesn't marry by 30 will give birth to monstrosities (for some agonizing passages on male-female conflicts of interests, read this), or that any man who doesn't pony up a ring for some woman, any woman, is a freeloading asshole. My point's just that it's naïve to assume romance happens in a vacuum. Like everything else, it flourishes better under some conditions than others. The widespread availability of free milk (or rentable cows) may have little or no effect on Ted's willingness to buy a cow—I know him, he's a good guy—but for a lot of men today, it does ...which was the point of the study.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:58 PM

      ( 2:34 PM ) The Rat  
UNLIKE OTHER PEOPLE I COULD NAME, Allen St. John has some non-stupid observations about women's sports.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 PM

      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  
THERE GOES MY LAST REASON TO CONVERT. Effective July 1, smoking is no longer permitted at the Vatican.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM

      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  
POET-BAITING. I seem to recall Mr. McGonagall being well represented in Ross and Kathryn Petras's anthology of very bad poetry. Either way, "poet-baiting" definitely needs to be revived, at least on our college campuses.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:16 PM

      ( 11:38 AM ) The Rat  
JUST MY LUCK. MoMA, one of the three things that make living in Manhattan bearable (the other two are bookstores), is relocating to Queens while the 53rd St. site undergoes a three-year renovation. If you now have to cross water to see things like this, this, and this, console yourself by dropping in tomorrow and Sunday (June 29-30), when admission will be free. Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:38 AM

      ( 11:25 AM ) The Rat  
PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE HUNCHBACK BEHIND THE CURTAIN. A theater company has retitled its production "The Bellringer of Notre Dame" so as not to offend those suffering from scoliosis or spina bifida. While it's true that, as the producer points out, "hunchback" was not in Hugo's original title (Notre-Dame de Paris), I somehow doubt anyone would bother to be so scrupulous in a less PC climate. They claim not to have meddled with the content, but, well, day ain't over yet.

Meanwhile, why not enter Eve's contest?

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:25 AM

      ( 10:35 AM ) The Rat  
THERE'S ONLY ONE "QUEER ISSUE" OF THE VILLAGE VOICE? Haven't had time to read yet, but that is a fun photo on the cover.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:35 AM

      ( 10:22 AM ) The Rat  
In the fight between you and the world back the world.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:22 AM

Thursday, June 27, 2002
      ( 5:39 PM ) The Rat  
THE NAKED AND THE NUDE. I wonder if Rachel Shteir anywhere uses the word bawdy to distinguish between "mere" smut and the kind of thing she seems to be getting at with this forthcoming book. (Link from a friend in Chicago.) I would rant a bit about how our supposedly sexed-up culture has forgotten that intercourse is not intrinsically banal, but a) well, DUH! and b) look, I don't like Wendy Shalit either.

Eric Partridge wrote an amusing study of Shakespeare's bawdy—entitled (wait for it) Shakespeare's Bawdy—which, 54 years later, is still in print. The slang-dictionary genre lives on too, and there is fun to be had in books like this one (let's put it this way, if "going below 14th St."* meant everywhere what it does in some circles, my daily commute would be a hell of a lot more fun than it is), but ultimately Partridge's treatment is more interesting—as is his subject. Likewise I have rattling around somewhere at least one book of dirty jokes from the 1940s that pretty much already contains all the good ones, despite the tireless efforts of Blanche Knott et al. in the decades since; and most of the limericks in this humongous anthology (the largest single-volume collection extant, I think) date from World War II. The unoriginality of the species would seem to be older than just about everything but its concupiscence.

*According to Dalzell, "to perform oral sex on a prostitute" (p. 204).

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:39 PM

      ( 3:44 PM ) The Rat  
They discussed at great length whether marriage was a prejudice or a crime...
Fathers and Children

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:44 PM

Friday, June 21, 2002
      ( 1:05 PM ) The Rat  
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK. I'm going to be away until at least next Thursday, by which time this year's Public Theater offering will have kicked off (starts June 25). They're doing Twelfth Night, which—though my favorite of the comedies—is also tied with the Midsummer Night's Dream for the title of Shakespearean Play Most Susceptible To Fucked-Up Postmodern Productions. Tickets are free, but for lack of a better phrase, caveat emptor.

