The Rat
Sunday, December 31, 2006
      ( 2:21 PM ) The Rat  
"GERALD FORD DEAD TODAY AT AGE 93." You must watch this. Via SD.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:21 PM

      ( 12:21 PM ) The Rat  
THE EYE OF GOD. Another terrific post by WaiterRant. This is how returning to Manhattan feels—on good days, anyway...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 PM

      ( 11:34 AM ) The Rat  

Unlike its larger, postcard-perfect neighbors in the Aegean Sea, Keros is a tiny rocky dump inhabited by a single goatherd. But the barren islet was of major importance to the mysterious Cycladic people, a sophisticated pre-Greek civilization with no written language that flourished 4,500 years ago and produced strikingly modern-looking artwork.

A few miles from the resorts of Mykonos and Santorini, Keros is a repository of art from the seafaring culture whose flat-faced marble statues inspired the work of 20th century masters Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:34 AM

      ( 10:55 AM ) The Rat  
HAPPY (ALMOST-)NEW YEAR! Ratty and the Squid are heading to a Hogmanay celebration tonight. More about various Scottish New Year's customs here. (Ratty once spent New Year's Eve at a Scottish castle [this one], but she genuinely can't remember whether she partook of the haggis.)

There are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay. The most widespread national custom, aside from excessive drinking, is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts, and often Flies cemetery) are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day (although modern days sees people visiting houses until the 3 December). The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year, so it is important that a suitable person does the job. A tall, handsome, and dark-haired man bearing a gift is strongly preferred. According to popular folklore, a man with dark hair was welcomed because he was assumed to be a fellow Scotsman; a blonde or red haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman.

An example of a local Hogmanay custom is the fireball swinging which takes place in Stonehaven, Kincardineshire in north-east Scotland. This involves local people making up balls of chicken wire, tar, paper and other flammable material to a diameter of about a metre. Each ball has 2 m of wire, chain or non-flammable rope attached. The balls are then each assigned to a swinger who swings the ball round and round their head and body by the rope while walking through the streets of Stonehaven from the harbour to the Sheriff court and back. At the end of the ceremony any fireballs which are still burning are cast into the harbour. Many people enjoy this display which is more impressive in the dark than it would be during the day. As a result large crowds flock to the town to see it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:55 AM

Saturday, December 30, 2006
      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:20 PM

      ( 10:26 AM ) The Rat  
WOMAN CHARGED WITH MALICIOUS CASTRATION. Hey—I didn't find this link, it was sent to me!

A woman was charged with malicious castration for allegedly attacking a man during a Christmas party, police said. Rebecca Arnold Dawson, 34, is accused of grabbing the genitals of a 38-year-old man during a fight that erupted early Tuesday morning at a party hosted by the man's girlfriend. All three were heavily intoxicated, Lillington Police Chief Frank Powers said.

"I believe he needed more than 50 stitches to repair the damage, but he is back home at this point," police Cpl. Brad Stevens said Friday. "All we can tell you is that the injury was done with her hands. There were no weapons used."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:26 AM

Friday, December 29, 2006
      ( 12:19 PM ) The Rat  
Peter Walsh had got up and crossed to the window and stood with his back to her, flicking a bandanna handkerchief from side to side. Masterly and dry and desolate he looked, his thin shoulder-blades lifting his coat slightly; blowing his nose violently. Take me with you, Clarissa thought impulsively, as if he were starting directly upon some great voyage; and then, next moment, it was as if the five acts of a play that had been very exciting and moving were now over and she had lived a lifetime in them and had run away, had lived with Peter, and it was now over.

Now it was time to move, and, as a woman gathers her things together, her cloak, her gloves, her opera-glasses, and gets up to go out of the theatre into the street, she rose from the sofa and went to Peter.

And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky.

Mrs. Dalloway

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 PM

Thursday, December 28, 2006
      ( 9:26 PM ) The Rat  

Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonians' most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:26 PM

      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
SOME INTERESTING STUFF about "Auld Lang Syne" (one of Ratty's favorite songs).

The first two lines of the lyrics seem to be an allusion (although perhaps not consciously intended) to Isaiah 65:17, which reads:

Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 PM

      ( 9:00 PM ) The Rat  
ANIMAL-LOVING BRITONS OPT FOR STRANGE PETS. Trailer Full of Broccoli Disappears is also pretty good.

The Big Cats in Britain (BCIB) group used the Freedom of Information Act to survey local councils on the weird and woolly creatures legally kept in private hands.

It found a total of 154 assorted cats—including 12 lions, 14 tigers, 50 leopards and 16 wild cats—plus 2,000 ostriches and nearly 500 monkeys.

At the same time 300 American bison and 6,000 wild boars are also kept privately...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:00 PM

      ( 7:49 PM ) The Rat  

The struggle for food has long been a drama for millions of impoverished Brazilians. But these days the nation is transfixed by another sort of starvation: anorexia among the successful and well off.

The deaths of four young women in recent weeks from anorexia—a disorder characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, an aversion to food and severe weight loss—have been splashed across the front pages of newspapers nationwide.

The subject has become a morbid fascination for Brazilians, and is even the theme of a popular TV soap opera...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:49 PM

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
      ( 9:49 PM ) The Rat  
LATEST ITEM (scored today) in my Xmas '06 haul: a nightshirt from the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. My friends know me so well!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:49 PM

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
      ( 4:11 PM ) The Rat  
SO, UM... Kevin Kline is playing Lear, in a Public Theater production slated to run from February 9 to March 18. I wonder what this will be like? The one very "serious" role I've seen him in was in Sophie's Choice, and unfortunately it had overtones of his hilarious turn as Otto in A Fish Called Wanda...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:11 PM

      ( 3:31 PM ) The Rat  

The sheepskin parchment originally contained a 10th century Greek text, which was erased by a 13th century scribe who replaced it with prayers. Seven hundred years later, a forger painted gilded pictures of the Evangelists on top of the faded words.

Underneath it all, however, is an exceptional treasure—the oldest surviving copy of works by the ancient Greek mathematician and engineer Archimedes of Syracuse, who lived in the 3rd century BC.

About 80% of the text had been transcribed and translated in the 1910s after it was rediscovered in an Istanbul monastery, but since then much of it became unreadable again because of deterioration.

Fully deciphering its mysteries has had to wait for advanced technologies, some of which had never been applied to ancient manuscripts.

The unusual cast of detectives includes not only the imaging specialists who helped photograph the Dead Sea Scrolls, but also a Stanford University physicist who studies trace metals in spinach with a particle accelerator...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:31 PM

Monday, December 25, 2006
      ( 8:33 AM ) The Rat  
JAMES BROWN has died.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:33 AM

      ( 4:02 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAS NEVER BEEN ALL THAT INTO CHRISTMAS (Thanksgiving being her holiday of choice), but this evening was pretty sweet. IC invited her to a party (chez AM) at which she turned out to be the only non-international student—dinner was potluck, and represented cuisines from Russia, Romania, India, and Argentina. (Ratty, American-born, brought chocolate-chip cookies.) Say what you like, there really is something rather magical about singing "Auld Lang Syne" or "The Twelve Days of Christmas," however untunefully, with a bunch of late-twentysomethings/early-thirtysomethings for whom Christmas, and perhaps America itself, can still be experienced with little or no irony/jadedness (and essential ingratitude). Besides, any Christmas party that goes till nearly 4 AM, without involving any arrests, can't be all bad... (Of course, a party that did involve arrests would have to go later to still be cool.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 AM

Sunday, December 24, 2006
      ( 11:20 AM ) The Rat  
AN OLD, BUT SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE Garfield strip. Merry Christmas!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:20 AM

      ( 10:13 AM ) The Rat  
AN ALL-CHRISTMAS THEME at PostSecret this week.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:13 AM

      ( 8:04 AM ) The Rat  
"Good-bye, Lois, and I forgive you for everything I did to you."
—Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:04 AM

Saturday, December 23, 2006
      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  

[R]esearchers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum say they have pinpointed some 20,000 places of detention and persecution—three times more than they estimated just six years ago.

The "pyramid" ranged from death camps such as Auschwitz at the top, to secondary and tertiary detention centers. There were 500 brothels, where foreign women were put at the disposal of German officers, and more than 100 "child care facilities" where women in labor camps were forced to undergo abortions or had their newborns taken away and killed—usually by starvation—so the mothers could quickly return to work.

One directive seen by the AP, from November 1943 and marked Private and Confidential, instructed all camp commanders to keep visitors away from sensitive sites.

"During visits to the concentration camps, the bordellos and the crematoria are not to be shown. Visitors also are not to be told anything about these facilities," said the order, signed by the divisional commander of the SS, the elite unit that guarded the camps.

