The Rat
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
      ( 9:01 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 PM

      ( 2:55 PM ) The Rat  
TURNS OUT French women (and men) do get fat.

Roubaix is an economically depressed industrial town in northern France, the fattest region in the country. Fifty-one percent of the population here is overweight or obese, compared with the national average of 42 percent, according to the most recent national figures in 2003.

The trend line is most significant among children. While adult obesity is rising about 6 percent annually, among children the national rate of growth is 17 percent. At that rate, the French could be—quelle horreur—as fat as Americans by 2020...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:55 PM

      ( 2:51 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  
CONTAINS THE PHRASE "three-hour lap dance."

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      ( 2:32 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:22 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 11:26 AM ) The Rat  
U.S. WOMAN ACCUSED OF SEX WITH KENYAN STREET BOYS. Last line: "As in many African cities, street children are a common sight in Nairobi, often seen sniffing glue, begging and frequently involved in clashes with street vendors and police."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:26 AM

      ( 11:15 AM ) The Rat  
IN-FLIGHT DATING SERVICE TAKES OFF. Only Americans would come up with this, dude.

While it's designed for networking, a fair share of the people registered with AirTroductions admit they're looking for dates. Some appear more promising than others.

One man provided his photo, with half his hair shocking pink and the other bright blue. One woman promised she "always smells nice," while another insisted that any seatmate wear full body deodorant spray.

A photographer said he was looking for investors, an executive said he was seeking "engaging conversations" about globalization and technology and a rabbi said he would like to "schmooze about Judaism"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:15 AM

      ( 9:02 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:02 AM

      ( 9:01 AM ) The Rat  
Rosalind. Am not I your Rosalind?

Orlando. I take some joy to say you are, because I would be talking of her.
Rosalind. Well, in her person I say I will not have you.

Orlando. Then in mine own person I die.

Rosalind. No, faith, die by attorney. The poor world is almost six thousand years old, and in all this time there was not any man died in his own person, videlicet, in a love-cause. Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club; yet he did what he could to die before, and he is one of the patterns of love. Leander, he would have lived many a fair year, though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been for a hot midsummer night; for, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont, and being taken with the cramp was drowned; and the foolish coroners of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.' But these are all lies: men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

As You Like It

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 AM

Monday, January 30, 2006
      ( 7:48 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 5:37 PM ) The Rat  
"EVERYONE STARTED EATING SUSHI AND GETTING ALL SVELTE." Fun NYT piece (did I just say that?!) on the Onion writers' move, five years ago this month, from Madison to NYC.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:37 PM

      ( 4:24 PM ) The Rat  

Therein lies the problem. People who work on planes and in hotels have got it into their heads that the word beverage, with its Eton and Latin overtones, is somehow posh and therefore the right word to use when addressing a customer.

Now look. The customer in question is almost certainly a businessman, and the sort of businessmen who take scheduled planes around Europe and stay in business hotels are fairly low down the pecking order. You think they turn their phones on the instant the plane has landed because the Tokyo stock exchange is struggling to manage without them. No. The reason they turn them on so damn fast is to find out if they've been sacked.

Honestly, you don't need to treat them like you're on the set of Upstairs Downstairs. They do not spend their afternoons cutting the crusts off cucumber sandwiches. And they do not say grace before dinner. They're called Steve and Dave and you know what they're doing on their laptops in the departure lounge? Organising a backward hedge merger with GEC? Fraid not. They're looking at some Hooters Swimsuit pictures from the internet.

For crying out loud, I'm middle class. I went to a school most people would call posh. But if I came home and said to my wife that I wanted a beverage, or asked her to pass the condiments, she'd punch me...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:24 PM

      ( 4:07 PM ) The Rat  

Stanford G. Lotwin, a divorce lawyer in New York, said he tried to warn his serial clients about taking on serial wives.

"We tell these men, you cannot go anywhere without our card in your pocket," he said. "As soon as you have your second date, you have to call, and we'll remind you how expensive this is. He'll say, 'I repeat your name in my sleep, I promise you I'm not doing anything.'" But soon enough, Mr. Lotwin will be pulling out the box of tissues he uses to guide the man's new fiancée through the prenuptial process.

For many of the men, the prenuptial is simply part of the business deal that is marriage. "They see it like a hedge fund," said Ms. Cohen, the divorce lawyer. "Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't."

And it's just this attitude that makes divorce more likely. "They're used to having whatever they want," said Norman Sheresky, a New York divorce lawyer.

And some aren't ready for the ups and downs of a long marriage. "Nobody thinks the sex is going to change, nobody thinks their life is going to change. Well, it changes. Rich people go, 'I can do something about this.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:07 PM

      ( 4:05 PM ) The Rat  

The higher rates of promotion are part of efforts to fill new slots created by an Army reorganization and to compensate for officers who are resigning from the service, many after multiple rotations to Iraq.

