The Rat
Thursday, July 31, 2008
      ( 9:09 AM ) The Rat  
OPERA—THE SUN LOVES IT. In which Guardian readers submit tabloid-style synopses. (There was a kerfuffle on here last week about the ROH's bid to attract a wider audience by offering first-night tickets for Don Giovanni only to readers of the Sun.)

(Die Walkure)

(Peter Grimes)


(Tristan & Isolde)

(Un Giorno di Regno)



# Posted by The Rat @ 9:09 AM

      ( 3:33 AM ) The Rat  

Also: Doorman who won $5M, said he'd stay at job gets ax.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:33 AM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
      ( 7:34 PM ) The Rat  
CLIVE ROWE = AN ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING FESTE. So good, in fact, that many times when he was offstage, I'd find myself wishing Shakespeare had actually put Feste into more of the play! Seriously, I really don't expect to ever see a better Feste—he sang beautifully, too.

(I wouldn't give this praise lightly, btw, as Twelfth Night is by far my favorite of the comedies, and Feste one of my favorite characters in any of the plays.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:34 PM

Monday, July 28, 2008
      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  
PASSED BY THIS today (scroll to the pic captioned "Roman Wall House, World War II inscription").

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 4:06 PM ) The Rat  
WANT. Ratty has been hoping they'd produce a book on exactly this subject, for ages...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:06 PM

Sunday, July 27, 2008
      ( 2:29 PM ) The Rat  
HOW DO YOU KEEP A PENGUIN COOL IN A HEATWAVE? Scroll down for a great pic.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:29 PM

Friday, July 25, 2008
      ( 7:28 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT CAN YOU BUY FOR FIVE DOLLARS? Photos solicited from around the world.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:28 PM

      ( 9:39 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:39 AM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
      ( 4:41 AM ) The Rat  

After a recent visit to Beijing, I had some doubts about China's putative lock on the musical future. Concert halls may be full and conservatories mobbed, but classical music is hobbled by commercial and political pressures. The creative climate, with its system of punishments and rewards, still resembles that of the late-period Soviet Union, which heavily influenced the development of China's musical institutions. At the same time, the wider soundscape of Beijing is as chaotically rich as that of any Western city: nights of experimental music, indie-rock shows soaked in hipster attitude, pop idols cavorting on HD monitors in malls, retirees singing Peking opera in parks. In the "Li Chi," or "Book of Rites," it is written, "The music of a well-ruled state is peaceful and joyous... that of a country in confusion is full of resentment... and that of a dying country is mournful and pensive." All three kinds of music, together with others that might well have confounded Confucian scholars, intersect in the People’s Republic. [...]

For a musician on Long Yu's level, politics is unavoidable. Since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Party has discouraged dissent not just by clamping down on rebellious voices but by handsomely rewarding those who play it safe. Richard Kraus, in his book "The Party and the Arty in China," writes, "By 1992, the Party had given up trying to purge all dissident voices and opted instead for the strategy of urging all arts organizations to strive to earn more money." Those who work within the system may be expected to reach a stage where they can win prizes, obtain sinecures, hold illustrious posts, and be well paid for teaching. Artists end up censoring themselves—a habit ingrained in Chinese history. Behind the industrious façade is a fair degree of political anxiety. Reviews often read like press releases; indeed, I was told that concert organizations routinely pay journalists to provide favorable coverage. Critics feel pressure to deliver positive judgments, and, if they don't, they may be reprimanded or hounded by colleagues...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:41 AM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
      ( 9:24 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:24 AM

      ( 9:05 AM ) The Rat  

Other researchers have determined that mirrors can subtly affect human behavior, often in surprisingly positive ways. Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat, compared with control groups performing the same exercises in nonmirrored settings. Reporting in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, C. Neil Macrae, Galen V. Bodenhausen and Alan B. Milne found that people in a room with a mirror were comparatively less likely to judge others based on social stereotypes about, for example, sex, race or religion.

“When people are made to be self-aware, they are likelier to stop and think about what they are doing,” Dr. Bodenhausen said. “A byproduct of that awareness may be a shift away from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of behaving.” [...]

