The Rat
Thursday, October 26, 2006
      ( 1:36 AM ) The Rat  
You can't escape the past in Paris, and yet what's so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn't seem to burden.
—Allen Ginsberg

(Astutely observed, despite the source. Blogging will be sparse for the next couple of weeks.)

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
      ( 11:14 PM ) The Rat  
JUST DISCOVERED: an entire special exhibit, at the Bibliothèque Forney, devoted to the history of brushes and brooms ("l'histoire de la brosse et du balai du XVIIIème siècle à nos jours").

Not sure I'll be stopping there, but I do want to hit the Musée du Stylo et Ecriture (pen and writing museum) this visit, as well as the Bricard (locksmithing museum)—the latter, appropriately, was always obstinately shut when I tried to get in before.

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      ( 8:05 PM ) The Rat  
"HOW DO I LOVE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WORDS," a study at UT-Austin suggesting that writing about your romantic relationship may help it last longer. (If, like me, you don't have time to read the study, there is an abstract here.)

This was, of course, only one study, but if its findings are accurate, they would seem to testify to the power of what this guy (ripping off Coleridge, I think?) has called "self-overhearing."

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      ( 9:15 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY ONLY FIRST HEARD ABOUT FLAT STANLEY about a week ago, and then just days later she spotted his picture being taken on the steps to the Met.

Here are some places Flat Stanley has been. I have to admit it's refreshing to see adults—who so often seem to think kids will learn faster as long as they're surrounded by gadgets—trying a low-tech educational device for once.

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      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  
CAN'T WAIT TILL the Koreans get hold of this one. (Ratty's oldest friend, who is Korean, has not had the older procedure—eyelid-fold surgery—because she ie neither vain nor nuts. Three other Koreans she knows have, however; and it's estimated that 40 percent of young women in Korea undergo the procedure.)

Using procedures pioneered by the hair loss industry for balding men, surgeons are using "plug and sew" techniques to give women long, sweeping lashes once achieved only by glued on extensions and thick lashings of mascara.

And just like human hair—for that is the origin—these lashes just keep on growing.

"Longer, thicker lashes are a ubiquitous sign of beauty. Eyelash transplantation does for the eyes what breast augmentation does for the figure," said Dr Alan Bauman, a leading proponent of eyelash transplants.

"This is a brand new procedure for the general public (and) it is going to explode," Bauman told Reuters during what was billed as the world's first live eyelash surgery workshop for about 40 surgeons from around the world.

Under the procedure, a small incision is made at the back of the scalp to remove 30 or 40 hair follicles which are carefully sewn one by one onto the patient's eyelids. Only light sedation and local anesthetics are used and the cost is around $3,000 an eye...

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
      ( 7:52 PM ) The Rat  
IS THIS a metaphor for grad school or what? Via the Onion, natch.

Project organizers said the most distressing instance of erratic behavior occurred last week, when images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed that Spirit had scrawled the message 'FUCK MARS' in the thick, iron oxide dust that gives the planet its characteristic red color.

"The orbiting Mars Odyssey has cut off transmissions from Spirit, which seems to envy the craft's ability to fly freely around in space," Banerdt said. "Similarly, data suggests Spirit is convinced that [sister rover] Opportunity has found water and isn't telling anyone."

Despite these malfunctions, mission leaders remain optimistic that the rover will eventually return to full working order.

"Hopefully these malfunctions will straighten themselves out," Callas said. "In the meantime, we'll simply have to try to glean what usable data we can from 'OVERPRICED SPACE-ROOMBA AWAITING MORE BULLSHIT ORDERS.'" [...]

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      ( 5:23 PM ) The Rat  
I have seen one or two men in my life who could bear to be loved (as a woman with a soul knows how), without being spoiled by it, or converted into a tyrant—but they are rare birds, and should be caught, stuffed and handed over to Barnum...
—Fanny Fern, "Hints to Young Wives" (1852)

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      ( 1:20 PM ) The Rat  
'PARIS SYNDROME' LEAVES TOURISTS IN SHOCK. Every time I think the Japanese couldn't get any f---in' weirder, they prove me wrong, spectacularly.

Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

"A third of patients get better immediately, a third suffer relapses and the rest have psychoses," Yousef Mahmoudia, a psychologist at the Hotel-Dieu hospital, next to Notre Dame cathedral, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

Already this year, Japan's embassy in Paris has had to repatriate at least four visitors—including two women who believed their hotel room was being bugged and there was a plot against them.

Previous cases include a man convinced he was the French "Sun King", Louis XIV, and a woman who believed she was being attacked with microwaves...

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      ( 9:20 AM ) The Rat  

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Monday, October 23, 2006
      ( 10:26 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:36 AM ) The Rat  

When Michigan-based automotive supplier Lear Corp. needed a secretary for its office in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, it placed a classified ad seeking a "female... aged 20 to 28... preferably single... with excellent presentation."