The promotion rates "are much higher than they have been in the past because we need more officers than we did before," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman.

The Army has long taken pride in the competitiveness of its promotions, and insists that only officers that meet rigorous standards are elevated through its ranks.

But the recent trends in promotions have stirred concerns that the Army is being forced to lower its standards to provide leaders for combat units that will be deployed overseas.

"The problem here is that you're not knocking off the bottom 20%," said a high-ranking Army officer at the Pentagon. "Basically, if you haven't been court-martialed, you're going to be promoted to major."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:05 PM

      ( 4:01 PM ) The Rat  
THE TESTOSTERONE FACTOR IN MUTUAL FUNDS. There's a metaphor in here somewhere...

[T]he researchers expected to find that the average female-managed fund had better overall performance. After all, previous research has generally shown that style consistency and lower turnover rates lead to better returns.

But [i]n fact, the raw returns of funds managed by women were slightly lower than those of funds managed by men, on average, evidently because women tended to manage their funds more conservatively. On a risk-adjusted basis, the two groups' performances were about equal.

The researchers do not know the reason for this, but they do note that the behavioral differences between male and female fund managers are less pronounced than they are among individual traders.

Although the researchers found no significant differences in returns—once an allowance has been made for risk—they say they believe that funds managed by women can lead to improved performance for investors who are constructing diversified portfolios. Often in such cases, an investor chooses a certain fund because it represents a specific investment style or asset class. If the fund is managed by a man, the researchers argue, there is a greater chance that he will not stay true to that style or class.

That, in turn, will cause the investor's portfolio of funds to make bigger-than-intended bets on certain asset classes and styles and smaller-than-expected bets on others. And that is very likely to cause portfolios of male-managed funds to have lower average risk-adjusted returns.

In short, the researchers found no justification for investors to prefer mutual funds managed by men. In fact, when building portfolios, investors may find that funds managed by women are better.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:01 PM

      ( 3:44 PM ) The Rat  
IN ESPANA, MILLE ET TRE... Some fun stuff in here. (Writing on the character as depicted in Fleming's books, Kingsley Amis makes a similar point to that below, in The James Bond Dossier.) Via EB.

With how many people did people used to sleep? It's hard to tell. Language changes, and there's the problem of bragging. Take the French. Stendhal in his treatise on love is expansive on the seduction strategies of his friends (hide under the bed; announce yourself so late in the night that kicking you out would already be a scandal), but in The Red and the Black Julien Sorel sleeps with exactly two women—and for this they cut off his head! A generation later, the dissipated Frédéric Moreau hardly does any better in Sentimental Education. Flaubert himself mostly slept with prostitutes. In Russia, one could always sleep with one's serfs, as Tolstoy did. (He felt terrible about it.) But peers, acquaintances, members of one's own class? America was the worst. Henry James in his notebooks wonders if he should write a story about a man, "like W.D.H. [Howells], who all his life has known but one woman." James had known zero women! Twenty years later, there was Greenwich Village. Edna St. Vincent Millay, riding back and forth all night on the ferry, was the most promiscuous literary woman of her time. But her biographer puts the grand total of her conquests at fourteen, and some of these, according to a rival biographer, are questionable—and three were "well-known homosexuals." So ten. For the modern college senior, this is a busy but not extravagant Spring Break...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:44 PM

      ( 3:39 PM ) The Rat  
Imagine such a younger person walking through the Louvre or the Uffizi, and you can immediately grasp the condition of his soul. In his innocence of the stories of Biblical or Greek or Roman antiquity, Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and all the others can say nothing to him. All he sees are colors and forms—modern art. In short, like almost everything else in his spiritual life, the paintings and statues are abstract. No matter what much of modern wisdom asserts, these artists counted on immediate recognition of their subjects and, what is more, on their having a powerful meaning for their viewers. The works were the fulfillment of those meanings, giving them a sensuous reality and hence completing them. Without those meanings, and without their being something essential to the viewer as a moral, political and religious being, the works lose their essence. It is not merely the tradition that is lost when the voice of civilization elaborated over millennia has been stilled in this way. It is being itself that vanishes beyond the dissolving horizon. One of the most flattering things that ever happened to me as a teacher occurred when I received a postcard from a very good student on his first visit to Italy, who wrote, "You are not a professor of political philosophy but a travel agent." Nothing could have better expressed my intention as an educator. He thought I had prepared him to see. Then he could begin thinking for himself with something to think about. The real sensation of the Florence in which Machiavelli is believable is worth all the formulas of metaphysics ten times over. Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion...
—Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:39 PM

Sunday, January 29, 2006
      ( 1:41 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:52 AM ) The Rat  
IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE WORLD quite like unreasoning 1 AM optimism??

