The Rat
Monday, July 31, 2006
      ( 2:46 PM ) The Rat  
THE ALL-ENGLAND SUMMARIZE PROUST COMPETITION. I've probably posted this before, can't remember.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:46 PM

      ( 2:40 PM ) The Rat  
JUST RETOOK the Which Sesame Street Muppet's Dark Secret Are You? quiz. Three and a half years ago, I was Elmo's transvestite crackwhore past; nowadays, I am Bert and Ernie's gay love affair.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:40 PM

      ( 11:33 AM ) The Rat  
ANYONE WHO TELLS YOU Lydia Davis's is the best translation of Proust, is lying. Read the Moncrieff/Kilmartin/Enright instead. (I know I'm a shank for still not having read it in the original, but in my defense, MFB informs me that many French readers believe Proust to be better in English translation.) I have thought this ever since beginning the Davis, but now that I've reached the end of "Swann in Love," I feel justified in ranting a bit in this space. My entire experience of re-reading Swann's Way has suffered tremendously because I've been using the Davis this time through.

The problem is that, though more "accurate," Davis's translation is also far less faithful than Moncrieff's—as you can tell even from the first line. The original, of course, is the famous: "Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure." Davis renders it as "For a long time, I went to bed early"—which I suppose is more technically correct, in that it follows the verb tense (passé composé) of the original. Moncrieff's version, however—"For a long time I would go to bed early"—comes much closer to the feel of the original, since English is much more direct and no-nonsense—and far less languorous and sensual—than French. (Is it any wonder Ratty prefers Paris to London?) Moncrieff's "would," though less exact literally, nevertheless comes much nearer to the feel of the original line. Roger Shattuck has some useful insights on the novel's opening sentence, in this book; it was published before the Davis translation, however, so he of course doesn't address it specifically. Ratty is just pissed off that professors (including the one with whom she re-read Swann's Way this past year) are assigning the Davis; it's enough to turn an entire generation off Proust—or at least to fail to turn them on to him.

Shattuck usefully quotes Flaubert on the subject of the imperfect: "I admit that a certain use of the imperfect indicative—of that cruel tense which presents life to us as something at the same time ephemeral and passive, which, in the very act of retracing our actions, turns them into illusion, buries them in the past without leaving us as does the perfect tense the consolation of activity—has always remained for me an inexhaustible source of mystery and sadness..."

Sorry, but you just can't achieve that with "For a long time, I went to bed early." Benjamin's comments (from "The Task of the Translator") bear repeating:

The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original. This is a feature of translation which basically differentiates it from the poet's work, because the effort of the latter is never directed at the language as such, at its totality, but solely and immediately at specific linguistic contextual spaces. Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. Not only does the aim of translation differ from that of a literary work—it intends language as a whole, taking an individual work in an alien language as a point of departure—but it is a different effort altogether. The intention of the poet is spontaneous, primary, graphic; that of the translator is derivative, ultimate, ideational...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:33 AM

      ( 11:32 AM ) The Rat  
[T]he feeling he now had for [Odette], being no longer mingled with pain, was hardly love anymore...
Swann's Way

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 AM

Sunday, July 30, 2006
      ( 7:49 AM ) The Rat  
Reporter. Age?

Mr. Humphries. Oh, I never give my age. But let me put it this way—if life was a train ride from London to Manchester, I'd have just gone through Birmingham.

Mr. Spooner. On an express.

Are You Being Served?

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:49 AM

Saturday, July 29, 2006
      ( 11:59 PM ) The Rat  

The tradition, once described as the most fun a person could have with a dead fish, involves one team trying to hit another with a conger eel tied to a rope.

But the sport has now been banned after an animal rights activist complained that it was "disrespectful" to dead fish...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:59 PM

      ( 3:14 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:46 PM ) The Rat  

Despite many obstacles, some victims of communism have managed to win important victories. Doina Cornea, a gutsy professor of French who is widely considered the leading anti-communist dissident to have remained in the country, demanded and got her security files. She received two wooden boxes containing about five feet of records, including surveillance photographs.

Sitting recently in the book-lined studio of her 19th-century cottage in Cluj-Napoca, capital of the Romanian region of Transylvania, she displayed handfuls of pictures. One showed a neighbor looking over the fence, another the uniformed policeman who stood menacingly in front of her house for more than a year. She was followed everywhere, jailed and roughed up for leading protests.

The Romanian novelist Augustin Buzura also obtained his security files and found that 56 informers, including close friends and associates, had reported on him.

The 67-year-old writer, winner of the country's highest literary prizes, expresses skepticism that any commission can manage the hydra-headed issue of communism. "Practically, the communist era has not ended," he said. "The mentality is the same. No matter how extraordinary a commission may be, it cannot fathom in a period of six months the catastrophe that was communism." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:46 PM

      ( 12:15 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME to the visitors who came here looking for "How to smuggle marihuana onto an airplane" (for which I was hit 45 of 40,300) and "the woman with the biggest boobs on earth" (hit 4 of 44,600)!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 PM

Friday, July 28, 2006
      ( 11:09 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:09 PM

      ( 11:07 AM ) The Rat  

Wearing an oversized brown sombrero and a bright yellow shirt emblazoned with the No. 5, Chorizo became the fifth pork product to join the famed sausage races at every Milwaukee Brewers home game.

He signed a contract with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin at a news conference at the stadium and then trotted around the bases.

