The Rat
Thursday, November 30, 2006
      ( 7:16 PM ) The Rat  
"Jean-Paul Sartre said that acting was happy agony... But he said that about everything."
—Meryl Streep at this afternoon's $#@! awesome lecture

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:16 PM

      ( 10:53 AM ) The Rat  
VIA JOHN DERBYSHIRE, a hilarious excerpt from Wikipedia's article on Irish playwright Brendan Behan. Thanks to ET for flagging this.

He had long been a heavy drinker (describing himself, on one occasion, as 'a drinker with a writing problem' and claiming 'I only drink on two occasions—when I'm thirsty and when I'm not') and developed diabetes in the early 1960s. [...] His last words were to several nuns standing over his bed, 'God bless you, may your sons all be bishops.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 AM

      ( 10:48 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 AM

      ( 10:45 AM ) The Rat  

A former strip club waitress was sentenced Wednesday to five years of supervised release after she pleaded guilty to mailing threatening letters and flammable material, including condoms filled with a potentially explosive mixture, court documents said.

The documents said Kimberly Lynn Dasilva, 49, of Hull, mailed the condoms to a television station, strip clubs where she had worked and other places, saying she was tired of being mistreated by men...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:45 AM

      ( 6:59 AM ) The Rat  
CONFUCIUS REIGNS IN CHINESE PRISON REHABILITATION. Hmm... (Go here for a primer on Confucius and Chinese views on education.)

Changchun Beijiao prison in the northeastern province of Jilin had organised a "Confucian Classroom" and installed closed circuit televisions beaming the ancient sage's thoughts into cells, the Beijing News said.

"The studies of Chinese traditional culture can help inmates cultivate virtues and form good behaviours," the Beijing News quoted prison warden Yang Mingchang, as saying.

Once denounced as feudalistic by fervent Communist Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution in Mao-era China, Confucius's 2,500-year-old ideas of filial piety and respect for education have made a comeback in China since the 1990s..

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:59 AM

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
      ( 11:23 PM ) The Rat  
THINGS YOU CAN'T BUY ONLINE, AND WHY, courtesy of the IHT (by way of ET). To anyone who's ever spent much time thinking about why people purchase extremely high-end or "exclusive" products (hey—I used to be in advertising, all right?!), it actually makes a lot of sense why companies would want to restrict Internet sales (or availability in general) of their goods. I can't find a copy online, but some magazine—Business Week?—had an excellent article, a couple of years ago, about how the company TimBuk2 had begun making their messenger bags available at big-box retailers like Best Buy... only to be rewarded with a dramatic slump in sales. When they regrouped, reconsidered their target audience, and went back to offering the bags only through specialty stores like REI—the bags promptly returned to being a status commodity hipsters would want to buy. This is really only illogical if you think people buy things only for utility... I've always felt that mail-order innovator J. Peterman came much closer to the truth when he wrote: "Clearly, people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were."

For another example of a product made more precious through exclusivity, consider high-end moisturizer La Mer's "The Essence," which costs $2,600 for a three-week supply, and is available by invitation only.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:23 PM

      ( 7:56 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:03 PM ) The Rat  

As the rising sun danced across Florida's coastal waters, government workers in shorts and T-shirts knelt in a grassy island field and plucked wriggling rats from traps laid the night before. These weren't just any rats. They were 3-pound, 35-inch-long African behemoths...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:03 PM

      ( 3:58 PM ) The Rat  

The longstanding advice to "sit up straight" has been turned on its head by a new study that suggests leaning back is a much better posture.

Researchers analyzed different postures and concluded that the strain of sitting upright for long hours is a perpetrator of chronic back problems...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:58 PM

      ( 3:01 PM ) The Rat  

The picture is a modified copy of one [Babbitt] was forced to paint in 1944 as part of Josef Mengele's murderous theorizing about racial differences. Mengele had plucked Babbitt, a Czech Jew, from a group headed to the gas chambers [at Auschwitz] and ordered the artist to produce portraits of doomed Gypsies that would capture skin tone better than his photographs did.

In 1973, Babbitt was stunned to learn that seven of those nine watercolors had survived and were in the museum at the former concentration camp in Poland. Since then, she has been trying to retrieve them—a quest that raises painful questions about ownership of the products of slave labor as well as the artworks' role in documenting Holocaust history...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:01 PM

      ( 2:26 PM ) The Rat  
FROM A CONVERSATION WITH MY MOM YESTERDAY. A loose translation. (Ratty's parents live abroad.)

Ratty's mom. So, you know Dad is going to be a volunteer probation officer.

Ratty. Uh...?

Ratty's mom. Yeah, the director of the prison talked him into it. I mean, I was sort of against it, actually, because you know he might have to spend a lot of money...

Ratty. Why? ...Oh, you mean like, to travel to meet with the people, or—?

Ratty's mom. Oh no, it's not that, it's just—well, you know how we Taiwanese are, everything is oriented around food... So when he's checking up on the people assigned to him, he's going to have to take them out for lunch and stuff like that.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:26 PM

      ( 10:59 AM ) The Rat  
YOU MUST READ this week's horoscopes! Seriously, one of the best weeks I can remember. (Focus Groups Hated It Right Up Until Guy's Head Got Cut Off is also pretty good.)

Your Birthday Today: For the fifth month in a row, you will be forced to deal with your abandonment issues completely alone.

Aries: While others frequently refer to you as a sex machine, the label is sadly based on your cold, almost mechanical execution of the physical act.

Scorpio: Covered only partially in Vaseline and shrieking nearly coherent obscenities about the Jews, you'll be amazed by the amount of progress you've made since entering therapy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:59 AM

      ( 12:10 AM ) The Rat  

[T]he BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action produced evidence yesterday that it was being used by some Muslims as an alternative to English criminal law. Aydarus Yusuf, 29, a youth worker from Somalia, recalled a stabbing case that was decided by an unofficial Somali "court" sitting in Woolwich, south-east London.

Mr Yusuf said a group of Somali youths were arrested on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. The victim's family told the police it would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail.

A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate their victim. "All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:10 AM

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
      ( 7:45 PM ) The Rat  

A man broke into a barn on Thanksgiving morning, spray-painted three pet goats and scattered pages of pornographic magazines on the floor, apparently to harass the property owner, police said Tuesday.

Drew Gagnon, 37, of Mahopac, was arrested the next day and was charged with burglary, criminal trespass and animal cruelty, said Lt. Brian Karst, of the Carmel police force.

"Obviously it's not an occurrence you see every day," Karst said. "I think it was a situation where this harassment got out of hand."

Karst said he did not know specifically how the goats were harmed, but The Journal News reported on its Web site that a veterinarian said the goats became sick after eating the magazine pages...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:45 PM

      ( 7:43 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:43 PM

      ( 12:45 PM ) The Rat  
You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman... Stuff you pay good money for in later life.
—Emo Philips

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 PM

      ( 11:24 AM ) The Rat  
TWITTER.COM. Disturbing.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:24 AM

      ( 8:33 AM ) The Rat  

In a country where many survive on 30 cents a day, Papy Mosengo is flashing $1,000 worth of designer clothing on his back, from the Dolce & Gabbana cap and Versace stretch shirt to his spotless white Gucci loafers.

"It makes me feel so good to dress this way," the 30-year-old said when asked about such conspicuous consumption in a city beset by unemployment, crime and homelessness. "It makes me feel special."

But Mosengo can scarcely afford this passion for fashion.

He doesn't own a car. He lets an ex-girlfriend support their 5-year-old son and still lives with his parents, sleeping in a dingy, blue-walled bedroom that is more aptly described as a closet with a mattress.

Friends, family and his new girlfriend implore Mosengo to stop pouring all his money into clothes and liquidate the closet.

Mosengo won't budge. "This is just what I am," he said from behind a pair of oversized white Gucci sunglasses. "I'm a Sape."

Mosengo is part of a fashion cult born decades ago in this Central African nation, its name drawn from French slang for clothes.

Before bling and ghetto fabulous, before the dawn of the metrosexual, Congolese men have been pushing the limits of outlandish fashion and heterosexual male vanity, roaming the streets like walking advertisements for the world's top labels. These fashionistas were donning fur coats and gaudy jewels as early as the 1970s, when American hip-hop star Sean Combs was still accessorizing with a grade-school lunchbox...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:33 AM

Monday, November 27, 2006
      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  
A PILL TO FORGET? Handy for after the dip you loaned your Enzo to totals it...