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:52 AM

      ( 12:50 AM ) The Rat  
And one day he took flour and water and currants and plums and sugar and things, and made himself one cake which was two feet across and three feet thick. It was indeed a Superior Comestible (that's magic), and he put it on the stove because he was allowed to cook on that stove, and he baked it and he baked it till it was all done brown and smelt most sentimental...
—"How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:50 AM

Saturday, January 28, 2006
      ( 2:41 PM ) The Rat  
MAN WITH 11-WOMAN COMMUNE HAD STUN GUN? Dude, what is it with the Japanese?!

And here, some good reasons to be nice to your sheep.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:41 PM

      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  

On a September day 4 1/2 years ago, nearly 1,100 ninth-graders—a little giddy, a little scared—arrived at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys. They were fifth-generation Americans and new arrivals, straight arrows and gangbangers, scholars and class clowns.

On a radiant evening last June, 521 billowing figures in royal blue robes and yellow-tasseled mortarboards walked proudly across Birmingham's football field, practically floating on a carpet of whoops and shouts and blaring air horns, to accept their diplomas.

It doesn't take a valedictorian to do the math: Somewhere along the way, Birmingham High lost more than half of the students who should have graduated...

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      ( 2:01 AM ) The Rat  
"NOW, THE BILL FOR A PARTY OF 10: $24,500." Heh!

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 AM

      ( 1:22 AM ) The Rat  
As I lay dying the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyelids for me as I descended into Hades...
Odyssey XI

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:22 AM

Friday, January 27, 2006
      ( 12:16 PM ) The Rat  
I'M SO JEALOUS! Actual entry from the index to Joseph Blotner's Faulkner: A Biography:

drinking, 44, 49, 53, 62, 77, 87, 134, 143, 178, 204, 225-29, 298, 308, 327, 335, 338, 340, 345, 356-67, 366, 368-69, 375, 379, 382-83, 386-88, 424, 435, 498-99, 520, 527-28, 547, 559-61, 566-69, 574, 589-91, 600, 602, 617-18, 620-21, 630, 637, 639, 647, 677, 698-99

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:16 PM

Thursday, January 26, 2006
      ( 9:10 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:33 PM ) The Rat  
TO WHOEVER SENT THIS IN TO POSTSECRET, the Rat would like to say: It reads better than it lives.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:33 PM

      ( 3:29 PM ) The Rat  

This guy's romance literally went up in flames.

Hannes Pisek, 20, of Hoenigsberg, Austria, used 200 candles to create an enormous heart on the floor of his apartment. Then he lit them and went to pick up his live-in girlfriend.

By the time they returned, the apartment was ablaze. The flames of passion ended up costing Pisek his home and his lady love, who moved back with her parents.


Guess who thinks it's the pits when celebrities give their kids ridiculous names?

It's Peaches Geldof, the 16-year-old daughter of Sir Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates.

"My weird name has haunted me all my life," she says.

Actually, her full name is Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof. And her three sisters are Fifi Trixabelle, Pixie Frou-Frou, and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lilly.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:29 PM

      ( 12:08 PM ) The Rat  
In a provocative essay a few years back entitled 'Adulthood in American Literature,' Kenneth Lynn accused the classic American male writers of the nineteenth century of 'psychic immaturity. I say psychic immaturity because one of the signs of an underdeveloped personality is the failure to recognize that serious personal and social problems cannot be solved by running away from them. Over and over again, however, the leading characters of classic American literature react to the crises in their lives by taking to the sea or withdrawing into gloomy mansions or high-walled castles or disappearing into the forest' (51). Lynn's prime example of 'escape artists' is Irving's Rip Van Winkle, the 'archetype of the adult hero who is a child at heart' (51). After the Civil War, Lynn goes on, the 'hero who was a child at heart became a child in fact' in the work of Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, and Horatio Alger, with the apotheosis of this tradition being Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. For Lynn, 'To discover as much meaning in family life as Tolstoi did, or to implicate their characters in social settings to the extent that Balzac and Zola did, was simply beyond the psychic capacity of the American writer' (55). The only male writer exempt from Lynn's censure is Hawthorne, who critiqued the escape option in The Scarlet Letter and The Blithedale Romance...
—David L. Vanderwerken, "Faulkner's 'Psychic Maturity'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 PM

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
      ( 6:54 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:40 PM ) The Rat  

Also check out Second-Graders Wow Audience With School Production of Equus.

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      ( 2:28 PM ) The Rat  
STORY OF MY LIFE! From Eric J. Sundquist's Faulkner: The House Divided:

[W]e find out so little about her that we might conclude, on the basis of the action of the novel, either that she is a tender-hearted tramp or that, because she is surrounded by every conceivable form of mental and emotional instability, her own actions are justifiably inevitable...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:28 PM

      ( 10:13 AM ) The Rat  
READING THIS ATTEMPT AT INTERPRETING ABSALOM, ABSALOM!, Ratty can't help recalling Lilith's mother's words to Fraser on an old episode of Cheers: "Well, you're wrong. Very wrong. You couldn't be more wrong if your fanny were screwed on backwards."

