The Rat
Saturday, March 31, 2007
      ( 7:42 PM ) The Rat  
As the love which Blifil had for Sophia was of that violent kind, which nothing but the loss of her fortune, or some such accident, could lessen, his inclination to the match was not at all altered by her having run away, though he was obliged to lay this to his own account. He very readily, therefore, embraced this offer. Indeed, he now proposed the gratification of a very strong passion besides avarice, by marrying this young lady, and this was hatred; for he concluded that matrimony afforded an equal opportunity of satisfying either hatred or love; and this opinion is very probably verified by much experience.
Tom Jones

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      ( 12:34 PM ) The Rat  

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Thursday, March 29, 2007
      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
DEAR ME. On the project.

Some send virtual love letters to their Future Selves. Others send hate mail. ("Okay, let me start this letter off with this: YOU SUCK.") Some flatter their Future Selves as sage elders. Others plead with their Future Selves as if they are hanging judges—which makes some sense. Since Future Me must cope with the aftermath of Present Me's diet, addictions and dental negligence, Future Me figures to be Past Me's toughest critic. "Forgive me for everything I've done wrong," one e-mailer writes. "I was weak."

Several e-mails are irredeemably bleak. They foretell futures in which things undoubtedly won't be any better: "I am a cynical pessismist who hates everyone and believes that they are all out to get me and jealous, too. Riley is four and talks back. I still hate my father. I have no health insurance."

A few are chilling: "Have you somehow managed to walk away from all of that and go on with the rest of life, pretending that you were not forever changed by your involvement with the Branch Davidians and the message that David Koresh taught?"

Two or three should be forwarded directly to the police: "Do you still think about how it would feel to kill someone or watch someone die?" The same e-mailer reports that, while writing, he's spending the evening alone, in his underwear, wishing someone "liked" him.

A frightened, tormented teenager writes: "When you came home from the mall, you told mom that you needed to talk alone. Soon. She started to cry She sent your cousin out of the room and made you talk. And you talked. And cried She kept telling you she screwed up everything. She said it in such a way you were so afraid she was going to do something Then she told you something that has probably ruined your life even more. Your mother, the woman who raised you these 17 years (almost 18) told you that your grandpa molested her until she was 16

"Don't give up, for your mom's sake.

"Love, You at 17."

Although nearly all the salutations are the same—"Dear Future Me"—the signoffs are diverse and frequently heart-rending. They range from mushy to polite, from exhortative to self-reviling. They bid good luck, ask for mercy, express compassion. They are angry, kidding or tender. One woman writes: "hope i didn't confuse u or make u cry."

Many goodbyes read like dying words, and maybe they are. Present Me is always dying, always being resurrected as Future Me. And Present Me always knows it, and therefore strives to leave some meaningful last words, which sometimes achieve a profundity the e-mailer didn't intend. A drunk medical student closes: "i really do love you. more than you love me."

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      ( 9:09 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:10 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  
We have our secrets and our needs to confess. We may remember how, in childhood, adults were able at first to look right through us, and into us, and what an accomplishment it was when we, in fear and trembling, could tell our first lie, and make, for ourselves, the discovery that we are irredeemably alone in certain respects, and know that within the territory of ourselves, there can only be our footprints.
—R.D. Laing

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
      ( 4:11 PM ) The Rat  
[H]e in a few Minutes ravished this fair Creature, or at least would have ravished her, if she had not, by a timely Compliance, prevented him.
—Henry Fielding, Jonathan Wild

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      ( 1:04 PM ) The Rat  
OOH! That beautiful show, then titled Venise et l'Orient, that Ratty saw in Paris in October, opened yesterday at the Met under the name "Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797." Don't miss it—even if (like me) you know essentially nothing about Islamic art, it's yummy to look at.

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      ( 4:38 AM ) The Rat  
SNIF! Yet another Enzo bites the dust.

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      ( 4:37 AM ) The Rat  
MOM'S BEEF PUTS SON'S SPERM COUNT AT STAKE. Interesting. Read elsewhere recently that there's some speculation that older maternal age may affect longevity (a study found that firstborns are 1.7 likelier to live to be centenarians, as are babies born to mothers between 18 and 25).

Men whose mothers ate a lot of beef during their pregnancy have a sperm count about 25% below normal and three times the normal risk of fertility problems, researchers reported Tuesday.

The problem may be due to anabolic steroids used in the United States to fatten the cattle, Dr. Shanna H. Swan of the University of Rochester Medical Center reported in the journal Human Reproduction. It could also be due to pesticides and other environmental contaminants, she added.

If the sperm deficit is related to the hormones in beef, Swan's findings may be "just the tip of the iceberg," wrote biologist Frederick vom Saal of the University of Missouri-Columbia in an editorial accompanying the paper.

In daughters of the beef-eaters, those same hormones could alter the incidence of polycystic ovarian syndrome, the age of puberty and the postnatal growth rate, he said.