The link between self-awareness and elaborate sociality may help explain why the few nonhuman species that have been found to recognize themselves in a mirror are those with sophisticated social lives. Our gregarious great ape cousins—chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas—along with dolphins and Asian elephants, have passed the famed mirror self-recognition test, which means they will, when given a mirror, scrutinize marks that had been applied to their faces or bodies. The animals also will check up on personal hygiene, inspecting their mouths, nostrils and genitals.

Yet not all members of a certifiably self-reflective species will pass the mirror test. Tellingly, said Diana Reiss, a professor of psychology at Hunter College who has studied mirror self-recognition in elephants and dolphins, “animals raised in isolation do not seem to show mirror self-recognition.”

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:05 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 3:38 AM ) The Rat  
WANT; or, another reason to chain myself to Nelson's column come August 30.

Seriously though, how come our museums never do cool stuff like this? I don't think I'm imagining that our exhibits tend to be more straight-up and predictable—single-artist retrospectives and so on. Sure, there are the touring shows (like that Matisse-Picasso show that came to three different cities while I was in them!—sort of the flip side of this, which is in Istanbul while I'm in London, and will be in London when I'm in Istanbul, $#@!). But the larger museums here (I can't speak for the galleries) genuinely seem more willing to do non-obvious shows, than ours do. I can only guess it stems from the self-assurance that comes with knowing that the heads of the kings of Judah might turn up in your backyard.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:38 AM

Saturday, July 19, 2008
      ( 7:16 AM ) The Rat  
DANCE 10, LOOKS 3. So nobody could ever love the Barbican Centre for its good looks, but I'm not about to complain about a place where, for about US$12, I got a seat barely 12' from the orchestra of the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields; the last time I was so thoroughly swathed in music was when I was concertmistress of my school orchestra, ca. '89. Anyway, while not the like-being-plunged-in-a-sensory-deprivation-tank-filled-entirely-with-cocaine experience the Nozze* was, the Barbican concert was still pretty fantastic, esp. when you factor in that I don't even like clarinet (despite having played it for a couple years). And Fröst gave us an awesome first encore—what better contrast to the clarinet concerto than kletzmer music?

*I was up at 7 this morning (on 3-1/2 hours' sleep), to queue up for tickets for tonight's performance of same. On arriving at the ROH at 7.20, I found 11-12 people already waiting ahead of me... including one person in a wheelchair. The ROH box office doesn't open till 10. Though this was perhaps less impressive than when, on Wednesday, a couple of people tried to cut ahead in line for the same event... I thought there was going to be a brawl.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:16 AM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY IS NOT CONVINCED our language has a word strong enough to convey how good this was. Also, she is heartbroken that Peter Mattei appears to be married.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
      ( 8:09 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT WE SAY WITHOUT WORDS. A lot of obvious ones in here, but the second half has some more interesting stuff.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 PM

      ( 6:30 AM ) The Rat  
FOR BETTER OR TERSE. This is pretty funny.

I used to cry a lot after breakups. Which was weird, both because men are supposed to be able to move on more easily than women and because I'm not a crybaby in general. I mean, the only movie that ever made me cry was the one that makes all men cry: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan—the part where Captain Kirk delivers Mr. Spock's eulogy. ("Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.") Nevertheless, I used to cry after breakups.

But my tear-filled post-relationship days might finally be over, thanks to the healing power of senryu (sounds like send-yew), a Japanese poetic form dating back to the 1700s. Like a haiku, a senryu is three lines long and uses a five-seven-five syllable structure. But whereas a haiku describes nature, a senryu focuses on human nature. I wrote my first senryu about my most recent breakup:

Great sex. Great sex. Great.
Talk, eat, travel. Talk, eat, fight.
Bad sex. Bad sex. Bad.

