Saturday, February 28, 2009
( 6:48 PM ) The Rat
EMOTICON TYPO COMMITS AREA WOMAN TO SECOND DATE.
# Posted by The Rat @ 6:48 PM
Friday, February 27, 2009
( 9:09 PM ) The Rat
WENDY RICHARD, R.I.P.
# Posted by The Rat @ 9:09 PM
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
( 6:51 PM ) The Rat
UH, DESPITE THE SOUND of that last post, I do actually attend operas by composers other than Mozart. (He's my clear favorite, though—leagues ahead of even Wagner, the only other opera composer I've yet heard that you can still respect in the morning.) (Okay, I would also include Haydn and Beethoven [and some Prokofiev] in that class as composers, but operas aren't what I'd go to either of them for. Indeed, when Haydn, like Mozart, was asked to compose an opera for the coronation of Leopold II, he begged off—with the explanation: "Where Mozart is, Haydn cannot show himself.") As I constantly have to scrounge for the list each time I want it, I'm just going to catalog it here for easy reach... The Traviata was years ago; everything else has been in the past six-months-and-change. (Don't look at me like that—most of these were $15 seats—and my ticket for tomorrow night cost 100 Czech crowns, that is, US$4.54!)
Verdi, La traviata (Yale Opera [at the Shubert], New Haven)
Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro (two performances, Royal Opera House, London)
Puccini, La bohème (Royal Opera House, London)
Prokofiev, The Gambler (Staatsoper, Berlin)
Beethoven, Fidelio (Staatsoper, Berlin)
Strauss, Salome (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Massenet, Thaïs (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Tchaikovsky, The Queen of Spades (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Wagner, Tristan und Isolde (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Mozart, Don Giovanni (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Cilea, Adriana Lecouvreur (Metropolitan Opera, New York)
Rossini, Il barbiere di Siviglia (Staatsoper, Vienna)
Haydn, Le pescatrici (Kammeroper, Vienna)
Mozart, Die Zauberflöte [unabridged] (Volksoper, Vienna)
Mozart, Così fan tutte (State Opera, Prague)
# Posted by The Rat @ 6:51 PM
( 5:59 PM ) The Rat
'AS A DIRECTOR, MY DEFINITION OF PARADISE WOULD BE TO BE PERPETUALLY REHEARSING MOZART'S OPERAS.' (Attrib. Peter Hall, though I'm not sure exactly where/when he said it.) Ratty attended Così fan tutte tonight, at the stunningly beautiful Prague State Opera. The musical level here is not, of course, on par with the best work of London, New York, Berlin, or Vienna—despite its long and honorable musical history, Prague is not really in that class. It also is not quite fair trying to evaluate this performance against the 14-15 other operas I've seen since last July, though, as I was in a ludicrously good seat tonight, in a parterre box barely off the stage. (Guglielmo actually came out onto the proscenium, stood directly in front of my box, and directed his wrath at me, and the 1-2 ladies on either side of me, through the better part of "Donne mie, la fate a tanti.") Only twice before (for the Figaro that permanently addicted me to opera last summer; and after winning in the Met lottery for Don Giovanni, in December) had I had such a good seat for any opera, and every kind of mistake or slip is vastly more noticeable in the good seats, as compared to in the nosebleed seats at the Met, or even just in balcony or dress-circle boxes. It's also hard to judge any work one is seeing for the first time (as I was tonight's Così)—and on top of all that, Così seems to me to take almost a reverse approach to characterization as do Figaro or Don Giovanni: As in the Midsummer Night's Dream, the lovers are pretty much meant to be interchangeable, and that seems actually reflected in their music—tonight's cast were not bad, but the lovers' parts don't really work as showpieces for those singing them. (Jana Sibera's Despina, and Ivo Hrachovec's Don Alfonso, both were more memorable, I thought.)