Chorizo, also known as "El Picante," will race for the first time on Saturday against the other sausages—Italian, bratwurst, Polish and hot dog. But that'll be the only time this year he runs in the Klement's Sausage races, which have taken place every home game since 2000...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:07 AM

      ( 2:07 AM ) The Rat  
WHY THE $#@! DID NO ONE TELL ME Florence King un-retired herself?!—and nearly four months ago for that matter?!!

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:07 AM

      ( 2:00 AM ) The Rat  
Drunk with our discovery, we could not distinguish whether it was a new form of art or a new level of existence that was being offered us...
—Ernst-Robert Curtius, on first reading Proust

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:00 AM

Thursday, July 27, 2006
      ( 5:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:54 PM

      ( 5:19 PM ) The Rat  
FINALLY, a legitimate reason for ever getting married! Link via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:19 PM

      ( 5:00 PM ) The Rat  
FLORENCE KING ON ANN COULTER. I know, I know—like swatting the proverbial fly with the proverbial Buick... she's completely right about the American ideal, too. Thanks to SD for sending.

Wondering what life in America would be like if Coulter used a stiletto instead of a sledgehammer is a tempting but futile excursion into dreamland. Suppose, for example, she was confronted, like Jennie Churchill, with a pompous young man who boasted that his financée’s virtue was "priced above rubies." Without missing a beat, Jennie said, "Try diamonds." But if the young man said the same thing to Coulter?

"The godless liberals are trying to link Pat Robertson to Charles Taylor's diamond-smuggling cartel in Liberia while they cry crocodile tears over the poor starving Africans they're helping to starve by conniving with radical ANC goons trained by Winnie Mandela who controls every mine in South Africa, all because they hate Robertson's Christian beliefs so much they'll be cheering and dancing in the streets if Taylor and the God-hating Marxists succeed in smearing him!"

At her best, Coulter writes well, but the chief source of her success is that she is a perfect match for the American ideal: smart as a whip but dumb as a post, educated but not learned, sexy but not sensuous, all at the same time...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:00 PM

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
      ( 8:12 PM ) The Rat  
DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL, via WaiterRant. Worth reading.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:12 PM

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
      ( 9:42 PM ) The Rat  
THAT TAIWAN ARTICLE recalls to my mind this excellent but troubling TNR piece from a few years back, about the downslide in levels of achievement (and health!) that typically occurs in immigrant families, the more generations have passed since they were F.O.B.

America's success has long depended on the success of immigrant families. Just this month the Census Bureau reported that one in five Americans were either born in a foreign country or have a parent who was. And some of these immigrant families are soaring as never before: Urban school honor rolls swell with immigrant children; immigrant adults wield unprecedented power in universities, government, and business; immigrants own 40 percent of technology companies in Silicon Valley.

That's the bright side of the story. The dark side is quite shocking: The longer immigrant children live in this country, the worse, on average, their health, their attitude, and their school performance. What's more, with each subsequent generation, immigrant children do worse and worse. On average, first-generation children function at significantly higher levels than do typical American-born children. But, by the third generation, that advantage is gone. To take just one example, the school performance of first-generation Chinese teenagers—one of the highest performing immigrant groups—markedly exceeds white teens. By the third generation, the difference disappears: English proficiency and school performance are inversely related. In other words, while once upon a time people came to the United States expecting to make better lives for their children, today the sad fact is that the more Americanized immigrant children become, the less successful they are...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:42 PM

      ( 9:34 PM ) The Rat  
TAIWANESE FAMILIES FACE UP TO CHANGE. Interestingly, the author notes that lot of these changes have been especially rapid in the past decade, i.e., since Ratty's last visit there...

In the past, there was only one way to win praise from the society: to study really hard. But now, people living in Taiwan have become more aware that a child's life is not only about studying, and later on working. Lin Chun-yu, a young lady in her late 20's, working in the finance industry, had a typical traditional upbringing. "I didn't think very much at that time. The only target I had during my time as a junior high school student was to pass the senior high entrance exam. Not until I turned 19 did I feel I was being respected, treated like an adult," Lin Chun-yu told MercatorNet.

"But my kids will be different. They will not be forced to study hard and get good grades. There are so many other interesting things to learn and do than sit in a classroom and study."

Marriage in the past was a tremendous issue between two families, involving the parents, the grandparents, their expectations and the interests of many others. But individualism has had its effect here also. "I think that one of the major purposes of marriage is to have children, regardless of the husband's and the wife's families. Marriage in the past involved too many factors, which made it a really complicated thing," says Lin Chun-yu.

Yet a "simple" modern marriage is not easy to bring off. Last year one in every five marriages in Taiwan were to a foreigner—mostly women from neighbouring Asian countries who met their husbands through a marriage broker. Taiwanese men find the women of their country too independent, unwilling to fit into the husband's family and look after his old parents. The average Taiwanese bride is 29, and the country's birth rate is among the world's lowest, at 1.2 births per woman...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:34 PM

      ( 11:51 AM ) The Rat  
THIS—from that Time cover story about siblings from earlier this month—is interesting, though it sounds like they didn't control for the possibility that it's only people raised with an opposite-sex sibling that have these responses when meeting new strangers of the opposite sex. Surely some only children, and children with only same-sex siblings, should have been thrown into the mix? (The Time piece is largely your typical Time trash—despite the inherently interesting subject—but full text is available here if you want it; scroll way down.)