Last Sept. 30, Beatriz was driving her normal route on the Red Line in Boston when one of her worst fears came to pass: "Upon entering one of the busiest stations, a man jumped in front of my train, to commit suicide," she explains.

Beatriz saw the man jump. "We sort of made eye contact and then I felt the thud from him hitting the train and then the crackling sound underneath the train and, then, of course, my heart starts thumping," she recalls.

"She came into our emergency room afterwards, very upset. No physical injury. Entirely a psychological trauma," says Dr. Roger Pitman, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School who has studied and treated patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, for 25 years.

"They're caught up so much with this past event that it's constantly in their mind," Pitman explains. "They're living it over and over and over as if it's happening again. And they just can't get involved in real life."

When Beatriz arrived in the emergency room, Pitman enrolled her in an experimental study of a drug called propranolol, a medication commonly used for high blood pressure... and unofficially for stage fright. Pitman thought it might do something almost magical—trick Beatriz’s brain into making a weaker memory of the event she had just experienced...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 PM

      ( 7:27 PM ) The Rat  
OH NO! Another Enzo crash.

Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov was placed into a coma after suffering severe burns when the Ferrari he was driving crashed and burst into flames in Nice on the French Riviera on Nov. 25.

The 40-year-old businessman, worth $7.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, was speeding and weaving through traffic when he lost control of a black Ferrari Enzo on the Promenade des Anglais, the boulevard that runs along the Nice shoreline as he was speeding, said the policeman in Nice who is heading the investigation into the crash.

Kerimov, who arrived in Nice on a private jet with his friend Tina Kondelaki, a Russian television presenter, was driving a Ferrari loaned to him by a friend...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:27 PM

      ( 7:25 PM ) The Rat  

We're trying something a little different this year. Instead of reviewing millions of searches in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary to find our most frequently looked-up words, we're asking you to submit your choice for the one single word that sums up 2006. Which one of the hundreds of words you've encountered this year do you think best represents the year now quickly drawing to a close? Maybe it's one you've seen again and again in the headlines of newspapers and magazines, or one that seems to be a particular favorite in the blogosphere, or maybe it's a word you've heard bandied about ad nauseam by various TV and radio pundits...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:25 PM

      ( 6:29 PM ) The Rat  
Maybe a twelvemonth since
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man
And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream:
A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, 'Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.'
—Yeats, from "The Fisherman"

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:29 PM

      ( 6:00 PM ) The Rat  
Mee. Harry Bagot, you're from Luton?

Harry. Yes, Arthur, yeah.

Mee. Now Harry what made you first want to try and start summarizing Proust?

Harry. Well I first entered a seaside Summarizing Proust Competition when I was on holiday in Bournemouth, and my doctor encouraged me with it.

Mee. And Harry, what are your hobbies outside summarizing?

Harry. Well, strangling animals, golf and masturbating.

Mee. Well, thank you Harry Bagot.

[Harry walks off-stage. Music and applause.]

Voice Over. Well there he goes. Harry Bagot. He must have let himself down a bit on the hobbies, golf's not very popular around here, but never mind, a good try...

—Monty Python, "The All-England Summarize Proust Competition"

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:00 PM

Sunday, November 26, 2006
      ( 9:28 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 5:31 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 5:22 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:22 AM

      ( 5:15 AM ) The Rat  

Two employees of the city's ice skating rink have been fired for making a midnight fast-food run in a pair of Zambonis...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 AM

      ( 4:19 AM ) The Rat  
But... but Chef, you say... how do they make the food so tall? How can I make my breast of chicken and mashed potatoes tower like a fully engorged priapus over my awed and cowering guests?
—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:19 AM

Saturday, November 25, 2006
      ( 1:03 PM ) The Rat  
I'd have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.
—Yeats (last two lines of this poem)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:03 PM

      ( 12:08 PM ) The Rat  
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn...
—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 PM

      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  
Totsky and the general exchanged glances once again; Ganya stirred convulsively.

"It would be nice to play some petit jeu," said the sprightly lady.

"I know an excellent and new petit jeu," Ferdyshchenko picked up, "at least one that happened only once in the world, and even then it didn't succeed."

"What was it?" the sprightly lady asked.

"A company of us got together once, and we drank a bit, it's true, and suddenly somebody suggested that each of us, without leaving the table, tell something about himself, but something that he himself, in good conscience, considered the worst of all the bad things he'd done in the course of his whole life; and that it should be frank, above all, that it should be frank, no lying!"

"A strange notion!" said the general.

"Strange as could be, Your Excellency, but that's what was good about it."

"A ridiculous idea," said Totsky, "though understandable: a peculiar sort of boasting."

"Maybe that's just what they wanted, Afanasy Ivanovich."

"One is more likely to cry than laugh at such a petit jeu," the sprightly lady observed.

"An utterly impossible and absurd thing," echoed Ptitsyn.

"And was it a success?" asked Nastasya Filippovna.

"The fact is that it wasn't, it turned out badly, people actually told all sorts of things, many told the truth, and, imagine, many even enjoyed the telling, but then they all felt ashamed, they couldn't stand it! On the whole, though, it was quite amusing—in its own way, that is."

The Idiot

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 PM

Friday, November 24, 2006
      ( 10:19 AM ) The Rat  
How can he assess his life so harshly and ungratefully, when he is here with her, when she is so deeply kind, and a whole new year is upon them like a long, cheap buffet?
—Lorrie Moore, "Beautiful Grade" (in this anthology)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:19 AM

      ( 9:22 AM ) The Rat  

Also check out Turkeys Try for Fast Train Out of Jersey.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:22 AM

Thursday, November 23, 2006
      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
It is one of the central ironies of my career that as soon as I got off heroin, things started getting really bad...
—Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
      ( 3:37 PM ) The Rat  

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Monday, November 20, 2006
      ( 12:03 PM ) The Rat  
"WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE..." (Go here and follow the link in the second column.) From an £85,000 white truffle to £76 marmalade to £20,000 for a hotel room... as Garfield once said, it's amazing what people would rather have than money.

On a related note, here are the current rankings for the world's most expensive cities. No. 1 is probably not what you're expecting.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 PM

      ( 12:46 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:44 AM ) The Rat  
The best times were the days—the late mornings and the afternoons away from the world in a pool hall. 'Let everything else revolve,' you would think, 'I've gone fishin'. I am nowhere to be found. I am nowhere. No one can find me here.'
—David Mamet, "Pool Halls"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:44 AM

Sunday, November 19, 2006
      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  
KUDOS TO ANDREA BOCELLI, if this report is true (scroll down a bit). Though in that case, of course, it does make you wonder what he was doing at the wedding in the first place.

Opera singer Andrea Bocelli refused to sing "Ave Maria" at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' crazy wedding on Saturday. The reason: He didn’t want to disrespect the Roman Catholic Church.

That makes him the only Catholic who actually took a stand as Cruise, who was born Catholic, orchestrated a non-Catholic Church sanctioned wedding right in the Vatican’s backyard. Not even Holmes' poor parents, whose other three daughters were married in the faith, could put a stop to the proceedings...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 PM

      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  
MACARTHUR GENIUS GRANT GOES RIGHT UP RECIPIENT'S NOSE. From several years ago, but this one really never gets old for me... I mean, isn't that what we all would do with a MacArthur genius grant?? Via the Onion, of course.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 PM

      ( 10:18 AM ) The Rat  

China will restrict broadcast reporting on vicious crimes so the country's young people have a healthier media environment, the Beijing government says.

"We must not let improper crime reporting harm young minds," said Zhang Haitao, vice director of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:18 AM

      ( 10:17 AM ) The Rat  
FIRST BOOK. Provides books to children from low-income families.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 AM

      ( 10:08 AM ) The Rat  
HOSPITAL PLANS TO SET UP BABY HATCH. This is actually from a few weeks ago. It reminded me immediately of a photograph I'd seen of "Le Tour d'abandon", a 19th-century device now part of the permanent collections at the Musée de l'assistance publique (museum chronicling the history of Paris's hospitals, from the Middle Ages on). No doubt there are equivalents in countries all over the world—but surely they're especially useful in cultures such as Japan's (see the last sentence of the excerpt below). (By contrast, adoption is actually a pretty strongly established practice in Chinese culture... not that we can exactly brag about our record when it comes to infanticide though, sigh.)