"It's a small effect, but it is a significant effect," said Dr. Ted Schettler, an environmental health specialist at the Institute for Global Communications in San Francisco. "It's not surprising. The more you look at dietary factors, the more you turn up interesting information about how diet during pregnancy affects lots of aspects of human health." [...]

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      ( 4:24 AM ) The Rat  

A Portuguese group campaigning for safe roads has asked the Vatican to ensure that a priest who owns a souped-up Ford Fiesta "resist the temptations of speed."

Father Antonio Rodrigues, Portugal's only owner of a 150-horse-power Ford Fiesta 2000 ST, has boasted of his car's rapid acceleration to 210 kph [130 mph] and "thanked God" for never being fined, the Association of Motorist Citizens said in a letter to the Pope.

The letter, which was published on its website (, cited the priest as saying that he uses the car to take youngsters for spins and to zip around to "arrive on time to the three parish churches"...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
      ( 4:30 PM ) The Rat  
CHRISTOPHER PRENDERGAST, general editor of the new Penguin translations of Proust, was in town yesterday with many interesting anecdotes about the making of the series. If you ever wondered why there's a different translator for every volume, for instance: 1) there actually is a precedent for that, in ...I think it was Italian? and Ulysses has been done that way as well—into French; and 2) more to the point, it would have been very difficult getting anyone to sign on for all seven volumes. Acclaimed translator Richard Howard began work on a full re-translation in the '80s, but threw in the towel after completing vols. 1 and 7. I can't possibly convey this as hilariously as Prof. Prendergast did—he's a very entertaining speaker—but he essentially told us that a number of people have died trying to translate all of Proust.

There was also some discussion of the thorny matter of translating the very first sentence, "Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure." Penguin ran a contest on their website, inviting readers to contribute translations; Prof. Prendergast gleefully reported to us one of his favorites, "For absolutely bloody ages it was lights out early."

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      ( 4:23 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:35 PM ) The Rat  
THESE BOYS HAVE SOME HANG-UPS. Interesting (though, never having seen the show, I can't say if it's accurate).

Strangely for a show on HBO about being young and male and rich in Hollywood, there are no sex scenes on "Entourage."

With HBO facing life after "The Sopranos," "Entourage" is to the pay-cable network what "Sex and the City" was—a romp, with a swag bag of material goodies (for HBO, that would be celebrity cameos, partial nudity and profanity) for the audience at the door of every episode.

"Sex and the City" in its unbidden depictions of sex and presentation of boy toys, earned the reputation of being written for women and gay men by women and gay men. The show was nowhere near as chaste or ashamed about the self-conscious, bad ballet of lovemaking as "Entourage" is. Apparently, it's actually straight males who find sex icky. The self-censorship is even more glaring given that "Entourage" otherwise revels in displaying the spoils of new Hollywood money (in the codified world of the show, you have to have the scene in which Vince buys three gleaming new sports cars on the spot).

"The Mind of the Married Man" was HBO's first male-gaze counterpart to "Sex and the City," but the network quit on it after one season and has found its Shangri-La, perversely, with a show in which straight males gaze at one another...

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Sunday, March 25, 2007
      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  
IT'S A COUPLE DECADES since I really followed professional basketball, but this Kobe Bryant thing popped out of the news at me all the same.

The points are now coming so rapidly that Bryant said he didn't know when he reached the 50-point barrier Friday against New Orleans on the way to becoming only the second player in league history with four consecutive games of 50 or more points.

"I heard the crowd kind of chant a little bit on that last jumper I hit," he said. "My teammates came over and started giving me high-fives, and I asked [assistant coach] Brian Shaw, 'I hit 50 already?' "

Wilt Chamberlain holds the NBA record with seven consecutive games of 50 or more points, set while he was with the Philadelphia Warriors in December 1961. Chamberlain, in fact, averaged 50.4 points that season, making Bryant's 30.8-point average this season seem minuscule.

Still, Bryant is averaging 56.3 points and shooting 54.3% in his four-game spree...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  
WHILE I'M HERE, may I take this opportunity to thank Mixolydian Mode for realizing, as the National Catholic Register recently failed to do, that I AM NOT CATHOLIC.

My thanks to MSB for flagging me to the article on "Catholic bloggers" (subscription required) that ran a few months ago in the Register, and which I would not otherwise have seen, given that I AM NOT CATHOLIC. Jesus Christ. It's true this is a relatively clean blog—though, more than a few people have reached it Googling for things like "transvestite friends in hertfordshire"—but that's because I was dating a guy for a couple years who gave the URL to his mother. (Hi, Mrs. C.!)