[K]ids with opposite-sex siblings have a marked advantage. Last year William Ickes, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, published a study in which he paired up male and female students—all of whom had grown up with an opposite-sex sibling—and set them to chatting with one another. Then he questioned the subjects about how the conversation went. In general, boys with older sisters or girls with older brothers were less fumbling at getting things going and kept the exchange flowing much more naturally.

"The guys who had older sisters had more involving interactions and were liked significantly more by their new female acquaintances," says Ickes. "Women with older brothers were more likely to strike up a conversation with the male stranger and to smile at him more than he smiled at her." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:51 AM

      ( 9:27 AM ) The Rat  

Rat. Above all, though, I just disliked [about dog-sitting two cute but manic-depressive mini dachshunds yesterday] the psycho-friendly one moment, evil the next, thing.
ET. Heh—never get a cat!
Rat. See, it's funny you say this; my own thought was, "Thank God I don't have a girlfriend!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:27 AM

Monday, July 24, 2006
      ( 2:53 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY 101. JS, when I sent her that flaming-dog-meat story in an e-mail entitled "my people": "My people would never do that—they'd pickle the dog instead."

JS also recently sent me the following list, during a discussion of the Korean craze for golf. Its true genius can only truly be appreciated by Asian females with at least one male sibling, but I'm posting it for the rest of you anyway...

Koreans like:
Plastic surgery
Hello Kitty
T-shirts with 'cool' English words on them
Drinking (men), shopping (women)
Marble bed mattresses

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM

Sunday, July 23, 2006
      ( 11:54 PM ) The Rat  
Most often, now, when I thought of her, I would see her in front of a cathedral porch, explaining to me what the statues signified and, with a smile that said good things about me, introducing me as her friend to Bergotte. And always the charm of all those ideas awakened in me by the cathedrals, the charm of the hills of Île-de-France and the plains of Normandy, cast its glimmers over the picture I was forming of Mlle. Swann: this was what it meant to be on the point of falling in love with her. Our belief that a person takes part in an unknown life which his or her love would allow us to enter is, of all that love demands in order to come into being, what it prizes the most, and what makes it care little for the rest...
Swann's Way

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:54 PM

Saturday, July 22, 2006
      ( 2:25 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:03 PM ) The Rat  
NOTE TO TCB: This is why I go over my receipts every month.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:03 PM

Friday, July 21, 2006
      ( 11:05 PM ) The Rat  
My mother, Southern to the bone, once told me, "All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: 'On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to sister.'"
—Pat Conroy

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:05 PM

      ( 10:58 PM ) The Rat  
EXTREMELY UNCHARITABLE REMARKS were deleted from this space.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:58 PM

      ( 10:21 PM ) The Rat  
AN ONLINE RHYMING SLANG DICTIONARY. You know you need one. Also has a little background on rhyming slang (including some possible origins).

It's not really a language since the words spoken are clearly English; on the other hand, it's not a dialect either, since the speakers of this slang are also perfectly capable of not using it! Some stories go that this slang originated in the market place so that the vendor's could communicate without the customers knowing what was being said—you wouldn't want your customers knowing that you were going to lower your prices in ten minutes so you could go home early. Other stories have it that it originated in the prisons so that inmates could talk without the guards listening in. I recently heard from Bob King that "it was born shortly after Sir Robert Peel introduced and implemented his idea for a Police force. The criminal fraternity had never been faced with such a concerted effort to thwart them, so they developed Cockney Slang, the idea of which being that, two or more criminals could hold open conversation, within earshot of a "Peeler," without fear that their plans were being overheard by the police." And Jackie says that many of the rhymes were invented by the petty thieves to rob people in the markets, allowing the thieves to talk amongst themselves without anyone knowing what they were talking about...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:21 PM

      ( 3:07 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME to the visitor who came here looking for "new realms of homosexuals"!

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:07 PM

      ( 12:52 PM ) The Rat  
HEH. From here.

E! set off one of this week's more intriguing mysteries when it censored Village Voice columnist Michael Musto on "The Simple Life." In one scene, Musto is interviewing Paris Hilton at her L.A. home for Out magazine. He explains to her that she's a gay icon because no matter what controversies she lands in, she keeps getting bigger and better. He then asks: "Are you a fag hag?" But the cable execs bleeped the words "fag hag." ("I guess because they didn't want to air the f-word," Musto told Page Six.) In the scene, Hilton replies to Musto, "Yeah—a lot of my friends are. They dress better, they're more fun, and they're usually hotter." The episode, where Paris helps two lesbians get married, has been rerun all week, and Musto has been deluged by viewers wondering who the "friends" are Hilton mentions. "People are sardonically speculating that we might be talking about Rhodes scholars, pot smokers, boyfriend stealers, porn stars, or just hags," laughed Musto.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:52 PM

      ( 11:21 AM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, July 20, 2006
      ( 9:44 PM ) The Rat  

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
      ( 11:09 PM ) The Rat  
Donald Kaufman. Anyway... listen, I meant to ask you. I need a cool way to kill people. Don't worry, for my script.
Charlie Kaufman. I don't write that kind of stuff.
Donald Kaufman. Oh, come on, man—please? You're the genius.
Charlie Kaufman. Here you go. The killer's a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victims' bodies until they die. He calls himself "the deconstructionist"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:09 PM

      ( 8:41 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:41 PM

      ( 8:31 PM ) The Rat  

In addition to keeping tabs on its 1.8 billion people, China will now begin tracking its vegetables.