There was one aria in Act I that was very much of an exception to the above, but I'll need to look it up to recall which it was (too zonked now). For the most part, though, the most beautiful things in this opera aren't in the arias but in the ensembles—in those, though, you're left in absolutely no doubt as to who has written this music. A beautiful (though, as I said, very far from technically perfect) night—and musically much stronger than the Zauberflöte I saw at the Volksoper in Vienna (I'll write a little more about that when I get home, though—esp. as it did have one mind-boggling, and extremely unexpected, standout). But then, I'm not sure you're even allowed to live in Prague if you don't love Mozart.
All of us have known and agreed upon one fact—Mozart's music is beautiful. But beauty is not just a pleasure to the human heart, 'since beauty is nothing but the beginning of a horror which just can be borne by us' (R.M. Rilke).
—from Jan P. Kučera's program notes for this production (a fun read, by the way—he sounds as though he'd rather like to dig Constanze back up just so he can put a knife in her for not having been a more suitable wife...)
# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM
( 8:40 AM ) The Rat
"All the guys at the bar, Jimmy, all the girls—they don't show up at your wake. Not because they don't like you. But because they never knew your last name. Then a month later, someone tells them, 'Oh, Jimmy died.' 'Jimmy who?' 'Jimmy the Cop.' 'Ohhh,' they say, 'him.' And all the people on the job, all those people you spent all the hours in the radio cars with, the guys with their feet up on the desk, telling stories—who shorted you on your food runs, who signed your overtime slips. In the end, they're not gonna be there either. Family—that's it. Family—and if you're lucky, one or two friends who are the same as family. That's all the best of us get."
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 AM
Monday, February 23, 2009
( 3:43 AM ) The Rat
WHILE RATTY LOVES HER MOTHER DEARLY, she does sometimes wish she could get more specific instructions than, "Oh, and while you're there, could you pick up one of those handkerchiefs for me? It was in that little shop right next to that one big church." (Miraculously, I think I actually found the shop, and the handkerchief, that she meant—even though 1) this was not here in Prague, but in the much larger Vienna, and 2) she evidently was not referring to the most obviously "big church," Stephansdom, but rather to Karlskirche.)
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:43 AM
Sunday, February 22, 2009
( 11:45 AM ) The Rat
RATTY'S [US$10/NIGHT, SHE SHITS YOU NOT] HOSTEL, btw, is just a couple doors down from Frank Gehry's Dancing House (AKA the "Fred and Ginger" House). Some pics here and here.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:45 AM
( 11:41 AM ) The Rat
RATTY WANTS TO KNOW who she has to sleep with to get into an opera around here, grr. (Shut out of not one, but two operas since arriving in Prague six hours ago, wtf!)
Hoping for scalpers at the second of the two, but the first (Nabucco) really was 100 percent sold out. I should've just mugged somebody...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:41 AM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
( 3:22 AM ) The Rat
RATTY, WHO HEARD MARKUS EICHE in an evening of lieder last night, would just like to note that if she had a voice like that, she would be nervous about carrying it around in public.
# Posted by The Rat @ 3:22 AM
Monday, February 16, 2009
( 11:14 PM ) The Rat
NO TIME NOW for a real post, but I'll be writing at length later about the Musikverein, where, last night, I heard the most remarkable music I've ever heard in my life. I vaguely knew of its having 'good' acoustics, but really nothing could have prepared me for the sound, from the opening bars of that concert. (I've heard some of the best orchestras and opera singers in the world in London, NYC, L.A., and Berlin. Compared to the Musikverein, the sound in any of the places I'd been before is like listening to a sack full of polecats. And I mean, like, out-of-tune polecats.) I can't even tell right now how good the actual performers—in this case the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra—were, bcs. I was so blown away by the sheer quality of the sound ...I should have a better sense by the end of this week, though, as I plan to practically pitch a tent in that hall.
Also yesterday, visited the 'Mozarthaus' (known locally as the Figarohaus, as it's where he wrote the Nozze), the only one of Mozart's apartments still standing in Vienna. So yeah, I stood in the room where he's believed to have composed it and all that—but come on, I still don't buy anybody wrote that thing, even Mozart. 'Plagiarized directly from God,' I'll buy. 'Wrote,' not so much.