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      ( 1:59 PM ) The Rat  
RANDOM ENDORSEMENT. This company has the best customer service I've encountered anywhere, in years. As in, I ordered something from them that turned out to have a minor (and purely cosmetic) defect—entirely the fault of the manufacturer. I wasn't going to bother with an exchange (the chipped part of the item was both heavy and cumbersome, and I didn't want to deal with shipping), but I did briefly mention the defect in the "comments" section of a follow-up satisfaction survey that was e-mailed to me.

Surveys of that type are usually conducted by third-party firms (I worked for one in high school), so I figured my responses would duly make their way into the circular file. Within a week, however, someone from ABT had contacted me—first by telephone and, when I wasn't in, then by e-mail—to offer to arrange an exchange. (Which required almost no effort on my part—they sent out a replacement for the damaged part of the item; I put the original in the box that came in, stuck on their prepaid, preaddressed label, and handed it to UPS.) The last time I've seen such attentive, borderling-stalker-ey service may have been that nutty waiter ("Water! What a wonderful choice!") (okay, he didn't really say that, but it was close) Eve and I had in London.

Anyway, so go! Buy their stuff!!

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      ( 1:36 PM ) The Rat  
SPEAKING OF HAIRCUTS, Ratty had a terrific one last week at John Barrett, for a ludicrously low price (in the context—it was $35 and I left a $15 tip, but that cut and blowout, from that stylist, could not-implausibly have exceeded $200 sans tip). As I am not among the ladies who lunch, I went as a "model" as a supervisor taught a new technique from Paris to 9-10 students (who sat around us and took notes). I've done this half a dozen times on both coasts, but this was probably my favorite of the lot. (The view out over Central Park, from their ninth-floor perch atop Bergdorf's, was just gravy.) More information on Manhattan salon training events here and here.

MLY's impression of a stylist-teacher operating on me, when he heard this story: "And now, here is what you do when your client has a really big head..."

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      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  
"NOTHING HEALS A BROKEN HEART LIKE AN EX WITH A STUPID HAIRCUT." Some excellent cards at PostSecret this week. Third from the top may be my favorite.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007
      ( 12:13 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  

Researchers have found that men and women consistently overrate the attractiveness of other members of their own sex.

[R]esearchers showed 123 men and 159 women photographs of students of the opposite sex and asked them to rate the students as prospective sexual or long-term partners. They then showed the same photographs to members of the same sex and asked them to assess how attractive those people would be to members of the opposite sex.

On average, men rated other men a third higher than women did. Women rated other women a quarter higher than men did.

The differences did not occur when the volunteers were asked to rate the people on characteristics that did not involve attractiveness, including how politically involved they thought the person was.

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      ( 11:51 AM ) The Rat  
FOR COUPLES, REACTION TO GOOD NEWS MATTERS MORE THAN REACTION TO BAD. Less than helpful for those of us who've been in relationships where there never was any good news... (Study is from a few months back.)

[R]esearchers asked 79 heterosexual couples who had dated at least six months to fill out questionnaires characterizing how their partners typically reacted to positive news. People often had different styles in different contexts: a boyfriend who withdrew when his partner was upset or overwhelmed might glow with shared excitement if she was promoted. The researchers filmed the couples interacting in the lab, as they discussed positive events that happened to one or the other, to check their self-reports. The researchers also had members of the pairs rate how satisfied they were in the relationship, based on a battery of questions at the start of the study and again two months later.

In the laboratory as in life, constructive support is generally better for a relationship than detachment, as many people have learned the hard way. Couples who lace their arguments with sarcasm and mean jabs, studies find, are usually headed for a split. But in their analysis of response styles, the researchers found that it was the partners’ reactions to their loved ones’ victories, small and large, that most strongly predicted the strength of the relationships...

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Friday, March 23, 2007
      ( 3:25 PM ) The Rat  
FRY UP CAKE, Roast Lamb Anniversary Cake, Burger With Everything, Chinese Takeaway, and other weird cakes from the Cake Fairy.

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      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  

Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation...

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
      ( 10:03 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:19 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:26 PM ) The Rat  
OUT OF THE DARKNESS OVERNIGHT. Overnight (June 9-10), 20-mile walk through NYC to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
      ( 8:53 PM ) The Rat  
Here, reader, I beg your patience a moment while I make a just compliment to the great wisdom and sagacity of our law, which refuses to admit the evidence of a wife for or against her husband. This, says a certain learned author who, I believe, was never quoted before in any but a law-book, would be the means of creating an eternal dissension between them. It would, indeed, be the means of much perjury, and of much whipping, fining, imprisoning, transporting, and hanging.
Tom Jones

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      ( 4:33 AM ) The Rat  
EXTRAORDINARILY DETAILED SITE about Scrooge McDuck (follow the "Life and Times of $crooge McDuck" link). Yeah, I was looking for a reason.

On a related note, check out the Forbes Fictional Fifteen. I never realized Thurston Howell III was supposed to be quite that loaded!