And to ensure that it got the right candidate, Lear asked applicants to include a recent photo with their resumes.

In the United States, that ad might draw howls of protest and trigger lawsuits and hefty fines. But in Mexico, where jobs are scarce and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws is all but nonexistent, employers routinely select staff on criteria more appropriate to a beauty contest.

Job seekers who are considered too old, too chunky or too dark are screened out by companies that sometimes specify the ideal candidate's marital status, height, weight, tone of voice, even the part of town in which the person should reside.

What is less known is that many American corporations—including Coca-Cola, Pepsi Bottling and Shell Oil—are engaging in hiring practices that appear to violate their fair-employment policies in the U.S...

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      ( 3:12 AM ) The Rat  
CHOCOLATE FASHION SHOW, to benefit The Felix Organization/Adoptees for Children. (Go on—click through! The site includes pictures of some of last year's dresses.)

Alas, Ratty can't afford the $200-a-head tickets, so she'll have to content herself with dropping in at this (at the Porte de Versailles) instead...

A quick reminder that the Salon du Chocolat, the huge chocolate expo in Paris takes place next week, from October 28 to November 1. If you're a chocolate lover, this event is not to be missed. Though, if you are shy of crowds, it'll be a tremendous challenge to get through all the goodies without having a crisis. Lots of people go to this! There will be demonstrations by very well known chocolatiers, classes as well as chocolate tastings and information related to the latest trends in chocolate. You’ll also be able to stock up on your supply of chocolate. Lastly, there's a separate, fun area just for kids called, Chocoland.

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      ( 2:50 AM ) The Rat  
THE EIFFEL TOWER SEEN FROM SPACE, courtesy of Google Earth. Via Why Travel to France.

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      ( 1:02 AM ) The Rat  
The sky will be much friendlier then than now...

Wallace Stevens

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Sunday, October 22, 2006
      ( 9:40 PM ) The Rat  
LEGO LES MISERABLES. Just skip to the third one, which is inspired! Link via ET.

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      ( 8:31 PM ) The Rat  
MOTORIST FOLLOWS NAVIGATION ORDERS, CRASHES CAR. Well, we already knew how good Germans are about obeying orders!

A German motorist followed the command "Turn right now!" from his navigation system and crashed into a small toilet hut by the side of the road—about 30 metres (yards) before the crossing he was meant to take.

The overly obedient 53-year-old from Freiburg drove his sport utility vehicle off the road onto into a building site, up a stairway and into the small toilet shack...

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      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  
I WISH I KNEW even a little about photography, as then I might have been better able to gauge whether "New Orleans After the Flood: Photographs by Robert Polidori" is actually artistically powerful, or is only striking because of the subject matter. Since I can't help you, though, you'll just have to go to the show yourself (go here for a selection of images—though none of the ones that really caught my eye are included, boo).

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Saturday, October 21, 2006
      ( 12:51 AM ) The Rat  

A Riverside judge dismissed an indecent exposure charge against a woman accused of disrobing in front of a 14-year-old boy, saying the law only applies to men.

Superior Court Judge Robert W. Armstrong said earlier in the week that the law only mentions someone who "exposes his person."

"It's gender specific," Armstrong said.

He dismissed a misdemeanor charge against Alexis Luz Garcia, 40, of Corona, who was cited in May after parents of a neighbor boy said she showed him full-frontal nudity as he played basketball...

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Friday, October 20, 2006
      ( 2:05 AM ) The Rat  
"I SAID 'ARREST ME,' NOT 'CUT OFF MY BALLS'!" The 30-Second Bunnies Theatre presents Fight Club.

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      ( 1:47 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:08 AM ) The Rat  
WHAT A DAY (i.e., Thursday was). On days like these I feel compelled to retake the Cool Person Test.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006
      ( 10:52 AM ) The Rat  
If you would cure anger, do not feed it. Say to yourself: 'I used to be angry every day; then every other day; now only every third or fourth day.' When you reach thirty days offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods.

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      ( 10:50 AM ) The Rat  
"But I bear those monotonous walls no ill-will now," said Mr. Meagles. "One always begins to forgive a place as soon as it's left behind; I dare say a prisoner begins to relent towards his prison, after he is let out."
Little Dorrit

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
      ( 8:04 PM ) The Rat  
VIRTUAL BUBBLEWRAP. Link via Postsecret.

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      ( 10:23 AM ) The Rat  

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
      ( 8:14 PM ) The Rat  
PARBLEU! Who knew it was still possible to run off and join the French Foreign Legion?! More details at the French embassy's site—here for instance.

The Legionnaire is a volunteer.

Most often, he has come to the Legion to escape from his past.

Generally, he has joined because of a personal or family crisis or an upheaval in his social or political life. Striking examples of this can be found in the mass enlistment of Alsatians after 1871, of Spaniards in 1939 and of Eastern Europeans after 1945.