"Hey—when I see five guys in togas stabbing a guy in broad daylight, I shoot the bastards."
"That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron!"
Naked Gun

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:05 PM

      ( 12:35 PM ) The Rat  
WHEN IN ROME... And bang—so to speak—go my plans to live in Italy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:35 PM

      ( 12:35 PM ) The Rat  
DORK ALERT, CTD. I'm the only one, aren't I, who thinks "A giraffe with an artificial leg" sounds like a bad parody of Wallace Stevens.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:35 PM

      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  
SOLACE FOR ALL YOU SOCCER FANS. Attributed to a London reporter on the eve of the England-West Germany World Cup final of 1966: "If, on the morrow, the Germans defeat us at our national sport, be not dismayed. For twice in this century, we've defeated them at theirs."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 AM

Thursday, June 20, 2002
      ( 4:59 PM ) The Rat  
THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL. There was clearly a conspiracy afoot to keep yours truly from learning about this beauty contest. Warning: the pic of the "hairless rat" made even me feel queasy. The cuddling "masked rats," OTOH, I would proudly show off to the neighbors. Okay, maybe not.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:59 PM

Wednesday, June 19, 2002
      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  
WHO KNEW there were so many ways to live?

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 PM

      ( 1:22 PM ) The Rat  
"NEVER FORGET THAT BOLSHEVIKS ARE CROCODILES." And other sound advice from Winston Churchill.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:22 PM

      ( 12:26 PM ) The Rat  
SNARKY ALTERNATIVE READINGS of well-known works, courtesy (again) of Gary Saul Morson.

Bleak House: When in doubt, sue.

The Brothers Karamazov: Christianity is for losers.

Candide: I still believe that people are good at heart.

Coming of Age in Samoa (Mead): Boys will be boys. Girls will be boys.

"The Diary of a Madman" (Gogol): A nose is a nose is a nose.

Gargantua and Pantagruel: Moderation in all things.

The Inferno: [...] 2. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

"The Kreutzer Sonata": All you need is love.

Lysistrata: A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Nineteen Eighty-Four: 1. Thanks for the memories. [...]

"Ode to Melancholy" (Keats): Take Ecstasy.

The Odyssey: Honesty is the best policy.

The Possessed: Workers of the world, unite!

The Secret Agent (Conrad): Think globally, bomb locally.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:26 PM

      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
THE MOTHER SHIP BECKONS. Eve, we'd better go here last or we'll never see anything else in London. Then again, I already saw The Mousetrap when I was there in '91, so what else could there be to miss?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

Tuesday, June 18, 2002
      ( 3:51 PM ) The Rat  
ON THE FIRST DATE? Am I the only one who thinks this photo deserves a better caption?

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:51 PM

      ( 3:34 PM ) The Rat  
HUMOR FOR LITERATURE DORKS. Gary Saul Morson's And Quiet Flows the Vodka is funnier than I'd expected. Much of the humor is old-fashioned (think Groucho Marx). But the comments on academia ring painfully true—plus, he leans right. Includes an excerpt from "Dostoevsky's novel Torture." From the glossary:

Bosch, Hieronymus. In Russia: a realist. In Siberia: a sentimentalist.

Commissar and the Pea, The. A Soviet novel, winner of a 1938 Stalin Prize. A variant on the folktale of "The Princess and the Pea," it tells the story of a young NKVD agent distraught by the torture of a single innocent man. [...]

Copernicus (Kopernik). A Polish astronomer who hypothesized that Poland revolves around the sun, rather than the reverse.

death of the author. A theory of literature advanced by Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Joseph Stalin.

happy ending, Russian. A hero learns the reason for his agony.