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Monday, March 19, 2007
      ( 12:32 AM ) The Rat  

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Sunday, March 18, 2007
      ( 9:23 PM ) The Rat  
A TERRIBLE LIFE CHOICE. Awesome. And they even got my age right! Link courtesy of EB.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007
      ( 2:23 PM ) The Rat  
EBAY currently has a promotion on where first-time sellers can list up to three items at no charge—go here for details.

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      ( 2:17 PM ) The Rat  
[A]nother patient with Korsakov's, Stephen R., [had] become acutely ill in 1980 and [his] retrograde amnesia went back only two years or so. With this patient, who also had severe seizures, spasticity and other problems necessitating in-patient care, rare weekend visits to his home revealed a poignant situation. In hospital he could recognize nobody and nothing, and was in an almost ceaseless frenzy of disorientation. But when his wife took him home, to his house which was in effect a 'time-capsule' of his pre-amnesia days, he felt instantly at home. He recognised everything, tapped the barometer, checked the thermostat, took his favourite armchair, as he used to do. He spoke of neighbours, shops, the local pub, a nearby cinema, as they had been in the mid-Seventies. He was distressed and puzzled if the smallest changes were made in the house. ('You changed the curtains today!' he once expostulated to his wife. 'How come? So suddenly? They were green this morning.' But they had not been green since 1978.) He recognised most of the neighbouring houses and shops—they had changed little between 1978 and 1983—but was bewildered by the 'replacement' of the cinema ('How could they tear it down and put up a supermarket overnight?'). He recognised friends and neighbours—but found them oddly older than he expected ('Old so-and-so! He's really showing his age. Never noticed it before. How come everyone's showing their age today?'). But the real poignancy, the horror, would occur when his wife brought him back—brought him, in a fantastic and unaccountable manner (so he felt), to a strange home he had never seen, full of strangers, and then left him. 'What are you doing?' he would scream, terrified and confused. 'What in the hell is this place? What the hell's going on?' These scenes were almost unbearable to watch, and must have seemed like madness, or nightmare, to the patient. Mercifully perhaps he would forget them within a couple of minutes.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

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Friday, March 16, 2007
      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  
HEE! Also, that photo totally needs a funnier caption.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007
      ( 9:23 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  
WELCOME! to the reader who came here looking for "What would a retired buddhist bulgarian male enjoy." Have I got the blog for you! Okay maybe not.

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      ( 7:53 AM ) The Rat  
Suicide is belated acquiescence in the opinion of one's wife's relatives.
—H.L. Mencken

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007
      ( 2:02 PM ) The Rat  

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
      ( 11:42 PM ) The Rat  
THE SCENT OF THE NILE, via The New Yorker.

These days, the creation of a perfume typically begins with a brief: a conceptual description of an imagined new scent, provided to the perfumer by the fashion house. When developing J'adore, executives at Christian Dior told Becker to create something "sexy like a stiletto and as comfortable as a pair of Tod's." Some people blame the brief system for the industry's decline; because the marketers who write briefs now commission and approve scents, they have acquired substantial control over the perfume-creation process. The French executive told me, "Basically, it's 'We want something for women.' O.K., which women? 'Women! All women! It should make them feel more feminine, but strong, and competent, but not too much, and it should work well in Europe and the U.S. and especially in the Asian market, and it should be new but it should be classic, and young women should love it, but older women should love it, too.' If it's a French house, the brief will also say, 'And it should be a great and uncompromised work of art,' and if it's an American brief it will say, 'And it should smell like that Armani thing two years ago that did four million dollars in the first two months in Europe but also like the Givenchy that sold so well in China.'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:42 PM

      ( 10:46 PM ) The Rat  
A further obvious remark on the humanity of great fictions is worth making, since critics rarely pause to make it: that the Lord Jims and Thomas Sutpens are more interesting and more attractive to us than they would have been had we met them in "real life." In real life (unaware of Sutpen's childhood or of his grand design) we might have shared all Miss Rosa's distaste for the "demon." Certainly we would have been disgusted by the surface personality of this somber and rude man. And in real life we might have felt toward Jim what Marlow professes to feel only once so strongly: "I perceived myself unexpectedly to be thoroughly sick of him. Why these vapourings?" We might dismiss as intolerable this aggressive yet overly sensitive man in his vanity and his clean white shoes, perpetually thrusting on us his introspections and excuses. We would probably not accept him as "one of us." And would we not, in real life, also turn away from the gross vulgarity of Jay Gatsby and his mass of silk shirts, or from the rugged brutality of Michael Henchard, or from the violent tirades of Ahab, or from the posturings of Emma Bovary, or from the lank ugliness and mad loquacity of Don Quixote? Or from Lear, Macbeth, perhaps even Hamlet? Art induces greater sympathies (but also sterner judgments) than most of us are capable of in the daily conduct of our lives; it compels us to live less indifferently, and frees us from the irrelevant. This does not mean that art, cheating us, is untrue to life, but that it asks for an intensified response to something "like life."
—Albert J. Guerard

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:46 PM

      ( 9:16 PM ) The Rat  
NAILING IT. This is exactly why Lord Jim (the character, not the book) is so damn annoying... and ditto the Lord-Jim-esque brand of narcissism/histrionics typically characterized by its real-life practitioners as, "being a romantic." For the Green Day song that is absolutely the fucking national anthem of the thing I'm talking about, click here. Hate!!!