For others, those who are unable to deal with the limitations of a middle-class life, the Legion represents a life of adventure.

In the enlistment procedure, selection is very tough. Many candidates are turned down for medical reasons, or after a thorough study of their individual cases. The legionnaire is seldom an angel but never a criminal.

Once he has joined, under an assumed name if he wishes, the legionnaire enjoys an unequaled protection for as long as he serves, because of the anonymity rule. Only he can decide when to break it.

Coming from all over the world, with such different origins, languages and ideals, it would seem that they have nothing to share.

But they have one thing in common: they refuse to be mediocre. Rejecting easy solutions, the legionnaire has bravely broken with his past and his family...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 PM

      ( 7:16 PM ) The Rat  
(UNINTENTIONALLY) HILARIOUS. Man does this guy sound like he needs a date.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said-before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:16 PM

      ( 4:46 PM ) The Rat  

A Little Rock man whose SUV was cut off in traffic was arrested after he allegedly shot at a motorist with a crossbow following a brief chase.

Wayne Allen Dierks Jr., 26, posted bail after his arrest Sunday on charges of committing a terroristic act, possession of an instrument of crime, driving while intoxicated and driving on a suspended driver's license. Committing a terroristic act is a felony; the other charges are misdemeanors. An arraignment was set for Oct. 25.

Gilgenbach acknowledged cutting in front of Dierks on Interstate 630 in midtown Little Rock.

"I was merging on the highway and I had to get in, so I cut the guy off," Gilgenbach said. "He started following me, cursing at me and yelling for me to pull over." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:46 PM

      ( 1:53 PM ) The Rat  
OUCH. Link via IKM.

Pablo Picasso's "dream" painting has turned into a $139 million nightmare for Steve Wynn.

In an accident witnessed by a group that included Barbara Walters and screenwriters Nora Ephron and Nicholas Pileggi, Wynn accidentally poked a hole in Picasso's 74-year-old painting, "Le Reve," French for "The Dream."

A day earlier, Wynn had finalized a record $139 million deal for the painting of Picasso's mistress, Wynn told The New Yorker magazine.

The accident occurred as a gesturing Wynn, who suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that affects peripheral vision, struck the painting with his right elbow, leaving a hole the size of a silver dollar in the left forearm of Marie-Theresa Walter, Picasso's 21-year-old mistress...

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Monday, October 16, 2006
      ( 6:36 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:20 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:25 PM ) The Rat  
COLD AUTUMN, via WaiterRant.

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      ( 12:19 PM ) The Rat  
Beauty for the blind is but a word when divorced from utility, and, wanting an organ, how many things are there the utility of which escapes them? Are not the blind very much to be pitied in accounting nothing beautiful unless it be likewise good?
—Diderot, "Letter on the Blind"

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Sunday, October 15, 2006
      ( 9:45 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:56 PM ) The Rat  

Three years ago, at the tender age of 17, Metok Lhazey sat in solitary confinement in a pitch dark, filthy and horribly cramped Chinese prison cell in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

This weekend, the nervous 20-year-old is dreaming about being crowned Miss Tibet in a small but controversial beauty pageant held by Tibetan refugees in northern India.

The Miss Tibet beauty pageant is in its fifth year, a budget contest in small town of McLeodganj that attracts only a handful of contestants but plenty of controversy.

Not surprisingly, the contest has irritated the Chinese, whose troops entered Tibet in 1950 and abhor the refugees' "splittist" agenda.

[Meanwhile, t]he Tibetan Womens Association expresses the ambivalence of many older Tibetans. Anything that promotes the Tibetan cause is worth supporting, says president B. Tsering, even if she draws the line at Tibetan girls parading around in bikinis to a crowd of leering men.

Lhazey first fled Tibet in 1999, making the gruelling trek across the Himalayas near the route where at least one refugee girl was reportedly shot by Chinese border guards last month...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:56 PM

      ( 3:34 PM ) The Rat  
I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness...
—Meryl Streep in The Hours

(Note, however, that this is not an endorsement of that movie; if it were it would be hyperlinked.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:34 PM

Saturday, October 14, 2006
      ( 10:58 AM ) The Rat  
GO HERE and click on photo 11!!

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Friday, October 13, 2006
      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  
LOVE EWE: THE INFLATABLE LOVE SHEEP. While you're there, be sure not to miss the sheep cull game (in which you shoot to kill as many sheep as possible), and poke-a-sheep, in which you—and I quote—"poke the flocking sheep and stop them from taking over your grassy knoll or go and hurl a haggis instead."

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      ( 4:59 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  

The United Nations is moving closer to imposing sanctions on North Korea for its announced nuclear test on Monday that include steps to hit the Stalinist state's nuclear and missile programs as well as keeping luxury goods away from its leaders.

"In a country as impoverished as North Korea, luxury goods are a key currency that keep the elite happy and reward those who win the favor of its leaders," said a South Korean government official, who asked not to be identified.

