The Rat
Saturday, November 29, 2008
      ( 9:21 PM ) The Rat  
My dearest Papa!—I cannot write Poetically; I am not a Poet. I cannot arrange my words so artfully that they reflect shadow and light; I am not a painter. I cannot even express my feelings and thoughts through gestures and Pantomimes; I am not a dancer. But I can do it with the sounds of music; I am a Musikus. Tomorrow at Cannabich's I will play a whole congratulatory arrangement on the Clavier for both your Name Day and Birthday. Today I can only wish you with all my heart, Mon trés cher Pére, what I wish for you every day, mornings and evenings: goode health, a long life, and a cheerful heart. I also hope that you feel less burdened these days than when I was still in Salzburg; for I must say that I was the sole cause of our problem. They treated me badly, which I didn't deserve; and you, naturally, took my side—but too much. Believe me, that was the primary and most important reason why I was in such a rush to get away from Salzburg. I do hope that my wish is now fulfilled. I will close now with a Musical wish. I wish that you will live as many years as it takes until nothing new can be done anymore in Musick...
—Mozart, letter to his father, Mannheim, Nov. 8, 1777

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 PM

      ( 9:18 PM ) The Rat  
'The problem is, he wants our relationship to be platonic and I want it to be Socratic.'
—professor to colleague, Postage Stamp Funnies, Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2008

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 PM

Friday, November 28, 2008
      ( 12:21 PM ) The Rat  

A striking reduction in the time needed to translate personal epiphanies into loud, public epiphanies was also noted.

"It seems the benefits of red wine consumption are virtually limitless," said Dr. Susan Zheng, lead researcher on the study. "Many were unable to recall a single time their mother had paid more attention to their sister's soccer games than to their starring role in the school play. But after drinking only one bottle of standard Merlot, these participants could not only remember, but could actually sing whole stretches of Annie Get Your Gun, even while sobbing. It's extraordinary."

Dr. Zheng explained that the 100 women who participated in the study were split into two groups. One group was seated at the end of a long dinner table and subjected to backhanded compliments about their housekeeping abilities while steadily imbibing 8-ounce glasses of Turning Leaf Cabernet. The other group, a control group, was allowed to celebrate the holidays at home...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 PM

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
      ( 1:43 PM ) The Rat  
'TO SWEETEN THE DEAL A LITTLE, I'M THROWING IN THIS PAIR OF MC HAMMER PANTS FOR THE MAN WITH RIPPLING QUADS THAT CAN'T FIT INTO REGULAR PANTS.' Edited to add: They've flagged that ad for removal (Craigslist, you suck!), so here's the text:

OK, let me start off by saying this Xterra is only available for purchase by the manliest of men (or women). My friend, if it was possible for a vehicle to sprout chest hair and a five o'clock shadow, this Nissan would look like Tom Selleck. It is just that manly.

It was never intended to drive to the mall so you can pick up that adorable shirt at Abercrombie & Fitch that you had your eye on. It wasn't meant to transport you to yoga class or Linens & Things. No, that's what your Prius is for. If that's the kind of car you're looking for, then just do us all a favor and stop reading right now. I mean it. Just stop.

This car was engineered by 3rd degree ninja super-warriors in the highest mountains of Japan to serve the needs of the man that cheats death on a daily basis. They didn't even consider superfluous nancy boy amenities like navigation systems (real men don't get lost), heated leather seats (a real man doesn't let anything warm his butt), or On Star (real men don't even know what the hell On Star is).

No, this brute comes with the things us testosterone-fueled super action junkies need. It has a 265 HP engine to outrun the cops. It's got special blood/gore resistant upholstery. It even has a first-aid kit in the back. You know what the first aid kit has in it? A pint of whiskey, a stitch-your-own-wound kit and a hunk of leather to bite down on when you're operating on yourself. The Xterra also has an automatic transmission so if you're being chased by Libyan terrorists, you'll still be able to shoot your machine gun out the window and drive at the same time. It's saved my bacon more than once.