Nietzsche. 1. A predecessor of Derrida. 2. Emerson with ulcers.

rational choice theory. 1. A doctrine denying the existence of human folly. 2. Its own refutation.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 PM

      ( 2:48 PM ) The Rat  
FINALLY, a dénouement in the continuing California thong crisis.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:48 PM

      ( 2:34 PM ) The Rat  
DRAT. Screw London. Tushnet and I should have booked for Australia.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 PM

Monday, June 17, 2002
      ( 1:35 PM ) The Rat  
TOUGHLOVE. Turkish schoolchildren can now get a police escort to guard them from their parents when they get bad grades.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:35 PM

      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  
THE QUINTESSENTIAL "DEAR ETHICIST" LETTER, from this week's NYTM: When the cafeteria at work offers seafood chowder, I dip the ladle as far down as it will go and grab spoonfuls of bottom-dwelling shrimp and fish, minimizing my take of broth. My goal is to get the best food for my money. Am I being unfair to the soup lovers who get to the cafeteria after me? Will Bohlen, Washington

If Mr. Bohlen's life really involves no moral choices harder than this, I could use some of his advice.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 AM

Friday, June 14, 2002
      ( 9:13 PM ) The Rat  
JUST LIKE A FROG AND A BEAR. Just successfully booked nine days in London next month for me and my ex-roommate. Time to start boning up on some appropriate Muppets songs. To say nothing of sharpening that cleaver.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:13 PM

      ( 5:01 PM ) The Rat  
So Mike Yaeger and I were both stunned speechless when Bret Schundler included divorce in a list of America's social ills during the Q&A last night. How cool is that. Now we just need to get him to win a race... The crowd itself was friendly, if smallish (about 40). No booze + too-thinly-sliced cheese + a disco ball = still better than Fabiani.

At another point, when whoever was then speaking named several conservative journalists:

Me. These are all people I've edited.
Mike. Well, they're all people I've SLEPT WITH!

I also met Post columnist Robert George, who invited me to his improv show. Eat your heart out, Dogan, you D.C.-residing SOB!

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:01 PM

      ( 2:11 PM ) The Rat  
"Hey, I played the violin when I was a kid and nobody thought I was a sissy. I followed one simple rule: For every hour that I practiced, I committed an atrocity."
—Danny DeVito, Taxi

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:11 PM

Thursday, June 13, 2002
      ( 2:20 PM ) The Rat  
A much longer (and annotated!) version of a list I first saw four years ago.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:20 PM

      ( 10:17 AM ) The Rat  
Residents of a Hudson Valley town are demanding a new name for what's currently known as "Sodom Road." Understandable, right? Still, you'd think they'd get upset about the name of the town first: it's called "Clinton."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 AM

      ( 10:13 AM ) The Rat  
Good news for any Monty Python fans out in Hawaii.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:13 AM

      ( 9:54 AM ) The Rat  
Bret Schundler is speaking at the American Israel Friendship House TONIGHT—136 East 39th St., 7.30-9.30 PM. $8; "business casual," whatever that means, is requested.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:54 AM

      ( 9:01 AM ) The Rat  
Whoa. Not just for Hemingway anymore. At least in the story the doctors didn't eat pie afterward...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 AM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  
My old nemesis Lukas has a blog now. I would look, but I'm afraid I might go blind.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  
And on a not unrelated note, have you had your surrealist compliment today?

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

      ( 8:58 AM ) The Rat  
[T]he children themselves repaid her griefs with small joys. These joys were so small they could not be seen, like gold in the sand, and in her bad moments she saw only griefs, only sand; but there were also good moments, when she saw only joys, only gold.
Anna Karenina

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:58 AM

Wednesday, June 12, 2002
      ( 1:56 PM ) The Rat  
THE DOSTOEVSKY DRINKING GAME: Having finally killed the manuscript, I'm declaring a Dostoevsky hiatus and, who knows, may even talk about something else for once. (Even though Pevear/Volokhonsky have just released The Idiot...)

But first, the new-and-improved (okay, just new) drinking game. Somehow a google search came up blank—what kind of a world are we living in!?—so Eve and I made one up. The clever ones here are hers; the lame ones are mine. However, I can get a jar open without help.