No one enjoys luxury goods more than paramount leader Kim Jong-il, who boasts the country's finest wine cellar with space for 10,000 bottles.

Kim has a penchant for fine food such as lobster, caviar and the most expensive cuts of sushi that he has flown in to him from Japan, according to Kim's former chef.

Kenji Fujimoto, a pseudonym, who worked as Kim's personal sushi chef in the late 1980s and 1990s at a time when more than 1 million North Koreans perished in a famine, said in a book Kim would go to extremes to satisfy his appetite...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 9:51 AM ) The Rat  
There must be one, indeed, who is the last and lowest of the human species. But there is no risk in asserting, that there is no one who believes and will acknowledge himself to be the man. To be wholly overlooked, and to know it, are intolerable. When a wretch could no longer attract the notice of a man, woman or child, he must be respectable in the eyes of his dog. 'Who will love me then?' was the pathetic reply of one, who starved himself to feed his mastiff, to a charitable passenger, who advised him to kill or sell the animal. In this 'who will love me then?' there is a key to the human heart; to the history of human life and manners, and to the rise and fall of empires...
—John Adams in the Discourses on Davila (alluded to in this book)

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Thursday, October 12, 2006
      ( 9:58 PM ) The Rat  

An opinion poll conducted by an Egyptian government body showed that 61 percent of those surveyed had never heard of opinion polls before, the official Middle East News Agency MENA reported on Thursday...

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      ( 9:44 PM ) The Rat  

Valentyn Shtefano's pastries were known for attracting stares and giggles as well as lip-smacking murmurs. But even his fiancee was surprised when Shtefano told her he was making her wedding dress—out of flour, eggs, sugar and caramel.

The dress—made of 1,500 cream puffs and weighing 20 pounds—took the 28-year-old baker two months to make, and by the end of the wedding reception, bride Viktoriya said she didn't want to take it off.

[Shtefano] got his first job as a baker six years ago. Last year, he took a three-month baking course in Paris and entered an international baking competition with his sister. They made a 2-foot-long 1920s-era Cadillac from cream puffs and caramel, and took third place.

Some of Shtefano's cakes are strictly for mature audiences, like a pair of breasts on display at a pizzeria where his goods are sold. But he also created an elaborate Easter cake that drew hundreds to a cathedral. It was a black and gold globe hatching from an Easter egg, with pieces of eggshell on top of the globe and falling off to the side. It was too pretty to eat.

His biggest challenge was the wedding dress cake. At first, he sewed empty cream puffs together, but the dress collapsed. Then, he carefully attached the puffs to a wedding dress frame, and Viktoriya spent a couple hours each night before the wedding modeling the dress as Shtefano added more puffs. Her crown, bouquet and necklace were made from caramelized sugar...

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      ( 12:14 PM ) The Rat  
I TOTALLY CALLED IT that the Nobel committee would snub Roth again—for all that nearly every article in the lead-up to this morning's announcement, mentioned his name, and typically first or second, among top contenders. I mean, when's the last time they gave the Nobel to a writer with real greatness anyway (as opposed to merely some talent—if that)? (Full list of laureates here.)

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      ( 3:16 AM ) The Rat  
IN LOVE, SKYPE'S NO LIMIT. I'm all for the free 'net calls, but some of this goes to very strange places indeed.

They've never met face to face, but they talk over Skype four hours a day and watch each other sleep using Web cameras...

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      ( 1:42 AM ) The Rat  
"MY LAST DUCHESS." Yes, I know everybody read this for the first time when they were like twelve—but it really never does get old.

This page, on "Applying Modern Critical Theory to Robert Browning's 'My Last Duchess,'" is worth a few giggles. The "Feminist" answers are my favorite, just for being so uniformly insipid. (Having said which, I better get back to "defining [myself] as a 'non-man'"...)

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006
      ( 9:42 PM ) The Rat  
LES PUBS D'AUBADE. Um, not family viewing—but I do love these ads. (English versions have been done of some of these, but the "leçons" just don't work as well as in the original.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:42 PM

      ( 8:53 PM ) The Rat  

Brad, who keeps pictures of his family in the military notebook he carries with him on missions, often showing them to Iraqis with pride, agonizes over how little time he has to get to know them. "My son speaks and runs whereas he didn't walk/talk when I left. I try to keep him engaged with sounds and various questions about trucks, his favorite topic. He lasts 20 seconds and then he's off to play with his trucks," Brad writes Newsweek in an email. "My daughter speaks to me in organized, coherent, and logical conversations about her daily tasks and plans for the upcoming days only to hand the phone off to her mom. All I wanted to do is hear her little voice. She is so assertive. This is where and when I feel stress."