It has room for you and the four hotties you picked up on the way to the gym to blast your pecs and hammer your glutes. There's a tow hitch to pull your 50 caliber anti-Taliban, self cooling machine gun. I also just put in a new windshield to replace the one that got shot out by The Man.

My price on this bad boy is an incredibly low $12,900, but I'll entertain reasonable offers. And by reasonable, I mean don't walk up and tell me you'll give me $5,000 for it. That's liable to earn you a Burmese-roundhouse-sphincter-kick with a follow up three fingered eye-jab. Would it hurt? Hell yeah. Let's just say you won't be the prettiest guy at the Coldplay concert anymore.

There's only 69,000 miles on this four-wheeled hellcat from Planet Kickass. Trust me, it will outlive you and the offspring that will carry your name. It will live on as a monument to your machismo.

Now, go look in the mirror and tell me what you see. If it's a rugged, no holds barred, super brute he-man macho Chuck Norris stunt double, then contact me. I might be out hang-gliding or BASE jumping or just chilling with my ladies, but I'll get back to you. And when I do, we'll talk about a price over a nice glass of Schmidt while we listen to Johnny Cash.

To sweeten the deal a little, I'm throwing in this pair of MC Hammer pants for the man with rippling quads that can't fit into regular pants. Yeah, you heard me. FREE MC Hammer pants.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:43 PM

Monday, November 24, 2008
      ( 12:06 AM ) The Rat  
The wrong way to go about this scene would have been to have the heroine convey her inner feelings to the audience by her facial expression. I'm against that. In real life, people's faces don't reveal what they think or feel.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:06 AM

Sunday, November 23, 2008
      ( 9:55 PM ) The Rat  
What is the movie about? What does it all mean? It is about, and means, exactly the same things that Bergman's 'Cries and Whispers' was about, and meant. That's to say that no amount of analysis can extract from either film a rational message. The whole point of both films is that there is a land in the human soul that's beyond the rational—beyond, even, words to describe it.

Faced with a passage across that land, men make various kinds of accommodations. Some ignore it; some try to avoid it through temporary distractions; some are lucky enough to have the inner resources for a successful journey. But of those who do not, some turn to the most highly charged resources of the body; lacking the mental strength to face crisis and death, they turn on the sexual mechanism, which can at least be depended upon to function, usually.

That's what the sex is about in this film (and in 'Cries and Whispers'). It's not sex at all (and it's a million miles from intercourse). It's just a physical function of the soul's desperation. Paul in 'Last Tango in Paris' has no difficulty in achieving an erection, but the gravest difficulty in achieving a life-affirming reason for one...

Roger Ebert

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 PM

      ( 9:45 AM ) The Rat  
It's funny. It's like playing grown-ups when you're little... I feel like a child again, here.
Last Tango in Paris

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 AM

Saturday, November 22, 2008
      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  

Yeah, I'm ready to start grading.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 PM

Friday, November 21, 2008
      ( 12:19 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 AM

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
      ( 1:55 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:55 PM

Monday, November 17, 2008
      ( 12:12 AM ) The Rat  
A LIST OF INDIVIDUALS who have declined a British honour. (You're almost certain to find some surprises in here.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 AM

Sunday, November 16, 2008
      ( 6:33 PM ) The Rat  
BRITA WATER FILTERS will be recyclable as of January.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:33 PM

      ( 3:47 AM ) The Rat  
In what Fraser called an exemplary piece of shadowing, Belfast broadcast her own position, course and speed, and Scharnhorst's range, course and speed, every 15 minutes for the next three and a half hours. Throughout that time, Parham marvelled that Belfast was never attacked.

'Scharnhorst was a much bigger ship than us,' he said. 'She'd only got to turn round for minutes and she could have blown us clean out of the water.'

So accurate was Belfast's reporting that Fraser was able to ponder whether he should have the battle before or after his tea and to decide on the latter option...