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      ( 2:07 AM ) The Rat  
INDIA HISTORY SPAT HITS U.S. Some trippy stuff in here.

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      ( 2:04 AM ) The Rat  
The experience of evil and the experience of tragedy are parts of the Southern heritage that are as difficult to reconcile with the American legend of innocence and social felicity as the experience of poverty and defeat are to reconcile with the legends of abundance and success...
—C. Vann Woodward, The Burden of Southern History

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:04 AM

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
      ( 8:03 PM ) The Rat  
"IT WAS SO PLASTIC, BUT... YOU KNOW... LIKE COSMIC PLASTICITY..." (Mona Ramsey in Tales of the City, describing going on a tour of furniture stores after doing mescaline.) Here is someone's attempt to document/photograph all the malls of Southern California.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:03 PM

      ( 7:13 PM ) The Rat  
PERK NO. 23,591 OF LONG FRIENDSHIPS. You get to have conversations like this one, from earlier this evening (between Ratty and her oldest friend, J., who has kept her off the end of a rope for 18+ years and counting now):

Rat. Well... it'll get better. You see, I'm clinging to the notion that it has to get better, under the theory that it couldn't possibly get worse—

J. Didn't we have this conversation a few years ago?

Rat. Uh...

J. We did! We had this exact exchange five years ago!! You said—

Rat. I'm trying to repress that fact, okay? And you're not working with me here!

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:13 PM

      ( 11:08 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:08 AM

      ( 11:06 AM ) The Rat  
THERE'S NO JUSTICE. Ratty has just been commenting to ET on the unfairness of Faulkner having been allowed to write the damn books drunk, while I have to be writing Faulkner criticism sober...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:06 AM

      ( 11:04 AM ) The Rat  
He did not lift her, he let her cry, with his arm tight about her. She felt his hand on her head, on her shoulder, she felt the protection of his firmness, a firmness which seemed to tell her that as her tears were for both of them, so was his knowledge, that he knew her pain and felt it and understood, yet was able to witness it calmly—and his calm seemed to lift her burden, by granting her the right to break, here, at his feet, by telling her that he was able to carry what she could not carry any longer. She knew dimly that this was the real Hank Rearden, and no matter what form of insulting cruelty he had once given to their first nights together, no matter how often she had seemed as the stronger of the two, this had always been within him and at the root of their bond—this strength of his which would protect her if ever hers were gone.
Atlas Shrugged

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:04 AM

Monday, January 23, 2006
      ( 11:30 AM ) The Rat  
Douzi. I want you to be with me. I mean... I want to be with you the rest of my life.

Shitou. We've come this far together, haven't we?

Douzi. It's not enough. I'm talking about a lifetime. One year, one month, one day, even one second less—makes it less than a lifetime!

Shitou. Dieyi, you really are obsessed. Your obsession with the stage carries over into your everyday life. But how are we going to get through the days... and make it in the real world among ordinary people?

Farewell, My Concubine

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:30 AM

Sunday, January 22, 2006
      ( 8:57 PM ) The Rat  
THEY'VE FOUND CELLINI'S SALIERA! Okay, so most people wouldn't be quite as excited by this news as I am, but I remember his account of creating it in the Autobiography, which you should read.

Thanks to ET for the link about the salt-cellar's recovery, which by the way is here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:57 PM

      ( 7:52 PM ) The Rat  
MATCHING PHONES FOR SAINTS AND SINNERS. Leave it to my people to think of this. Thanks to ET for the link.

Taiwan's Okwap, famous for their Hello Kitty cellphone, appears to have come up with an answer to the age-old dilemma of forgetting which phone number you've given your wife, and which one is for, you know, those other calls...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:52 PM

      ( 7:25 PM ) The Rat  
SO MOST OF US HAVE, BY NOW, at some point gotten that e-mail forward about the wartime pen-pals who arrange to finally meet in person at Grand Central Station. But Ratty hadn't seen, until just now, the "rewrite" that points out what's unintentionally cruel about the story... check it out here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:25 PM

      ( 5:36 PM ) The Rat  
ALSO FOUND in last night's concert program—forgot to post it before:

For years [Liszt] toured almost incessantly, turning heads in all of Europe's music capitals, receiving a shower of official medals and decorations (plus, from Czar Nicholas I, a pair of performing bears), and projecting enough transcendent ecstasy to leave a trail of swooning, romantically susceptible maidens in his wake. However, this was exhausting, and in 1847 Liszt retired from the concert stage...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:36 PM

      ( 1:48 AM ) The Rat  
JUST FOR THE RECORD, Kurt Masur is God.