Anyway... the passage is from Arnold E. Davidson's "The Abdication of Lord Jim" (in this book). And it elicited from me the response I generally reserve only for the most acute literary criticism, viz., "Fuckin' A!!"

[I]n an essay titled "Sartre and Conrad: Lord Jim as Existential Hero," Ira Sadoff suggests that Jim "is one of us" because "he has determined his own fate, he has learned to accept himself among men." However, as Bruce Johnson astutely observes, "Jim... believes he has an ordained identity as hero, a predetermined self which, though experience may temporarily frustrate its appearance, will ultimately shine forth." And "to pursue the ideal as one's already innate essence is not to pursue it at all." Or Said equally perceptively sees "the pressure on Jim that makes him favor death over life" as "a fatalistic desire to behold the self passively as an object told about, mused on, puzzled over, marvelled at fully, in utterance." In either case—privileging essence or utterance—the result is the same: existentialism in bad faith. We see Jim dubiously dissociate what he "does" from what he "is" and then further confuse both sides of that division by how he talks about it. Marlow, moreover, earlier suspected as much. "Still the idea obtrudes itself that he made so much of his disgrace while it is the guilt alone that matters."

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      ( 1:24 PM ) The Rat  
CONDIMENT PACKET MUSEUM. KD agrees it's not as cool as the Moist Towelette Museum (link courtesy of ET, last week): "They weren't even trying in the relish section."

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      ( 12:25 PM ) The Rat  
We had stopped at a gas station, under the sign of Pegasus, and she had slipped out of her seat and escaped to the rear of the premises while the raised hood, under which I had bent to watch the mechanic's manipulations, hid her for a moment from my sight. Being inclined to be lenient, I only shook my benign head though strictly speaking such visits were taboo, since I felt instinctively that toilets—as also telephones—happened to be, for reasons unfathomable, the points where my destiny was liable to catch. We all have such fateful objects—it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another—carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of special significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane's heart always break.

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      ( 3:26 AM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING STUDY ON BABY TALK. I wonder if it at all connects with the use of baby talk in adult romantic relationships? (Don't look at me like that—people have studied this! Here [24ff.] for instance.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:26 AM

      ( 3:12 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:04 AM ) The Rat  

[M]ost of the burden of mental health woes fell on the youngest veterans, Seal said. "The youngest group of veterans—18-to-24-year-olds returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—were at the highest risk for having a mental health diagnosis or a PTSD diagnosis," she said. "The highest prevalence of mental health diagnosis were in the youngest group of active-duty veterans," she added.

Seal believes that the youngest veterans were most affected, because they saw the most combat. "Combat exposure directly correlates with the development of PTSD and other mental health diagnoses," she said.

"The numbers are staggering," noted Simon Rego, an associate director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City.

The prevalence of PTSD among these veterans is roughly the same as it was for Vietnam veterans, Rego said, "but if you look at the prevalence of PTSD in the general population—it's about 3.5 percent—this is a bubble coming our way."

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      ( 2:55 AM ) The Rat  
I HAVE TO ADMIT that while the conference announced here (link courtesy of ET) does sound pretty ridiculous, it probably seemed less appalling for me, as my sensibilities have been dulled by too many years in circles where I routinely receives notices for talks with names like "Alexei Gastev, Vsevolod Meyerhold and the Semblance of Bodily Agency." (Look, for all I know the talk will be interesting, and I certainly see the point of talking about Meyerhold. It's just that the phrase "body politic" absolutely gives me hives.)

All of which notwithstanding—do click through the link; that speakers' list is awesome!

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      ( 2:45 AM ) The Rat  
UTTERLY, UTTERLY DEPLORABLE AND DEGRADING OF WOMEN AS THIS IS... I still have to say that purely as a matter of style, as a response to the question, "Are you marrying a woman with six children?!"—or, indeed, to any question—it really is pretty f---in' hard to beat: "No, I be concubining." The ending of the article is hilarious/awful too, in exactly the same way.

As Lackey left the courtroom Friday, a group of teenage girls there for another case appeared to know Lackey. "Oh, there's Ricky Lackey!" one swooned.

Lackey shrugged the attention off with one word and a wave of his hand. "Fans," he said.