A Japanese hospital plans to set up the country's first "baby hatch" where mothers can drop off unwanted babies, who could then be offered for adoption.

Jikei Hospital in southern Japan said it plans to install what it is calling a "stork's cradle," consisting of a flap in an outside wall which opens on to a small incubated bed.

An alarm bell would ring within minutes after a baby was deposited so hospital staff could come and care for the infant. [...]

Adoptions are relatively rare in Japan, while there is little resistance on religious grounds to abortions.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:08 AM

Saturday, November 18, 2006
      ( 3:39 AM ) The Rat  
AS PARIS HILTON WOULD SAY, 'THAT'S HOT.' Just hit me yesterday morning that in all the years since I first read it, I never have remembered to post this passage, from Philip Roth's The Counterlife. I find this brilliant on so many levels...

Then one evening after work, as Wendy was cleaning his tray and he was routinely washing up, he turned to her and, because there simply seemed no way around it any longer, he began to laugh. 'Look,' he said, 'let's pretend. You're the assistant and I'm the dentist.' 'But I am the assistant,' Wendy said. 'I know,' he replied, 'and I'm the dentist—but pretend anyway.' 'And so,' Henry had told Nathan, 'that's what we did.' 'You played Dentist,' Zuckerman said. 'I guess so,' Henry said, '—she pretended she was called 'Wendy,' and I pretended I was called 'Dr. Zuckerman,' and we pretended we were in my dental office. And then we pretended to fuck—and we fucked.' 'Sounds interesting,' Zuckerman said. 'It was, it was wild, it made us crazy—it was the strangest thing I'd ever done. We did it for weeks, pretended like that, and she kept saying, 'Why is it so exciting when all we're pretending to be is what we are?'

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:39 AM

      ( 3:34 AM ) The Rat  
FWIW, JUST GOING BY THE BITS I SAW, the Ambroise Vollard show at the Met is pretty fantastic—tons and tons of Cezannes (indeed, more than I saw during my entire Paris trip), Picassos, etc. Leave several hours for it, though, and make sure your brain is on that day (mine wasn't, so I'm going to have to go back—on the plus side, it doesn't leave till January).

Ambroise Vollard was a legend in his own lifetime. In 1887, at the age of 29, he arrived in Paris from Ile-de-la-Réunion, a remote French colony east of Madagascar, and soon made his reputation by presenting a Paul Cézanne retrospective that was possibly the most important exhibition of the 1890s. Cézanne's work was virtually unknown in Paris at the time, and Vollard took a significant financial risk in showcasing the 150 paintings that he displayed. The exhibition proved to be a success; many of the works sold, Cézanne's place in the pantheon of modern art was firmly established, and Vollard soon became the leading contemporary art dealer of his generation. He had a unique—some thought eccentric—approach to selling art, frequently dozing in his gallery, making a point of not showing his clients what they asked to see, and concealing most of his paintings behind a divider at the back of his shop. As the principal dealer of Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and a number of Fauve artists, as well as an early supporter of the Nabis, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso, Vollard played a key role in shaping the history of modern art.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 AM

      ( 3:28 AM ) The Rat  
GRAD-SCHOOL SEMINARS WOULD BE SO MUCH MORE LIVELY if we were allowed to say things like this. This is Tammam ibn Ghalib al-Farazdaq addressing an inferior poet, as quoted in Tarif Khalidi's Arabic Historical Thought.

Poetry was once a magnificent camel. Then, one day, it was slaughtered. So Imr'ul Qays came and took his head, 'Amr ibn Kulthum took his hump, Zuhayr the shoulders, al-A'sha and Nabigha the thighs, and Tarafa and Labid the stomach. There remained only the forearms and the offal, which we split among ourselves. The butcher then said, 'Hey you, there remains only the blood and impurities. See that I get them.' 'They are yours,' we replied. So we took the stuff, cooked it, ate it and excreted it. Your verses are from the excrement of that butcher.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:28 AM

      ( 3:02 AM ) The Rat  
END OF AN ERA HITS THE PALM. Boo! What could be more SoCal than palms?! They're also a symbol of resurrection (and thus of Christ). Good luck packing all that into a sycamore.

Its streets aren't paved with gold. For nearly a century, though, Los Angeles' roadways have been lined by what some say is the next best thing.

But with a City Council vote earlier this week, the reign of the fan palm—that tall, skinny, bush-headed tree that is symbol of L.A.'s balmy, postcard lifestyle—is waning.

Los Angeles leaders have halted the placement of the skinny, frond-topped fan palm on parkways, median strips and other city-owned property where nearly 75,000 of them now grow.

Instead, the city will only plant sycamores, oaks and other leafy native species that will contribute shade, collect rainwater and help release oxygen across the Los Angeles basin.

The fan palm may be an emblematic part of Los Angeles, but its skimpy canopy is cheating city dwellers from the benefit of real trees, City Council members say.

That's because palms "are technically a type of grass and not trees," as a unanimously approved council resolution put it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:02 AM

Friday, November 17, 2006
      ( 12:11 AM ) The Rat  

To get proper care for their severely autistic son, an Irvine couple claim they were forced to shower employees at his elementary school with $100,000 in diamond jewelry, Coach bags, Chanel perfume and other lavish gifts, according to a legal claim filed this month.

Thomas Lin, a pediatrician, and his wife, Liya, a homemaker, also purchased and furnished a condo that a teacher's newlywed daughter and husband lived in rent-free for a year before moving out with the furniture, according to the claim filed Nov. 2 against the Irvine Unified School District and the Orange County Department of Education...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:11 AM

Thursday, November 16, 2006
      ( 10:55 PM ) The Rat  

The mother of a Brazilian fashion model who died from complications of anorexia has made an emotional appeal for parents to take better care of aspiring young models.

The death of Ana Carolina Reston, 21, follows growing criticism of the use of underweight models in the fashion world, an issue given new significance after the death in August of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos of heart failure during a fashion show in Montevideo.

Reston died Tuesday in a Sao Paulo hospital from a generalized infection caused by anorexia. Reston weighed only 88 pounds and was about 5 feet 8 inches tall. Doctors consider this weight normal for a 12-year-old girl no more than about 5 feet tall...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:55 PM

      ( 10:50 PM ) The Rat  
OVERHEARD TONIGHT IN MY BUILDING'S ELEVATOR. Conversation between two grad students, both probably in their late 20s or early 30s. Grad student 2 seemed F.O.B. (Indian, I think) and spoke in heavily accented English. Grad student 1 was American. You have to imagine the exchange with the thick Indian accent or it's not as funny.

GS 1. No, I promise—I promise, no one's going to be dating. It's just a party.

GS 2. Well, I...

GS 1. Come on, what's the harm? And hey, it's free! I mean, you come, you hang around a little bit, you go...

GS 2. Yes, well I—the other day, you know, I was just—I was just really bored once Angela left...

GS 1. Well you know—that's good! That's good, because it means—it means you love your wife.

GS 2. Yeah.

GS 1. I mean, I—I just want to, you know, accentuate the positive here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 PM

      ( 3:00 AM ) The Rat  

I bought this soap around Christmas and looked forward to using it every time I got in the shower... until one day it was gone. Since then I've thought "I need to get another bar of that soap" many times. So I know it truly made an impression on me.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:00 AM

      ( 2:47 AM ) The Rat  

This story, about the attempted theft of 700K worth of avocados, is also pretty good.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:47 AM

      ( 2:27 AM ) The Rat  
A MATURING LITTLE SAIGON NOW GIVES CANDIDATES A LONGER LOOK. Little Saigon is about a 15 minutes' drive from Ratty's hometown. Not knowing anything about either of the candidates' platforms, I can't say which I would prefer to see win. However, if the author of this article is right about what's happened in this race, IMO it can only say something good about the assimilation of a[n admittedly already "model"] minority group to mainstream American public life.

It's hard to imagine a candidate like Daucher pounding the Little Saigon pavement a generation ago in search of voters. She might have considered it futile, given her anonymity among them. She probably would have figured she just wouldn't matter to them.

But this year, Lanza says, even without precise vote totals available to him, it's obvious the Vietnamese vote has been crucial to a victory that is within Daucher's reach.

"There weren't enough other votes, because of who the opponent was, to get votes anywhere else," he says. What he means is that Correa is a Democrat in a state Senate district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, 116,200 to 108,800.