Couched in patronizing and dehumanizing language, documents from the earliest camps foreshadow a system that would define the word "genocide." They show that years before the mass-scale killings began at death camps such as Auschwitz, the intellectual groundwork of viewing categories of humanity as subhuman was already in place...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 PM

Friday, December 22, 2006
      ( 1:56 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:56 PM

      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 PM

      ( 10:34 AM ) The Rat  

A British mother could get into the record books after she gave birth to twins and a single baby at the same time—from two wombs—in what is believed to be a world first.

Hannah Kersey, 23, gave birth to the rare triplets—identical twins Ruby and Tilly, and singleton Gracie—by Caesarean section seven weeks prematurely in September.

She was born with a condition called uterus didelphys, which means she developed two wombs, but doctors had warned her that she was unlikely to become pregnant in both.

Doctors say there are only 70 women in the world known to have become pregnant in two wombs, and this is the first reported case of triplets.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:34 AM

      ( 10:27 AM ) The Rat  
THE WORST OF POP CULTURE 2006, via the L.A. Times.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:27 AM

Thursday, December 21, 2006
      ( 9:31 PM ) The Rat  
FOR SOME REASON RATTY CANNOT FATHOM, the tango, basic steps of which which she attempted for the first time tonight, really is an extremely sensual and beautiful dance; but the people taking instruction in it, at least where I went, are weirdly stiff and (in one or two cases) slightly creepy. One of my partners actually had me wondering if Megan's Law is adequately enforced in my state. Tell me this isn't a general rule?

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 PM

      ( 5:25 PM ) The Rat  
What do you call love, hate, charity, revenge, humanity, magnanimity, forgiveness? Different results of the one master impulse: the necessity of securing one's self-approval.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:25 PM

      ( 2:49 PM ) The Rat  

Tear-feeding moths and butterflies are known to exist elsewhere in Africa, Asia and South America, but they mainly feed on large, placid animals, such as deer, antelope or crocodiles, which cannot readily brush them away. But there are no such large animals on Madagascar. The main mammals–lemurs and mongoose—have paws capable of shooing the moths. Birds can fly away.

But not when they are sleeping. The Madagascan moths were observed on the necks of sleeping magpie robins and Newtonia birds, with the tip of their proboscises inserted under the bird's eyelid, drinking avidly. This was during the wet season, so the scientists think the insects wanted salt, as the local soils are low in sodium.

But sleeping birds have two eyelids, both closed. So instead of the soft, straw-like mouthparts found on tear-drinking moths elsewhere, the Madagascan moth has a proboscis with hooks and barbs "shaped like an ancient harpoon," Hilgartner says...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:49 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
      ( 10:41 PM ) The Rat  

Muslims were not as blameless in the genocide of the Jews as Ahmadinejad and his ilk would have it. Arabs were, on a small scale, cheerleaders and enablers of the Final Solution. The most famous example was Haj Amin Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem (and uncle of Yasser Arafat), who took refuge in Berlin in World War II. A rabid Nazi, he personally lobbied Hitler to kill as many Jews as possible and even helped out by recruiting Bosnian Muslims to serve in the Waffen SS.

Robert Satloff, one of the world's smartest Arabists, reveals other links between the Arabs and the Holocaust in his groundbreaking new book, "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach Into Arab Lands." He shows how the Nazis set up the machinery of death in North Africa. Although "only" 4,000 to 5,000 Jews died before the Allies liberated the area in 1943, many more were consigned to forced labor camps in hellish conditions.

"Arabs played a role at every level," Satloff wrote. "Some went door to door with the Germans, pointing out Jews for arrest. Others led Jewish workers on forced marches or served as overseers at labor camps."

The picture is not entirely one-sided because, although most Arabs were either apathetic or sympathetic to the Nazis, a small number helped their Jewish neighbors. Satloff uncovered lost tales of "righteous Gentiles," such as the wartime rulers of Morocco and Tunisia. And on the whole, he found that Arabs behaved no worse under German occupation than did Europeans.

But that isn't saying much because almost every country on the Continent was heavily complicit in the extermination of their Jewish populations...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:41 PM

      ( 10:39 PM ) The Rat  

Research shows cooling the body just a few degrees reduces the brain's need for oxygen, and can slow a vicious chain reaction that continues to kill brain cells once blood flow resumes.

The cap was studied in 234 infants deprived of oxygen during birth. At 18 months, there were fewer deaths and fewer severe cases of disability among those treated with the cap compared to those who received standard supportive care, the FDA said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:39 PM

      ( 10:38 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:38 PM

      ( 10:31 PM ) The Rat  

Rhonda Cato, 48, was charged Monday with misdemeanor obscenity and violating the liquor code after what happened last Thursday at the Palace Tavern, where authorities say patrons grappled in a shallow, inflatable children's pool filled with mashed spuds.

Cato, of Wood River, was charged because female participants allegedly pulled up each others' shirts as about 30 to 40 people watched during matches staged while the tavern's doors were locked, Madison County sheriff's Lt. Brad Wells said.

"Basically, the clothing on the female bar patrons was being removed," Wells said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:31 PM

      ( 8:59 PM ) The Rat  
Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 PM

      ( 10:13 AM ) The Rat  

The TSA said it is continuing to review Saturday's incident at LAX.

"We're trying to figure out what changes we can make, short of putting up signs saying, 'Don't put your baby through the X-ray machine,'" Melendez said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:13 AM

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
      ( 8:43 PM ) The Rat  

She arrived in Los Angeles with $600 in borrowed cash, a failing heart and arthritis in both knees. She spoke no English. She had not seen her firstborn son, Tuan, in the 20 years since he fled Vietnam for the United States as a teenager.

Judging from the letters he sent home, he had prospered here. He was repairing watches, living in Santa Ana. Inexplicably, four years ago, his letters had stopped coming. Now, Hai Nguyen had crossed the ocean herself, hoping to find her son before she died.

She had one lead, the address in Santa Ana. She took a cab there from the airport. She went to the door to find that her son was long gone, leaving no clue behind. She shuffled away with her single suitcase, not knowing what to do next. He could be anywhere. She had no grasp of America's immensity, though a friend who knew the country tried to warn her: It would be like finding a needle at the bottom of the sea...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 PM

      ( 8:29 PM ) The Rat  

Berkow said in the deposition that the relationship began in 2003 and continued when the female sergeant served in his office as an internal prosecutor, handling police misconduct cases, including those involving inappropriate sexual relationships...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 PM

      ( 4:48 PM ) The Rat  
GUIDE TO DISCOUNT TICKET BOOTHS in the U.S., Canada, London, Paris, Berlin, and Melbourne.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:48 PM

      ( 2:01 PM ) The Rat  
FROM THE 'NEWS STORIES I WISH WERE REAL' FILES: Lesbian Online Relationship Ends When Both Men Meet, via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 PM

      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  

The lights dim, the music pumps—a steady beat that can be felt in the bones—and Baba Brinkman struts and bounces around the stage, belting out his rhymes about hard living, violence, sex and the secrets to true love.

He gets his inspiration not from growing up in the 'hood, but from the musings of a 14th-century English poet.

"Ready to kill with their jagged-edged daggers drawn/The three aggravated braggarts staggered up the lawn/And without dragging on while the story is told/Beneath the tree they found a bag filled with glorious gold," Brinkman raps in a seamless cadence, updating Geoffrey Chaucer to hip hop...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 AM

Monday, December 18, 2006
      ( 11:01 AM ) The Rat  
His foot rocked, his gaze was inspired. It would cost me around six hundred. He suggested he take measurements right away, and make the first set before starting operations. My mouth was to him a splendid cave full of priceless treasures, but I denied him entrance.

"No," I said. "On second thoughts, I shall have it all done by Dr. Molnar. His price is higher, but he is of course a much better dentist than you."

I do not know if any of my readers will ever have a chance to say that. It is a delicious dream feeling.


# Posted by The Rat @ 11:01 AM

      ( 10:14 AM ) The Rat  
JUST TO FINISH BEATING THE HORSE: Janet Daley on "the many reasons to take a Victorian view of prostitution."

How could we, with our newly compassionate attitude to what would once have been called "depravity," but is now recognised as simply "disadvantage," possibly return to that dark age of recrimination and intolerance? Never again, they say, will we permit ourselves the smug vindictiveness of Victorian morality, which would have dismissed the fate of these women with callous contempt. So all you revivalists who want to restore "bourgeois" virtues can forget about any return to the stiff, unforgiving code that made outcasts of those who fell into "sin": we are all self-satisfied liberals now.