Also, that Liszt Fantasy is way better than you'd think it would be.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:48 AM

      ( 12:33 AM ) The Rat  
GIANT MICROBES! Like, in plush! (Full listing available here.)

The ones for Ebola and the Black Death remind Ratty of the vermicious knids in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:33 AM

      ( 12:27 AM ) The Rat  
A LITTLE BIRD (okay, actually a pretty big bird)—who, damn his luck, always gets to read Philip Roth's new novels in advance—has whispered to Ratty that the newest, due out this May, is very good indeed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:27 AM

      ( 12:24 AM ) The Rat  
DAMN. Full text isn't online, but consider these paragraphs from today's Post coverage of "Revlon Ron" Perelman's divorce from actress Ellen Barkin.

Upstairs in the Perelman mansion—surrounded by tight security—Barkin's 13-year-old daughter, Romey, sat by an open window and talked on a cellphone with some friends who walked by.

'We love you. We miss you. We hope you're OK,' one of the girls shouted upstairs...

The children living in Perelman's house were delivered from school yesterday in a fleet of SUVs in an operation that ran with military precision.

If Perelman was crowing yesterday about his breakup, it might have been because he has ended his previous marriages at little cost to his immense fortune.

So far, he's paid $118 million for his divorces.

If he pays Barkin only the $20 million called for in the prenup, his four marriages will have cost him a mere 2 percent of his current wealth, estimated by Forbes at $6 billion...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:24 AM

      ( 12:19 AM ) The Rat  
I was about eleven years of age when my venerated teacher Czerny took me to Beethoven. He had told the latter about me a long time before, and had begged him to listen to me play sometime. Yet Beethoven had such a repugnance to infant prodigies that he had always violently objected to receiving me. Finally, however, he allowed himself to be persuaded by the indefatigable Czerny, and in the end cried impatiently, 'In God's name, then, bring me the young Turk!' It was ten o'clock in the morning when we entered... [and] Beethoven... remained silent when my kind teacher beckoned me to the piano. I first played a short piece by Ries. When I had finished, Beethoven asked me whether I could play a Bach fugue. I chose the C-minor Fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier. 'And could you also transpose the fugue at once into another key?' Beethoven asked me. Fortunately I was able to do so. After my closing chord I glanced up. The great master's darkly glowing gaze lay piercingly upon me. Yet suddenly a gentle smile passed over his gloomy features, and Beethoven came quite close to me, stooped down, put his hand on my head, and stroked my hair several times. 'A devil of a fellow,' he whispered, 'a regular young Turk!' Suddenly I felt quite brave. 'May I play something of yours now?' I boldly asked. Beethoven smiled and nodded. I played the first movement of the C-major Concerto. When I had concluded Beethoven caught hold of me with both hands, kissed me on the forehead, and said gently: 'Go! You are one of the fortunate ones! For you will give joy and happiness to many other people! There is nothing better or finer!'
—Liszt's account of meeting Beethoven, quoted in the NY Philharmonic's January 2006 Playbill

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 AM

Friday, January 20, 2006
      ( 4:33 PM ) The Rat  

A lost and likely sick whale swam up the River Thames past Parliament and Big Ben in central London today, attracting huge crowds and a police boat escort before nearly beaching itself on the shallow riverbank.

The Northern bottlenose whale appeared to be about 20 feet long, witnesses said. The whale, which usually is found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, was about 40 miles from the mouth of the Thames on the North Sea...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:33 PM

      ( 1:40 AM ) The Rat  
Isabel was silent for a moment, and then, with extreme and characteristic inconsequence—

"Why shouldn't he count? There are young men and young men."

"And yours was a paragon—is that what you mean?" cried her friend with a laugh. "If you have had the identical young man you dreamed of, then that was success, and I congratulate you. Only, in that case, why didn't you fly with him to his castle in the Apennines?"

"He has no castle in the Apennines."

"What has he? An ugly brick house in Fortieth Street? Don't tell me that; I refuse to recognise that as an ideal."

"I don't care anything about his house," said Isabel.

"That is very crude of you. When you have lived as long as I, you will see that every human being has his shell, and that you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There is no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we are each of us made up of a cluster of appurtenances. What do you call one's self? Where does it begin? where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then it flows back again. I know that a large part of myself is in the dresses I choose to wear. I have a great respect for things! One's self—for other people—is one's expression of one's self; and one's house, one's clothes, the book one reads, the company one keeps—these things are all expressive."

This was very metaphysical; not more so, however, than several observations Madame Merle had already made. Isabel was found of metaphysics, but she was unable to accompany her friend into this bold analysis of the human personality.

"I don't agree with you," she said. "I think just the other way. I don't know whether I succeed in expressing myself, but I know that nothing else expresses me. Nothing that belongs to me is any measure of me; on the contrary, it's a limit, a barrier, and a perfectly arbitrary one. Certainly, the clothes which, as you say, I choose to wear, don't express me; and heaven forbid they should!"

