Wednesday, January 28, 2009
( 8:50 AM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
( 2:24 PM ) The Rat
TALES FROM MERE EXISTENCE: BABA (TURKISH FOR 'FATHER'). Probably my favorite so far, edging out even the uncannily accurate How to Break Up.
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:24 PM
Monday, January 26, 2009
( 2:15 AM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:15 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
( 10:17 PM ) The Rat
GOD BLESS AMERICA!
In their annual roundup of unhealthy restaurant foods, Men's Health has declared the Baskin Robbins [2,600-calorie] large chocolate Oreo shake the worst food in America...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 PM
Sunday, January 18, 2009
( 10:17 PM ) The Rat
Polly. Is there anything I can do??
Basil. Yes! Go and kill yourself!!
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:17 PM
( 11:12 AM ) The Rat
TALES OF MERE EXISTENCE: PROCRASTINATION. Via IKM, who knows me all too well.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009
( 11:57 AM ) The Rat
STRANGE THROW PILLOWS, via GV. The horse's head is clever, but the bloodstain IMO is absolutely inspired.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:57 AM
Thursday, January 15, 2009
( 7:33 PM ) The Rat
In a 'Peanuts' strip from the mid-1950s, Charlie Brown walks through the first panel and finds Schroeder sitting in front of an adult-size hi-fi, his ear to the speaker. 'Shh,' Schroeder says, 'I'm listening to Beethoven's Ninth.' Charlie Brown inspects Schroeder's outfit. 'In an overcoat?' he asks. Schroeder leans even closer to the speaker and responds, 'The first movement was so beautiful it gave me the chills!'
In the world of 'Peanuts,' of course, Schroeder was the Beethoven-obsessed music nerd who lost patience when Lucy interrupted his practice and who called time-outs as a baseball catcher to share composer trivia with the pitcher. Yet musicologists and art curators have learned that there was much more than a punch line to Charles Schulz's invocation of Beethoven's music.
'If you don't read music and you can't identify the music in the strips, then you lose out on some of the meaning,' said William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, who has studied hundreds of Beethoven-themed 'Peanuts' strips.
Schulz carefully chose each snatch of music he drew and transcribed the notes from the score. More than an illustration, the music was a soundtrack to the strip, introducing the characters' state of emotion, prompting one of them to ask a question or punctuating an interaction. 'The music is a character in the strip as much as the people are, because the music sets the tone,' Mr. Meredith said. To understand what gave Schroeder chills, he said, you have to listen to the musical passage. 'When you actually hear the symphony, the whole thing feels completely different.'
That linkage is the central theme of 'Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse,' an exhibition at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center here, which was jointly organized with the Beethoven center...
# Posted by The Rat @ 7:33 PM
Sunday, January 11, 2009
( 4:28 PM ) The Rat
THE POVERTY-STRICKEN MASSES ARE FLOCKING TO LIBRARIES, via Consumerist.
Checkouts of books, CDs, and DVDs are up 15 percent at the main library in Modesto, Calif. In Boulder, Colo., circulation of job-hunting materials is up 14 percent. Usage of the Newark Public Library in New Jersey is up 17 percent. Library card requests have increased 27 percent in the last half of 2008 in San Francisco. The Boise Public Library reported a 61 percent increase in new library cards in 2008. In Brantley County, Georgia, library computer usage was up 26 percent in the last quarter...
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:28 PM
Saturday, January 10, 2009
( 2:56 PM ) The Rat
HOW THE CITY HURTS YOUR BRAIN, via A&LD.
Just being in an urban environment, [scientists] have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting—that's why Picasso left Paris—this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
"The mind is a limited machine," says Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured the cognitive deficits caused by a short urban walk. "And we're beginning to understand the different ways that a city can exceed those limitations."
One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.
This research arrives just as humans cross an important milestone: For the first time in history, the majority of people reside in cities. For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we're crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers. In recent years, it's become clear that such unnatural surroundings have important implications for our mental and physical health, and can powerfully alter how we think...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:56 PM
( 12:41 AM ) The Rat
From the very start of my teenage rebellion, I thought—like so many kids from the far reaches of Massapequa Park all the way to the Jersey Shore—that big hair was like wearing freedom itself on your head. I focused on my hair with a near-pathological dedication. Early experiments were conducted using a blow-dryer and a can of my sister's Aqua Net (which we'd also use as a fixative for art projects, so shellac-like are the ingredients). I'd blow my hair straight up, believing myself to resemble Sid Vicious but admittedly looking more Eraserhead.