"They knew Lou, and they didn't know Lynn," he says.

But this election is not just about Daucher vs. Correa. It's about Little Saigon, and the evolution of yet another immigrant group in America.

I've got a feeling Correa was blindsided by what happened to him in Little Saigon. He had shown up there at various times over the years and had the name recognition of being a county supervisor.

But instead of merely voting for the American name they knew, voters apparently gave the previously unknown Daucher a chance. No doubt, it didn't hurt that she was linked with the successful effort to recognize the former South Vietnamese flag as the symbol of the Vietnamese American community in California.

Morgan, the consultant, thinks Little Saigon officially came of age earlier this year, when in another state Senate race, the losing candidate in a special election carried every other significant voter group except Vietnamese Americans. The candidate lost a close race.

The Daucher-Correa race is but another example, Morgan says. "Every year in the past, candidates have come in and given lip service," he says. That will no longer work, he says...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:27 AM

      ( 1:46 AM ) The Rat  
THIS WEEK'S HOROSCOPES are pretty good ...especially Scorpio.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:46 AM

      ( 1:30 AM ) The Rat  
AS SO OFTEN HAPPENS (shhh!), I'm cheating and blogging something I haven't read... but this article on the links between Kurosawa's work and the no theater, looks interesting. Yukio Mishima wrote some "modern no plays," and I've even read them, but unfortunately I knew nothing about no going in, so was not really able to understand them (though the plot of at least one, was striking enough in and of itself to have lingered in my mind).

The aristocratic lyrical theater of no was established in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and drew for material from many sources. Its form originated in rituals and folk dances. It is essentially a drama of soliloquy without dramatic conflict. In most of the plays, a waki (a "side" or deuteragonist), usually a traveler, visits a famous place where he encounters a local inhabitant, the shite (the "doer" or protagonist), and asks to be told the story associated with the place. At the end of the story, the inhabitant declares that he is the incarnation of the hero of the tale, after which he disappears. After a short interlude, he appears again as the hero in his past form and recounts his experience through songs and dances. Usually, only the main player wears a mask. Accompanying the players, who are all male, are a chorus of eight to ten, a flutist, and drummers. The chorus plays a narrative role, or it may even chant the lines of the main character. The rhythm of the drums and the tension suggested by the flute comprise important elements of the performance. The play is acted with few props, on a raised, resonant, and empty stage...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:30 AM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
      ( 10:04 PM ) The Rat  
THIS ARTICLE about the London premiere of Casino Royale is really only worth reading for the reader comments, my own favorite of which is:

oh dear lord, why is there a blond bond, thats just not right

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:04 PM

      ( 6:28 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:28 PM

      ( 3:50 PM ) The Rat  
Sherston [was] now serving his prison sentence. Rodney was the solicitor who had acted for him at the trial and who also acted for Leslie. He had been very sorry for Leslie, left with two small children and no money. Everybody had been prepared to be sorry for poor Mrs. Sherston and if they had not gone on being quite so sorry that was entirely Leslie Sherston's own fault. Her resolute cheerfulness had rather shocked some people.

'She must, I think,' Joan had said to Rodney, 'be rather insensitive.'

He had replied brusquely that Leslie Sherston had more courage than anyone he had ever come across.

Joan had said, 'Oh, yes, courage. But courage isn't everything!'

'Isn't it?' Rodney had said. He'd said it rather queerly. Then he'd gone off to the office.

—Mary Westmacott (pseudonym of Agatha Christie), Absent in the Spring

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:50 PM

      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  

Insomniac bears are roaming the forests of southwestern Siberia scaring local people as the weather stays too warm for the animals to fall into their usual winter slumber...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:20 PM

      ( 12:39 PM ) The Rat  

A couple's ill-concealed sexual play aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles got them charged with violating the Patriot Act, intended for terrorist acts, and could land them in jail for 20 years.

According to their indictment, Carl Persing and Dawn Sewell were allegedly snuggling and kissing inappropriately, "making other passengers uncomfortable," when a flight attendant asked them to stop.

"Persing was observed nuzzling or kissing Sewell on the neck, and... with his face pressed against Sewell's vaginal area. During these actions, Sewell was observed smiling," reads the indictment filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:39 PM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
      ( 8:03 PM ) The Rat  
BEST IN BOND. Ranking the best/worst Bond girls, and songs. (If you only have time to follow one of the links, make it the 10 Worst Bond Girls.) So far as the "best" are concerned—my favorite chick in a Bond film is probably Grace Jones, who I suppose doesn't count as a Bond girl since she's technically one of the bad guys... Link via ET.

I once told a panel of fellowship-competition judges that the two largest cultural influences on me, growing up, had been Confucius and Ian Fleming. Only one of the judges laughed. However, I did win the fellowship.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:03 PM

      ( 7:48 PM ) The Rat  
LATRINE PRACTICES POSED HEALTH RISKS TO SECT. God, I live for news stories like this.

Following directions in the Dead Sea Scrolls, archeologists have found the latrines used by the sect that produced the scrolls, discovering that efforts to achieve ritual purity inadvertently exposed members to intestinal parasites that shortened their lives.

The young male zealots who established their sect at Qumran chose a life of austerity and isolation, but they could not have foreseen the hardships created by their religiously imposed toilet practices, researchers said Monday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:48 PM

      ( 4:07 PM ) The Rat  
WHY EMAIL IS ADDICTIVE. Some interesting observations here, though not as many useful/practicable strategies.

One suprising finding [of behaviourism] is that if you want to train an animal to do something, consistently rewarding that behaviour isn't the best way. The most effective training regime is one where you give the animal a reward only sometimes, and then only at random intervals. Animals trained like this, with what's called a 'variable interval reinforcement schedule,' work harder for their rewards, and take longer to give up once all rewards for the behaviour is removed. There's a logic to this. Although we might know that we've stopped rewarding the animal, it has got used to performing the behaviour and not getting the reward. Because 'next time' might always be the occasion that produces the reward, there's never definite evidence that rewards have stopped altogether.

We're animals—we have animal brains. All animal brains have the circuitry in place for producing operant conditioning. It's a fundamental psychological process, and just the sort that can create behaviours what operate automatically, or in spite of our consciously telling ourselves we should do otherwise. Like me checking my checking my email. Checking email is a behaviour that has variable interval reinforcement. Sometimes, but not every time, the behaviour produces a reward. Everyone loves to get an email from a friend, or some good news, or even an amusing web link. Sometimes checking your email will get you one of these rewards. And because you can never tell which time you check will produce the reward, checking all the time is reinforced, even if most of the time checking your email turns out to have been pointless. You still check because you never know when the reward will come...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:07 PM

      ( 3:34 PM ) The Rat  
Ancient Romans did not go around saying "Boy, this decline and fall is really the pits," but then they didn't have cable.
—Florence King in National Review

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 PM

      ( 2:19 PM ) The Rat  

The "C-list Celebrity Killer" is believed to have claimed as his first victim, Sabrina The Teenage Witch's Melissa Joan Hart, whose body was discovered floating near the Long Beach docks eight months ago, although some following the case believe that Jackie "The Jokeman" Martling's apparent suicide in April 2005 was the killer's handiwork as well.

"As a profiler, I really try to get inside the killer's head, see the world as he would see it," Javers said. "Who's out of the public eye and for how long? Have they done any long-distance phone commercials? Are they trying to lose weight on reality TV programs?"

"I'd also keep a very close eye on Yasmine Bleeth, the brunette from Baywatch who's not Carmen Electra," he added...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:19 PM

      ( 1:25 PM ) The Rat  
VERBAL RORSCHACH. Yesterday, one of Ratty's profs basically went berserk on the subject of English expressions that can be—to put it kindly—slightly opaque. She meant things like "an old chestnut," or even "Life is just a bowl of cherries." My favorite, however, was "The world is my oyster"—because it turned out that nearly everyone in the class thought they knew what it meant... but in actual fact, everybody's explanation was different! Some of the suggestions included—an oyster contains a pearl, thus is a thing to treasure; an oyster is tasty, thus is a thing to treasure; etc. Personally, I had always thought it meant a sense of confidence and at-home-ness, something like, "I am as comfortable in the world as an oyster in its shell"—though when I mentioned this to ET, she said scornfully, "I think you're getting it mixed up with 'happy as a clam'!"