"You dress very well," interposed Madame Merle, skilfully.

The Portrait of a Lady

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:40 AM

Thursday, January 19, 2006
      ( 11:02 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:50 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 5:37 PM ) The Rat  
"RE-VENGE!!!" (to quote Ken). Interesting. Via LT.

In the study, published online Wednesday by Nature, subjects witnessed people whom they perceived as wrongdoers getting zapped by a mild electrical shock. When male subjects saw this, their MRI scans lit up in primitive brain areas associated with reward; the brain's empathy centers remained dull.

Women subjects watching the punishment, in contrast, showed no response in centers associated with pleasure. Even though they also said they did not like the wrongdoers, their empathy centers quietly glowed when the shocks were administered.

At some level the study proves for the first time in physical terms what many people assume they already know: That women are generally more empathetic than men and that men are more prone to schadenfreude—malicious joy when faced with another's misfortune.

Men "expressed more desire for revenge and seemed to feel satisfaction when unfair people were given what they perceived as deserved physical punishment," said Dr. Tania Singer, the lead researcher, of the Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience at University College London.

But far from condemning the male impulse for retribution, Singer said it had an important social function. "This type of behavior has probably been crucial in the evolution of society," she said, "as the majority of people in a group are motivated to punish those who cheat on the rest"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:37 PM

      ( 11:28 AM ) The Rat  
"There are other ways to show your feelings, Lee. More conventional ways."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:28 AM

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
      ( 6:48 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:48 PM

      ( 3:29 PM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING ARTICLE on elective C-sections.

"My personal opinion is that the cesarean delivery rate has not yet peaked," [Phelan] says. "I think it'll go to 60%."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:29 PM

      ( 2:52 PM ) The Rat  

Two con artists who confessed to planting a human fingertip in a bowl of Wendy's chili in an extortion scheme were sentenced today to lengthy prison terms.

Jaime Plascencia, 44, who obtained the finger from an injured coworker, was sentenced to 12 years. His wife, Anna Ayala, 40, who had a history of filing claims against restaurants, General Motors and a former employer, received a prison sentence of nine years.

Santa Clara County Deputy Dist. Atty. David Boyd said he is satisfied with the result. The pair had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file a false insurance claim and attempted grand theft with damages exceeding $2.5 million.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:52 PM

      ( 2:45 PM ) The Rat  
With money in your pocket, you are wise and you are handsome and you sing well too.
—Yiddish proverb

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:45 PM

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
      ( 9:34 PM ) The Rat  
THE FUNNIEST THING RATTY'S SEEN IN A LONG TIME. Do you want to tell them, or shall I? (From an e-mail I got months ago via a humanities mailing list...)

VERB, a peer-reviewed online and print journal of the humanities, is soliciting articles, fiction, and poetry for our second of four issues on "waste," broadly defined. Submissions can apply, describe, analyze, expand, or compare cultural, textual, or theoretical understandings of waste in any form: garbage, excess, poorly-spent time, poorly exercised potential, and so forth. Submissions can also examine how various media—literature, film, or the plastic arts—interpret waste. And we're open to other ideas, too.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:34 PM

      ( 2:31 PM ) The Rat  

Also check out the saga of

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 PM

      ( 11:56 AM ) The Rat  
THIS was tons of fun.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:56 AM

      ( 9:36 AM ) The Rat  
WHAT WOULD LIFE BE without daydreams?

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:36 AM

      ( 9:31 AM ) The Rat  
Great loves too must be endured.
—Coco Chanel

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 AM

Monday, January 16, 2006
      ( 3:13 PM ) The Rat  
"MY MONKEY DIED," and other excuses. Heh! Via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:13 PM

      ( 11:27 AM ) The Rat  
DID YOU KNOW that a Google search for "passive aggressive Asian" yields 22 hits?

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:27 AM

      ( 11:26 AM ) The Rat  

Federal officials have begun the process of removing grizzly bears around Yellowstone National Park from the endangered species list, ending 30 years of protection and shifting responsibility for their management to state officials who may allow hunting.

Seen as a major conservation success story, the Yellowstone population of grizzlies has increased about fourfold, from 150 to nearly 600 since going on the endangered list in 1975, and it is continuing to grow at an annual rate of 4% to 6%, according to the U.S. Department of Interior...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:26 AM

      ( 11:19 AM ) The Rat  
They sat on the blanket without touching each other and watched the moon rise.

"You don't have to talk silly," Marjorie said. "What's really the matter?"

"I don't know."

"Of course you know."

"No I don't."

"Go on and say it."

Nick looked on at the moon, coming up over the hills.

"It isn't fun any more."

He was afraid to look at Marjorie. Then he looked at her. She sat there with her back toward him. He looked at her back. "It isn't fun any more. Not any of it."