—suicide (two drinks if it doesn't advance the plot)
—child abuse, physical or sexual
—impossibly beautiful woman (or man) appears, in person or in a portrait
—everyone falls in love with him/her
—new patronymic introduced
—you forget which patronymic goes with which character
—payment for sex
—payment for the commission of a crime
—any attempt (commissioned or freelance) to burn something
—reference to internal 19th-century Russian politics
—conflation of Catholicism and socialism
—hallucinations; or, elaborate, Freudian dreams
—murder attempt (it succeeds—drink twice; it creates a need for one or more murders—additional drinks as appropriate)
—other post-death destinations, e.g., Heaven, America
—fainting (male or female)
—crying (male)
—someone gets angry at someone else for misunderstanding him, but it's his own fault
—he realizes that, but gets angry anyway
—perceived seduction
—attempted seduction
—sudden inheritance
—the words “sudden,” “suddenly,” or “threshold”
—character unexpectedly appears just after someone else had been thinking about him
—the giving of alms
—any long speech that, in real life, would have been interrupted at least once
—illegitimate child (sired by rape—drink twice)
—the color yellow
—references to capital punishment
—instances of the virgin-whore dichotomy
—dying consumptives
—exchanging of crosses
—someone confesses to something he considers to be the lowest crime of all
—and nobody else thinks it's that bad (Drain.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:56 PM

      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  
"So they [the dinosaurs] were not especially sinful, despite all that flesh?"
"Probably not, out of stupidity."
The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 PM

Tuesday, June 11, 2002
      ( 12:09 PM ) The Rat  
How, she wondered, could facts be so completely improbable? For one child to drown in the ocean—that could happen, and no doubt anyone would accept it as a fact. But for three people to drown; that was ridiculous. And yet ten thousand was different again. There was something ridiculous about the excessive, and yet there was nothing ridiculous about a great natural catastrophe, or war. One death was somehow grave and solemn, as were a million deaths. The slightly excessive was different.

"Three of them! What nonsense! Three of them," she said.

—Yukio Mishima, "Death in Midsummer"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 PM

Monday, June 10, 2002
      ( 6:41 PM ) The Rat  
Upcoming election to settle a raging controversy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:41 PM

      ( 5:22 PM ) The Rat  
Thos. Mann, The Magic Mountain:
"But of course—a female!" Hans Castorp thought...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:22 PM

      ( 4:41 PM ) The Rat  
THE TRIBUTE VIRTUE PAYS TO VICE: I'm listening to the Stones as we speak, as it's the only way to drown out my more aggravating co-workers. Indeed, if Eve's co-workers were half as aggravating as mine I'm betting she, too, would be willing to give Mick Jagger just about anything. Responding to her remarks on the proposed knighthood:

1) Honorary knighthoods aren't a U.K. version of the Congressional Medal of Honor. You don't need to save puppies, cure diseases, etc.—only to contribute, or be judged to have contributed, to the nation in some impressive way. This may not be the best policy, but it's the current one. (My original question had concerned its application, not the policy itself.) 2) Absolutely, and if Mick were "really" cool presumably he'd back away in disgust. The effect, whether intended or not, of an Establishment that crowns (or knights) anti-Establishment figures is to make the whole thing a big shadowboxing match. Bottom line's that even if the Queen is for family, England, and God (perhaps not in that order) and Mick is for all-the-sex-you-can-eat, both genuflect before the almighty dollar (or pound). There is much evil along this entire causal chain, but I don't really see Mammon getting deposed anytime soon—or that there's anything one can say about it without sounding like an editorialist for Harper's. 3) Mmm, rampant sleaziness.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:41 PM

      ( 9:21 AM ) The Rat  
Found this last night, from a letter Dostoevsky wrote to his niece in August 1870. The book-in-progress at the time was Demons (The Possessed). Daily affirmations: Great men whine too.

Oh, Sonia! if only you knew how hard it is to be a writer and to bear this burden. Believe me, I know for a fact that if I had two or three years in which to compose this novel, like Turgenev, Goncharov, and Tolstoy have, I would write the sort of thing they would still be talking about in a hundred years' time!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 AM

      ( 9:18 AM ) The Rat  
Forwarded to me recently. To be sent immediately to all the women in your life, and perhaps some of the men.


# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 AM

Sunday, June 09, 2002
      ( 6:08 PM ) The Rat  
Two and a half years after Tony Blair reputedly blackballed his candidacy, Mick may be about to become Sir Mick at last.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:08 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  
If you're in NYC between now and Tuesday, don't be mouldering in your Murray Hill office the way I am—go south of Houston to shop, eat out, or have a tryst in one of our lovely hotels... the city is offering sales-tax-free shopping as a boost to downtown businesses. (Sorry, does not apply to purchases over $500, tobacco products, or gasoline.) If you're not in New York this weekend, swing by July 9-11 or August 20-22 for the same deal.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:42 PM

      ( 2:34 PM ) The Rat  
I turn 26 in about a week. But an even stronger testament to my advancing age is that, the creepiness of this poem notwithstanding, I really do find persecuting the ice-cream man kinda fascist.

However, unlike the woman in the article, I have nothing against killing kittens.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 PM

      ( 2:30 PM ) The Rat  
Short tempers in Japan these days.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 PM

Saturday, June 08, 2002
      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
Two roads diverged... This has been spotted elsewhere on the 'net, but I only saw it recently when Shamed forwarded the jpeg. Allegedly a real intersection in Melbourne.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Friday, June 07, 2002
      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
Non-Christians (among them yours truly, plus big shots like Christopher Hitchens) tell Crisis magazine their thoughts on Christianity in this symposium by Eve Tushnet. You'd have to tear out my fingernails to get me to use the phrase "sexual intimacy," by the way; what I actually said was "sexual climax." But they didn't bowdlerize anything else, so whatever.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 1:45 PM ) The Rat  
Reuters reports that the Beijing Evening News picked up this Onion story after failing to realize that it was, like, a joke. But not to worry—it's at least as true as the sort of thing that regularly gets published in mainland news outlets.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM

      ( 11:52 AM ) The Rat  
At last, a New Yorker cartoon for my kind of people.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:52 AM

      ( 10:37 AM ) The Rat  
From classicist Anne Carson's [I suspect deliberately] annoying, but very good, long poem The Beauty of the Husband:
That night we made love "the real way" which we had not yet attempted although married six months.
Big mystery. No one knew where to put their leg and to this day I'm not sure we got it right.
He seemed happy. You're like Venice he said beautifully.
Early next day
I wrote a short talk ("On Defloration") which he stole and had published
In a small quarterly magazine.
Overall this was a characteristic interaction between us.
Or should I say ideal.
Neither of us had ever seen Venice.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:37 AM

      ( 10:35 AM ) The Rat  
To add to yesterday's extremely disorganized comments on climate and eschatology, this, from Kafka: "Only our concept of Time makes it possible for us to speak of the Day of Judgment by that name; in reality it is a summary court in perpetual session." Man, that would suck.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:35 AM

      ( 10:31 AM ) The Rat  
My Life As a Cliché: So it finally happened—last night, much confusion ensued when I tried to meet some people at the wrong Starbucks—on the east side of Union Square rather than the west. Union Square is not all that big, so a ten-second walk was enough to correct the problem; but it was also pouring rain, of the kind that rebounds from the pavement so you feel like you're walking through a carwash. Not that I would try to refute the Underpants Gnomes; I'm just afraid they'll open the next Starbucks in my bathroom.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:31 AM

Thursday, June 06, 2002
      ( 4:33 PM ) The Rat  
Whether from tact or cluelessness, this story skips over what would seem a key question: how the hell do you start an "anarchy club"? gives us (4th defn.) "A group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly." Isn't the point of anarchy to be unorganized, and to exist free of common purpose? For the next would-be anarchy-club founder, I humbly suggest the term "anarchy horde," which, though redundant, at least sounds like it might be fun.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:33 PM

      ( 4:10 PM ) The Rat  
Why Russian writers are the coolest thing ever—Lauren G. Leighton on Petersburg in literature (Mosaic, 1978): It is the city where a bronze horseman came to life and a nose raced through the streets in the guise of a state councillor. The ghost of an old countess deceived a demonic young engineer with a cruel trick of the cards in Petersburg and the ghost of a miserable civil servant accosted passers-by in quest of its overcoat. A Red Domino flitted through the mists of Petersburg with a bomb in a sardine can, a child was infected with geometrical madness while wandering through Petersburg's mathematically conceived and chaotically realized streets, Jesus Christ marched through storm-blinded Petrograd with his twelve soldier-rapist-murderers. A strange, gloomy man met himself crossing a Petersburg bridge, men with diseased livers have surrounded themselves with spite in this underground city, gently hallucinating dreamers wander regularly through translucent white nights. Crime and Punishment is a Petersburg novel, and those who believe that Raskolnikov could have murdered the old woman in Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Paris, or an island beneath the Caribbean sun have missed the novel's very reason for being...