Anyway, so I just tried the Oxford English Dictionary on this one. And as so often in these cases, it's Shakespeare's fault; the OED notes that the earliest appearance of the phrase appears to have been in Act II, scene ii, of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Why, then the world's mine oyster.
Which I with sword will open.

From the OED entry: "the world is one's oyster (in allusion to the possibility of finding a pearl in an oyster): one is in a position to profit from the opportunities that life, or a particular situation, may offer."

There, now you should be able to sleep nights...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 PM

      ( 11:13 AM ) The Rat  
MANY THANKS TO MLY for telling me about then-president Kingman Brewster's 1967 letter on the qualities Yale should be seeking in its applicants, available here. It's not often I have anything nice to say about the Yale administration today, but it's to their credit that they still look upon this as a valuable document.

We want Yale men to be leaders in their generation. This means we want as many of them as possible to become truly outstanding in whatever they undertake. It may be in the art and science of directing the business or public life of the country, or it may be in the effort to improve the quality of the nation's life by the practice of one of the professions or the advancement of art or science or learning. While we cannot purport to pick seventeen and eighteen year olds in terms of their career aims, we do have to make the hunchy judgment as to whether or not with Yale's help the candidate is likely to be a leader in whatever he ends up doing. The fact that we cannot tell with any assurance does not mean we can avoid making the evaluation. The admissions decision cannot be either mechanical or riskless...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:13 AM

      ( 9:51 AM ) The Rat  
THE HEADLINES ON THE PENIS-ENLARGEMENT SPAM I GET have really been upping the ante lately. The latest:

"Make your dick longer than the Great China Wall with Penis Enlarge Patch."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 AM

      ( 9:46 AM ) The Rat  

Women can be allergic to sex with men, but doctors are finding women can overcome this allergy through regular sex combined with treatments derived from semen...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 AM

Monday, November 13, 2006
      ( 5:05 AM ) The Rat  
REVIEW OF A BOOK in which Robert Irwin takes a whack at Said! Again, I haven't read Said—but I have read Irwin (this, and the annotations to this), and everything of his I've seen is responsible, FWIW. Thanks to ET for the link.

Dangerous Knowledge is appropriately full of knowledge, carefully presented. In antiquity, for instance, the culture of the Middle East wasn't regarded by outsiders as a wholly alien "Other": Aeschylus' "The Persians" sympathetically portrays the empire that only seven years previous had tried to conquer Greece; the Roman emperor Philip was an Arab; Islam was often regarded as just a variant of the Arian heresy (which denied the divinity of Christ). During the Middle Ages, Arabic texts introduced Euclid's mathematics to the West. Avicenna and Averroes were major interpreters of Aristotle. Moorish Spain was a center of unrivalled learning. As for the Crusades, well, the sultan of Egypt sarcastically observed that he was surprised "that Christian Crusaders should seek to imitate the violent ways of Muhammad, rather than the peaceful preaching of Christ and his Apostles."

Edward Said portrays Ernest Renan and the Count de Gobineau as arch-villains, but Irwin takes pains to show that the former's romantic generalities—about, say, the desert as the land of monotheism—were dismissed by true scholars, while the latter's racism was far different from what Said describes. (Irwin suggests that Said never actually read Gobineau.) Moreover, the 19th century was legitimately exploring the whole issue of race, with some people arguing, like Renan, that mixing ethnicities avoided softness and decadence, while others, like Gobineau, maintained that such mongrelization led to degeneracy (colonization, was, therefore, an "appetizing dish, but one which poisons those who consume it"). Even England's greatest Orientalist, William Robertson Smith, the editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, was a racist: He thought the Arabs were superior to the Europeans...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:05 AM

      ( 4:07 AM ) The Rat  
Secretary [holding hand to phone receiver]. I think he wants to talk to you.
Mr. Rumbold. Well, who is it?
Secretary. He sounds like a Japanese with his head stuck in a bucket.
Are You Being Served?

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:07 AM

Sunday, November 12, 2006
      ( 11:00 PM ) The Rat  
ON A PAINFULLY EARNEST NOTE. A quote that, for various reasons, I've had on my mind today; it's from the notes Ayn Rand made while writing The Fountainhead. I stopped being an Objectivist many years ago now, but everything that drew me to Rand in the first place, and everything I've always believed should determine the life, love, and work one should strive for—is contained in this quote. That's to say... I believe we should seek not the life (or person, or work) that is most guaranteed to make us happy, or be easiest to live with—but only the one that is most honest, most full: that calls upon the largest portion of ourselves. I fell in love with this quote the moment I first saw it; it is one of the only things I believed when I was 15 that I still believe another 15 years on...

Is our life ever to have any reality? Are we ever going to live on the level? Or is life always to be something else, something different from what it should be? A real life, simple and sincere, and even naive, is the only life where all the potential grandeur and beauty of human existence can really be found. Are there real reasons for accepting the alternative, that which we have today?

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 PM

      ( 6:47 AM ) The Rat  

For years, Ha and other agitators have pushed for human rights and a two-party system in one of the world's last remaining communist states. Working through grass-roots cells as their forefathers once did to defeat French and U.S. troops, they chronicle Communist Party wrongdoing—such as corruption, embezzlement and land grabs—and recruit new members.

Now Vietnamese democracy activists sense unprecedented opportunities to publicize their plight—and take their underground fight to the streets. This week, President Bush and other world leaders will visit Vietnam for this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi. The high-profile gathering comes as the U.S. Congress is contemplating lifting trade restrictions against the former enemy state, some dating to the Vietnam War era, and as the country is poised to join the World Trade Organization.

"In the last 10 months alone, the situation in Vietnam has changed more than in the entire past 10 years," said Diem Do, the Orange County-based chairman of Viet Tan, or the Revolutionary Party to Reform Vietnam. "Overnight, new pro-democracy groups have sprung up to challenge the government's monopoly on power."

Dissidents know their window of opportunity may be short. Wary of negative publicity, government agents have backed off on their harassment of activists. And three Vietnam-born U.S. citizens who had been accused of plotting violence against the Hanoi government were given light sentences last week and ordered deported. But it's anyone's guess how quickly the strong-arm tactics will return, dissidents say...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 AM

      ( 5:08 AM ) The Rat  

A Florida voter may have unwittingly lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by using an extremely rare stamp to mail an absentee ballot in Tuesday's congressional election, a government official said on Friday.

The 1918 Inverted Jenny stamp, which takes its name from an image of a biplane accidentally printed upside-down, turned up on Tuesday night in Fort Lauderdale, where election officials were inspecting ballots from parts of south Florida, Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom told Reuters.

Only 100 of the stamps have ever been found, making them one of the top prizes of all philately...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:08 AM

      ( 4:40 AM ) The Rat  
DIDN'T GET A CHANCE to mention this the other day, but while I was browsing the IMDB page for Rashômon after watching it, I was amused by the comment somebody had left along the lines of, "A great movie, though somewhat hampered by having no sympathetic characters." I found all of the characters sympathetic! But then I bet whoever wrote that comment probably wouldn't like Dostoevsky either.

By the way the main flaw in Rashômon, I thought, was that it was perhaps overloaded from trying to tackle too many of the big issues... although that's also one of the things that makes it interesting. Take a combination of the metaphysical world of Lear, the character-motivation of Iago (what somebody-or-other—Harold Goddard?—called "moral pyromania"), and throw in what seems to me an enormous, and under-addressed, theme: what men and women expect from each other (I don't mean primarily on an individual level—I mean, what a man expects women to be, and be like; and what a woman expects men to be and be like) ...add in an incredible filmmaker, and you'd have this movie.

See it on a big screen, by the way—that's what I did. I hope to see the rest of Kurosawa that way as well.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:40 AM

      ( 4:32 AM ) The Rat  
"WORKING-CLASS PLAYWRIGHT" (a.k.a. "Coal Mining"), on YouTube. An old favorite. Thanks to Zorak for linking it—I never even thought to look on YouTube for Python!

While you're there, here are the "Argument Clinic", "Cheese Shop", and "Four Yorkshiremen" sketches.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:32 AM

Saturday, November 11, 2006
      ( 1:34 PM ) The Rat  
ACTUAL TITLE of a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, last year. I found this while looking for something else, honest.