Yeah, just in case it's not quite clear here—I'm liking Vienna...
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:14 PM
Saturday, February 14, 2009
( 4:34 AM ) The Rat
THE END OF ALONE.
Now, I know what you're going to say. There have always been boors blabbing in places where they should be quiet, blithely ignoring the shushes from librarians or the stares from fellow elevator passengers while behaving as though they're the only ones whose problems matter. Bad manners are bad manners, irrespective of technology, right?
Yes, only technology has vastly expanded this bad behavior, eroding much of society's stigma against it, and making it everybody's problem. But here's the real point: It is dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts. The late British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott popularized the phrase "the capacity to be alone" in the 1950s, to describe a pivotal stage of emotional development. Winnicott argued that an adult's capacity to be alone had its roots in his experience as a baby, learning to function independently while still in the presence of his mother. Yet today we're seeing this capacity weakened, whether we're in public places known for contemplation, like churches and libraries, or whether we're just sitting by ourselves at home, losing the fight to resist answering our BlackBerries (just ask our new president) or checking our laptops for Facebook updates.
"We've gone from an American ethic that championed the lone guy on a horseback to an ethic of managing multiple data streams," says Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University. "It's very hard for people to unplug and be alone—and be with the one data stream of their mind."
What's fueling this? Conley says it's anxiety borne out of a deep-seated fear that we're being left out of something, somewhere, and that we may lose out on advancement in our work, social, or family lives if we truly check out. "The anxiety of being alone drives this behavior to constantly respond and Twitter and text, but the very act of doing it creates the anxiety."
This is particularly true among young people, mainly because they don't know life when it wasn't like this...
# Posted by The Rat @ 4:34 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
( 1:22 PM ) The Rat
EXOTIC SMELL KEY TO GREASY CHIP'S SUCCESS. They forgot "heaven"!
Scientists say they may have found out why the great British chip smells so irresistible: a complex blend of scents that includes butterscotch, cocoa, cheese and flowers.
The aroma has been unpicked by food scientists at Leeds University.
"Whether oven-cooked or fried, the humble chip doesn't smell of just chips—the aroma is much more complex and probably explains why chips are everyone's favorite," said Dr. Graham Clayton, who led the research for National Chip Week that started Monday.
"Aromas including butterscotch, cocoa, onion, cheese and would you believe ...ironing boards, all combine to help make chips one of Britain's iconic dishes," he said.
The Leeds scientists collected the aroma from cooked chips, then separated the different compounds for analysis by an "aroma-meter" machine...
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:22 PM
( 2:12 AM ) The Rat
THIS IS WHY YOU'RE FAT. Damn. This article notes that the average visit to that site (which just launched a few days ago) is 13 minutes. What was that phrase Humbert Humbert used to describe Lolita's tears... "morbidly alluring"?
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:12 AM
( 12:19 AM ) The Rat
RATTY WAS REALLY ENJOYING this article, about the 10-year-old Sussex spaniel who won this year's Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show (life isn't over after 65!), when it abruptly turned into an article about the Obamas. The fuck?!
Here's where the switch happens ("Oh, and speaking of this beautiful Sussex spaniel, it came to our editors' notice that somewhere else in the same dog show, there were dogs of the same breed as the Obamas are considering adopting!!"):
Then five days before this show, Sommer thought Stump might enjoy one last walk on the green carpet at the Garden. And what a walk it was—his 51st best in show victory overall.
Stump began by winning the best of breed, then took best in group.
"Can you believe that?" said New York Yankees president Randy Levine, a regular at this event.
There was more in store, too. Stump lives with J.R. at Sommer's home in Houston, and may've gotten some advice.
"J.R. must've told him this morning, 'Keep up the family name,'" Sommer said.
This was the 133rd edition of Westminster and the dogs came in 170 breeds and varieties. Among them was Domino.
Asleep in his crate, Domino looked like the most peaceful, innocent pooch on the planet.