In an attempt to ensure food safety during the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing is planning to give every cabbage, carrot and pea pod its own identity number and file.

If there is a "safety incident"—most likely a likely reference to pesticide or pollutants in the soil—the vegetable's file can be immediately checked and its origins traced...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:31 PM

      ( 8:27 PM ) The Rat  
FROM THE 'GEE, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?' FILES... I've read about urfi marriages before, but this is still interesting.

Under misyar, the husband is not financially responsible for his wife, and the marriage often ends in divorce.

[M]isyar appeals to men of reduced means, as well as men looking for a flexible arrangement—the husband can walk away from a misyar and can marry other women without informing his first wife.

Wealthy Muslims sometimes contract misyar when on holiday to allow them to have sexual relations without breaching the tenets of their faith.

A misyar is often one of the only options for older spinsters, divorcees and widows who often struggle to find husbands in a society where they are stigmatised.

This vulnerability has sometimes encouraged abuses: women sometimes act as matchmakers for less than scrupulous men on the prowl for lonely and wealthy spinsters.

Suhaila Zein al-Abideen, of the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Medina, said almost 80 percent of misyar marriages end in divorce.

"A woman loses all her rights. Even how often she sees her husband is decided by his moods," she said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
      ( 7:28 PM ) The Rat  
A PAGE on ways to collect miles without leaving the ground. And I thought I was obsessed!

I have sought free frequent flyer miles for about seven years. For years my international round trip tickets have been free except for taxes and fees, and I have over 3/4 million miles still waiting to be used...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:28 PM

      ( 5:28 PM ) The Rat  

Police in the tiny Australian town of Sleepy West are baffled by a series of murders in which a biker, a construction worker, a sailor, a cowboy and an Indian are killed. To their horror, they realize that someone is killing people with the same occupations as the Village People...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:28 PM

      ( 2:20 PM ) The Rat  
WHOLE FOODS MARKET STOPS SELLING LIVE LOBSTERS. Just heard about this this morning... Cf. this report.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:20 PM

      ( 8:09 AM ) The Rat  
WHERE GHOSTS HOLD SWAY. Interesting, though overstated.

In Taiwan, ghosts are rarely a laughing matter. On TV, in daily conversation, at temples and in the deepest recesses of the unconscious, they maintain a firm grip on island society. Taiwanese are ghost-crazy—or rather, crazy to avoid them. A recent survey of Taipei college students found that 87% were believers, and some say that could be on the low side.

Ghosts have been an integral part of Chinese culture dating to at least the Shang Dynasty, with 3,500-year-old oracle bones from the period depicting a big-headed, bent-kneed phantom.

But China has seen much of its otherworldly belief system erode under the Communist Party's assault on religion and superstition. That has left Taiwan, which split from China in 1949 after civil war, a rich repository of this living tradition, one that draws scholars eager to study Chinese ghost practices in their purest form.

"On the mainland, we're more cut off from our culture by socialist education and propaganda, and I don't believe in ghosts," says Wang Shen, 28, a Beijing-based website designer. "That's not necessarily a good thing, though. People here aren't as nice as they were before, when they feared retribution."

Anthropologists say that in China's rich spirit world, gods tend to be honored, ancestors tend to be honored or appeased, and ghosts tend to be appeased or avoided.

In this ancestor-worshiping culture where the memories of the living nurture the dead, tormented ghosts are often the embodiment of people with few loved ones to remember them, and of those less connected to their clan. They include unmarried women and people who die violently or far from home.

Scholars say the layers of hell in the Chinese belief system closely resemble in structure the former levels of imperial government, while ghost hierarchies mirror old bureaucratic rankings headed by a king of ghosts...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 AM

Monday, July 17, 2006
      ( 8:52 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT JEFF KILLED. Blog (by someone in Shadow Hills, Calif.) of very graphic photos of the fresh kills of a tomcat that lives/hunts in the area.

Jeff has adopted our back porch and yard as his home. He uses our dog's house when it rains, but mostly he likes to sleep on our patio chairs and keep watch over his domain.

Though he doesn't really belong to us, we provide Jeff with food and water; however, this does little to lessen his killer instinct. To humans, Jeff is an exceptionally good-tempered and friendly cat; to rodents and other small animals, he is death itself.

It could be that Jeff likes to bring us gifts to repay our hospitality. Perhaps he is simply a hardwired killing machine. All we know for certain is that he hunts down a wide variety of small animals and disembowels, decapitates, and dines on them. Often.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:52 PM

      ( 8:29 PM ) The Rat  
MAN FIGHTS ALIENS, THEN POPS THE QUESTION. Considering that the girl actually said yes, all we can do now is hope they don't spawn.

Ross Savedra fought aliens to rescue his girlfriend, then popped the question in an out-of-this-world proposal. Savedra, 32, staged his elaborate proposal Sunday afternoon for Ariana Ash, 23, with the help of family members and Roswell's UFO Museum.

Savedra and Ash were touring the museum when a silver-suited, masked alien from an exhibit called "alien autopsy" suddenly abducted Ash from in front of a group of tourists. Savedra dashed through the crowd, fought two aliens and rescued her.

Then he dropped to his knees, presented her a ring and asked her to marry him.