What a comforting delusion this must be, even though it is based on historical ignorance and a wilful misunderstanding of what the Victorian moral mission consisted of—not to mention a self-serving caricature of what a contemporary version of Victorian virtues might involve. The semi-official Victorian name for prostitutes was "unfortunate women." And that was precisely how they were seen by the educated reformers who dominated what you could call the "opinion-forming class" in Victorian England. The idea that prostitution was tragic and exploitative—and that the women caught up in it were to be pitied and, wherever humanly possible, rescued—was a driving social issue throughout the second half of the 19th century.

Before reliable contraception and readily available abortion, the supposedly hypocritical Victorians were fully aware of the abuses that could pull blameless women into this kind of life. And they volubly debated most of the solutions that are now being discussed with such flatulent self-importance in the liberal media: should the trade be regulated and the women's health subject to examination? Should it be the women who are criminalised, or their customers?

Gertrude Himmelfarb notes in The De-Moralization of Society that when the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864-69 proposed that women who were suspected of being prostitutes should be examined regularly, and hospitalised if they were found to carry venereal disease, they were vehemently opposed by leading progressive campaigners (both male and female) on what might now be called "human rights" grounds.

Interestingly, they argued that such laws would humiliate women and stigmatise as professionals those who were only "casual prostitutes." What was more, they would perpetuate a double standard by punishing the sex who are the "victims of vice," rather than the "sex who are the main causes both of the vice and its dreaded consequences." So there is nothing new in the notion that the line between ordinary, "decent" women and prostitutes may be temporarily ("casually") crossed, nor in the principle that it is not the women who sell their sexual services who should be condemned, but the men who create the market demand...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:14 AM

      ( 10:12 AM ) The Rat  
SPEAKING OF WHICH, how about giving these people some money?

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:12 AM

      ( 9:56 AM ) The Rat  
"SEX WORKER" TAG GIVING WRONG IMPRESSION. No shit. This is in the same category as "single mother" of course: Newspeak coined with good intentions, but that neutralizes the stigma of the idea—and, in doing so, makes us just that little bit more acquiescent in the thing itself. I've thought the same whenever I've heard cops referring to prostitutes as "working girls"—sure, it's just an affectation to insulate oneself from the horror of the reality, but still. When you say "working girl" you're talking about a task that's everyday and neutral, like turning a lathe. When you say "prostitute" the connotation is more on everything the word implies—the term is more fully real. (And note that I'm not just championing it because it's older—not like I'm trying to sell a return to "fallen woman" here! Although of course, part of the problem of "sex worker" is precisely that it makes it sound like a different activity than prostitution—as though we could make things better by whistling in the dark.) And, sure—there are always going to be prostitutes, just as there will always be widows and divorcees. But shouldn't we take all the linguistic help we can get, where it comes to facing realities like these?

Prostitutes are usually termed sex workers by governments and social welfare groups to avoid demeaning them but the United States feels the switch unwittingly dignifies syndicates involved in the flesh trade.

The State Department's office combating human trafficking issued a directive Friday to US agencies urging them to avoid using terms "sex worker" or "child sex worker" and even advised governments not to use them.

"Of course, one can rationalize words such as 'sex worker' and "child sex worker" in an effort to avoid a demeaning label such as 'prostitute," said John Miller, the office's director.

"However, there are other substitutes such as 'women used in prostitution' or 'sexually exploited children' that are neither pejorative nor pretend that violence to women and children is 'work,'" said Miller, who retired Friday after campaigning extensively across the globe to stem the human trafficking problem...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 AM

      ( 9:55 AM ) The Rat  
BRAIN CAN REPAIR ALCOHOL'S DAMAGE. So you're just gonna have to drink faster!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 AM

      ( 1:38 AM ) The Rat  
KEVIN FEDERLINE, WIFE DIVORCE, from the Onion's "Top Stories of 2006." Brutal ...especially the photo.

According to Federline's publicist, Marilyn Chang, the spouse, a 24-year-old entertainer who worked as a singer and foreground dancer at Federline performances before wedding him in 2004, presented Federline with divorce papers on Nov. 7 citing irreconcilable differences...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:38 AM

      ( 1:04 AM ) The Rat  
Lucy thought of a very good remark.

"You say Mr. Vyse wants me to listen to him, Mr. Emerson. Pardon me for suggesting that you have caught the habit."

And he took the shoddy reproof and touched it into immortality. He said:

"Yes, I have," and sank down as if suddenly weary. "I'm the same kind of brute at bottom. This desire to govern a woman—it lies very deep, and men and women must fight it together before they shall enter the garden. But I do love you—surely in a better way than he does." He thought. "Yes—really in a better way. I want you to have your own thoughts even when I hold you in my arms." He stretched them towards her.

A Room With a View

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 AM

Sunday, December 17, 2006
      ( 10:46 PM ) The Rat  
TRAMS RETURN TO PARIS AFTER 70-YEAR GAP. (Read all the way through the bit I've excerpted; it's too perfect.)

The tram, forced from the streets of Paris by the advent of the car, returned to the city Saturday. Mayor Bertrand Delanoe and Tourism Minister Leon Bertrand opened the 8-kilometre "Tramway" in the south of the French capital.

Parisians can ride the new tram line, which runs from the southern edge of the city at the Pont de Garigliano to the Porte d'Ivry, free this weekend. An opinion poll published Saturday showed that some two-thirds (63 per cent) of Parisians were happy that the tram had returned to the city.

The Tramway has 17 stops, each four minutes apart. It is expected that 100,000 passengers will use the tram every day, double the number that travel by the overburdened bus network.

Parisian bus drivers welcomed the new tram line with a strike.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 PM

      ( 8:39 PM ) The Rat  

[In a poll of just under 1,500 British children] "killing" and "wars" head the list of the "very worst things in the world", followed by drunks, bullies, illness, smoking, stealing, divorce and being fat. Dying is in tenth place...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:39 PM

      ( 4:49 AM ) The Rat  
FORGOTTEN GIFTS. Interesting article about gift-card spending patterns.

Last winter Best Buy Co. reported a $43 million gain in fiscal 2006 from cards that hadn't been used in two or more years—3.8% of its earnings of $1.14 billion. Limited Brands Inc. recorded $30 million in 2005 revenue because of unredeemed cards, or 4.4% of its $683 million in net income.

[A]bout 6%, or $4.8 billion, of this year's giant gift card trove will go unused, estimated Laura Lane, vice president of unclaimed property services for Keane Co., a compliance and risk management consulting firm...

Gift cards also have changed the way merchants view January.

"It used to be the week after Christmas was really about clearance," said Wal-Mart's Fleming. "Now, with the trend toward gift cards, it's a completely different selling opportunity. It's not just about clearing out inventory."

One reason for the shift: Research shows that most consumers will spend more than the card is worth, using their own money to add as much as 5% to 75%.

"More often than not, they have a $20 gift card and they see a $35 dollar sweater," said Richard Giss, a partner in Deloitte & Touche's consumer business division in Los Angeles. "And they say, it's really only a $15 sweater, because that's all I have to pay."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:49 AM

Saturday, December 16, 2006
      ( 6:37 PM ) The Rat  

In order for me to be admitted to the university I wanted to attend, I needed to pass three courses: a language course, a civics course and a history course. It was in the preparatory history course that I, for the first time, heard of the Holocaust. I was 24 years old at that time, and my half-sister was 21.

I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed." [...]

For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny. We simply do not know it ever happened because we were never informed of it.

What's striking about Ahmadinejad's conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:37 PM

      ( 6:16 PM ) The Rat  
WHOA! Judith Regan just got fired over the O.J. book-deal affair.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:16 PM

      ( 2:59 PM ) The Rat  

Also check out the "sauce-dispensing chopsticks" (no. 9) here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:59 PM

      ( 2:54 PM ) The Rat  

Gravy was banned after complaints in previous years of "unfair lubricative advantage." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:54 PM

      ( 11:48 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 AM

      ( 2:34 AM ) The Rat  
WIKIPEDIA'S "LIST OF YEARS IN LITERATURE." Shows the major literary events (works published, prizes awarded, and authors' births and deaths) that took place in any given year. Pages do not appear to chronicle landmark events in literature—but still, very cool.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 AM

      ( 2:33 AM ) The Rat  

A Nevada state senator and also-ran in this year's Republican primary for governor says the Legislature should consider letting teachers carry guns in classrooms to stem a rise in school violence...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:33 AM

      ( 2:32 AM ) The Rat  
WELCOME! to the reader who came here looking for "how make rat feel good when rat get sick." May I suggest real estate? (This also works when rat doesn't get sick.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:32 AM

Friday, December 15, 2006
      ( 7:02 PM ) The Rat  
"WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE BOND TO DINNER OR GO GOLFING WITH BOND OR TALK TO BOND. WE WANT TO BE BOND." A couple of excerpts from Amis's (regrettably, out-of-print) 1965 book, to perhaps convince you to read it (and as counterpoint to WaiterRant). The one major error I recall from Amis's book is when he writes that "[Bond] started life about 1818 as Childe Harold in the later cantos of Byron's poem, reappeared in the novels of the Brontë sisters and was around until fairly recently in such guises as that of Maxim de Winter in Miss Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca." Actually, Fleming drops a not-at-all-subtle hint in From Russia With Love that Bond was most directly inspired by Grigoriy Aleksandrovich Pechorin, the protagonist of Lermontov's 1841 novel A Hero of Our Time (admittedly, Pechorin himself is obviously descended of the Byronic line). By the way, Amis's observations as quoted below, concerning Bond's sexual conquests, might make him sound like a chauvinist, but he really isn't; the book considers the whole question of Bond and women with both intelligence and sensitivity.