She didn't say anything. He went on. "I feel as though everything was gone to hell inside of me. I don't know, Marge. I don't know what to say."

He looked on at her back.

"Isn't love any fun?" Marjorie said.

"No," Nick said. Marjorie stood up. Nick sat there, his head in his hands.

"I'm going to take the boat," Marjorie called to him. "You can walk back around the point."

—Hemingway, "The End of Something"

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:19 AM

Sunday, January 15, 2006
      ( 9:45 PM ) The Rat  
STEPFORD SHEEP! Spoiler-laden-but-so-worth-it review of Brokeback Mountain, focusing on the sheep aspect. Via ET, natch.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 PM

      ( 10:00 AM ) The Rat  
CLICK HERE for some of the cattiest sports coverage Ratty has ever seen.

This wasn't Savvis Center, it was Rockefeller Center. These weren't Olympic hopefuls, they were curling stones.

On the final night of the national championships Saturday, the mighty fell. And fell. And fell.

Even though Hughes finished in the customary Olympic trio, that third spot was given instead to injured Michelle Kwan, who, on this night anyway, possessed the most important requirement.

A pulse.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 AM

      ( 1:04 AM ) The Rat  

Only 14 percent to 24 percent of trauma victims experience long-term PTSD, but sufferers have flashbacks and physical symptoms that make them feel as if they are reliving the trauma years after it occurred.

Scientists think it happens because the brain goes haywire during and right after a strongly emotional event, pouring out stress hormones that help store these memories in a different way than normal ones are preserved. Taking a drug to tamp down these chemicals might blunt memory formation and prevent PTSD, they theorize.

Some doctors have an even more ambitious goal: trying to cure PTSD. They are deliberately triggering very old bad memories and then giving the pill to deep-six them...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 AM

      ( 12:26 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:26 AM

      ( 12:25 AM ) The Rat  
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 AM

Friday, January 13, 2006
      ( 1:49 AM ) The Rat  
SCIENCE CRASHES DONNER PARTY. Another cherished illusion shattered.

Nudging the history books, archaeologists studying one of two campsites used by the ill-fated Donner Party during a snowbound Sierra winter 160 years ago announced Thursday that a three-year study had unearthed no physical evidence of cannibalism.

The finding does not conclusively prove that human flesh was never consumed as the families of George and Jacob Donner froze and starved over four months during the winter of 1846 and '47 beside Alder Creek, six miles from the bulk of the pioneer band.

"It's possible no cannibalism took place at Alder Creek, and it's also possible that proof simply can't be found," said Julie Schablitsky, a University of Oregon anthropologist...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:49 AM

      ( 1:37 AM ) The Rat  

Modoc is California's only county where the median price of a home has stayed so low for so long. It is the least expensive nook in one of America's priciest states, a place where home buyers live out the pluses—and many of the minuses—of that elusive concept, "affordability."

In Los Angeles County, $100,000 will just about cover the traditional 20% down payment for a median-priced house—certainly not the whole building, yard and garage. In Orange County, it's about 80% of a down payment, and in Marin County, the most expensive housing market in the state, it's less than two-thirds of what's needed.

Compare that to the county seat of rural Modoc, where a snug blue house on downtown's Court Street—complete with two bedrooms and a bath—was recently listed for $84,000, and one unimpressed local realtor complained that it was overpriced...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:37 AM

Thursday, January 12, 2006
      ( 3:10 PM ) The Rat  
TAIWANESE BREED FLUORESCENT GREEN PIG. Obviously, after they bred me the only way to go was up. Link via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:10 PM

Monday, January 09, 2006
      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
—"Meditation at Lagunitas"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

Sunday, January 08, 2006
      ( 7:55 PM ) The Rat  

Spillover essentially means that the line between work and home begins to blur. Work life may invade home life—when a parent is taking job-related calls at home, for instance—or household issues may start to take up work time.

In the latter scenario, a child may call mom at work, not to say that he aced his English test but that the "microwave exploded," explained Noelle Chesley, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the author of the study. The problem with cell phones and pagers seems to be that they are allowing for ever more spillover between work and home, according to Chesley's findings, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

This may be especially true for working women, the study found. Among men, consistent use of mobile phones and pagers seemed to allow more work issues to creep into family time. But for women, the spillover tended to go in both directions—being "connected" meant that work cut into home time, and family issues seeped into work life. And people who reported more negative spillover—spillover of the exploding-microwave variety—tended to be less satisfied with their family life...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:55 PM

      ( 2:16 AM ) The Rat  
On her own she decided to have that abortion. So I would not be burdened by a duty? So I could choose her just for herself? But is the notion of duty so utterly horrendous? Why didn't she tell me she was pregnant? Is there not a point on life's way when one yields to duty, welcomes duty as once one yielded to pleasure, to passion, to adventure—a time when duty is the pleasure, rather than pleasure the duty...
The Professor of Desire

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:16 AM

Friday, January 06, 2006
      ( 9:21 AM ) The Rat  

Free drinks may improve the health and lives of homeless alcoholics and reduce their run-ins with police, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Seventeen chronic alcoholics who drank upwards of 46 glasses a day over the past 35 years, including cheap substitutes such as mouthwash that often led to unconsciousness, were offered a glass of wine or sherry each hour, from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm at an Ottawa shelter over five to 24 months.