They embraced in a cloud of shiny colored confetti tossed by onlookers...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 PM

Sunday, July 16, 2006
      ( 7:14 PM ) The Rat  
MOST FREQUENTLY USED ENGLISH WORDS. Very nifty site. Can also be searched for the rankings of particular words ("spatula," for instance, clocks in at 46,714, just one ahead of "nonexistent" at 46,715).

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:14 PM

      ( 4:58 PM ) The Rat  
YOU MUST CLICK on this link, via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:58 PM

      ( 12:42 PM ) The Rat  
STRIPS FROM THE BLOOM COUNTY ARCHIVES (including some I've never seen in any of the published collections) are now available online!

The Wikipedia list of notable storylines, available here, is also fun, and entirely accurate. Samples:

Oliver Jones finds out about Apartheid and builds a "photo-pigmentizer" with which he plans to start an international brouhaha by using it on the South African ambassador to the US, making him black. Oliver sends the machine to Washington D.C. with Cutter John on a balloon chair (this aspect of the story may have been based on the flight of so-called "lawn chair pilot" Larry Walters), and Opus is accidentally dragged along. While airborne, several balloons are popped by shotguns, sending the two plummetting into the Atlantic Ocean. Both are assumed dead, so Opus' money is given to Bill the Cat, who wastes it all. Eventually, Opus turns up at the Bloom County Boarding House with amnesia, which lasts until he is shocked by the news that Diane Sawyer has married Eddie Murphy, after which he reveals that he and Cutter John survived the splash-down and were captured by Russians...

Opus receives 779 million dollars in cash from the U.S. Government under the mistaken belief that he is a scientist working on missile defense research. Opus uses the money to buy Bolivia...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 PM

Friday, July 14, 2006
      ( 6:37 PM ) The Rat  
IKM ASKS: "This is how you got TCB's number, right?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:37 PM

      ( 12:11 PM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, July 13, 2006
      ( 8:11 PM ) The Rat  

It is hardly algebra or physics, but meerkats have been observed actively teaching their young, something not often seen in animals in the wild.

While the young of many species learn by observing older members of their group, it's less common for adults to take direct actions with the only goal being teaching.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge in England observed meerkats gradually introducing cubs to prey, showing them how to handle captured insects and even removing the stingers from scorpions before giving them to youngsters.

"Meerkats provide the ideal study species to examine these questions because they eat a whole range of prey items including lizards, geckos, scorpions, spiders and small mammals that are very difficult for young pups to handle," [Alex] Thornton said.

There are countless examples of animals learning simply by observation, he said, citing the spread of milk-bottle opening by birds in Britain as an example. The difference is in such cases the experienced animal does not have to make any changes in its behavior for others to learn from it.

"For example, if a chimpanzee infant sees his mother probing for termites using a stick and later finds the stick his mother used, tries it out himself and learns how to fish for ants, there is no element of teaching involved," he explained.

In the case of the meerkats, however, the older animal catches prey and presents it, either dead or alive to the youngster so it can learn to handle it—an activity that does not benefit the older animal...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:11 PM

      ( 6:40 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:35 PM ) The Rat  
THE END OF THE INTERNET. This has been around awhile I think.

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      ( 2:10 PM ) The Rat  

Women going on boozy nights out have been warned by police to "wear nice pants" in case they fall down drunk in the street.

A Suffolk police safety campaign magazine shows pictures of young women slumped on the ground next to messages urging them: "If you've got it, don't flaunt it."

"If you fall over or pass out, remember your skirt or dress may ride up," the magazine says. "You could show off more than you intended—for all our sakes, please make sure you're wearing nice pants and that you've recently had a wax."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:10 PM

      ( 2:02 PM ) The Rat  
THEY'VE RELEASED ANOTHER OF THOSE STUDIES that purports to rank the world's countries according to a happiness index. The results of this one would appear to speak for themselves.

The top ten was dominated by Latin American countries with Colombia, often associated with drugs cartels, civil wars and kidnappings, placed second...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:02 PM

      ( 3:34 AM ) The Rat  
SYNOPSES OF THE M&MS CHARACTERS. Note how right I was that MLY is Yellow! ...well, except in not being plump.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 AM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
      ( 11:38 PM ) The Rat  
IN A WORD: YIKES. I actually flinched when I saw the photo (in conjunction with the headline).

With fertility drugs, Angela Magdaleno had triplets three years ago. Last week, she had quadruplets—without fertility drugs.

[Magdaleno's doctor Kathryn] Shaw said the odds of conceiving quadruplets without fertility drugs are about one in 800,000. She's seen only one other case of quadruplets being conceived without drugs—18 years ago.

Even more rare, the boys appear to be identical twins, according to their doctor, Soha Idriss, who expects the babies will join their mother at home in about eight weeks.

When the quadruplets come home, Magdaleno will have help from two older daughters, Kelly Moreno, 17, and Stephanie Anzaldo, 15.

All 11 family members will be living in a one-bedroom apartment in East Los Angeles...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:38 PM

      ( 9:00 PM ) The Rat  

Historians and scientists have exhumed the remains of legendary castrato Farinelli in Italy to study the anatomical effects of castration carried out on young boys to turn them into high-pitched stars of the opera.

Castrati played heroic male leads in Italian opera from the mid-17th to late 18th century when the bel canto was the rage in Europe. Farinelli, born Carlo Broschi in 1705, was the most famous of them all, in a stage career lasting from 1720 to 1737.