Jodi says she feels that their conversations run off track too much. "When we get to talk, I feel like we are still carrying frustrations from the last call and the call before that—all this leftover frustration." It doesn't help that often Brad can't call. His unit is a quite busy: the 4-23 is now at the center of Washington's strategy to dismantle Iraqi death squads in Baghdad. Earlier this week, the 4-23 reported that a battalion in an Iraqi National Police brigade could no longer be trusted because it was so infiltrated by Shiite militiamen. In an unprecedented move, the entire brigade was then removed from action. Recently the couple had a fight when Jodi bitterly reproached Brad for not being there when she needed him. "I'm upset that you, my wife, and I can't seem to get along," Brad wrote back. "I don't want to redeploy and go home to this type of a relationship. I'm sure you don't want to either. What's up with us? Life is too short to not enjoy it and feel loved by someone else." He added: "I have changed since I left. I know what I want. I don't want strife and preconceived ill feelings about how I feel towards the #1 person in my life. This type of life isn't cutting it." [...]

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      ( 8:51 PM ) The Rat  
CHINESE MODEL FIRST TO CRACK WESTERN MARKET. She looked much better in the Allure shots than on the Chinese Vogue cover pictured here, but maybe that's just me.

[Du Juan's] success comes down to her ability to bridge the gap between the Western and Chinese markets, according to fashion experts.

Angelica Cheung, editor of Chinese Vogue, told The Independent: "At Vogue I meet this every day and it's normally a question of either/or.

"Western photographers look for character but with the Chinese it's different. The Chinese consider Du Juan pretty—not stunning, pretty."

Joanne Ooi, creative director of upmarket Hong Kong fashion label Shanghai Tang, was one of the first to spot Du Juan's potential.

"She's unspoiled, modest, thoroughly professional, never a complaint," she said...

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      ( 8:19 PM ) The Rat  

Guards are being employed in the French countryside to protect wild mushrooms amid pitched battles between pickers salivating over the best harvest in living memory. With noses broken, insults flying, windscreens smashed and tyres slashed, rural communes are using tough restrictions in an attempt to end the "cep wars."
Many mayors have introduced licences that authorise locals to search for mushrooms but ban strangers. The system is gaining ground after sun and rain produced ideal conditions for ceps, chanterelles, Craterellus cornucopioides and other wild mushrooms.

With France gripped by what one commentator described as "la folie des champignons," guards are being paid to patrol woods in search of unauthorised pickers...

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      ( 3:46 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME! to the reader who got here looking for "zola + nutrisystem."

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      ( 12:09 AM ) The Rat  
CASTING THAT STONE. An old Opinionistas post (that I found via WaiterRant). Very much worth the read (plus, it's not very long)—and whatever you do, don't miss the last paragraph.

And it's not just law school. A few months ago I had one of my final conversations with a [now-ex-] friend. She's a science whiz, top of her class in college, and currently in med school. But I knew that the relationship had no future after this exchange:

"Hey O, what's up?"

"Hi [Friend], how's it going."

"Oh my God, I'm so exhausted, my class schedule is killing me, and I have a four-hour endocrinology final in 6 days."

"Ugh, that sucks, I'm sorry. But overall it sounds like you're kicking ass and enjoying your classes, right?"

"I don't know, I just... This is so much work."

"I know, I can't even imagine, there is no way I could handle becoming a doctor, seriously."

"Actually, you know to be honest, I'm realizing something. I never want to actually practice medicine or any of this. I really just want to meet a good guy in my class, and marry a nice doctor." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 AM

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
      ( 6:52 PM ) The Rat  
A COLLISION OF PROSE AND POLITICS. Good grief. Link via ET. You should read Reading Lolita in Tehran, by the way, if you haven't already.

Ms. Nafisi's memoir, published by Random House in 2003, blended a harrowing portrayal of the life of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a powerful personal testimony about the power of literary classics. The book found a wide audience, and its success made Ms. Nafisi a celebrity.

Gazing at the book through the lens of literary theory and politics, Mr. Dabashi had a much less favorable reaction to it. His blistering essay cast Ms. Nafisi as a collaborator in the Bush administration's plans for regime change in Iran. He drew heavily on the late scholar Edward Said's ideas about the relationship between Western literature and empire and the fetishization of the "Orient" to attack Reading Lolita in Tehran as a prop for American imperialism. He also pilloried Ms. Nafisi personally for what he described as her cozy relationship with prominent American neoconservatives.

"By seeking to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire," wrote Mr. Dabashi, "Reading Lolita in Tehran is reminiscent of the most pestiferous colonial projects of the British in India, when, for example, in 1835 a colonial officer like Thomas Macaulay decreed: 'We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect.' Azar Nafisi is the personification of that native informer and colonial agent, polishing her services for an American version of the very same project."

In an interview published on the Web site of the left-wing publication Z Magazine on August 4, Mr. Dabashi went even further, comparing Ms. Nafisi to a U.S. Army reservist convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. "To me there is no difference between Lynndie England and Azar Nafisi," he told the magazine...

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      ( 6:41 PM ) The Rat  
TWAIN'S ESSAY on "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."