Most of the fifteen men and two women, with an average age of 51 years, had tried detox programs and abstention, but were unable to maintain sobriety...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 AM

      ( 9:04 AM ) The Rat  

An artist who chained his legs together so that he could accurately render a picture of his legs wrapped in chains hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn’t unlock the restraints, authorities said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 AM

      ( 8:58 AM ) The Rat  
That's what I found. Perhaps it's what I expected, knew (even at nineteen knew, I would say if it were not for my nineteen, my own particular kind of nineteen years) that I should find. Perhaps I couldn't even have wanted more than that, couldn't have accepted less, who even at nineteen must have known that living is one constant and perpetual instant when the arras-veil before what-is-to-be hangs docile and even glad to the lightest naked thrust if we had dared, were brave enough (not wise enough: no wisdom needed here) to make the rending gash...
Absalom, Absalom!

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:58 AM

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
      ( 10:32 PM ) The Rat  
WANNA KNOW WHY THE '70S WERE BETTER THAN THE '90S? Just compare the plot synopses of the two versions of Vanishing Point.

1997: When his wife goes into a troubled labor while he is on the road over 1200 miles away James Kowalski, an ex race car driver and a former Army Ranger, attempts to elude police while trying to get home. After numerous chases he turns into a Native American reservation and reflects on his life, and his wife. He then heads off to break through an impenetrable police and FBI roadblock.

1971: Kowalski, the hero of the story, works for a car delivery service. He takes delivery of a 1970 Dodge Challenger to take from Colorado to Frisco, California. Shortly after pickup, he takes a bet to get the car there in less than 15 hours. After a few run-ins with motorcycle cops and highway patrol they start a chase to bring him into custody. Along the way, Kowalski is guided by Supersoul—a blind DJ with a police radio scanner. Throw in lots of chase scenes, gay hitchhikers, a naked woman riding a motorbike, lots of Mopar and you've got a great cult hit from the early 70's.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:32 PM

      ( 8:37 PM ) The Rat  
99-PHOTO SLIDESHOW. Freaky stuff.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:37 PM

      ( 7:00 PM ) The Rat  

Also check out the world's largest underpants.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:00 PM

      ( 6:41 PM ) The Rat  
A DISCOVERY. If, in your interior monologue, you think of yourself as "noshing" on food rather than "snacking" on or "eating" it, you'll feel like you're consuming fewer calories.

Note: This trick may not work if you're Jewish.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:41 PM

      ( 5:14 PM ) The Rat  

In a sign of Japan's worries about its shrinking population as Asia enters the "Year of the Dog", Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday expressed envy at the high birth-rate enjoyed by man's best friend.

"It is the Year of the Dog. Dogs have lots of offspring and I hear they have an easy time giving birth," Koizumi said at his first news conference of the year.

"We can't share in dogs' good luck, but I want to forge ahead by borrowing many people's wisdom to create an environment in which people can enjoy raising kids and enrich their lives by having children," added Koizumi, a divorced father of three...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:14 PM

      ( 3:10 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:10 PM

Sunday, January 01, 2006
      ( 6:48 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:48 PM

      ( 6:44 PM ) The Rat  

Not sure how you feel about a special person in your life? Analyzing the pluses and minuses of the relationship might not be the answer.

In a study I conducted with Dolores Kraft, a clinical psychologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Dana Dunn, a social psychologist at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, people in one group were asked to list the reasons their relationship with a romantic partner was going the way it was, and then rate how satisfied they were with the relationship. People in another group were asked to rate their satisfaction without any analysis; they just gave their gut reactions.

It might seem that the people who thought about the specifics would be best at figuring out how they really felt, and that their satisfaction ratings would thus do the best job of predicting the outcome of their relationships.

In fact, we found the reverse. It was the people in the "gut feeling" group whose ratings predicted whether they were still dating their partner several months later. As for the navel gazers, their satisfaction ratings did not predict the outcome of their relationships at all. Our conclusion? Too much analysis can confuse people about how they really feel. There are severe limits to what we can discover through self-reflection, and trying to explain the unexplainable does not lead to a sudden parting of the seas with our hidden thoughts and feelings revealed like flopping fish...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:44 PM

      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  
"I have nothing against jews as an individual," I says. "It's just the race."
The Sound and the Fury

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:42 PM

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

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