From chapter 2:
Bond's constant cold showers, apart from reminding us of the ritualistic, self-dedicatory element in the secret agent's life, also suggest to us that his abilities are acquired, not innate. If we took that trouble to keep fit, if we started the day with twenty press-ups and enough straight-leg lifts to make our stomach muscles scream, then perhaps we could vanquish an octopus and drive off a barracuda should the occasion arise. We couldn't, of course, but we like not having our noses rubbed in the fact. We appreciate the continual hints that what Isaac Newton said of himself could also be said of Bond: his powers are ordinary, only his application brings him his success.

Mr. Fleming is careful to make Bond's achievements and abilities seem moderate: moderate on the heroic secret-agent scale, naturally. Bond can swim two miles without tiring, perhaps much more, but he has only to manage three hundred yards from the shore to Mr. Big's island [in Live and Let Die]. Underwater, Bond is pretty useful with spear and CO2 gun, but Emilio Largo [in Thunderball] is better, and Bond only survives through the intervention of Largo's renegade girl. Bond is a fine golfer, but nine points away from scratch. Bond can ski all right, and won his golden K, whatever that is, but Blofeld's men are professionals and nearly catch him [in On Her Majesty's Secret Service]. Bond loves cars and drives them well and at speed, but he never did more than dabble on the fringe of the racing world. Bond can throw knives and do unarmed combat as well as shoot, certainly, but after all the fellow is a secret agent. If we were in the 00 Section we should have learnt all that as a matter of course. The number and variety of Bond's useful skills may be fantastic, but each seems reasonable while we're hearing about it.

From chapter 4 (this follows a discussion of aspects of On Her Majesty's Secret Service):
Nobody could complain that he was being sold short on mink-lined sexual fantasy, here and all over Bond's adventures. But, as before, moderation enters. After what I've just paraphrased it seems unlikely that there would be limits to Bond's sexual activities. In fact there are, even if critics can't remember them. Bond collects almost exactly one girl per excursion abroad, which average he exceeds only once, by one. This is surely not at all in advance of what any reasonably personable, reasonably well-off bachelor would reckon to acquire on a foreign holiday or trip for his firm. Critical horror at Bond's sexual victories, I feel, can have its own element of 'compensation'...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:02 PM

      ( 6:51 PM ) The Rat  
"HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED HOW 007 TREATS WAITERS?" Another excellent read from WaiterRant. By the way the best book on Bond is Kingsley Amis's The James Bond Dossier. (Amis's book also discusses—in greater depth and with more acuity than does WaiterRant's post—issues of whether Bond is a sadist, etc.)

Truth be told, I've been a fan of Ian Fleming's super spy since I was a boy. One of the first movies I remember seeing with my father was The Spy Who Loved Me. Being a voracious reader, I gobbled up all of Fleming's novels before I was twelve. I knew how to make a Vesper before I was old enough to drink. And yes, I've dreamt of playing baccarat in Monte Carlo, bankrupting an egomaniacal super villain who conveniently tells me his plans for world domination while a sultry redhead in an evening gown refills my martini glass. My other car's an Aston Martin.

So it pains me to say this—James Bond's an asshole.

Have you ever noticed how 007 treats waiters? I'd have to review the DVDs but I don't think he ever says "please" or "thank you." If he does he's probably trying to screw the waitress. Bond's always barking orders, snobbily declaring Dom Pérignon needs to be served at 38 degrees Fahrenheit, ordering around bartenders, dissing wine of questionable vintages and, oh yeah, killing people.

If you've read all of Fleming's books, as I have, the notion that Bond is a jerk doesn't seem far fetched. Fleming's Bond is a slightly sociopathic killer, a sex addict, smokes seventy cigarettes a day and [i]s a full blown alcoholic. So what if he saved the world from nuclear blackmail, SPECTRE and the Communist Chinese? In the end he's gonna die from a bullet, lung cancer, liver failure, or his pecker falling off. It's one thing to enjoy the films and entertain a few fantasies but you'd never want James Bond's life as your own. So don't be a poseur and ask for a martini shaken, not stirred. It's better stirred anyway. Most bartenders would agree with me.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:51 PM

      ( 6:33 PM ) The Rat  
She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war...
A Room With a View

(This sentence, by contrast, is really much better out of context than in, because Forster wasn't nearly as good a writer as he thought he was.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:33 PM

      ( 6:27 PM ) The Rat  
I CAN'T LINK TO IT as it isn't online, but John Burnham Schwartz has a really good piece in the December Vogue, about the multiple miscarriages his wife endured before giving birth to their son. Get hold of it. (I'm not even going to excerpt; you really have to read the whole thing.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:27 PM

      ( 6:19 PM ) The Rat  

—mail truck (the big, cargo size)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:19 PM

      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  
[A]s Bokonon tells us, 'God never wrote a good play in His life.'
Cat's Cradle

(Ratty is increasingly uncertain she agrees with this sentiment...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 11:48 AM ) The Rat  
NAZI GINGERBREAD MEN MOVED TO NEW TOWN. Also check out Man Uses Antlers in Road Rage Incident.

"The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men" depicts a small gathering at a Nazi rally. Keith McGuckin set up the display in this northeastern Ohio city Thursday night, a day before the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins at sundown.

McGuckin, 50, said the subject is meant to provoke thought, not offend.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'What's the worst thing a gingerbread man can do?'" he said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 AM

Thursday, December 14, 2006
      ( 9:03 PM ) The Rat  

The dolphins at an aquarium in Fushun, Liaoning Province, had fallen sick after swallowing the plastic from the edge of their pool, and attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic failed because of the contraction of the dolphins' stomachs in response to the instruments, the China Daily newspaper reported.

Veterinarians than decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 2.36-metre-tall [7'9"] herdsman from Inner Mongolia...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:03 PM

      ( 3:13 PM ) The Rat  
BEHIND THE ORANGE CURTAIN; or, one week in Orange County crime. Via ET, who, if the world made sense, would never have befriended anybody from Orange County. (Note that reading this made me actually homesick.) A dozen of my favorites:

A man locked himself in his bedroom for three weeks in order to kill himself, emerging only to buy liquor.

A fight broke out in a pet store.

A man holding a black bag screamed at an unoccupied school building for 35 minutes.

A cement mixer was stolen.

Someone fired a gun at the beach.

An obese, 5-foot-4-inch man robbed a Carl's Jr.

Prosecutors said a middle school teacher was "grooming" her 14-year-old student for sex. [LT notes that as men are so slow, nothing illegal will actually come of this, since the kid will need at least four years to figure out the teacher's intentions...]

A man went door-to-door asking residents if they've seen Jesus.

A man wearing a red bucket over his head and somehow driving a van stopped near a 12-year-old girl and said, "You're hot!"

Three men fought in the street, finished, put their shirts on and then ate lunch together at Panda Express.

A 49-year-old man admitted he was drinking alcohol and arguing with his wife, but claims he wasn't drunk when he fired his .357 Magnum at a neighbor's window.

A man walked up to a woman, said, "Good morning," and then exposed himself.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:13 PM

      ( 12:14 PM ) The Rat  
TEEN ANGST POETRY, via ET. God. This is brilliant. (Scroll to "You hold that cigarette with more care than my hand.")

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:14 PM

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
      ( 10:05 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME! to the readers who came here looking for "seduction of men rat" and "beware of charming colombian men."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:05 PM

      ( 2:24 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:24 PM

      ( 1:39 PM ) The Rat  
WALLET TEST, via ET. It would have been much more effective (though, I'm sure, prohibitive in cost) to use real money, IMO. Note that among 26 people who did not return the wallet, only three attempted to actually redeem the $50 certificate—so this experiment does ultimately seem to test more for laziness than for dishonesty.

Each of the 100 wallets contained $2.10 in real money, a fake $50.00 gift certificate, some miscellaneous items and a clearly written ID card identifying the lost wallet's rightful owner. We were curious as to how honest people would be and wanted to see how different groups would compare to each other. For example, who would return the wallets more often... men or women? Young or old?