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Monday, March 12, 2007
      ( 6:02 AM ) The Rat  
It occurred to him that no one could understand him so well as his sister. In the most sceptical heart there lurks at such moments, when the chances of existence are involved, a desire to leave a correct impression of the feelings, like a light by which the action may be seen when personality is gone, gone where no light of investigation can ever reach the truth which every death takes out of the world. Therefore, instead of looking for something to eat, or trying to snatch an hour or so of sleep, Decoud was filling the pages of a large pocket-book with a letter to his sister...

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Sunday, March 11, 2007
      ( 7:41 PM ) The Rat  

The market growth reflects an intensifying bond between pets and their people, who are comforted by the unquestioning love of their animals in an affluent society where traditional institutions are frayed and mobility severs family ties. A 2002 survey for the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 47 percent of people viewed their pets as family members.

Some question whether society is keeping priorities straight. David Rothman, a Columbia University expert in medicine's role in society, points to the millions of people who are desperately short on care: "If you can't get malaria drugs in some Third World countries, what are we doing with chemotherapy for cats?"

Yet many American pet owners, like some who come to N.C. State's veterinary school, "spend $500 a month on their chronic medications—and they don't flinch," says school pharmacist Gigi Davidson...

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      ( 3:15 AM ) The Rat  

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Saturday, March 10, 2007
      ( 2:55 PM ) The Rat  
IN WHICH Ratty's career trajectory over the past 12 or so years, comes full circle. From Wikipedia's entry on Slavoj Žižek:

Recently, Žižek wrote text to accompany Bruce Weber photos in a catalogue for Abercrombie & Fitch. Questioned as to the seemliness of a major intellectual writing ad copy, Žižek told the Boston Globe: "If I were asked to choose between doing things like this to earn money and becoming fully employed as an American academic, kissing ass to get a tenured post, I would with pleasure choose writing for such journals!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:55 PM

      ( 2:01 PM ) The Rat  
LINGUISTICS MAY BE CLUE TO EMOTIONS, ACCORDING TO PENN STATE RESEARCH. From a couple years back. (I would have had at least one more group in the sample, by the way, and from a language family other than Indo-European.* Duh!!) Incidentally, MW was recently telling Ratty about an older French translation of Anna Karenina in which the first sentence is rendered not as, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (i.e., basically what it says in Russian), but rather as, "All happinesses are alike..." etc. Which, really, is so much more French.

Schrauf and Julia Sanchez, graduate student in psychology, Chicago School for Psychology, asked groups of people in Mexico City and Chicago in two age groups, 20 years old and 65 years old, to freely list the names of as many emotions as they could. The emotions were then categorized as negative, positive or neutral.

"People know more negative emotion words than positive or neutral words. The proportion of words was 50 percent negative, 30 percent positive and 20 percent neutral," says Schrauf. "The cognitive explanation is that we process negative and positive emotions in two channels."

Reporting in a recent issue of the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, the researchers explain that positive emotions are processed schematically. People do not pay a lot of attention to assessment of positive emotions. In general, positive emotions signal that things are ok, so we process them more superficially. Negative emotions signal that something is wrong, and so they elicit a slowdown in processing. They require more attention and detail in thinking and, consequently, more words.

"Negative emotions require more detailed thinking, more subtle distinctions," says Schrauf. "So they require more names." There was no significant difference between the Spanish and English speaking groups in the proportions of negative versus positive responses to the assignment...

*According to this article, the researchers did look at more languages: "Studies of 37 different languages turned up seven words that have very similar meanings. They are joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt. 'Seven words, and only one positive,' Schrauf notes. 'Isn't that awesome?'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:01 PM

Friday, March 09, 2007
      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
BULLET'S PATH; or, Ratty's favorite way to make applesauce.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

      ( 9:08 PM ) The Rat  
ONLINE ENGLISH LANGUAGE POLLS. Even the duller among these are funny if you imagine people with opposing responses getting into fistfights. (Yes, I'm tired from trying to write a paper—how did you guess?)

"Me, I can't get enough."
—Great sentence
—Good sentence
—Acceptable sentence
—Bad sentence
—Awful sentence

No text is free of other texts. (Ferdinand de Saussure)
—I agree.
—I disagree.

Hell is...
—I have no idea.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
—The teacher's late again

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:08 PM

      ( 6:15 PM ) The Rat  
SOME EXAMPLES OF BLEACH BYPASS (well, of a bleach-bypass look at any rate).

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:15 PM

      ( 4:10 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:10 PM

      ( 4:06 PM ) The Rat  
It's a story about love. And all stories about love begin with a certain amount of rationalization.
—Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:06 PM

      ( 3:23 PM ) The Rat  
SCENES FROM A PROVINCIAL LIFE. Nice little A.S. Byatt piece on Madame Bovary.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:23 PM

      ( 12:45 PM ) The Rat  
MAN WHO PLAYS DEVIL'S ADVOCATE REALLY JUST WANTS TO BE ASSHOLE, via the Onion. I was going to say, "This is funnier if you know someone like this"—but really, doesn't everyone know someone like this?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 PM

      ( 12:11 PM ) The Rat  

German researchers found they could use odors to re-activate new memories in the brains of people while they slept—and the volunteers remembered better later.