Not displeased with the result, I began writing senryu about relationships in my past. In fact, I went on something of a senryu bender. Some of the relationships I senryu-ized had lasted for years, others for mere hours. Here they are, in no particular order:

Sweet belle from the South
I shared my heart, my secrets
Belle had a big mouth

Her body: strong, fit
Her tennis: national rank
Her hands: like a man's

She, in bed, to me:
"Let's make love four different ways!"
I only did three

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 AM

Monday, July 14, 2008
      ( 12:57 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:57 PM

      ( 11:20 AM ) The Rat  
UPSHOT, REPRISE. I was wrong—they did post a few of the images! No. 5 (Royal Albert Hall) may be my favorite in this group... quite startling, even on my laptop's 13" screen.

The Guardian has a slideshow of more images here.

Also, though I didn't get to see it, the earlier show which Upshot follows up, Suburban (images from some of London's underground spaces), looks pretty sweet.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:20 AM

Sunday, July 13, 2008
      ( 3:06 PM ) The Rat  
CRADLE TO GRAVE. Just saw this today during a brief stop in at the British Museum... yikes. More info on the exhibit here.

Cradle to Grave explores our approach to health in Britain today. The piece incorporates a lifetime supply of prescribed drugs knitted into two lengths of fabric, illustrating the medical stories of one woman and one man.

Each length contains over 14,000 drugs, the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain in their lifetime. This does not include pills we might buy over the counter, which would require about 40,000 pills each...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:06 PM

Saturday, July 12, 2008
      ( 8:09 PM ) The Rat  
UPSHOT is also worth a look. Am grr-ing at their not posting at least a few of the photographs online.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:09 PM

      ( 6:27 PM ) The Rat  
I JUST GOT BACK from The Revenger's Tragedy at the Olivier, and really can't say enough good things about it—if you're in London between now and August 7, don't argue with me, just go! (You can score tickets for just £10 apiece, thanks to Travelex. If you're a student, wait till the day of the show and you can score some of the best seats in the house, as I did, also for £10—the box office releases unsold seats at the student rate at least 45 mins. before curtain.)

Middleton is hardly Shakespeare of course, but this was an inspired production, and the most enjoyable evening of theater I can recall since that unbelievable production of Rothschild's Fiddle at the Yale Rep in '04. Manages to run the gamut from genuinely chilling moments to all-out slapstick, and somehow be effective in both registers. I think, too, that this is the best use I've EVER seen, in any play, of anachronistic sets/costumes—the production is a melée of, as the Daily Mail put it, "sampled club music, gothic interiors, sarcastic humour and some heavy daubs of Kensington gore." Who knew Jacobean tragedy would be so disconcertingly effective on a 2008 stage?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:27 PM

      ( 9:44 AM ) The Rat  

Also, this is spot-on. Ditto this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:44 AM

Friday, July 11, 2008
      ( 4:16 PM ) The Rat  
Americans are a very modern people, of course. They are a very open people too. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. They don't stand on ceremony. They take people as they are. They make no distinction about a man's background, his parentage, his education. They say what they mean and there is a vivid muscularity about the way they say it. They admire everything about them without reserve or pretence or scholarship. They are always the first to put their hands in their pockets. They press you to visit them in their own home the moment they meet you, and are irrepressible, good-humored, ambitious, and brimming with self-confidence in any company. Apart from all that I've got nothing against them.
—Tom Stoppard, Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:16 PM

Thursday, July 10, 2008
      ( 11:48 AM ) The Rat  
Search where you will, near or far, in ancient or modern times, and you will never find a first-rate race or an enlightened age, in its moments of highest reflection, that ever gave more than a passing bow to optimism.
—Mencken, "Joseph Conrad," A Book of Prefaces

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  
SITTING ON HISTORY (1995) (scroll down). I love this thing.

With its ball and chain, this bronze sculpture by Bill Woodrow refers to the book as the captor of information from which we cannot escape. It is only completed conceptually and formally when a person sits on it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 10:53 AM ) The Rat  
LUNCHED TODAY at St. George's Gardens (which I hadn't known about—found it purely by accident). Very nifty photo of it here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 AM

Monday, July 07, 2008
      ( 3:04 PM ) The Rat  
THREE YEARS ON, VICTIMS REMEMBER 7/7. Ratty hasn't seen any of this (though she's living midway between King's Cross and Russell Square), but then she's been inside all day.