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:39 PM

      ( 10:03 AM ) The Rat  
SHEET MUSIC OF ALL MOZART'S WORKS ONLINE FOR HIS 350TH ANNIVERSARY. Damn. Is there that much room on the Internet?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:03 AM

      ( 10:00 AM ) The Rat  
MY FAVORITE AD SO FAR from They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books.

In June 2001, Laura Buxton released a balloon during her grandparents' golden-wedding anniversary celebration in Staffordshire. She'd attached to it her name and address along with a note asking the finder to write back. Ten days later she received a reply. The balloon had been found by another Laura Buxton in Wiltshire, 140 miles away. Both Lauras were aged 10 and both had a three-year-old black Labrador, a guinea pig and a rabbit. The replies to my personal ads are of a very similar nature, always coming from people who share my name and major characteristics of my life. The only distinction is that my replies do actually come from me. It's not because I have a poor memory and respond to adverts I don't remember placing, but because I'm so damned attractive I find me irresistible. You will too, but if you don't own a three-year-old black Labrador, a guinea pig and a rabbit I won't reply. Man. Gorgeous man. 37. Lovely. Kettering. Adorable. Yummy. Reply soon. Of course I will, you silly little pussycat. Box no. 2541.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 AM

      ( 9:59 AM ) The Rat  

Scientists appear to have found a fingerprint of Alzheimer's disease lurking in patients' spinal fluid, a step toward a long-awaited test for the memory-robbing disease that today can be diagnosed definitively only at autopsy.

Researchers at New York's Weill Cornell Medical College discovered a pattern of 23 proteins floating in spinal fluid that, in very preliminary testing, seems to identify Alzheimer's—not perfectly, but with pretty good accuracy. Far more research is needed before doctors could try spinal-tap tests in people worried they have Alzheimer's, specialists caution.

About 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a toll expected to more than triple by 2050 as the population grays. The creeping brain disease gradually robs sufferers of their memories and ability to care for themselves, eventually killing them. There is no known cure; today's drugs only temporarily alleviate symptoms...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:59 AM

      ( 9:12 AM ) The Rat  
$16 BIL SACHS OF LOOT, via the Post.

Between regular salary and bonuses, the average pay of Goldman employees will be a mind-numbing $622,000 this year—and that includes all the low-end workers.

At the top end of the pay scale, it has been reported that Goldman was likely to pay a "golden 25" managers, bankers and traders at least a cool $25 million each.

But a source close to the firm told The Post that some of the top performers may actually get four times that...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 AM

      ( 8:32 AM ) The Rat  
U.S. MAN FINDS LOVE AND DEATH IN BRAZIL. What a shock to find the phrase "Though [he] had an arrogant streak..." in a report of this kind.

Dumped by his girlfriend and approaching his 56th birthday, Merrill was aching for companionship. A "Latin singles" website led him to his new passion: Regina Filomena Crasovich Rachid, a 40ish divorcee with a seductive smile and some rough friends.

Merrill, a musician and carpenter with some money in the bank, jumped on a plane and was soon bestowing lavish gifts on Rachid, including $10,000 for the Botox clinic she ran out of her home here. He was besotted, even as her financial demands intensified and fraudulent charges mounted on his credit cards. Merrill made plans to sell his house, move to Brazil and marry Rachid.

Less than two weeks after arriving on his wedding trip to Brazil, police say, he was dead...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:32 AM

      ( 8:16 AM ) The Rat  
She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 AM

      ( 6:22 AM ) The Rat  

Passers-by were too late to stop the attack by the black squirrels in a village in the far east, which reportedly lasted about a minute.

They are said to have scampered off at the sight of humans, some carrying pieces of flesh...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:22 AM

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
      ( 3:24 PM ) The Rat  
EXERCISE HINDERS PREGNANCY FOR WOMEN USING IVF. Talk about counterintuitive... Article is from a few months back. (Full text of the Obstetrics & Gynecology study is here.)

Women trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization (IVF) are less likely to conceive if they regularly exercise four or more hours per week, according to a recently released study.

In general, the study found that regular exercise did not seem to decrease or increase a woman's chance of having a baby through IVF. However, the odds of a live birth for women who exercised four or more hours per week fell 40 percent compared to women who didn't exercise. The nine-year study evaluated more than 2,000 women who tried to conceive via IVF...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:24 PM

      ( 3:16 PM ) The Rat  
WORLD'S OLDEST LIVING PERSON DIES AT AGE 116. Eep. Gotta love that 2005 photo of her with her 74-year-old grandson...

Family members said she had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great-grandchildren, 220 great-great-great grandchildren and 75 great-great-great-great grandchildren.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:16 PM

Monday, December 11, 2006
      ( 10:42 AM ) The Rat  
The mark of a first rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

(Ratty did not even begin to appreciate the value of this observation until recently, and then it became obvious in about 14 different ways at once...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:42 AM

      ( 8:54 AM ) The Rat  

French-born Alagna, known as "the fourth tenor" and hailed by some critics as the new Pavarotti, had been playing the lead male role in Franco Zeffirelli's lavish production of Verdi's Aida, which launched La Scala's new season last Thursday.

But minutes into the show's second performance on Sunday night, a small section of the audience began booing Alagna, who had just finished singing an aria, apparently displeased about comments he had made about La Scala's demanding audience.

The 43-year old, already upset by some of the reviews he earned for his performance on the opening night, raised his fist defiantly and walked out, leaving stunned fellow singer Ildiko Komlosi to sing "a duet on my own."

After a few moments of embarrassment, with some in the audience shouting "Shame on you!", understudy Antonello Palombi jumped in and carried on singing wearing a pair of jeans and a black shirt for lack of a costume.

Luciano Pavarotti was once famously heckled [at La Scala] after missing a high note in 1992, but he stayed on and later said the public had been right to criticise him.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:54 AM

      ( 8:43 AM ) The Rat  
HERO MAN DIALS 911, via the Onion.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 AM

      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  
"Sam, I had the most incredible evening. Last night, I dreamed about something—not Diane. Well, she was in the background chattering on about something, naked, but the important thing is, I was a therapist again."
—Frasier Crane, from this IMDB page of Cheers quotes

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM

Sunday, December 10, 2006
      ( 10:31 PM ) The Rat  

Lady patrons in louche lairs have made it increasingly difficult for men to have some quality guy time. So lately, they've been hitting, of all places, the spa. With manicures, pedicures and haircuts, a groom of one's own has become the new men's club...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:31 PM

      ( 9:50 PM ) The Rat  
I love all men who dive. Any fish can swim near the surface, but it takes a great whale to go down stairs five miles or more; & if he don't attain the bottom, why, all the lead in Galena can't fashion the plumet that will. I'm not talking of Mr Emerson now—but of the whole corps of thought-divers, that have been diving & coming up again with bloodshot eyes since the world began.
—Melville in a letter to Evert Duyckinck, March 3, 1849

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:50 PM

      ( 9:27 PM ) The Rat  
LAST, QUICK ADDENDUM to all the Hannibal Rising stuff from yesterday. As someone in the LiveJournal thread comments, "The whole reason Lecter is scary is because we know *nothing* about him. Once you reduce him to a set of influences and traumas—especially ones that are as trite and contrived as these are—you take away his ability to frighten. He becomes a whiny little bitch who couldn't cope." This is exactly right; indeed, Harris had to have understood it himself at some level when, in writing Silence (pub. 1991), he gave Lecter the line: "Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:27 PM

      ( 6:58 PM ) The Rat  
JS IS EXPECTING!! Eek!!! So it turns out a lot of Korean and part-Korean babies are anticipated for 2007, because of a rumor that it will be the "Year of the Golden Pig." I found a page about it here, but of course have no idea of its accuracy.

Among young couples in Korea, there is a rapidly spreading rumor that 2007, the Year of the Pig, is actually the Year of the Golden Pig, which comes around only every 600 years. In East Asia, every year has a meaning of one of the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Accordingly, next year is the year of fire. The rumor says that since next year is the year of fire, next year can be viewed as "The Year of Red (the color of fire) Pig" and if you take into account yin and yang and the five elements, it is actually the Year of the Golden Pig.

Demographics Professor Jeon Gwang-hee of Chungnam National University forecasted, "Korea's fertility rate is expected to rise considerably in 2007 thanks to the rumor that 2007 is the Year of the Golden Pig and 2006 is a 'twin spring year,' which is considered a good time for marriage."

On Internet portal sites, already four to five online communities of expecting parents waiting for the Year of the Golden Pig have been created, including "mothers of the golden pig" and a "community for mothers of babies born in 2007; the Year of the Pig"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:58 PM

      ( 4:14 PM ) The Rat  
SCHOOL SHUNS TECH, TEACHES FOUNTAIN PEN. Interesting. It's true one writes differently not only when hand-writing as versus typing, but also when using a fountain pen as versus a ballpoint—so I do find it plausible (and hard-core!) that it would lead to improvements in the quality of work, especially if the students were being trained at it while still very young.