A singing professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London and curator of an exhibition on the composer Handel's use of the castrati, [Nicholas] Clapton said the removal of boy chorists' testicles kept their vocal chords small while the hormonal changes meant their bodies kept growing well into adulthood.

"That gave them huge lung capacity but with a very sweet voice," he said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:00 PM

      ( 8:57 PM ) The Rat  

Working long hours has a greater negative impact on women than men because it makes them more likely to smoke, drink coffee and eat unhealthy food.

Both sexes consume less alcohol if they spend more time working, researchers said on Wednesday, but toiling extra hours makes women crave unhealthy snacks.

"Women who work long hours eat more high-fat and high-sugar snacks, exercise less, drink more caffeine and, if smokers, smoke more than their male colleagues," said Dr. Daryl O'Connor, a researcher at Britain's Leeds University.

"For men, working longer hours has no negative impact on exercise, caffeine intake or smoking," O'Connor said in a statement released by the Economic and Social Research Council, which funded his study.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:57 PM

      ( 8:55 PM ) The Rat  

One-quarter of the U.S. work force could be doing their jobs from home if all those able to telecommute chose to do so, according to a study on Wednesday which said many still elect to work at the office.

All those people working from home could translate into annual gasoline savings of $3.9 billion, according to the National Technology Readiness Survey...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 PM

      ( 8:52 PM ) The Rat  
RESULTS FROM THIS YEAR'S BULWER-LYTTON CONTEST. The winning entry, from retired mechanical designer Jim Guigli of California:

"Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:52 PM

      ( 8:14 PM ) The Rat  
ON THE GREAT UKRAINIAN BRIDE HUNT. Very well-written look at the contemporary mail-order-bride industry. Interestingly, there's as much pathos in the snapshot it provides of the plight of disappointed men in a high-divorce culture, as there is in the parts about the women desperate enough to consent to this kind of thing.

Again and again, my companions declared that they weren't looking for a sex tour, and that neither were they simply looking for a servant to cook for them and clean their home—that it was a real companion they sought. Each consistently made a point of saying how intelligent their dates were, even if their outing had only lasted for half an hour and had taken place without a common language between them.

What they really wanted, and what most imagined they would find in Ukraine, was a fusion of 1950s gender sensibilities with a twenty-first-century hypersexuality. Along with everything else, the men had heard that the women here were "wild," "uninhibited," that being with them was "a whole different ball game." As always, Dan the Man had done his part to stoke this fantasy, peppering his talk of traditional values and wifely devotion with just the right amount of lasciviousness. "I've heard stories from all the guys who have been married to them, and they all say the same thing: they definitely are much, much, much more passionate, much more open-minded," he told us at one point. "This guy, he's been married for six, seven years and his wife is just as crazy, they have threesomes all the time." The vision was Madonna and puttana rolled together, an American male desire shaped in equal parts by the Promise Keepers and Internet porn. [...]

Every one of the men I spoke with said they planned to restrict their future wife's involvement in their finances, and radically so. "You don't ever let them touch your money, bottom line," said one, to vigorous agreement from the rest of the table. "Set them up with their checking account that they use to pay all of the household supplies. You cover the core of the mortgages and the car and everything else. Never give them joint access." When I remarked that the arrangement sounded more like an employer/employee relationship than a marriage, the group went a little quiet, and I suddenly found myself being accused of cultural intolerance—this at a table where "bluegums" appeared to be a perfectly unobjectionable way of referring to African Americans.

"You're bringing all your value premises and laying them over relationships," the New Englander objected. "You're thinking about how you view it as, not what she's looking for." He became angry. "Have you been married and divorced before?" he continued, apoplectic now, forcefully jabbing his finger in my direction to punctuate each thought. "No? So you know nothing. When you've been fucked; when you let a woman take your life and everything you've worked for up to that point, and rip it out of your guts and then use the kids to keep fucking with you for ten years—then you'll have been cauterized to learn caution. And that's why I'm almost sixty and not married again."

A God-fearing plumber, who would actually be engaged by the end of the week, agreed that I had no idea what I was talking about, but tried to soften the tone by warning me about the dangers I would face if I sought love back in the United States. "When she gets over it, you're not going to know for two years," he told me. "And at the end of two years, she's going to have you so tied up, wrapped up, and packaged in such a neat little bow, that when she finally does tell you, ka-boom, you're done, she's already got the deck stacked in her favor before you even know what's going on. That's the truth. You can ask anybody that's been divorced."

Even the most likable of them approached the idea of marriage as if through a time machine. One, for example, a sweet-tempered, chubby Canadian businessman, spoke with passion and conviction about the female orgasm, and openly about loneliness; at one point he leaned over to me and whispered, "We're all hurting in one way or another, that's why we're here. We're all trying to make our lives better, we're all looking for love." He told me he wanted a genuine partner, but with the caveat that on the big issues—house buying, for example—he must be in charge, for the good of them both. "A ship cannot have two captains," he insisted. When I suggested that he and his hypothetical spouse might eliminate the need for a "captain" by simply shopping for a house they both liked, he went silent for a moment before he managed both to concede my point and to reframe it entirely: "Actually, that's an important thing you just said, because for a woman, she would take a lot of pride in her house. The kitchen area, the living-room area, the entertainment area, she's got to be compatible with that. So that's something I would gladly defer to a woman on."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 PM

      ( 7:38 PM ) The Rat  
A BETTER ALTERNATIVE to sleeping in airports.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:38 PM

      ( 7:02 PM ) The Rat  
COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF. JZ, on hearing the circumstances of TCB's and Ratty's first meeting:

"That's fucking sick!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:02 PM

      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  
HAPPINESS: A USER'S MANUAL, via New York magazine by way of IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 AM

      ( 12:15 AM ) The Rat  

Dr Julie Norem is on a crusade against relentless positivity. She cautions that promoting optimism encourages people to believe that they can eradicate anxiety and negative thoughts. "Unless you're a psychopath, that's not going to happen," she says. Instead, she argues in her book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking (Basic Books) that we should foster a strategy called "defensive pessimism."