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      ( 11:40 AM ) The Rat  
FERTILE WOMEN DRESS TO IMPRESS? If so, you'd think the Pill would have killed the fashion industry by now...

Women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study they say shows that signs of human ovulation may not be as mysterious as some scientists believe.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelry when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

"They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably," said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.

Some animals release powerful scents when ready to mate, while others display skin color changes, but human ovulation is notoriously difficult to detect. This is attested to by the frequency of unintended pregnancy, as well as test kits marketed to women wishing to become pregnant but unaware of the likeliest time to conceive.

Haselton's team said their study showed the cues are there, even if men and women are not consciously aware of them...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:40 AM

      ( 11:38 AM ) The Rat  

Weighing in at 1,502 pounds, a pumpkin owned by a Rhode Island farmer may set a new world record for the biggest pumpkin in the world...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:38 AM

      ( 1:51 AM ) The Rat  
We are here to be insulted.
—Philip Roth

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:51 AM

      ( 12:46 AM ) The Rat  
SPEAKING OF WHICH, besides being Giacometti's birthday, today is also National Day, and is being marked with all the serenity and restraint we've learned to expect in Taiwanese politics.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:46 AM

      ( 12:38 AM ) The Rat  
DON'T MENTION THE WAR! Check out this page of "essential business culture guides," with links for 45 countries! Caveat emptor, though—even when these are correct they're obviously not going to be comprehensive. I particularly enjoyed the injunction (under "Gift Giving—Part 1" for Taiwan) not to give, as a business gift, something that has been manufactured in Taiwan. The list of "welcome topics of conversation" is also fun—though for the record, I have never heard a small-talk conversation about calligraphy, wtf?

Welcome Topics of Conversation
—your trip to Taiwan
—what you have enjoyed about Taiwan so far
—the country you represent
(the same site elsewhere notes: "In Taiwanese business culture, an exemplary family life is perceived as a sign of character.")
—inquiries about the health of the other's family
—the weather
—American baseball

Topics to Avoid
—the situation in mainland China
—local politics and politics in general

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:38 AM

Monday, October 09, 2006
      ( 11:41 PM ) The Rat  
ANTIABORTION CAMPAIGN WAVES FEMINIST FLAG. Also check out the ads at Feminists for Life.

In the fight to preserve the toughest abortion ban in the nation, the talk is not of a fetus' right to life. It's of a woman's right to motherhood.

Antiabortion activists here deliberately avoid the familiar slogans of their movement. They don't talk about the "murder of innocent babies" or quote the Bible on the sanctity of life. Instead, campaign manager Leslee Unruh has taken what she calls a feminist approach, arguing that legalized abortion exploits women and—for their sake—must be stopped.

The bumper stickers and T-shirts that fill campaign headquarters spell out her message, in pink and blue: "Abortion Hurts Women."

"We women buy the choice line. We're panicked, or we're being pressured, or we're ashamed to have a child outside marriage," Unruh said. She speaks from personal experience; she had an abortion nearly 30 years ago and said her life since has been darkened with regret and longing. "If you don't do your job right as a mother," Unruh asked, "what good is everything else?"

Abortion-rights supporters call such rhetoric patronizing and presumptuous; they say many women find that ending unwanted pregnancies brings relief and the freedom to pursue other dreams. But they acknowledge that Unruh's tactic is effective—and that it has thrown their campaign off balance.

The South Dakota fight marks the first time antiabortion groups have built a public campaign around abortion's effect on women. But for the last few years, activists have tested the tactic as they lobby state legislatures for measures such as more counseling for women seeking abortions.

"It's been very helpful for the pro-life movement.... Who doesn't want to protect women?" said Daniel McConchie, vice president of Americans United for Life, a national group based in Chicago.

Unruh's campaign has made that point in several ways. Along with the radio spot, Brandt tells her story in an online video and campaign fliers. The campaign has also distributed a DVD with testimony from Brandt and three women who decided against abortion in tough circumstances. (One segment is titled, "I love my baby who was conceived by rape.") [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:41 PM

      ( 9:21 PM ) The Rat  
MORE REASONS TO get more sleep. (Because I clearly needed reasons!)

Americans are racking up sleep debt like a college kid with a credit card. About 40% of Americans say they get fewer than seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and most—71%—get fewer than eight hours of sleep, according to a 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation. Even on weekends, they sleep about 7.4 hours—better, but not enough to pay back the week's loss. Every hour they fall behind is considered an hour of sleep debt, and Americans accumulate about two full weeks of personal sleep debt a year.

Sleep researchers have a name for the way the vast majority of people in this country sleep: volitional chronic sleep deprivation, and it is a lifestyle disorder.

Without enough sleep, the cost in reduced memory, focus, concentration and reaction time is well established. Incidents in the lore of sleep research include the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. In each, key decisions were made by people who were sleep deprived.