Ha! Just wait, handler Paul Clas cackled.
These Portuguese water dogs can cause all sorts of mischief, he said. And if President Barack Obama really does decide make one the First Dog, look out...
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 AM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
( 10:53 PM ) The Rat
RATTY JUST NOTICED the Met's 2009-10 season is up!! I want to see so many of these I ought to just move back to New York...
Also, I did not know Janáček had written an opera of The House of the Dead, still less that Shostakovich wrote one of "The Nose" (?!).
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 PM
( 1:22 PM ) The Rat
LE DOGAN is blogging again!
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:22 PM
( 8:42 AM ) The Rat
RATTY IS CONVINCED Edward Gorey must have attended the Westminster Kennel Club dog show for inspiration for some of his drawings... see here and here for instance.
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 AM
( 2:10 AM ) The Rat
But stay awhile; let me be king till night.
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:10 AM
Monday, February 09, 2009
( 8:53 PM ) The Rat
STRANGE EATING CONTESTS. Though they left out the World Nettle Eating Championships (an old link, but the contest seems to still be around).
# Posted by The Rat @ 8:53 PM
( 2:04 PM ) The Rat
SUPER CLOCKS. There must be a way to work this into my next excuse for missing a deadline...
No longer can we think lazily of time as a constantly flowing, uniform background entity. Optical clocks confront us with difficult realities of general relativity. In your home, time is not the same upstairs as downstairs. Soon, if you were to have one of the future ultra-precise atomic-synchronised clocks in your home, the time it told would be different according to how far up the wall it was fixed...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:04 PM
( 2:56 AM ) The Rat
Dick Avery. Aren't there any models around who can think as well as they look?
Miss Prescott. Marian might look better in a different background.
Dick Avery. We could go on location... uh, some intellectual hangout.
Miss Prescott. Somewhere with books.
Dick Avery. A bookstore!
Miss Prescott. Of course! One of those sinister places in Greenwich Village.
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:56 AM
Sunday, February 08, 2009
( 2:11 PM ) The Rat
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE'S CHILD ACTORS STILL LIVE IN GRINDING POVERTY. Shocker.
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:11 PM
( 1:09 PM ) The Rat
"I simply cannot release this issue the way it is. In the 60 years of Quality magazine, this hits rock bottom. If I let this go through, I will have failed the American woman... the great American woman, who stands out there naked waiting for me to tell her what to wear."
# Posted by The Rat @ 1:09 PM
Thursday, February 05, 2009
( 10:28 AM ) The Rat
5 REAL-LIFE SOLDIERS WHO MAKE RAMBO LOOK LIKE A PUSSY. Note that the excerpt below is from the guy they ranked fifth. N.B. This is easily one of my favorite Cracked.com reads ever.
Of course when the Russians heard that dozens of their men were going down and that it was all one dude with a rifle, they got fucking scared. He became known as "The White Death" because of his white camouflage outfit, and they actually mounted whole missions just to kill that one guy.
They started by sending out a task force to find Hayha and take him out. He killed them all.
Then they tried getting together a team of counter-snipers (which are basically snipers that kill snipers) and sent them in to eliminate Hayha. He killed all of them, too.
Over the course of 100 days, Hayha killed 542 people with his rifle. He took out another 150 or so with his SMG, sending his credited kill-count up to 705.
Since everyone they had was either too dead or too scared to go anywhere near him, the Russians just carpet-bombed everywhere they thought he might be. Supposedly, they had the location right, and he actually got hit by a cloud of shrapnel that tore his coat up, but didn't actually hurt him, because he's the fucking White Death, damn it...
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 AM
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
( 2:33 PM ) The Rat
MOMS PASS ON EXPERIENCE WITHOUT EVEN TRYING. I will not make a yo momma joke, I will not make a yo momma joke...
The study shows that inheritance can go far beyond the classic genetic theories, researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience.
They found that young mice raised in an enriched environment—with toys and other stimulation—passed along the learning benefits to pups they had after they grew up.