Now picture all that stiff, nonthreatening spiked hair; see it risen up to its full height like a nice soufflé or, even better, a wedding cake.
Now, in your mind's eye, reach up and place—like a little plastic bride and groom—a yarmulke on top. Because that's what I would do as a religious kid: affix a yarmulke atop that hair with bobby pins. Until you've seen spiked hair with a beanie on top, you do not know sadness.
—Nathan Englander, Allure, August 2008
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:41 AM
Thursday, January 08, 2009
( 10:51 PM ) The Rat
PERIODIC TABLE OF AWESOMENTS, via Laughing Squid.
Also check out the Bibliochaise, by going here and then clicking on "Products," then "Bibliochaise."
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:51 PM
( 3:37 PM ) The Rat
BANK OF ENGLAND CUTS INTEREST RATES, LOWEST SINCE 1694.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:37 PM
( 12:26 AM ) The Rat
A RARE PEEK AT HOMELAND SECURITY'S FILES ON TRAVELERS.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:26 AM
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
( 4:17 PM ) The Rat
PORN INDUSTRY SEEKS FEDERAL BAILOUT. Not via the Onion!
Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.
'The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three,' said Owen Moogan, spokesman for Larry Flynt. 'The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion. Is it the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine.'
Francis said in a statement that 'the US government should actively support the adult industry's survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people'...
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:17 PM
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
( 4:44 PM ) The Rat
Hawthorne's heroes and heroines are almost always criminals, according to the positive laws of the land, but Hawthorne presumed all men and women to be somehow criminals, and himself not the least so. The elder James reported to Emerson how Hawthorne had looked to him at a Saturday Club meeting in Boston: 'like a rogue who finds himself in the company of detectives'; we can imagine him there: furtive, uneasy, out of place, half-guilty and half-defiant, poised for instant flight...
—The American Adam
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:44 PM
Monday, January 05, 2009
( 11:02 PM ) The Rat
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:02 PM
( 9:35 PM ) The Rat
EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS THIS, especially in places like this and this, but it bears repeating anyway: Southwest kicks ass. A fare Ratty had booked for her dad had dropped by about 10 percent since the time of booking, and they just cheerfully refunded the difference, even though it was technically a "non-refundable" fare. (On non-refundable flights, SWA's site may tell you the funds are available only for use toward future travel, not as a direct refund, but it's still worth calling in to check.) Even when the funds are returned only for future use, they can be used for travel by any passenger, not only the purchaser and/or passenger on the current booking.
This article recently ran in USA Today, on the subject of change fees/price drops.
Most airlines provide a refund if it is requested before a flier's scheduled flight. Depending on an airline's policy, the request can be made on the phone or at the carrier's website.
Only Southwest Airlines allows fliers to rebook their flight at a lower fare and refunds the difference on a credit card.
Most other airlines make up the difference with a voucher for a future flight. A change fee—ranging from $75 to $150 for a domestic flight—may apply.
Southwest's refund policy is the most consumer friendly, a USA TODAY survey of airline policies shows. Besides giving fliers money back, the airline has no change fee...
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:35 PM
( 1:32 PM ) The Rat
WHY HER FRIENDS REFUSE TO ATTEND HER PARTIES.
I attempt to invite several other friends, but one has elected to schedule elective surgery for that date (you know you're in trouble when a friend would rather have her hammertoes corrected than have dinner at your place); one claims our last brunch was like 'a hostage situation with lox'; one—and you know who you are—pretends to be her own housekeeper, repeating, 'I sorry, no English' over and over...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 PM
Sunday, January 04, 2009
( 10:16 PM ) The Rat
Adam had his moments of sorrow also. But the emotion had nothing to do with the tragic insight; it did not spring from any perception of a genuine hostility in nature or lead to the drama of colliding forces. Whitman was wistful, not tragic. We might almost say the he was wistful because he was not tragic. [...]