Hundreds of people crowded into King's Cross station today to remember the 52 innocent people killed when four bombs blew themselves up on London’s public transport network three years ago...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:04 PM

      ( 11:26 AM ) The Rat  
"But when I opened my eyes again the silence was as complete as though it had never been broken. I was lying in a flood of light, and the sky had never looked so far, so high, before. I opened my eyes and lay without moving.

"And then I saw the men of the East—they were looking at me. The whole length of the jetty was full of people. I saw brown, bronze, yellow faces, the black eyes, the glitter, the colour of an Eastern crowd. And all these beings stared without a murmur, without a sigh, without a movement. They stared down at the boats, at the sleeping men who at night had come to them from the sea. Nothing moved. The fronds of palms stood still against the sky. Not a branch stirred along the shore, and the brown roofs of hidden houses peeped through the green foliage, through the big leaves that hung shining and still like leaves forged of heavy metal. This was the East of the ancient navigators, so old, so mysterious, resplendent and somber, living and unchanged, full of danger and promise. And these were the men. I sat up suddenly. A wave of movement passed through the crowd from end to end, passed along the heads, swayed the bodies, ran along the jetty like a ripple on the water, like a breath of wind on a field—and all was still again. I see it now—the wide sweep of the bay, the glittering sands, the wealth of green infinite and varied, the sea blue like the sea of a dream, the crowd of attentive faces, the blaze of vivid colour—the water reflecting it all, the curve of the shore, the jetty, the high-sterned outlandish craft floating still, and the three boats with tired men from the West sleeping unconscious of the land and the people and of the violence of sunshine. They slept thrown across the thwarts, curled on bottom-boards, in the careless attitudes of death. The head of the old skipper, leaning back in the stern of the long-boat, had fallen on his breast, and he looked as though he would never wake. Farther out old Mahon's face was upturned to the sky, with the long white beard spread out on his breast, as though he had been shot where he sat at the tiller; and a man, all in a heap in the bows of the boat, slept with both arms embracing the stem-head and with his cheek laid on the gunwale. The East looked at them without a sound.

"I have known its fascination since: I have seen the mysterious shores, the still water, the lands of brown nations, where a stealthy Nemesis lies in wait, pursues, overtakes so many of the conquering race, who are proud of their wisdom, of their knowledge, of their strength. But for me all the East is contained in that vision of my youth. It is all in that moment when I opened my young eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with the sea—and I was young—and I saw it looking at me. And this is all that is left of it! Only a moment; a moment of strength, of romance, of glamour—of youth!... A flick of sunshine upon a strange shore, the time to remember, the time for a sigh, and—good-bye!—Night—Good-bye...!"

He drank.

"Ah! The good old time—the good old time. Youth and the sea. Glamour and the sea! The good, strong sea, the salt, bitter sea, that could whisper to you and roar at you and knock your breath out of you."

He drank again.

"By all that's wonderful, it is the sea, I believe, the sea itself—or is it youth alone? Who can tell? But you here—you all had something out of life: money, love—whatever one gets on shore—and, tell me, wasn't that the best time, that time when we were young at sea; young and had nothing, on the sea that gives nothing, except hard knocks—and sometimes a chance to feel your strength—that only—what you all regret?"

And we all nodded at him: the man of finance, the man of accounts, the man of law, we all nodded at him over the polished table that like a still sheet of brown water reflected our faces, lined, wrinkled; our faces marked by toil, by deceptions, by success, by love; our weary eyes looking still, looking always, looking anxiously for something out of life, that while it is expected is already gone—has passed unseen, in a sigh, in a flash—together with the youth, with the strength, with the romance of illusions.

Youth: A Narrative

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:26 AM

      ( 6:19 AM ) The Rat  
NOT ONLY DID THE BRITISH LIBRARY take my breath away the minute I'd stepped inside (see here and here, for instance), but they sell beer at the cafe. 'Nuff said.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:19 AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008
      ( 6:32 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:32 AM

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

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