The stimulated mothers did not simply have better parenting skills, because the researchers showed pups swapped at birth still learned better if their biological mothers—but not their foster parents—had been raised with the extra toys.
"You inherit to some degree some aspects of your parent's experience," Larry Feig, a professor of biochemistry at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said in a telephone interview...
# Posted by The Rat @ 2:33 PM
( 12:52 PM ) The Rat
RATTY WILL BE AWAY from blogging for the latter half of this month (workin' real hard, *cough cough*). Behold the power of frequent-flier miles!
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:52 PM
( 12:51 PM ) The Rat
THE LIFE STORY OF A VULTURE. Terrific little piece via Slate, by way of A&LD.
The people who care for injured wild birds report that vultures are gentle, inquisitive, and smarter than hawks and eagles. Here's the bottom line, from Lynch: "Once they get to know you they don't regurgitate on you"...
Also gotta love how the Turkey Vulture Society FAQ has a button for "Questions on ATTRACTING VULTURES (click here)," right next to one for "Questions on NOT ATTRACTING VULTURES (click here)." Always good to know your readership.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 PM
( 12:43 PM ) The Rat
ALSO FROM A&LD, "Why the Ideological Melting Pot Is Getting So Lumpy." Somewhat of a broad brush here, but then, it is sociology after all. (My yoga teacher is vegan, for instance, and would no doubt be surprised by many of my political views. But we've bonded over classical music, and opera. [She, last night, on the matter of the Joshua Bell experiment: "What kind of a freakin' elitist study was that?!... Look, I love Josh Bell. But I don't think I would have noticed... it was rush hour!! You know?!!—some people have jobs!!!"])
On a talk show in Minneapolis, for example, three people once told the authors they knew they were living among political opponents when they saw neighbors using lawn chemicals.
"These are the kinds of differences that are political in America today," Bishop and Cushing said in an e-mail they composed together. "People don't see themselves as members of demographic groups—a white working-class man, an educated woman. Like the woman in California who described herself to us as an 'ocean-oriented person,' Americans define themselves by their interests: the bands they listen to, the foods they eat, the sports they follow, the spiritual beliefs they adopt."
Political polarization, according to this explanation, is a consumer phenomenon: You like Cheerios; I like Wheaties. Americans have lots of choices—you can live in a cul-de-sac surrounded by fellow Mormons, or in a gay enclave, or in a neighborhood where yoga studios outnumber fast-food outlets. Lifestyle choices, in turn, determine political loyalties as voters search for candidates who feel like "one of us."
"The goal of a political campaign these days isn't to transform the electorate but to reflect back onto voters a picture of themselves—to make people think a vote for Bush or Obama is really a vote for themselves and their community," Bishop and Cushing said.
This might explain the loathing many Republicans and Democrats feel for each other. It isn't about taxes or terrorism: The yoga people simply can't stand what the lawn-chemical people represent, and vice versa. [...] Marketers have long known that appeals to lifestyles sell products. Volvos and pickup trucks are more than just vehicles—they say something about who we are. In the age of Facebook, it appears that we no longer pick presidents because of their policies but rather because the candidates we choose allow us to advertise our own identities to the world.
# Posted by The Rat @ 12:43 PM
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
( 11:18 PM ) The Rat
CAUTION! ZOMBIES! Pure awesomeness, via IKM.
# Posted by The Rat @ 11:18 PM
( 10:22 PM ) The Rat
RATTY WAS REMARKING TO IKM EARLIER that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is, in fact, magic (just like it says on the box, yes), and that all she needs now is one for her sins. IKM: "They don't make one big enough for that..."
(Seriously though, Lady Macbeth should have had one of those things.)
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:22 PM
Sunday, February 01, 2009
( 10:35 PM ) The Rat
'GIRL WHO DUMPED ME OVER THE PHONE AT 1:30 A.M,' a must-read from Craigslist.
This one is also pretty good.
# Posted by The Rat @ 10:35 PM