And of course he was lonely, incomparably lonely; no anchorite was ever so lonely, since no anchorite was ever so alone. Whitman's image of the evergreen, 'solitary in a wide, flat space... without a friend a lover near,' introduced what more and more appears to be the central theme of American literature, in so far as a unique theme may be claimed for it: the theme of loneliness...
—The American Adam
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:16 PM
( 11:17 AM ) The Rat
GOOD LUCK GETTING AROUND D.C. ON INAUGURATION DAY.
Even cab drivers are thinking twice about working that day, said William J. Wright, president of the Taxicab Industry Group in Washington.
Wright said he has driven his cab during past inaugurations—including John F. Kennedy's—but based on what he's hearing, he expects gridlock for this one to be the worst.
"I don't see how a cab driver can make any money, to be honest with you, because he can't go anywhere," he said...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:17 AM
( 1:06 AM ) The Rat
Morris F. Collen, M.D., is a pioneer in harnessing the vast power of computers to improve healthcare. He is hip-deep in studying the ways that prescription drugs could interact and harm the elderly. He's hard at work on his sixth book.
But he just might be most proud of his brand new driver's license.
"Can I show you something you'll never see again?" Collen asks, reaching for his well-used billfold. He pulls out the rectangle of pedestrian plastic. He points to the date of birth: 11-12-13. He points to the expiration date: 11-12-13. He grins.
Why does a 95-year-old need a license, one that's just been re-upped for another five years? So he can drive to work, of course...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 AM
( 12:25 AM ) The Rat
MEANWHILE, IN NOM-LAND:
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Maria Callas, and others square off in a 'Mi tradì' contest on YouTube!
Also courtesy of YouTube, here is Peter Mattei getting flowers. I still find it hilarious somebody posted that. For Mattei actually singing, you could do worse than to start here (although, Figaro in modern dress—um, no ...though I do love the bit where he takes the swig of bottled water).
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 AM
( 12:20 AM ) The Rat
RATTY MAY WELL HAVE BEEN still in utero when she first heard Mozart's music*—and she played a good deal of him (incl. at least one of the concertos, which she vaguely recalls having performed in concert) in her childhood—but it was only shortly after the big 3-2, last June, that she discovered his operas... and immediately stopped citing Bach and Prokofiev as her favorite composers. Here, some fun bits, all from this. (Solman's selections also include a number of both pro- and anti-Mozart quotes from, well, idiots—so caveat emptor.)
It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart.
[Electra], rising to the challenge of her wildly florid 'D'Oreste, d'Ajace,' went properly berserk, to the point of falling down in a grand seizure... Probably she was as much undone by the aria's 33 A-flats and a couple of high C's as by jealousy and anger; but the effect was tremendous just the same.
—Donal Henahan, in a review [of a performance of Idomeneo] in The New York Times, 1986
Mozart's combination of high formality and playfulness delights me as no other composition in any medium does. Homer is cruel, Michelangelo isn't funny, Shakespeare is uneven, Beethoven is German, Faulkner goes overboard and Ray Charles has let his band get too big, but the pleasures of Mozart are unqualifiable...
—Roy Blount, Jr.
When I was very young—a teenager—I was only enthusiastic for the great pathos and the big emotions, and Mozart seemed to me at that time too quiet, too tranquil. [...] I conducted very early the E-flat Symphony and the 'Jupiter.' Very immature and I'm sure it was absolutely not good. I was, I think, fifty when, for the first time, I was audacious enough to perform the G minor. I had such a feeling of responsibility. And I wondered at all the young conductors, who, without any qualms, just went ahead and conducted all these works which asked for such depth of feeling and such maturity of technique.
I often tell my students, when they are depressed by life, that there are two things that make my life worth living, Mozart and quantum mechanics.
—Victor F. Weisskopf, The Privilege of Being a Physicist
Mozart—since the highest rave is a gross understatement.
—Peter Schickele ('P.D.Q. Bach'), responding to a New York Times questionnaire to musicians as to which composers they regard as underrated
All the forte passages contain the Turkish music... I don't think they'll be able to sleep through it, even if they haven't slept the night before.