There is no clacking of keyboards in most classrooms at the Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School, although there is a full range of facilities for computer lessons and technology isn't being ignored.

But the private school's principal believes the old-fashioned pens have helped boost the academic performance and self-esteem of his 1,200 pupils.

Ten-year-old Cailean Gall has been using fountain pens in class for two years. It took the keen soccer player one month to master the pen and, like all pupils at the school, [he] still has regular handwriting lessons.

"At the start it was hard because I kept smudging, but you get used to it," he said. "I still have to use a pencil for maths, and now I find it strange using the pencils. I like it because it makes me concentrate much more on my work."

Cailean now uses his fountain pen even for non-school work, but classmate Katie Walker, 11, prefers to use ball point and pencil when not in class.

"I use it for schoolwork and homework only," she said. "It is quite easy using a fountain pen once you're used to it. My parents say it's improved my work enormously."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:14 PM

      ( 4:05 PM ) The Rat  
One 1834 reform tract typically called masturbation 'a monster in our midst... of whose premeditated attacks no note of alarm can forewarn us.'
—David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:05 PM

      ( 4:04 PM ) The Rat  

Other Top 10 finishers included "war," "insurgent," "sectarian" and "corruption." But "truthiness" won 5-to-1, Morse said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:04 PM

      ( 2:13 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:13 PM

      ( 8:29 AM ) The Rat  
EATING THOSE WORDS. Interesting study on synesthesia.

Julia Simner of the University of Edinburgh and Jamie Ward of University College London identified 10 people who can taste words—a sensory experience that is as real to that person as Bolognese sauce over spaghetti sprinkled with hot pepper.

[Researchers] found unusual objects that people would immediately know but not so easily identify—a platypus, for instance, or castanets. They wanted to elicit a tip-of-the-tongue response so that they could figure out whether the tastes are triggered by the sound of the word or its meaning.

They discovered that tastes are linked to the part of the brain that stores the meaning of the word—and not the sound itself. The taste actually came to the person before the sound, during the search for the word.

Simner said that all of the people who were studied had specific tastes for specific words—and they didn't change over time. (The participants were retested a year later.)

What's happening is that the sensory cross talk—the misfiring of information from one brain region to the next—leaves the person with the experience of tasting a certain food when he or she hears a word...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 AM

      ( 8:23 AM ) The Rat  

Jim Elliott, 55, spends his days clambering onto the tops of houses, taking measurements for the wooden trusses his company sells to support roofs through long, snowy winters.

Not long ago, Elliott thought his ladder-climbing days would soon be over. With a few more years of work, his 401(k) account would be large enough to let him retire at 60 and spend his days with his three grandchildren.

Then Elliott learned that his former employer had looted the company's 401(k) plan. The $230,000 he had saved over three decades was gone.

A government-appointed trustee is trying to recover the money, but workers have been told they can expect to get back perhaps half what they lost.

If Elliott had a traditional pension, his retirement checks would be guaranteed under a federally backed insurance plan. But no comparable protection exists for 401(k)s, even though they are rapidly replacing pensions as the financial backbone of retirement for most Americans...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:23 AM

      ( 7:56 AM ) The Rat  

A school principal spent a frigid night on the roof of Harrington Park School in Harrington Park, New Jersey, after students met his challenge to read 10,000 books months before he expected them to. The school has about 700 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Davies had agreed to let them choose their reward. They decided to shave the school's "HP" logo in his hair and send him on a rooftop camping excursion.

Davies, 40, headed up after school ended Thursday with a tent, a sleeping bag and other winter gear.

"I knew it would be cold," he said afterward. "But I didn't know it would be that cold."

Temperatures plunged into the 20s (below zero Celsius) Thursday night and Friday morning in northern New Jersey, according to the National Weather Service...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:56 AM

Saturday, December 09, 2006
      ( 4:42 PM ) The Rat  
SILLY STRING A SAVIOUR OF LIVES IN IRAQ. Is this cool or what?? (Heard about it from a radio snippet yesterday.)

In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. That is why a New Jersey mother is organising a drive to send cans of silly string to Iraq.

American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq. Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

Now, 1,000 cans of the neon-coloured plastic goop are packed into Shriver's one-car garage in this town outside Philadelphia, ready to be shipped to the Middle East thanks to two churches and a pilot who heard about the drive...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:42 PM

      ( 8:57 AM ) The Rat  

Stargazers will get a rare triple planetary treat this weekend with Jupiter, Mercury and Mars appearing to nestle together in the predawn skies. About 45 minutes before dawn on Sunday those three planets will be so close that the average person's thumb can obscure all three from view...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:57 AM

      ( 8:54 AM ) The Rat  

Yesterday I got an emergency e-mail from a publicist: "Las Vegas Urgently Needs More Santas." You better believe it.

But in this case the call out was for a very specific purpose: a 5K Santa run. Apparently, Liverpool, England holds the record for the most running Santas at 3,991. Last year, Las Vegas attempted to best that total and came about 1,000 Santas short...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:54 AM

      ( 8:50 AM ) The Rat  
FROM A BACK-PAGE INTERVIEW with Val Kilmer in the November Elle.

ELLE: Having played Iceman in Top Gun, please rank its homoerotic content from 1 to 10, 1 being not gay at all, and 10 being Liberace in an F-16.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM

      ( 8:47 AM ) The Rat  
JUST DUG UP an old Bloom County cartoon that expresses how truly atrocious Hannibal was. Opus is typing at his desk at the Bloom Beacon:

Frame 1: "George Phblat's new film, 'Benji Saves the Universe,' has brought the word 'bad' to new levels of badness."

Frame 2: "Bad acting. Bad effects. Bad everything. This bad film just oozed rottenness from every bad scene... simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness."

Frame 3: [Sitting in his chair, Opus considers, then continues typing.]

Frame 4: "Well, maybe not that bad, but Lord, it wasn't good."

...So, yeah. Only, imagine a book that actually is that bad—and you pretty much have Hannibal.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:47 AM

      ( 8:40 AM ) The Rat  
THERE IS ALSO A FUN THREAD on Hannibal Rising (and on common stereotypes of Asian women) here. This link, and the NYT one, are both via ET.

—I'm still stalling on the fact that his uncle appears to be married to the author of "The Tale of Genji."

—Betcha she's small and doll-like and exquisitely formed and has jet eyes and perfect tea-colored skin and small yet erect breasts (I never understood the "erect breasts" description, but moving on) and is quietly deferential and obedient to her husband yet has a core of steel within her frail frame. Betcha a nickel.

—And wears kimono all the time. And will at some point let down her hair, which will be like a silk curtain, or possibly a raven's wing. And she will introduce him to the mysteries of the tea ceremony.

—WTF with the "Lady Murasaki"? No, sorry, the attempt to namedrop one of the best-known women in Japanese literature as a chinoiserie mother/whore caricature is NOT winning you any frickin' points around here, Range Rider.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 AM

      ( 8:16 AM ) The Rat  
OH GOD. MAKE IT STOP!! Once-excellent (i.e., in books 1 through 3) novelist Thomas Harris has cranked out a follow-up to 2000's Hannibal. Hannibal easily makes the shortlist of worst books I've ever read, and may in fact top it—in fact, it was so bad I was sure the real Thomas Harris must have died, and that his supposed fourth novel had been written by somebody else. I still secretly cling to this theory. Anyway, Janet Maslin's NYT review of the fifth, Hannibal Rising, is here. (And P.S. Gong Li's to be in the movie?! YEARGH!!!)

"Here in the hot darkness of his mind, let us feel together for the latch," Mr. Harris writes ludicrously. "By our efforts we may watch as the beast within turns from the teat and, working upwind, enters the world."

Poetic pretensions notwithstanding, this particular beast is not slouching toward Bethlehem. Little Hannibal is headed from Lecter Castle in Lithuania (once home to Hannibal the Grim, a 14th- to 15th-century forebear) to Paris, by way of some grisly detours. "Hannibal Rising" begins as the Nazis invade Lithuania and drive the Lecters into hiding. Then it makes a meal of darling little Mischa Lecter, who cried out heart-rendingly for her brother ("Anniba!"), as her captors boiled a big pot of water.

On the theory that one such hellish vision is not enough, "Hannibal Rising" flashes back to it repeatedly. Supporting roles in Hannibal's memory sequences are played by the corpses of his mother and beloved Jewish tutor. Suffice it to say that he is a scarred and lonely 13-year-old by the time he reaches France and encounters a vision of beauty: Lady Murasaki, the stately, exquisitely alluring Asian wife of Hannibal's uncle.