"Why do women get depressed and men get drunk? An examination of attributional style and coping style in response to negative life events among Canadian young adults."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:34 PM

      ( 1:22 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY will be meeting with the first of a dozen applicants for admission to her alma mater, tomorrow—so if anybody out there has any wacky interview-question suggestions, do drop me a line!

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:22 PM

      ( 11:52 AM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING. Just came upon the expression "truth dumping" (also called, generally in medical contexts, "terminal candor"). Neither has made the OED yet, but they ought to—we all do this at least some of the time.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:52 AM

      ( 7:47 AM ) The Rat  

Also check out Dancing Eunuchs Taxing Red-Faced Shopkeepers.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:47 AM

      ( 6:03 AM ) The Rat  
A WAR ONLY HE CAN END. A really powerful article, not so much in what it says about desertion as in what it says about fathers and sons.

Naturally, he wondered why every other kid's dad seemed to have war medals, but not his. In their big extended family, no one ever said a word about what Big Al did during the war.

Moreno was in junior high when he finally thought to ask his mom. She cried and said, "He left." It felt like a sledgehammer between the eyes.

Soon after, his father approached him in the backyard. It was a beautiful day, and their peach tree was full of blossoms. The effort it took his father to speak looked excruciating. He did not volunteer details or explanations.

Moreno would not remember the words they exchanged. But years later he can remember the expression on his father's face, his eyes saying, The punishment goes on and on. Saying, Don't become me.

It should have brought them closer, that meeting, but it did something else. His secret exposed, his oldest son's admiration for him capsized in an instant, Big Al retreated further into booze and work and silence.

Things were different for Moreno too, his father's blood in his veins feeling less like a gift and more like a disease.

He was not like his brothers, who joined the Army for the usual reasons poor boys sign up. Artie was drinking too much and going nowhere and wanted to get out of Dodge. Tony didn't want to go to college and figured he'd be drafted anyway. They both came home with Purple Hearts.

When Al Moreno Jr. joined the Marines in 1968, he had his own reasons. Now and then, huddled with his buddies in a jungle tent, he would speak of the secret his family never breathed. Explain why he strapped on two 200-round bandoleers instead of one, six grenades instead of two. Explain why, despite a congenital hip condition that supplied a ready-made excuse to stay home, he had fought to get here, exactly where no one else wanted to be. Explain that he longed to do something insanely courageous, to win the Medal of Honor...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:03 AM

      ( 5:56 AM ) The Rat  
DON'T CALL ME A HERO, L.A. Times op-ed by a veteran of Iraq.

Less than 1% of our country wears a military uniform; fewer still have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead of being seen as a duty that should be borne by all, military service has been transformed into an elective chosen by the few. Today, with America at war, the burden of service is heavy, but it is not wide. Small military communities such as Oceanside, Calif.; and Clarksville, Tenn., feel the human cost of this war, but they are unusual in America. And so we lavish praise on those who make this decision, regardless of whether their choice is owed to personal patriotism, ambition or a quest for opportunity.

Soldiers and civilians also share a different moral code, something highlighted by those different definitions of heroism. Soldiers exist for their team; they will do anything for love of their brothers and sisters in uniform. Civilians, by contrast, live for themselves. Americans have become the quintessential rational actors of economic lore—pursuing their self-interest above all else, seeking enrichment and gratification.

To be sure, Americans engage in a great deal of altruism, and this is to be praised too. But the sporadic acts of selfless service performed by civilians cannot compare to the life of service chosen by our military personnel.

So when civilians approach us in airports and cafes to thank us for our service, it frequently causes some degree of discomfort and alienation. Although grateful for the warm reception, many of us don't know how to respond. Our service means a great deal to us. We will never forget the sacrifices, hardships or experiences we had in combat, nor will we ever forget those with whom we served. But I have never felt that such service merits praise, and certainly not the label of heroism.

I judge myself by the code of a warrior. That ethos demands selfless service, not aggrandizement. It praises the team, not the individual. And it saves its highest accolades for those who distinguish themselves through extraordinary acts of valor. As veterans, we know the real heroes among us; many of them did not come home. Awarding this distinction to everyone cheapens the accomplishments of those who earned it—and makes the rest of us feel guilty that we have somehow stolen recognition from the worthy...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:56 AM

Friday, November 10, 2006
      ( 11:53 PM ) The Rat  
"We all want to forget something, so we tell stories. It's easier that way."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 PM

      ( 11:48 PM ) The Rat  
JACK PALANCE has died.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 PM

      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  
PEOPLE ARE STRANGE. Don't miss the photo gallery!

Dr. Lance Adams preps for surgery, snapping on latex gloves under a clear blue sky.

Nearby, a medical team wearing hooded wetsuits administers underwater anesthesia. Members of the team hoist the doped patient out of the pool and muscle her onto a makeshift operating table.

Adams, gripping sterile scissors, confers with various specialists on respiration rates and oxygen levels.

"How's her gilling?" he calls out to his dozen colleagues clad in black rubber.

He's about to mend a wound with the aid of boat glue, rubber bands and Popsicle sticks. A baby diaper will be employed. Also a garden hose.

In this watery wing of surgery, it takes high-tech medicine and ingenuity to give a fish a nose job...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:42 PM

      ( 1:44 PM ) The Rat  
We have a ridiculous fear of one death, we who have already died so many deaths, and still are dying...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:44 PM

      ( 9:37 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:37 AM

      ( 7:13 AM ) The Rat  
YAAH!! Okay, so I pretty much want to put my head in the oven at the horribleness of having to return from palaces and cathedrals to a country with such depressing, Protestant architecture—and after only a week and a half, to boot. (My previous trips were longer.) But still, at least I know the solution isn't this.

It used to drive Jane Genova nuts to take exotic vacations—or even to visit places a lot nicer than her home in Connecticut. Destinations seduced the executive speechwriter and drove her to plot, in detail, ways to stay and make a living in places like Barcelona.

And it made her re-entry back to her normal life something other than a soft landing, even though she enjoys her work. "I slide into an angry depression if I take time off to do something great," she says.

So, Ms. Genova bought a small cottage in a modest neighborhood a few blocks from the shore. She tempered it further by bringing work along. That helped narrow the gap between her work and play, and rid her of the obsession-depression cycle.

"There was no daydreaming," she says. "This was New Jersey." Anything more exotic and she'd make herself vulnerable, even messing up the vacation before she got there...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:13 AM

Thursday, November 09, 2006
      ( 10:30 PM ) The Rat  

A Brooklyn man is facing a felony charge after he allegedly threw his cat out a third-story window last month, officials said yesterday.

Don Carter, 24, defenestrated the 6-pound cat, Midnight, on October 18 after she trespassed into a bedroom where she wasn't supposed to roam, officials said. Agents from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals yesterday arrested Carter, who has a history of convictions for drug crimes.

He faces up to four years in prison on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty, a spokesman for the ASPCA, Joseph Pentangelo, said. Carter was also charged with reckless endangerment because the cat nearly hit a passer-by, he said.

After Carter was arrested, "he became disenchanted with the arrest process and became violent in Central Booking in Brooklyn," Mr. Pentangelo said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:30 PM

      ( 9:58 PM ) The Rat  
BEYOND LAST CALL. The L.A. Times on the joys of late-night diners.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:58 PM

      ( 9:56 PM ) The Rat  
JONAH GOLDBERG on the election.

Philosophers and partisans will debate for years the question of whether Democrats deserved to win the 2006 elections, but let us agree that the Republicans deserved to lose...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 PM

      ( 3:17 PM ) The Rat  

This being Caltech, there is a great emphasis on the science of cooking.

Course professor Thomas Mannion lectured on the "collagen breakdown" of barbecuing meat and recommended the book "Molecular Gastronomy." The course textbook, "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen," was written by Caltech alumnus Harold McGee...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:17 PM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006
      ( 11:15 PM ) The Rat  

A Santa Letter is a personal communication to a child from Santa.

With "Mailed from the North Pole" on the envelope and many personal references in Santa's wonderful letter, the wonderment and believability scale is right on max when Santa's letter lands on the doormat.

We are delighted to offer four grades of the "world's best selling Letter From Santa"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:15 PM

      ( 10:01 PM ) The Rat  

Stone is part of a growing network of people online who've gone a step beyond hotels, hostels and even apartment swapping in their travel planning: They sleep on each others' couches.