—'Admiral Sir Frederick Parham,' The Very Best of The Daily Telegraph Books of Obituaries

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:47 AM

      ( 1:21 AM ) The Rat  
We don't often think about the role of time in life-or-death situations, perhaps because Hollywood has distorted our sense of what happens in a violent encounter. In the movies, gun battles are drawn-out affairs, where one cop has time to whisper dramatically to his partner, and the villain has time to call out a challenge, and the gunfight builds slowly to a devastating conclusion. Just telling the story of a gun battle makes what happened seem to have taken much longer than it did. Listen to de Becker describe the attempted assassination a few years ago of the president of South Korea: 'The assassin stands up, and he shoots himself in the leg. That's how it starts. He's nervous out of his mind. Then he shoots at the president and he misses. Instead he hits the president's wife in the head. Kills the wife. The bodyguard gets up and shoots back. He misses. He hits an eight-year-old boy. It was a screw-up on all sides. Everything went wrong.' How long do you think that whole sequence took? Fifteen seconds? Twenty seconds? No, three-point-five seconds.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 AM

Saturday, November 15, 2008
      ( 10:03 PM ) The Rat  
THE OUTSIDERS. Interesting bits in this.

"...But it is equally certain that our description of the difference between a genius and an average person by a statement to the effect that he has an IQ greater by this or that amount, does not describe the difference between them as completely or in the same way as when we say that a mile is much longer than an inch. The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics. These seemingly new aspects or characteristics, in their totality, are what go to make up the 'qualitative' difference between them."

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being.

This subjective impression of a difference in kind also appears to be fairly common among members of the super high IQ societies themselves. When Prometheus and Triple Nine members were asked if they perceived a categorical difference between those above this level and others, most said that they did, although they also said that they were reluctant to call the difference genius. When asked what it should be called, they produced a number of suggestions, sometimes esoteric, sometimes witty, and often remarkably vulgar. But one term was suggested independently again and again. Many thought that the most appropriate term for people like themselves was Outsider...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:03 PM

      ( 12:29 PM ) The Rat  
Once, out of curiosity, Van Riper and Klein and a group of about a dozen Marine Corps generals flew to the Mercantile Exchange in New York to visit the trading floor. Van Riper thought to himself, I've never seen this sort of pandemonium except in a military command post in war—we can learn something from this. After the bell rang at the end of the day, the generals went onto the floor and played trading games. Then they took a group of traders from Wall Street across New York Harbor to the military base on Governor's Island and played war games on computers. The traders did brilliantly. The war games required them to make decisive, rapid-fire decisions under conditions of high pressure and with limited information, which is, of course, what they did all day at work. Van Riper then took the traders down to Quantico, put them in tanks, and took them on a live fire exercise. To Van Riper, it seemed clearer and clearer that these 'overweight, unkempt, long-haired' guys and the Marine Corps brass were fundamentally engaged in the same business—the only difference being that one group bet on money and the other bet on lives.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:29 PM

Friday, November 14, 2008
      ( 12:42 PM ) The Rat  
Sybil. If I find out the money on that horse was yours, you know what I'll do, Basil.

Basil. You'll have to sew them back on, first.

"Communication Problems" (currently available via Netflix's "Watch Instantly"!)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 PM

Thursday, November 13, 2008
      ( 11:58 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:58 PM

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
      ( 10:48 PM ) The Rat  
As you can see, our senses are incredibly important in helping us interpret the world around us, and in turn play a critical role in our behavior. Play-Doh, Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder—take a whiff of either of these products and more likely than not, you'll be transported (for better or for worse) back to your childhood. Once when I was giving a lecture, I asked a male member of the audience to sniff a red Crayola crayon. He promptly burst into tears. I asked him gently why he was crying. He told me, and the thousand other people in the room, that as a child, every time he was caught drawing his dream car using his Crayolas, the teacher used to punish him by rapping his knuckles with a ruler. It was the first time he'd smelled a Crayola since. Believe me, that's the very last time I ambush a stranger with a crayon...
Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:48 PM

      ( 7:44 PM ) The Rat  

With all economic factors indicating the U.S. is heading for a prolonged recession, some experts are suggesting that the government should stop dumping all of our money into an enormous hole...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:44 PM

      ( 2:06 PM ) The Rat  
WELL, HER EXEGESIS WAS A BIT NELLIE... Things not to say in a paper you're submitting to your 32-year-old, never-married, and putatively straight T.A.! ;)

Obviously this alone cannot be held as proof that Nick is homosexual simply because he is avoiding engagement, but it is a bit strange that a man of his age, being around thirty, would not have settled down with a wife...