Picture the magnificent Gong Li in this role—or just wait, because she'll show up soon enough in the film version (due early next year). It will require all of her formidable acting skills to deliver dialogue like: "You are drawn toward the darkness, but you are also drawn to me." Or this: "If you are scorched earth, I will be warm rain."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 AM

Friday, December 08, 2006
      ( 7:02 PM ) The Rat  
AND I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE who hated 24/7 Christmas music this much.

A Muslim convert who talked about his desire to wage jihad against civilians was charged Friday in a plot to set off hand grenades at a shopping mall at the height of the Christmas rush, authorities said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:02 PM

      ( 7:00 PM ) The Rat  

Love is blind—but in this case, so were the lovers, the waiters and all the other diners at the blind date in the dark.

Lawyer Dennis Cohen thought the "Dining in the Dark" adventure billed as a three-course gourmet meal served in a pitch black dining room by blind waiters would make for an intriguing kickoff to romance...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:00 PM

      ( 6:57 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY MADE $100 in less than an hour today! And she was vertical at the time!

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:57 PM

      ( 8:49 AM ) The Rat  

Over 1,200 volunteers from the length and breadth of the country had their penises measured precisely, down to the last millimetre.

The conclusion of all this scientific endeavour is that about 60% of Indian men have penises which are between three and five centimetres shorter than international standards used in condom manufacture.

The issue is serious because about one in every five times a condom is used in India it either falls off or tears, an extremely high failure rate. And the country already has the highest number of HIV infections of any nation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:49 AM

      ( 8:45 AM ) The Rat  
EXCELLENT HOROSCOPES this week, by the way.

Your Birthday Today: Anger at the world this week will once again magically transform a plate of baked potatoes into a plate of mashed potatoes.

Aries: You'll get carried away this Thursday after one too many drinks, and by four too many men.

Taurus: After years of disappointment, you'll suddenly realize this week that satisfying sex has always been within arm's reach.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:45 AM

      ( 8:41 AM ) The Rat  
She grinned suddenly.

"Like all old women, even if I am a distinguished one, I preach." She drained her glass of buttermilk. "Do you know why I drink this?"

"Because it's healthy?"

"Bah! I like it. Always have since I went for holidays to a farm in the country. The other reason is so as to be different. One poses. We all pose. Have to. I do it more than most. But, thank God, I know I'm doing it."

—Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie), A Daughter's a Daughter

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:41 AM

Thursday, December 07, 2006
      ( 7:39 PM ) The Rat  
ALSO CHECK OUT Float Driver in Parade Charged with DUI.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:39 PM

      ( 7:37 PM ) The Rat  

A man convicted of killing a kitten by throwing it into a fire during a domestic dispute has moved back in with his girlfriend and her five cats, prompting a charge of violating his probation...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:37 PM

      ( 3:47 PM ) The Rat  

The bipartisan panel said the U.S. military and government rely too much on non-U.S. translators, who fail to provide context.

"As an intelligence analyst told us, 'We rely too much on others to bring information to us, and too often don't understand what is reported back because we do not understand the context of what we are told,'" the report said.

ISG said the U.S. embassy, with 1,000 staffers, has only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers. The embassy has 33 Arabic speakers, with six of them fluent...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:47 PM

      ( 12:08 PM ) The Rat  
AH, THE 19TH CENTURY... From an ad in the back of an 1890 edition of the dime novel Parted by Fate (bold type is in the original):

The secret of many a girl's beauty is her teeth. It becomes a secret no longer when she whispers: "PROPHYLACTIC."

(The text continues, in much smaller type: "Do you use the PROPHYLACTIC TOOTH BRUSH? Florence Manufacturing Co., Florence, Mass., will send you one for 35¢. if you cannot find it.")

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 PM

      ( 7:55 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:55 AM

      ( 7:51 AM ) The Rat  

No one was hurt, including the pig, officers said.

McCaskill said Pugh was accused of walking into the hotel and throwing the 60-pound pig over the counter.

"He said it was a prank," McCaskill said. "It must be some redneck thing, because I haven't ever heard of anything like it."

McCaskill said there have been four late-night incidents involving animal-tossing at West Point businesses. Twice a pig was tossed and two of the incidents involved possums...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:51 AM

      ( 12:16 AM ) The Rat  
MAID CAFES. I forget who I have to blame for this link, but it was probably ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:16 AM

      ( 12:15 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 AM

      ( 12:13 AM ) The Rat  
BALLADS ABOUT SYPHILIS (a la "Streets of Laredo"). Via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 AM

      ( 12:12 AM ) The Rat  
[T]he opposite of courage isn't cowardice but discouragement...
—Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 AM

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
      ( 9:19 PM ) The Rat  
HEH! Found (while Googling for the text of a poem) on a random blog:

Months of Membership
Friendster: 25
Myspace: 2

TOTALLY UNSOLICITED Invitations to Join Threesomes Received
Friendster: 0
Myspace: 1

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:19 PM

      ( 9:08 PM ) The Rat  
THE INEBRIATED REPUBLIC OF IRAN, via Modern Drunkard Magazine.

But even Muslims had their connections, and it took little searching to find a willing supplier. Where liquor stores are outlawed, everywhere is a potential liquor store. Ponder that beautiful fact for a moment: every place other than a mosque bears some possibility of being a place to get trashed. In Kerman, I visited a photocopy shop. While waiting for my copies, the attendant asked in a whisper whether I wanted beer. Still a little on edge over the whole flogging-your-back-to-ribbons thing, I said something noncommittal. He took it correctly to be an enthusiastic yes. In the back room, I bought six Efes beers (a Turkish brand) and drank two with him right then, next to the laminating machine. Try getting that quality of service at your local Kinko’s.

In other words, the booze is harder to get, but once you have it, the freedom to imbibe, without limit or shame, is greater in Iran than anywhere else on earth...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:08 PM

      ( 1:32 PM ) The Rat  

"And to think we were so proud to catch government forces in [the city of] Harbel by surprise," UDF General Gahiji Boshoso said. "Those lucky bastards were probably just as relieved as they were shocked that anyone would want to be in charge of such a nightmarish wasteland. Even parts of Nigeria are better than this, and that's one of the worst countries on earth."

Added Boshoso: "Would it have killed us to take over Estonia instead—you know, a country with running water?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 PM

      ( 10:25 AM ) The Rat  

Staff at an Irish riding school were forced to postpone festivities after Gus the camel chomped his way through 200 mince pies and several cans of Guinness intended for their Christmas party.

"Gus found his way out of his pen and helped himself," Robert Fagan, owner of the Mullingar Equestrian Centre in central Ireland, told Reuters.

The 11-year-old camel, originally from Morocco, cracked open six cans of Ireland's famous stout with his teeth after the door to his stall was left open...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:25 AM

      ( 10:13 AM ) The Rat  

Personal wealth is distributed so unevenly across the world that the richest two per cent of adults own more than 50 per cent of the world's assets while the poorest half hold only 1 per cent of wealth.

Adults with more than $2,200 of assets were in the top half of the global wealth league table, while those with more than $61,000 were in the top 10 per cent, according to the data from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-Wider).

To belong to the top 1 per cent of the world's wealthiest adults you would need more than $500,000, something that 37m adults have achieved...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:13 AM

      ( 10:08 AM ) The Rat  
He taught me never to smile, which helps me when I visit disaster sites.
—Emo Philips

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:08 AM

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
      ( 2:01 PM ) The Rat  

Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History brings together for the first time works by the great Spanish masters of the 16th through the 20th centuries: Francisco de Zurbarán, Diego Velázquez, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Goya, Juan Gris, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and many others, as well as El Greco and Pablo Picasso. Unlike other overviews that display paintings in a strictly chronological order, this exhibition is broken into fifteen distinct sections, each based on a theme running through the past five centuries of Spanish culture. These thematic axes highlight affinities between the art of the old masters and that of the modern era, and challenge conventional art histories that would seek to separate them. Accordingly, works from different periods appear side by side within each section, offering often radical juxtapositions that cut across time to reveal the overwhelming coherence of the Spanish tradition...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 PM

      ( 1:49 PM ) The Rat  
REPEAL DAY. WaiterRant reminds us that today is the 73rd anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. As a civic-minded American, shouldn't you be getting wasted?

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:49 PM

      ( 1:08 PM ) The Rat  

The survey of hundreds of men who work as seasonal Santa Claus characters found that a third of all Santas reported having been peed on by a child.

More than 60 per cent of Santas said they were sneezed or coughed on up to 10 times each day, and three-quarters said they have up to 10 children cry on their laps every day, it said.

"There is more to it than just sitting in a chair. There is more to it than just a red suit,'' said Timothy Connaghan, head of the Santa association, who has worked as one for 38 years.