A groundbreaking study in 1999, led by Eve Van Cauter, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, showed that just six days of sleep restricted to four hours pushed 11 healthy young male volunteers into a pre-diabetic state. Those jaw-dropping results expanded the field of sleep research, and convinced scientists that chronic, partial sleep deprivation damaged the body, not just the mind...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 PM

      ( 6:42 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:42 PM

      ( 6:15 PM ) The Rat  
WOMAN CHARGED WITH USING BABY AS WEAPON. And I thought people only did that figuratively. Link via IKM.

A woman used her 4-week-old baby as a weapon in a domestic dispute, swinging the infant through the air and striking her boyfriend with the child, authorities said.

The baby boy was in serious but stable condition Monday at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, police said.

"Never, never, never. I can never remember anything like this," District Attorney Bradley Foulk told the Erie Times-News...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:15 PM

      ( 10:44 AM ) The Rat  

In the new Russia, millions are born sick. Many succumb to poisons in the air and water around them, or are slowly killed by alcohol, cigarettes or stress. Most are too poor to buy back their health.

Bribes, the cost of superior treatment even in the Soviet era, are a feature of nearly every successful medical transaction. They can ensure that a patient will be admitted to a decent hospital and increase the chances that a doctor will be diligent.

For the well-off—mostly foreigners and those who struck it rich in Russia's transition from communism—there are gleaming "European medical centers" with modern equipment and foreign-trained physicians who charge $100 a visit. Everyone else is relegated to foul-smelling infirmaries with stained sheets, no food and a dearth of equipment as basic as a functioning X-ray machine. The doctors work for as little as $140 a month.

The Scientific Center of Children's Health, a branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, estimates that 45% of Russian children are born with "health deviations," including problems of the central nervous system, faulty hearts, malformed urinary tracts and low birth weight.

Heart disease and strokes among those younger than 40 have increased by as much as 36% in the last five years, said Yevgeny Chazov, who heads the Russian Cardiological Center in Moscow and was personal physician to most of the Soviet leaders since the Leonid I. Brezhnev era...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 AM

      ( 9:18 AM ) The Rat  
France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.

(Only 17 days till Ratty returns to the mother ship!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 AM

      ( 9:14 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:14 AM

Sunday, October 08, 2006
      ( 9:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:54 PM

      ( 7:59 PM ) The Rat  
KILLING TIME? Why not take a virtual tour of the Louvre?

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:59 PM

      ( 7:19 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:19 PM

      ( 10:25 AM ) The Rat  
NIFTY LITTLE QUOTE from A. A. Milne. By the way, the complete text of The Wind in the Willows is online here, though of course it's really a book to read in book form.

One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know. But it is you who are on trial...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:25 AM

      ( 6:41 AM ) The Rat  
FRANKLY, I'm getting a little sick of the people who periodically write in to PostSecret with e-mails along the lines of, "My boyfriend/girlfriend and I shared our worst secrets and now we love each other more than ever/are engaged!" Every time I see those things I think, God, you people must have some pussy-ass secrets.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:41 AM

Saturday, October 07, 2006
      ( 9:51 AM ) The Rat  
SPINACH RETURNS TO STORES. Finally! I was going into withdrawal...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 AM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  

To ensure a son's contentment in the afterlife, some grieving parents will search for a dead woman to be his bride and, once a corpse is obtained, bury the pair together as a married couple.

"They happen pretty often, especially when teenagers or younger people die," said Yang Husheng, 48, a traveling funeral director in the region who said he last attended such a funeral in the spring. "It's quite common. I've been in the business for seven or eight years, and I've seen all sorts of things."

The rural folk custom, startling to Western sensibilities, is known as minghun, or afterlife marriage. Scholars who have studied it say it is rooted in the Chinese form of ancestor worship, which holds that people continue to exist after death and that the living are obligated to tend to their wants—or risk the consequences.

Traditional Chinese beliefs also hold that an unmarried life is incomplete, which is why some parents worry that an unmarried dead son may be an unhappy one...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

Friday, October 06, 2006
      ( 3:56 PM ) The Rat  
WORKING MAY BE BETTER FOR MOMS' HEALTH. Link is a few months old. I think my favorite thing in this article is the last sentence.

[Epidemiologists at the University College London] found that at age 54, women who had been wives, mothers, and had a long work history were significantly less likely to report being in poor health than women who did not fulfill all three roles.

Women who had been homemakers for all or most of their lives and who had not held outside jobs were most likely to report that they were in poor health, followed by mothers without partners, and childless women...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:56 PM

      ( 8:52 AM ) The Rat  
KENTUCKY WANTS TO BAN INHALING ALCOHOL. C'mon, you can't not follow a link like that.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:52 AM

Thursday, October 05, 2006
      ( 10:05 PM ) The Rat  
FROM HOLLY MILLEA'S PIECE in the October Elle. I lived in the Meatpacking District in 2001-02, and it is in fact full of trannie hookers, esp. after about 11 PM. Thankfully I never had this experience though (this is the first paragraph of the article)...