Petersburg is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It was literally a dreamed city from the beginning—willed into being by one man, and at incredible cost (100,000 workers died in just the first year). Then, too, there are the “white nights”: Camus said we are much more attuned to the weather when we are not in love—for the lack of a person to take center stage (this is presumably why weather is so central in Wallace Stevens)—and it’s striking none of the tales Leighton cites are love stories. To have days that do not end (even if only at certain times of the year) must have much the same effect as going without sleep—as The New Yorker reports we soon may be able to do, by taking a side-effect-free pill: and not only physiologically. It is reminiscent of the difference between growing up in a place without seasons, as I did, and growing up anywhere else. One has a dampened sense of cyclical time and, correspondingly, an acuter sense of nihilism—it’s harder to imagine the Apocalypse approaching because time has no beginnings or middles, let alone ends. (Robert Belknap: "By associating human action with the mystery of nature’s yearly cycle, people overcome the idea of their own disappearance in time." Not so easy to do that in Pasadena or Laguna Niguel.) This is obviously one reason (besides the fact that, uh, Hollywood’s there) noir has historically been Los-Angeles-centered. I hope to have something more intelligent to say about this in a later post; want to read Frank Kermode (styled by a catty professor friend "the finest mind ever to have emerged from the Isle of Man") first.

At any rate, to close up the Petersburg thoughts I would only add that stories and poetry, once written, themselves enter into the mythology of a city, and so the loop continues (especially in the case of Russian writers, who are notoriously “intertextual,” but also true of writers of noir). In the Russian case I'd imagine the vodka probably helped, too—or in any case couldn’t have hurt.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:10 PM

      ( 4:08 PM ) The Rat  
Incidentally no, I'm not going to be posting to this every 19 seconds—the log-times are from revamping my accounts to sign off with this nom de plume rather than under my own name—which, as my ex-roommate has pointed out, "sounds kind of foofy." (A case of the pot calling the kettle African-American, if there ever was one.) As to how I came to be known as "The Rat"—I'll tell you when you're older.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:08 PM

      ( 3:58 PM ) The Rat  
Oh, and also, am I the only person still living who's into SnarfQuest? Just thought I'd ask. Though unfortunately none of the best strips (with the Death Leech who guiltily goes vegetarian after acquiring telepathic powers) are online. Creator Larry Elmore, quoted at the time: "Usually, I have no idea what is going to happen until I sit down to draw the next section. I just try to think of a logical flow of events, then find a stupid way to arrive at the same conclusions."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:58 PM

      ( 3:58 PM ) The Rat  
From the NYTBR, 10/26/1986: "Did you ever read the late Anatole Broyard's review of that book? It was called 'Iris Murdoch Makes It Fun to Be Smart'; here's a sample paragraph: In one of her books a character says that 'human beings are essentially finders of substitutes.' There's a lovely pathos in that idea, just the opposite of the American slogan, 'Accept no substitutes,' which smacks of narrow-mindedness and conceit. Wouldn't we all be happier if American novelists occasionally let their characters accept a few substitutes?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:58 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  
Almost done with the Brothers Karamazov section of my Dostoevsky book. Okay, it's not a book, just one of these copyright-violation-fest whirlwind-tour-of-the-Western-canon study guides. I get 1,200 words per to sum up the four major novels, but could of course do it in six: "Once upon a time everybody died." Karamazov, his masterwork, is slightly more ambitious: "Once upon a time they both wanted to sleep with her, and then everybody died." Fantastic things, beyond what books could or should be. Read 'em.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

A page I'm starting to get the overlords at to stop $#@! bugging me

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