Defensive pessimists are not depressive pessimists. They are able to use their depressive thinking productively; they use the juice of their anxiety by mentally rehearsing all that can go wrong. This negative thinking propels them towards their goals and helps them to feel more in control, claims Dr Norem, a psychology professor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. She says that defensive pessimists are excellent troubleshooters because they are aware of all that may go awry and have a realistic idea of their weaknesses. They are prepared, and this preparation prevents anxiety from overloading them.

She adds: "We tend to grossly underestimate the disadvantages of optimism, which can include overconfidence and positive self-bias that make it harder for optimists to learn from their mistakes." Optimists also tend to absorb only good news and are more likely to blame others when things go wrong. No strategy is perfect, though, and defensive pessimists have their drawbacks, including a tendency to alienate people with their insistent focus on potential problems...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 AM

      ( 12:03 AM ) The Rat  
WIENERSCHNITZEL WIENER NATIONALS, held just by Ratty's high-school alma mater. Check out the photo!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
      ( 9:10 PM ) The Rat  

Rat. ...But I'm sorry, you were talking about cheese.

ET. No, I was done talking about cheese. We can talk about torture now.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:10 PM

      ( 3:13 PM ) The Rat  
One day more is one day less.
—Charles Wright

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:13 PM

      ( 2:49 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:49 PM

      ( 2:45 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY JUST LEARNED THIS MORNING about 1) a "Hades in rotis"* bumper sticker, and 2) an "Odi profanum vulgus et arceo" T-shirt. Sadly, she particularly covets the first, which seems to no longer be made. A local brewery also offers an "In vino veritas sed in cerevisiae felicitas" T-shirt.

*"Hell on wheels"

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:45 PM

      ( 1:01 AM ) The Rat  

On Monday, the blind activist's wife was interrogated and one of his supporters beaten, the latest in a series of moves apparently designed to intimidate and punish him for exposing forced abortions and sterilization under China's one-child campaign, one of his lawyers said.

Chen, villagers and his lawyers say thousands of women were subjected to forced abortions and obligatory sterilization in and around Linyi, a municipal area with about 10 million people, in order to meet stringent quotas under the one-child campaign.

Although other regions have seen forced abortions, activists say the abuses in Linyi were unusual because local authorities took villagers within the area hostage. When women fled to avoid losing their babies, lawyers and residents say, officials seized their parents, nephews or cousins as leverage, hoping this would force the women to return.

Liang Suhe, a villager in Banqiao, said he was detained with his wife for a month last year because her brother and sister-in-law were planning to have a third child and authorities couldn't find her.

"We were both beaten up, but my wife was beaten harder," he said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 AM

      ( 1:00 AM ) The Rat  
You have been the one encounter of my life that can never be repeated...
The Fountainhead

Happy birthday, H.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:00 AM

Monday, July 10, 2006
      ( 10:00 PM ) The Rat  
KEVIN SITES ON TUOL SLENG, a museum in Phnom Penh chronicling genocide under the Khmer Rouge.

Many of the prison guards here were just children themselves, usually between the ages of 10 and 15, sometimes picked out from other camps. Literature from Tuol Sleng says the children usually started out quite normal but increased in their remorseless cruelty towards those they were charged with minding. Eventually these children were often killed themselves by other children that replaced them.

Prisoners had to ask permission to do anything—from going the bathroom to even moving their bodies. Failure to obey immediately would result in savage beatings with electrical wire or electric shock. The regulations were posted in each cell, some of them even detailing how prisoners should behave during torture. For example:

"Rule #6—While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 PM

      ( 2:38 PM ) The Rat  

I was introduced to the "Zimbabwean wallet" on my first day back in my home country. I needed to change 100 U.S. dollars into local currency, and a friend in Victoria Falls, the resort town where I had just arrived from Zambia, said he knew a black-market money dealer. He called a number, asked for a man codenamed "Mashishe" and inquired what the day's rate was. "Three," came the reply. Could he change $100? It appeared he could.

Ten minutes later, a car pulled up in the driveway. My friend took my $100, went to meet his man and, seconds later, returned with a knapsack bulging with thick bricks of Zimbabwean dollars—in notes of 20,000—held together with rubber bands. It totaled 30 million Zimbabwean dollars.

"Here," he said, handing me the heavy bag. "The Zimbabwean wallet."

In the 1980s, when I lived in Zimbabwe, Z$30 million would have made me one of the richest men in the country. Today, it barely buys a family a week's groceries. The "three" quoted by the money changer did not mean three Zimbabwean dollars to one U.S. dollar. It meant 300,000 to 1...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:38 PM

      ( 2:35 PM ) The Rat  

Employers and hiring experts say the younger generation no longer approaches the first job as a nest for the next 10 or five or even three years.