Writing in the journal Science, they said their study showed that memories are indeed consolidated during sleep, and show that smells and perhaps other stimuli can reinforce brain learning pathways...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:11 PM

      ( 9:00 AM ) The Rat  
FULL TEXT OF POE'S "THE IMP OF THE PERVERSE." Note the section on procrastination!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:00 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  
ALWAYS A BLAST WITH THE BOOM. God bless high-school teachers like this.

Explosions are nothing new to Preston Q. Boomer's physics and chemistry classes. Neither are flash fires, electric shocks, spark-spitting transformers or deafening gongs, sirens and klaxons. He begins many lectures with the subversive come-on: "Want to blow something up today?"

It's the Boom's Big Bang Theory of teaching: Noise is fun, even instructive. But his wacky experiments can go awry. One day the cops showed up as a result of a half-baked Boomer stunt. The teacher was testing whether a 1.5-million-volt Tesla coil could shoot a spark across the room. In the process, he cut off all police radio communications for miles.

Boomer's reaction: "Neat!"

His tutelage has paid off. Ex-students e-mail to say his lessons primed them for their toughest college classes. Many Boomer graduates have gone on to lucrative careers in Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Most attribute their continued love affair with science and technology to the teacher they call their most influential childhood mentor...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 1:07 AM ) The Rat  
Near the end he asked me, "How old am I?" I told him he was seventy-four. He frowned. "That's when people die, isn't it?" I said that I hadn't and so far he hadn't. I was sitting beside his armchair looking out over the tile roof opposite. For a moment he looked puzzled; then he said, "Didn't it go by awfully fast?" Of course it had.
—Gore Vidal, Point to Point Navigation

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:07 AM

Thursday, March 08, 2007
      ( 7:32 PM ) The Rat  
JOHN INMAN has died. *Snif!*

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:32 PM

      ( 7:23 PM ) The Rat  
I APPEAR TO STILL BE CALIGULA on the Which Historical Lunatic Are You? quiz. You're shocked, I know.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:23 PM

      ( 7:13 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:13 PM

      ( 7:12 PM ) The Rat  

It took the 22-year-old Cornwell about 150 hours and $400 in parts to modify a mini-fridge common to many college dorm rooms into the beer-tossing contraption, which can launch 10 cans of beer from its magazine before needing a reload.

With a click of the remote, fashioned from a car's keyless entry device, a small elevator inside the refrigerator lifts a beer can through a hole and loads it into the fridge's catapult arm. A second click fires the device, tossing the beer up to 20 feet—"far enough to get to the couch," he said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:12 PM

      ( 5:45 PM ) The Rat  
ELEPHANT ART SCHOOL. The baby elephant she met there one night was one of the handful of things Ratty didn't loathe about the country-shaped brothel known as Thailand.

Correspondent (voice-over). To the untutored eye, these may look like random squiggles and blotches. But elephant art, Komar and Melamid maintain, is no different from the works of the Abstract Expressionists. To make his point, Melamid compares a painting by one of the Thai elephants, Lukut, and one of America's celebrated artists, William de Kooning.

Correspondent. When you're comparing de Kooning with—with—Lukut—

Melamid. Right.

Correspondent. Are you saying that Lukut is—you know, it's, frankly it's—it's—it seems to be the same genre, pretty much...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:45 PM

      ( 5:28 PM ) The Rat  
She owned, as I had put it to her, his heart. She had that and everything else—if she could only believe it. What I had to tell her was that in the whole world there was no one who ever would need his heart, his mind, his hand. It was a common fate, and yet it seemed an awful thing to say of any man.
Lord Jim

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:28 PM

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
      ( 12:10 AM ) The Rat  
A BRIEF, BUNNIFIED BOND BONANZA. Several of these characters (though not Bond himself) are actually pretty convincing as bunnies.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:10 AM

      ( 12:06 AM ) The Rat  
[M]en act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.
—John Berger

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:06 AM

Monday, March 05, 2007
      ( 11:09 PM ) The Rat  

Santa Monica would be only the second city in the state, besides Berkeley, to try the immunization program...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:09 PM

      ( 5:44 AM ) The Rat  

Schultz noted that the need to build so many outlets at once has resulted in "stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store." In other words, in order to turn into a Fortune 500 company, Starbucks had to start thinking and acting like one. And nothing saps the essence out of a creative, quirky brand faster than a bunch of senior vice presidents at a Fortune 500 company.

Part of the original lure of Starbucks was that its arrival bestowed a certain cultural significance on one's town or neighborhood. No longer. When a chain becomes of every place, it's no longer of any place.