—Mozart, in a letter to his father, about the overture to [The Abduction from the Seraglio], September 26, 1781
*Not because anybody was into this back in the '70s, no—my family just set a lot of store by the arts, music above all. We're Asian, duh.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 AM
Saturday, January 03, 2009
( 5:59 PM ) The Rat
POLISH WOMAN GIVES BIRTH AT LONDON TUBE STATION. Of course, the really startling thing about this story is that she was actually in motion (on the Jubilee line) when the contractions started—rather than, say, looking at the announcements of all the lines that were then out of service...
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM
( 12:59 PM ) The Rat
I want, first, to suggest an analogy between the history of a culture—or of its thought and literature—and the unfolding course of a dialogue: a dialogue more or less philosophic in nature and, like Plato's, containing a number of voices. Every culture seems, as it advances toward maturity, to produce its own determining debate over the ideas that preoccupy it: salvation, the order of nature, money, power, sex, the machine, and the like. The debate, indeed, may be said to be the culture, at least on its loftiest levels; for a culture achieves identity not so much through the ascendancy of one particular set of convictions as through the emergence of its peculiar and distinctive dialogue. [...]
In America, during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the chief intellectual spokesmen—novelists and poets, as well as essayists, critics, historians, and preachers—appear to have entered into just such a lively and creative dialogue. The subject, stimulated by the invigorating feeling that a new culture was in the making, touched on the moral, intellectual, and artistic resources of man in the new society. Whatever else they may have been talking about, all interested persons seem invariably to have been talking about that. And in the perspective of history, they give the impression of talking to and about one another—within separate fields of activity and across them. Historians, telling of the past, at the same time illuminated or contradicted the imagery of contemporary novelists; novelists enacted or challenged, in their stories, the patterns of experience proposed by theologians, the focus in all these cases being the peculiar capacities of the inhabitant of the new world. Among the terms and ideas that turned up most frequently in the debate were: innocence, novelty, experience, sin, time, evil, hope, the present, memory, the past, tradition. [...] It is one of my aims to account for the dialogue that emerged as those ideas were invoked by American writers and speakers, from 1820 onward, in their contentious effort to define the American character and the life worth living.
—The American Adam
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:59 PM
( 10:23 AM ) The Rat
The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain... Music expresses only the quintessence of life and of its events, never these themselves.
—Schopenhauer, quoted in this book
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:23 AM
Friday, January 02, 2009
( 1:25 AM ) The Rat
HOMELESS GET CAVIAR FOR CHRISTMAS.
Down-and-outs and hard up pensioners in Milan will enjoy a rare Christmas treat this year: choice beluga caviar confiscated from traffickers.
Italian police seized over 40 kg (88 lb) of the delicacy, worth some 400,000 euros ($558,300), from two men who last month smuggled it into the country from Poland for sale in the shops of Milan and the rest of the wealthy Lombardy region.
The head of the local forest police who carried out the raid kept the bounty in barrack fridges for several weeks, but realized it would soon go bad.
"Tests showed us the food was still perfectly OK to eat but it couldn't be stored much longer, so we decided to give it to the poor," Juri Mantegazza told Milan daily Corriere della Sera...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 AM
Thursday, January 01, 2009
( 3:51 PM ) The Rat
Mozart came to Munich to present his Violin Sonatas K. 301-306 to Electress Elisabeth Auguste and to give his aria 'Popoli die Tessaglia—lo non chiedo, eterni Dei,' K. 316, to Aloysia Weber. It appears that he had hoped to make the aria an engagement present for Aloysia. But Aloysia, according to Nissen, rejected him. 'When he entered, she seemed no longer to know the man for whom she had once shed tears' (Nissen, 414). Mozart was totally devastated. His sorrowful admission to his father, 'Today I can do nothing but weep,' is probably a reaction to Aloysia's rejection, whereas Leopold, upon reading the letter, thought his son was filled with remorse and guilt about coming home. The flutist Johann Baptist Becke, a family friend, wrote to Leopold that it took him an hour to still Wolfgang's tears. But Wolfgang must have soon gotten a hold of himself because, again according to Nissen, he sat down at the piano and sang in a loud voice: 'Let the wench who doesn't want me kiss my ass' (Leck mir das Mensch im Arsch, das mich nicht will)...
—Robert Spaethling, ed., Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:51 PM