"There's no longer a stigma in changing jobs frequently," said Eileen Kohan, executive director of USC's career center. "It's not unnatural for someone to have several jobs in their first five years out of college."

That revolving door is costly to employers. Every recruit gone after a year or so represents the loss of about 1.5 times the worker's salary for costs associated with recruiting, training and the like, according to Saratoga, a San Jose-based unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers. "The war for talent has shifted," Saratoga director Scott Pollak said. "You still want to recruit, but the new challenge is, how do you keep the best people? Retention is now a big issue."

To understand exactly how the Generation Y thinks, some employers are hiring consultants schooled in the ways of those born between 1978 and 2000, the usual definition of the group.

Companies are implementing training programs, pairing newbies with seasoned veterans and working on integrating their newest hires in hopes of boosting retention.

Generation Y, the children of baby boomers and Gen-Xers, is often described as the entitlement generation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:35 PM

      ( 2:01 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 PM

      ( 2:36 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:36 AM

Sunday, July 09, 2006
      ( 11:06 PM ) The Rat  

Though one of the most useful travel sites out there is, which Ratty is putting back as a permanent link.

And this attempt to link to maps of all the world's subway systems is ambitious, but does contain some broken links.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:06 PM

      ( 3:31 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:31 PM

      ( 9:31 AM ) The Rat  

Lest you think Ratty has gone soft, however, also check out the elephant faceplant, and this beer memorial.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 AM

      ( 12:13 AM ) The Rat  
ONE OF THE ONION'S ALL-TIME BEST: "Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 AM

Saturday, July 08, 2006
      ( 7:14 PM ) The Rat  
HEARSE DRIVER FINED FOR SPEEDING. Also check out "Inmate Donates $31,000 to Crime Tip Line" and "Fight Erupts at Shoe Sale; Customer Shot."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:14 PM

      ( 4:24 PM ) The Rat  

Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor's degrees—and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women.

And in two national studies, college men reported that they studied less and socialized more than their female classmates.

Small wonder, then, that at elite institutions like Harvard, small liberal arts colleges like Dickinson, huge public universities like the University of Wisconsin and U.C.L.A. and smaller ones like Florida Atlantic University, women are walking off with a disproportionate share of the honors degrees...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:24 PM

Friday, July 07, 2006
      ( 1:11 AM ) The Rat  
SEE? IT ISN'T JUST ME!! From this article:

Of course, the main reason people find it difficult to work on a particular problem is that they don't enjoy it. When you're young, especially, you often find yourself working on stuff you don't really like—because it seems impressive, for example, or because you've been assigned to work on it. Most grad students are stuck working on big problems they don't really like, and grad school is thus synonymous with procrastination...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:11 AM

      ( 1:08 AM ) The Rat  
"Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat... college."
Annie Hall

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:08 AM

Thursday, July 06, 2006
      ( 3:46 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:46 PM

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
      ( 6:57 PM ) The Rat  

Cold Sweat, a flavor sold at ice cream shop Sunni Sky's, is made with three kinds of pepper and two kinds of hot sauce. [...]

The waiver for the fiery mixture has dozens of signatures. Pregnant women and people with health problems are not supposed to eat it. Anyone younger than 18 needs the consent of a guardian.

Among the first to try Cold Sweat was Justin Smith, 22, an Angier woodworker. He went to the restroom and vomited after a spoonful.

He's had about five samples since, and wants to go for the record of 14 ounces in a sitting...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:57 PM

      ( 6:14 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:14 PM

      ( 2:01 PM ) The Rat  
SOME RECORDS from the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Includes contests in, among other things: conch fritters, hamentaschen, onions, spam, and tiramisu.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 PM

      ( 7:58 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:58 AM

      ( 7:51 AM ) The Rat  
Alvy. I think, I think there's too much burden placed on the orgasm, you know, to make up for empty areas in life.
Pam. Who said that?
Alvy. It may have been Leopold and Loeb.
Annie Hall

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:51 AM

Monday, July 03, 2006
      ( 8:45 PM ) The Rat  
CLICK HERE and scroll to the second item. No, really.

It all started four years ago when Roger Dier bought a baby rat to feed his pet Indian python. But when he saw the furry little critter squeaking for its life, the lifelong animal lover said he didn't have the heart to let it become just another snake snack.

"I couldn't stand it," he told The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa. "I took the rat out of the cage and got to know it."

After that, Dier was hooked on the rodents, which he described as gentle, lovable and an endless source of entertainment. He later bought four more at the pet store—but didn't think to spay or neuter them.

Last week, animal control officers discovered more than 1,300 rats in Dier's small one-bedroom Petaluma home...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:45 PM

      ( 12:35 AM ) The Rat  
"Oh, my shrink was right! God does hate me!"
The Critic

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:35 AM

Saturday, July 01, 2006
      ( 4:49 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:49 PM

      ( 1:56 PM ) The Rat  
ONLY IN L.A. Look for the phrase "operating a yoga studio without a permit."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:56 PM

      ( 1:32 AM ) The Rat  
THIS RUSSIAN FOLKTALE, which Ratty read in her youth as part of the indispensable Childcraft series, turns out to be available as a stand-alone volume. I need not delve into the reasons it came to mind tonight, though I will take this occasion to note for the record that I'm the only person I know whose mother has her own sherpas.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 AM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
THIS IS GREAT!! From this week's Postsecret.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

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

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