The first California Pizza Kitchen, which opened in Beverly Hills in 1985, with its then-exotic wood-burning ovens and Thai pizza, became part of the local, only-in-L.A. experience. But now that noshers can order mango tandoori chicken pizza at 180 outlets across the country, Angelenos no longer take pride in the chain. There's very little California in the California Pizza Kitchen any more.

Of course, not all offbeat brands succumb to the temptations of rapid growth and public capital. Several California-based firms have managed to expand at a reasonable pace without compromising their integrity or charm.

Trader Joe's, the quirky grocer whose first outlet opened in Pasadena in 1967, was acquired in 1979 by the family that owns the German grocer Aldi. Expanding methodically and slowly—there are now more than 250 outlets all over the country—Trader Joe's has maintained its combination of low prices, off-beat offerings and funky marketing materials.

In-N-Out Burger, which is privately held, has maintained a cult following, in large part because it has insisted on not turning burgers into an industrial process, all while expanding gingerly in California, Arizona and Nevada. As a result, it remains a destination, a privilege, a brand that is owned by the minority of Americans who have regular access to it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:44 AM

Sunday, March 04, 2007
      ( 7:45 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:45 AM

      ( 7:21 AM ) The Rat  
I HAD NEARLY FORGOTTEN about this D.H. Lawrence quote!

"I don't like Dostoevsky. He is like the rat, slithering along in hate, in the shadows, and in order to belong to the light, professing love, all love."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:21 AM

      ( 7:20 AM ) The Rat  
FROM THE 'UNEXPECTED NAMES FOR HOTELS' FILES. If they were going to go with this theme, I'm not sure Raskolnikov was the best choice of a name for the bar. A Stavrogin bar, otoh, I could get behind. (Come to think of it, you could easily name drinks after most of his major characters... the "Alyosha" would be just a glass of water or something.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:20 AM

Friday, March 02, 2007
      ( 7:32 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:32 PM

      ( 1:41 PM ) The Rat  

Roughly half of the items filling Dolger's cart were beauty aids, revealing a woman gripped by the fear that her looks are fading. In addition to a tube of Rembrandt whitening toothpaste and a bottle of L'Oreal shampoo for "flat, limp hair" were no fewer than six skin-related items. Among them: a container of Almay Kinetin Age-Decelerating Daily Lotion, a package of Biore pore-cleansing strips, and Tan In A Bottle bronzing spray.

"Based on these three items, it appears that Dolger feels her facial skin is not firm enough, clear enough, or tan enough," said Berman. "If she feels this way about her skin, just imagine how she feels about the rest of her body."

Judging from the presence of the book Personal Finance For Dummies, Dolger also seems to feel insecure about her family finances.

"Mrs. Dolger's choice of books would be unremarkable if her husband hadn't recently taken a pay cut at work," Berman said. "With two young kids and no real gameplan for paying for their college education, she can't be feeling too happy about that. Then there's her concerns about her own career, which has been nonexistent ever since the birth of Corey, her oldest child. Not good."

The various stresses appear to be taking their toll, as evidenced by Dolger's selection of a Pure Moods CD.

"Pure Moods is one of those 'As Seen On TV' CDs that's a compilation of all this really soothing easy-listening stuff," Berman said. "It's got [Enigma's] 'Return To Innocence' and that 'Sail away, sail away...' song by Enya. Basically, music for women about to lose their shit."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:41 PM

Thursday, March 01, 2007
      ( 9:56 PM ) The Rat  
"Mr. Razumov, when you have lived long enough, you will learn to discriminate between the noble trustfulness of a nature foreign to every meanness and the flattered credulity of some women; though even the credulous, silly as they may be, unhappy as they are sure to be, are never absolute fools. It is my belief that no woman is ever completely deceived. Those that are lost leap into the abyss with their eyes open, if all the truth were known..."
Under Western Eyes

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 PM

      ( 6:54 PM ) The Rat  
FICTION READERS SCORE HIGHER ON EMPATHY AND SOCIAL ACUMEN TESTS THAN DO READERS OF NONFICTION. Not that Ratty thinks this is what literature is for, but still, some interesting stuff here.

Reading fiction, it turns out, is a surprisingly social process. A study at the Journal of Research in Personality showed that frequent readers of narrative fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than did readers of expository nonfiction. A follow-up study showed that fiction could actually hone these skills: People assigned to read a New Yorker short story did better on a subsequent social-reasoning task than did those who read an essay from the same magazine...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:54 PM

      ( 11:57 AM ) The Rat  

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered Wednesday to mentor a high school student arrested on suspicion of writing graffiti on a bus carrying the mayor and superintendent of schools.

Speaking to reporters in North Hollywood, Villaraigosa said he agreed with the principal of the Santee Education Complex, Vince Carbino, that the vandalism earlier this week appeared to be a "cry for help" by a troubled youth. Given that, he said, "I'm willing to mentor him personally."

Carbino sounded less than bowled over by the mayor's offer...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:57 AM

      ( 11:56 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:56 AM

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

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