A number of Web sites have sprung up to help pair travelers searching for a place to crash and hosts with a spare couch. Sites like,, and are often free, serving only as middlemen and offering tips on how to find successful matches...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:01 PM

      ( 8:02 PM ) The Rat  
You speak. You say: Today's character is not
A skeleton out of its cabinet. Nor am I.

That poem about the pineapple, the one
About the mind as never satisfied,

The one about the credible hero, the one
About summer, are not what skeletons think about.

I wonder, have I lived a skeleton's life,
As a disbeliever in reality,

A countryman of all the bones in the world?
Now, here, the snow I had forgotten becomes

Part of a major reality, part of
An appreciation of a reality

And thus an elevation, as if I left
With something I could touch, touch every way.

And yet nothing has been changed except what is
Unreal, as if nothing had been changed at all.

—Wallace Stevens, "As You Leave the Room"

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:02 PM

      ( 7:50 PM ) The Rat  
(I'VE BLOGGED THIS BEFORE, some years ago, but am putting it up again because it's one of my favorite quotes of all time.)

Was this perhaps the way to live? he wondered. Had he had trouble enough, and paid his debt to suffering and earned the right to ignore what anyone might think? He clasped Ramona closer, felt that she was swelling, bursting, heart in the body, body in the tight-fitting red dress. She gave him still another perfumed kiss. On the sidewalk before the window of her shop were daisies, lilacs, small roses, flats with tomato and pepper seedlings for transplanting, all freshly watered. There stood the green pot with its perforated brass spout. Drops of water assumed blurred shapes on the cement. In spite of the buses which glazed the air with stinking gases, he could smell the fresh odor of soil, and he heard the women passing by, the rapid knocking of their heels on the crusty pavement. So between the amusement of the cabbie and the barely controlled censure of Miss Schwartz's eyes behind the leaves, he went on kissing Ramona's painted, fragrant face. Within the great open trench of Lexington Avenue, the buses pouring poison but the flowers surviving, garnet roses, pale lilacs, the cleanliness of the white, the luxury of the red, and everything covered by the gold overcast of New York. Here, on the street, as far as character and disposition permitted, he had a taste of the life he might have led if he had been simply a loving creature.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:50 PM

      ( 1:45 PM ) The Rat  

And, an old Style Invitational (scroll to "Report from Week 551") in which readers were invited to mess around with the Google translating tool.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM

      ( 8:13 AM ) The Rat  

Nearly two-thirds of young Indian men expect the woman they marry to be a virgin, but nearly half have had sex with prostitutes, according to a poll...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:13 AM

      ( 7:58 AM ) The Rat  
TWO ADS FOR THE PRONTO CONDOM, via YouTube. I have no words.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:58 AM

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
      ( 8:19 PM ) The Rat  

And, Former Marine Sniper Slapped With 3,000-Yard Restraining Order.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:19 PM

      ( 2:02 PM ) The Rat  
HAD MEANT to do a long post on my trip, but since I at least theoretically need to be earning my stipend, it will have to be deferred (most likely permanently). Still, here are brief assessments of the shows I visited—I know this is long, but believe me it could have been MUCH longer...

Do not miss:
—At the Musée Picasso: "Picasso XRays," a fantastic exhibition of X-ray photographs, by Xavier Lucchesi, of a range of Picasso sculptures dating from the 1930s through the 1950s. This was my single favorite show of any I saw this visit—I would probably have been skeptical if you'd just told me the concept for the show, but it actually does raise some interesting questions about the nature of art. There is also a feature show on at the Picasso, of over 150 works from the collection of Heinz Berggruen; unfortunately I didn't have time to look at it properly (though I did appreciate the Giacometti chandelier!). Both of these exhibitions run through January 8.

—At the Tour Jean-sans-peur: "La cuisine au Moyen Âge." Actually this show closed a few days ago, but for the record it was pretty sweet. Not really much of an exhibition—despite the handful of artifacts thrown in to make it more of a museum thing, you could really assemble all the same information in a book—but still, a highly entertaining visit, and which went a long way toward demystifying how so many denizens of the Middle Ages got as rotund as they look in the stained glass. (It was a huge mistake on my part going into this show on an empty stomach...) This would be a great exhibition to take one's children to—it's the sort of topic that makes history seem like something that actually happened. The exhibition was in French, which was handy—I'm pretty sure I was the only tourist there at the time I went—but the front-desk staff are very friendly, and translations of the tour materials are available for non-readers of French. (Speaking of which—while signing the comments book at the IMA [see below] I noticed that the visitor just ahead of me had written something like, "Interesting but why not in English?" Um, maybe because you're in FRANCE?! Hello—you may be a tourist but that doesn't mean you have to be a dick.) (On a related note, I firmly believe it should be illegal for persons between the ages of 15 and 35 to travel in Europe in groups of any more than two. What are you here for anyway—to experience a foreign world, or to gossip endlessly, in loud and vulgar American, with a crowd of people who think and live exactly the way you do?)

—The fifteen Cézannes at the Orangerie (though you will have to suffocate through yards and yards of Renoirs first—ACK!!). This museum was closed for renovations for a very long time, so I couldn't see it on either of my last two trips. The painters represented do tend to be all of the easy-on-the-eye type, which leads me to question the taste of the Guillaumes (whose collection occupies the lower level; the upper level is just two large rooms devoted entirely to Monet's late-stage Nymphéas paintings). That said, it is a jewel of a museum—just slightly smaller than the exact size a museum should be, in Ratty's book. It's also right in the Tuileries, a far more beautiful garden than the unaccountably more celebrated Luxembourg. (I am still not revealing the identity of the single most beautiful garden in Paris, here—while lesser-known, it's already known to too many people for my taste!) Note that the Paris Museum Pass is accepted here, and can save you a longish wait in line. (The Orangerie is not listed in the printed pass, and the guard I spoke to had to go and check first, but they did in fact let me in on it.) I had never used the pass before, by the way—it's really best for first-time visitors who want to hit all the obvious sights (the towers of Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, etc.); still, it's not a bad deal even for semi-seasoned visitors, and the line-cutting privileges (which apply at, e.g., the Louvre, the Orsay, and the Orangerie) are alone enough to justify getting one. Note that the pass doesn't get you into all temporary shows—the Venice show and Maurice Denis both were considered special exhibitions and required separate admission. "Le mouvement des images" was considered part of the permanent collection, however, despite being a temporary show—it really varies by museum.)

Highly recommended:
"Venise et l'Orient," at the Institut du Monde Arabe (despite the insane line for it). A more responsible show than I was expecting—it's so easy, and somewhat fashionable nowadays, to do the whole "Why can't Christians, Jews, and Muslims live together in harmony like they once did?" thing, while ignoring inconvenient historical details like dhimmitude. (This show did do some of that, but not as much as I was expecting.) Plus, about midway through it I found myself in front of this Bellini portrait, which is referenced in Proust and which I had had no idea was going to be in the show. By the way, this is a perfect exhibition to see in late afternoon on a greyish fall day—for me anyway, it really called up the mood of this beautiful de Quincey quote about the coming of winter.

"Pierre Loti, Fantômes d'Orient," at the Musée de la vie romantique. I can't think that this museum would be interesting to visit just for its permanent collection (unless you really are that desperate to know what George Sand had cluttering up her dresser), but this show was well-put-together, and a nice window onto the phenomenon of orientalism in France. (Appropriately, it was at this museum that I got my one "Êtes-vous chinoise?" of this trip—from a docent, no less.) Sadly, having seen this exhibit I now suspect I actually do need to read Said. This museum also made me extremely thankful not to have lived in the 19th century—the whole atmosphere of it just seems so clammy, like if you were to wear only velvet clothing, inside and out. They had a Chopin recording playing in one of the Sand rooms, which I found useful—we typically detach art (and, even more so, music) from its context, which can be a mistake. (The in-situ aspect was also the best thing about the Nissim de Camondo, see below. There is also a handy little alcove in the Orangerie, with diagrams showing how the Guillaumes had all the art that now makes up the museum collection, displayed at home.)

Balenciaga Paris, at the Musée de la mode et du textile (through January 28). My main criticism is that there was way too much recent stuff—Balenciaga's own career spanned a half-century; Nicolas Ghesquière has headed the brand for under a decade. Given this, the amount of space accorded the latter was really disproportionate, fun though he can be. Still, a yummy show.