"Children can really put the wear and tear on you."

More than three-quarters of the children say they have been good during the year, but only half the Santas believe the children are telling the truth, the survey said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:08 PM

      ( 1:06 PM ) The Rat  
CULTURAL SENSITIVITY 101, CTD. From a conversation the other day.

Rat. She's kind of, um, high-maintenance.
KD. You said she was Korean, right?
Rat. Yeah.
KD. Uh-huh...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 PM

      ( 1:04 PM ) The Rat  

Urban Chinese men spend 8.6 minutes a day gazing at themselves in the mirror and shell out 80 yuan (5 pounds) a month on beauty products, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a survey.

Men in Beijing and the financial centre of Shanghai were neck-and-neck on whose residents were most vain.

Those in the capital spent the most money on cosmetics—an average of 119 yuan a month—but those in Shanghai looked in the mirror the longest—about 17 minutes a day...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 PM

      ( 12:58 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:58 PM

      ( 12:37 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:37 PM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

      ( 8:58 AM ) The Rat  
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:58 AM

      ( 12:26 AM ) The Rat  
And I wished she'd tear off the tissue paper then and there and show the world what I'd done. I wanted her to go into ecstasies over my present. Instead she waved hello to someone who must have just walked in, then she turned back and gave me a good long look and playfully asked who I was. And maybe she wasn't just being playful, because she watched me closely, as if she were somehow on the catch and crouched in wait, and I racked my brain for something to say that wouldn't sound utterly foolish. I felt stupid and guilty and inadequate all at once, and after a long silence I croaked that I was currently an expert in the cruelties of existence. And I glared at her defiantly (I was actually trying to stare her down), past caring whether I looked like a moron or not.
—Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:26 AM

Monday, December 04, 2006
      ( 10:50 PM ) The Rat  

Patrick Chung, by the way, rewrote that first sentence in his essay on helping the homeless and filed his application on time. I like the opening of his longer UC essay: "Others are known for their wealth and popularity. I am known for my hair."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:50 PM

      ( 10:48 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 PM

      ( 10:41 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:41 PM

      ( 9:42 PM ) The Rat  
Then the driver ventured to say something about its being chilly for early October and how you couldn't predict the weather anymore. And I didn't much feel like talking, but there was no stopping him, he was in a confiding mood, and he told me that after his wife left him two years earlier he'd lost seventeen kilos. Seventeen kilos. He still couldn't believe it. And he chuckled in quiet alarm as if it haunted him even now; and I said maybe that's how much his wife weighed for him, seventeen kilos. He glanced at me in the rearview mirror. Clearly, he'd never seen it that way before. It had never occurred to him that love might not just feel like a burden, that it might also have an actual, physical weight...
—Grégoire Bouillier, The Mystery Guest*

(*This was a marvelous book, the reading of which could not have been better timed for Ratty. She owes an enormous debt to MFB for recommending it.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:42 PM

      ( 8:47 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:47 PM

      ( 12:53 PM ) The Rat  

Ziggy Stardust, an indiscreet parrot in England, blew the cover on its mistress's love affair by repeating her amorous exchanges in front of her companion. The latter, named Chris, realised something was up when the bird started squawking "Gary, I love you."

Drinkers had to be evacuated from a Welsh pub when somebody realised that a tubular object that the landlord's wife had long used as a rolling-pin was in fact a World War II shell.

Small fish rained down on a village in southern India. A scientist said they were probably picked up by a waterspout or mini-tornado out at sea.

[This year's IgNobel prizes] included rewards for boffins who had researched into why woodpeckers don't get headaches from all that tapping, and whether dung beetles really enjoy their diet of faeces.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:53 PM

      ( 3:54 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:54 AM

Sunday, December 03, 2006
      ( 2:43 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:43 PM

      ( 2:05 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:05 PM

      ( 1:46 AM ) The Rat  
GETTING RIGHT BACK UP ON THAT HORSE. Tonight at Lincoln Center, I heard (among other works) the New York premiere of Paul Hindemith's Piano Music with Orchestra (Piano: Left Hand), Op. 29—composed in 1923. I had of course heard other left-handed piano works before (most notably, Prokofiev's Fourth Concerto), but it was only tonight that I learned that many of these pieces were originally commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein (brother of philosopher Ludwig), who was seeking to broaden the repertoire of piano music available for the left hand, after losing his right arm during World War I. From the program notes:

In August 1914 a Russian sniper near Zamosc, Poland, sent a bullet winging into the right arm of a recently enlisted 26-year-old Austrian officer. That officer lost consciousness and woke up in a Russian field hospital to discover that his limb had been amputated. Losing an arm would qualify as a misfortune for anyone, but it could have been a catastrophe for Paul Wittgenstein, who had recently made his debut as a pianist in Vienna's Grosser Musikvereinsaal. Rather than abandon his aspirations, Wittgenstein went on to alter the musical landscape to accommodate his new circumstances. When World War I ended he presented his first public recital as a left-handed pianist, a performance that amazed critics not just by the fact that it could be done, but that it could be done with deeply convincing musicianship...

Anyone with even rudimentary piano training understands the kind of virtuosic challenge presented by music written specifically for the weaker hand. (I first heard the Prokofiev concerto when I was about 9, and the memory is still vivid even now.) Tonight's soloist was Leon Fleischer, who lost the pianistic use of his own right hand to focal dystonia in 1965, and only returned to two-handed performance in the 1990s. In the interim he performed left-handed piano works, taught, and conducted.

(Incidentally... all that notwithstanding, my favorite piece in tonight's program was actually the final scene from Strauss's Salome, with soprano Nancy Gustafson. The latter was quite good, by the way, though her voice was too often overpowered by the orchestra. I also couldn't stop worrying until the final note, that she might pop right out of her extremely Salome-appropriate dress...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:46 AM

      ( 1:41 AM ) The Rat  
"As you know I do not care for philosophy... it is merely a minor branch of literature."
—HB to Ratty earlier today

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:41 AM

      ( 1:36 AM ) The Rat  
Deneuve, Piccoli and Page, then, all convey stories which are a little larger, more interesting or more peculiar than their literal roles in the movie. In part, this is just to say they are actors, that their job, beautifully done, is to have made the script something more than a script. But there is something else, something that makes them prime collaborators of Buñuel in this film. Deneuve's apparent absence, Piccoli's criss-crossing charm and cruelty, Page's implied private life, all help to build one of Belle de Jour's principal implied arguments about the world. It's not that we all have secrets, although we probably do. It's that there is always another story. Whole new or denied territories of fear and desire will open up if we take another turn in the road—if we took the turn we just passed, for example. Actors, if they are lucky, work in other films or plays as well as the one we're seeing, they have other jobs, and other existences beyond those jobs. And most people, Buñuel would say, actors or not, have other, scarier or more delightful lives quite apart from the one they firmly imagine to be their own.
—Michael Wood, BFI Film Classics: Belle de Jour

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:36 AM

Friday, December 01, 2006
      ( 10:06 PM ) The Rat  
RICHARDS TO MEET WITH LAUGH FACTORY HECKLERS. It really would have been much funnier if Mel Gibson had offered a cash settlement after insulting the Jews...

In a meeting brokered by a lawyer and that is to be mediated by a retired judge, comedian Michael Richards plans to meet with the four African American men he targeted during a racist diatribe two weeks ago from the stage of Hollywood's Laugh Factory, his attorney said today.

Richards, best known for his portrayal of the "hipster doofus" Cosmo Kramer character on the "Seinfeld" television show, is expected to offer a direct apology for the outburst, and also will likely pay a cash settlement...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:06 PM

      ( 9:52 PM ) The Rat  
THE LITERARY REVIEW has just announced this year's Bad Sex in Fiction Award winner.

The award sponsors at Literary Review magazine said it was Hollingshead's "bulging trousers" which put him ahead of runner-up Tim Willocks for "The Religion".

The review distributed selected passages of steamy and graphic prose from "Twentysomething" involving groans, grunts, squeaks and "flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles."

The prize was founded by then Review editor Auberon Waugh, son of 20th century British novelist Evelyn Waugh, and a prominent journalist and satirist.

Now in its 14th year, the prize aims "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:52 PM

      ( 9:51 PM ) The Rat  

Nearly two-thirds of Britons think the fiery Italian sauce Arrabiata is a sex infection, according to a survey on Friday.

The survey, of 1,015 people and released on World AIDS day, also showed nearly half were unable to identify a range of common sexual complaints.

"What is very worrying is the lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) revealed in the survey," said sex therapist Emily Dubberley...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 PM

      ( 9:04 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY IS NEARLY THROUGH with Art Spiegelman's Maus graphic novels, and they're really good. But you can't possibly have heard that here first.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 PM

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

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