(This actually isn't even close to being the funniest line in this crop of papers—seriously, I could start my own Bulwer-Lytton category for essays.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:06 PM

      ( 1:24 PM ) The Rat  
IT'S JUST LIKE MAKING MONEY! A holiday- and other-shopping tip esp. for any fellow rabid frequent-flier-mile collectors: Ratty has just noticed that often (/usually?*) has lower book prices than Amazon, and they're offering the same free-ship-with-$25-purchase thing, at least through the end of 2008... and, unlike at Amazon, purchases are eligible for online "mileage mall" bonuses via American, United, U.S. Air (all 1 mile per dollar, on top of any miles you get from specific credit cards), Continental (2 miles per dollar), and probably others I don't use as well. You can also get 2 points per dollar via Chase Freedom, redeemable toward miles on Continental or United, though I can't link through to that.

If you're looking to get the mileage-mall bonus, remember to click through from the dedicated page (the purchase won't qualify if you go straight through Whether you're mile-collecting or not, remember to switch the setting to "discount shipping" (or whatever it's called) to get free shipping, just as you do via Amazon.

* had lower prices on the first four items I priced—four hardcovers and one softcover. The differences were significant (in the range of about $2 to $3 on a $20 book). They were also consistently cheaper than on the same five items, FWIW.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:24 PM

Friday, November 07, 2008
      ( 1:07 PM ) The Rat  

At G.E., Weinberg's irreverence was cherished. During the Second World War, a top Vichy official, Admiral Jean-François Darlan, visited the White House. Darlan was classic French military, imperious and entitled, and was thought to have Nazi sympathies. Protocol dictated that the Allies treat Darlan with civility, and everyone did—save for Weinberg. The outsider felt perfectly free to say what everyone else wanted to but could not, and in so doing surely endeared himself to the whole room. "When it was time to leave," Ellis writes, "Weinberg reached into his pocket as he came to the front door, pulled out a quarter, and handed it to the resplendently uniformed admiral, saying, 'Here, boy, get me a cab.'"

The idea that outsiders can profit by virtue of their outsiderness runs contrary to our understanding of minorities. "Think Yiddish, dress British" presumes that the outsider is better off cloaking his differences. But there are clearly also times and places where minorities benefit by asserting and even exaggerating their otherness. The Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine argues, in "The Jewish Century" (2004), that Yiddish did not evolve typically: if you study its form and structure, you discover its deliberate and fundamental artificiality—it is the language of people who are interested, in Slezkine's words, in "the maintenance of difference, the conscious preservation of the self and thus of strangeness." [...]

It's one thing to argue that being an outsider can be strategically useful. But Andrew Carnegie went farther. He believed that poverty provided a better preparation for success than wealth did; that, at root, compensating for disadvantage was more useful, developmentally, than capitalizing on advantage.

This idea is both familiar and perplexing. Consider the curious fact that many successful entrepreneurs suffer from serious learning disabilities. Paul Orfalea, the founder of the Kinko’s chain, was a D student who failed two grades, was expelled from four schools, and graduated at the bottom of his high-school class. "In third grade, the only word I could read was 'the,'" he says. "I used to keep track of where the group was reading by following from one 'the' to the next." Richard Branson, the British billionaire who started the Virgin empire, dropped out of school at fifteen after struggling with reading and writing. "I was always bottom of the class," he has said. John Chambers, who built the Silicon Valley firm Cisco into a hundred-billion-dollar corporation, has trouble reading e-mail. One of the pioneers of the cellular-phone industry, Craig McCaw, is dyslexic, as is Charles Schwab, the founder of the discount brokerage house that bears his name. When the business-school professor Julie Logan surveyed a group of American small-business owners recently, she found that thirty-five per cent of them self-identified as dyslexic...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:07 PM

Wednesday, November 05, 2008
      ( 9:52 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:52 PM

      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
If the [120 newly elected female MPs] seemed alien to their 530 or so male colleagues, the institution seemed bizarre to the women. It seemed fusty and out to lunch, a club whose rules no one would explain. It also appeared to lack many modern amenities, like e-mail and a decent telephone system.