You know you're wearing too much makeup when you're shopping in Manhattan's hip Meatpacking District, a cute clerk offers to buy you a drink, and he's crestfallen when he realizes the woman he's picked up is actually... a woman. Teary eyed, Brad explains, 'You remind me so much of my first real boyfriend—he was third runner-up in the 1992 Miss Fire Island drag contest.' Great, I look like a drag queen who doesn't rate a tiara. Adding insult to injury, he cocks his hip and points a finger at me, declaring, 'Honey, you need to get yourself some titties.' I swear to God, this guy was not gay when I walked in the store, okay? It's me. I bring out the gayness in everyone. The Democrats should get me into a White House party. In five minutes I'd have George W. Bush sashaying off to reunite the Village People—'I get to be the cowboy!' [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:05 PM

      ( 8:21 PM ) The Rat  

Six years ago, a Japanese businessman went online to vent about his domineering wife. Blogging daily under the pen name "Kazuma," he detailed how she grabbed food from his plate, sent him shopping in a typhoon, and made him sleep in the living room when he caught a cold.

Now, his terrifying spouse is famous as Oni-yome, or "demon wife," the star of a book, a television drama, a comic-book serialization, a videogame and, coming soon, a movie...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:21 PM

      ( 5:24 PM ) The Rat  
SUPERHEROES: GOOD AND EVIL IN AMERICAN COMICS, at the Jewish Museum through January 28.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:24 PM

      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  
DON'T MASTURBATE DURING RAMADAN, and other gems from Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khameini.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 PM

      ( 10:46 AM ) The Rat  

Every weeknight millions of Colombians tune in to watch a smash television series about the indignities suffered by a teen-age girl willing to do anything to get her breasts enlarged.

Tired of being poor and going to school with no good jobs in sight after graduation, Catalina decides to do what her friends have done and get breast implants in order to snag a gangster boyfriend who can take care of her.

She tries to prostitute herself to get money for the operation but, in a kind of Colombian Catch 22, has trouble winning clients due to her small cup size.

The show, based on a true story, is both loved and hated for displaying the culture of easy money here in the world's biggest cocaine-exporting country...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 AM

      ( 10:44 AM ) The Rat  
HAPPY 38TH to Ratty's parents! And on a related note—"I Didn't Ask To Be A Role Model For My Kids," via the Onion.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 AM

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
      ( 7:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:30 PM

      ( 3:37 PM ) The Rat  
MOHAIR WILLY WARMER. You know you need one!

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:37 PM

      ( 1:31 PM ) The Rat  

In most boldface-name paternity disputes, men deny they're the baby-daddy. But in a he said/he said twist to the Anna Nicole Smith tabloid saga, two guys are claiming to be the father of her baby girl...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:31 PM

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
THE WAY THINGS GO. This is SO COOL!! Saw it at the Hirshhorn (3rd fl.) today with TCB. Buy it, or rent it (Blockbuster Online and Netflix both have it), because it is the form of awesomeness.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

      ( 12:47 AM ) The Rat  

A woman in the northern Bulgarian town of Ruse survived a car crash thanks to her silicone breasts which acted as an airbag, Standart newspaper reported Monday...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:47 AM

Monday, October 02, 2006
      ( 11:44 PM ) The Rat  
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations—one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.

Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one's torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

—Wallace Stevens

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:44 PM

      ( 7:39 PM ) The Rat  
HEH! Via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:39 PM

      ( 7:34 PM ) The Rat  

If you thought swigging beer or indulging in a glass of chardonnay was putting your career on a fast-track to nowhere, think again.

In fact, a study conducted by two economists and published Thursday by the Reason Foundation and in the latest edition of The Journal of Labor Research, says that drinkers earn 10 to 14 percent more than those who refrain from drinking...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:34 PM

Sunday, October 01, 2006
      ( 10:11 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:11 PM

      ( 3:40 PM ) The Rat  
POSTSECRET imitates a Hawthorne short story. (Okay, not 100 percent... but somewhat.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:40 PM

      ( 8:14 AM ) The Rat  
Annie Hall. Oh, you see an analyst?
Alvy Singer. Yeah, just for fifteen years.
Annie Hall. Fifteen years?
Alvy Singer. Yeah, I'm gonna give him one more year, and then I'm goin' to Lourdes.
Annie Hall

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:14 AM

      ( 5:20 AM ) The Rat  
There is, for instance, one such poem (of course, from the Greek), 'The Wanderings of Our Lady through Hell,' with descriptions as bold as Dante's. Our Lady visits Hell, and the Archangel Michael leads her through the torments. She sees the sinners and their punishment. There she sees among others one noteworthy set of sinners in a burning lake; some of them sink to the bottom of the lake so that they can't swim out, and 'these God forgets'—an expression of extraordinary depth and force...
—"The Grand Inquisitor"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:20 AM

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

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