Musée Marmottan. Yeah, I know respecting Monet is like the proverbial joke about screwing a fat girl or riding a moped—but get over yourself, he's important. Besides which, this is just a delightful museum (which I turned out to have visited back in '92 with my mother, and forgotten the name of). Particularly good for visiting on a grey/rainy day—when you come back outside the world (even in Paris!) will seem strikingly dingy by contrast. Actually Monet does not even remotely make the shortlist of my favorite artists, but I do very much like his painting of the Pont de l'Europe/Gare Saint-Lazare, which is in this collection and which really does look like the Gare Saint-Lazare (despite being painted in his mature, impressionist style) (James Wood has said that it is not that Dante's Hell is lifelike, but that our life is Hell-like—and of course a similar phenomenon occurs with non-abstract visual art); in fact I find his paintings of buildings much more interesting than his paintings of flowers. The first item in the collection is a used palette of the artist's which, I was amused to note, looks a lot like most of his flower paintings.

Not bad:
—The Musée Nissim de Camondo, former residence of a wealthy Jewish family; it was given to the city by Count Moïse de Camondo, who dedicated it to the memory of his son, a pilot killed in aerial combat in World War I. (The count's daughter Béatrice, her husband, and their children all died at Auschwitz.) I am not actually a fan of 18th-century objets (the collection is almost entirely from this period, though the house itself dates from the early 20th century); still, the setup of the place is lovely, and I like how things are displayed in situ, as it were. The kitchen and servants' dining room have recently been renovated and opened to the public.

"Pinceaux de lumière," at Cluny. A disappointingly short show, actually. But you definitely should visit Cluny if you haven't before; and it is nice seeing stained-glass up close (as one can't really, e.g., at Chartres—which I went to for a day, but whose stained glass I found less beautiful than that at the Sainte-Chapelle, which I unfortunately didn't have time to see again this trip). (I was glad to finally see Chartres, however—plus the rail trip through the countryside was nice, particularly for the poplars, which I always associate with France and which I love for the way they always look surprised—as though you had just told them something shocking.)

Maurice Denis, at the Orsay. Let's just say there's a reason you've probably never heard of this guy. Ads for this exhibition are all over the city, but—despite a handful of interesting images, and one painting that weirdly and vividly evoked for me the fall/winter when I first began reading Russian literature—he's mainly forgettable. (In fairness, I understand Denis was much more influential/talented as a critic than as an artist in his own right.) The Orsay itself is also annoyingly crowded, as is the Louvre—where I stopped in just long enough to walk the Italian Renaissance halls—so if you must go, I'd aim for early in the morning or late at night.)

"Le mouvement des images," at the Pompidou. Had been highly recommended, but didn't really do much for me. A few interesting pieces, but not a single work that really blew me away (unless you count things like Woman With Her Throat Cut, which was randomly located in one of the adjacent rooms—the show seems to be a mishmash of themed exhibition, and items they just couldn't bear to put away during the renovation of the main gallery) (Woman With Her Throat Cut must have been on loan, though—it's from the permanent collection at MoMA, in fact I thought I just saw it there a couple of months back—or possibly he did more than one of them?). It's hard not to like the photographs on the advertising for this show though—I'm afraid I can't look them up as I've forgotten the artist's name, but the images I mean are partly visible on the cover of the exhibition catalog. (The artist took his models onto a rooftop, threw things at them, then snapped the photos as they fell.) There is also a seriously trippy Barbie room that I bet would be tons of fun getting drunk/high in.

—The Musée du parfum, which is really more of a pretext for shilling Fragonard perfumes. (I went to the smaller branch, on the Bl. des Capucines, because of a promised Schiaparelli perfume bottle that ultimately wasn't all that cool. So, possibly the rue Scribe branch is more interesting—but by the time I'd gone through the Capucines one I just didn't care enough to find out.)

Musée Gustave Moreau. What was I thinking?? (In fairness, Moreau did influence many important writers and artists—Matisse was his student, for instance. That said, this museum is pretty much an object lesson in why rich but B-list talents should not be allowed to turn their houses into museums.) Actually my favorite painting here was "Christ and the Sinners," which is perhaps mildly troubling in that the painting is almost entirely black/murky... The staircase is pretty funky (really, click on that link!—very nifty photo), but still not enough to really justify a visit. Again, I do appreciate that Moreau was influential on other figures, but frankly it's just hard to take very seriously someone who seems to have thought that Pan, Mary Magdalene, and everyone in between all had the same hairdresser.

—The Salon du chocolat, which has now ended (though there are stops to come in New York, Moscow, Tokyo, Madrid, and Shanghai). Okay, this wasn't a museum of course, but I had to list it somewhere. Featured all kinds of chocolate weirdness—from chocolate quinoa (?!) to chocolate-onion jam to chocolate epilation to chocolate soaps... and including chocolate in all kinds of shapes, from deviled eggs to dinosaurs to sausages to pliers to, most stunningly of all, a three-foot-tall sculpture of a chocolate dragon. There were also things like a (non-chocolate) jam purported to have aphrodisiac qualities, and curaçao macaroons—and some rather sad little stalls trying to encourage tourism to cacao-producing places like Madagascar. I actually ate only a few things (including an incredible muffin-like thing from Le Grenier à Pain)—one of the least-girly things about me is that I am actually not much of a chocolate fan, and by the end of this show I felt like I'd be happy never to see another piece of chocolate in my life. (Actually the exact form of my thought was: "Thank God it wasn't a macaroni-and-cheese show!") I was also saddened that the makers of the most amazing truffles ever, Neuhaus, did not have a stall. I did catch most of the chocolate fashion show, but it was less fun than you might expect, and also hampered by unskillful models. (Easily the hottest model was a young black woman who was among the last featured—and who, because of being nearly the same color as her dress, basically looked naked.) By the way, if you already think the French are annoying, you should see them at a trade show.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:02 PM

      ( 11:36 AM ) The Rat  
FUEL COST CALCULATOR. Handy for road trips.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 AM

Monday, November 06, 2006
      ( 11:11 PM ) The Rat  
FAST CONDOMS ON SALE IN SOUTH AFRICA. The friend who sent this link notes, "I don't know that I'd want to call a condom 'pronto'..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:11 PM

      ( 6:47 PM ) The Rat  

An Australian company claims to have produced the men's equivalent of the "Wonderbra"—a range of "Wondercup" underwear designed to enhance the apparent size of the contents.

"It basically lifts, separates and extends," aussieBum founder Sean Ashby was quoted as saying by the national AAP news agency...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 PM

      ( 6:39 PM ) The Rat  

It's part of a trend in which hotels around the world are luring couples who are trying to have a baby. Resorts are offering on-site sex doctors, romantic advice and exotic food and drink calculated to put lovers in the mood and hasten the pitter-patter of little feet.

At the Miraval Resort in Tucson, Ariz., sex experts Dr. Lana Holstein and her husband, Dr. David Taylor, help couples with such things as ovulation schedules and achieving intimacy.

"The damage that working for conception does to the sexual relationship, it's really, really impactful. This business about being so tense about conceiving a child and feeling like the clock is ticking makes people much more scheduled," said Holstein...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:39 PM

      ( 9:30 AM ) The Rat  
Consider this sequence of propositions, which I will put back into their context in a moment:

None of woman born shall harm Macbeth.

Macbeth can be harmed but only by a man not born of woman.

Macbeth is slain by a man but not one born of woman.

The slither here—and the drama, and much else—lies in the subtle movement of altered logic: 'none' becomes 'only this kind' and then 'only this man.' In that slither an open promise becomes a closed prophecy. I want to suggest that this is how prophecy typically works and also that this motion meets a very particular human need, what we might call a pathology of promising. Promises are kept, but promises are also often not kept, and we need to be prepared for that eventuality. The pathology arises when a promise is manifestly not kept but we can't bring ourselves to believe this. Our favorite strategy in this situation is to reinterpret the promise so that what looked like its breaking was a hasty illusion; on reinterpretation we see the promise has been kept after all, we have not been betrayed. Whose promises do we cling to in this way? Those of God or the gods; of our parents and loved ones; those of anyone whose reliability is more important to us than any truth contained in their apparent defection...

—Michael Wood, The Road to Delphi

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:30 AM

Sunday, November 05, 2006
      ( 11:32 PM ) The Rat  
RENTRER, c'est mourir un peu.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 PM

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

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