But the freshwomen were sure their presence was just what the old institution needed. Blair had just become Prime Minister, promising to sweep away the musty traditions of the past; the idealistic women MPs thought they could help sweep them away, too. Also, they were pleased at what already appeared to be signs of change. Claire Curtis-Thomas, a professional engineer and the new MP from Crosby in the northwest, was happy, for instance, to see a modern red ribbon tied to her hanger in the legislative coat room.

She was less happy several months later, when the subject unexpectedly came up. "In the tearoom, there was this sort of conversation," she said, "and it went, 'This place is absolutely crap, it's stuck in the Dark Ages,' and I went, 'Of course it's not stuck in the Dark Ages... take, for example, our AIDS ribbon on the coat hangers in the Members' cloakroom.' And there was this absolute thunderous silence, and then somebody turned to me and said, 'Claire, that's for your sword.'"

The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2008
      ( 11:21 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:21 PM

      ( 11:10 AM ) The Rat  
UNTIL I GET MY RON PAUL/RUPAUL TICKET, nothing will ever make me feel excited about an Election Day—but at least there's various free stuff you can get for voting today.

Among the giveaways: star-shaped doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, Starbucks coffee, Credo Mobile cell time, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and sex toys from Babeland (your metaphor here). There's even a place in Anaheim giving away free champagne with dinner, though a single bottle is unlikely to blot out the sound of this country's future getting flushed down the toilet.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:10 AM

Monday, November 03, 2008
      ( 11:50 PM ) The Rat  
Since 1997, [the Guardian] has run a daily 'Corrections and Clarifications' column on its editorial page, and delightful reading it is. Except to its competitors. 'It is a cynical ploy to cover up the paper's major mistakes,' a reporter at a competing paper told me. But I have a soft spot for the column. With the dry humor that infuses good British papers—boring writing is useless writing, is their thinking—the column pokes gentle fun at the paper's errors, even when the errors take place in the actual corrections column (once the column printed a correction admitting that it had misspelled 'misspelled' twice in a single week).

Here are some examples:

The great crested newt shown on the front of the Society section... was, as sober inspection confirms, upside down.

We prematurely knighted John Scarlett (for the 13th time).

Yesterday, subscribers to Fiver, an e-mail bulletin service from the Guardian's football website, received... a message sent by a reader... [ending] with the words 'Just fuck off.' This would normally have been seen by just a handful of people... but regrettably it was automatically sent to all subscribers.

Griff Rhys Jones was bizarrely—and mistakenly—identified as The Dobsons of Duncraig.

A caption in Guardian Weekend... read 'Binch of crappy travel mags.' That should, of course, have been 'bunch.' But more to the point it should not have been there at all. It was a dummy which we failed to replace with a real caption. It was not meant to be a comment on perfectly good travel brochures.

Yesterday was Wednesday, despite an assertion that it was once again Tuesday.

The same spirit infuses one of my favorite features in the British papers: the annual fake April Fool's Day stories. This reflects the essential paradox about the British newspapers, that one of the worst things about them—their inability to take themselves seriously—is also one of the best things.

I love the April Fool hoaxes, which are often plausible enough that you have to think twice when you read them. One year, the Daily Mail reported the discovery of a new breed of herring, the red herring, off the coast of Cornwall. Although the fish had previously been confined to the pages of Agatha Christie novels, the Mail found some nice photographs of herrings swimming in a fish tank, some of them painted red. Another year, it said that the male pigeons in Trafalgar Square were being fitted with knitted cardigans to lower their sperm counts and make it harder for them to impregnate female pigeons.

Other April Fool stories are more esoteric. The Guardian once produced a fake glossy magazine entitled Ciao!, featuring the French philosopher Jacques Derrida posing graciously, Hello! magazine-style, in his lovely home...

The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:50 PM

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

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