The Rat
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
      ( 9:37 PM ) The Rat  
One reason for the impoverishment, for the growing difficulty of access to the paradigms, is simply that it is much harder now than it was even quite recently to imagine a relation between the time of a life and the time of the world. I talked in my lecture about this problem in an earlier form. The modern version is probably much more upsetting. Fictional paradigms really belong to a world in which the relation of beginning and end is not too tenuous—a six-days world, the tight world-scheme of Augustine, the limited time-scale of Ussher. The quite sudden and enormous lengthening of the scale of history has been far more worrying than the Copernican revolution, of which one hears so much in literary discussion. The six-days world was still perfectly acceptable to intelligent contemporaries of Jane Austen. When it collapsed, the sciences were liberated; what was for the arts a difficulty presented the sciences with a new dimension in which they could luxuriate.
The Sense of an Ending

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:37 PM

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
      ( 4:41 AM ) The Rat  
Another helpful class-indicator is the siting of what Americans would call your 'brag wall.' In which room of your house do you display prestigious awards you have won, or photographs of yourself shaking hands with famous people? If you are middle-middle or below, these items will be proudly on show in your sitting room or entrance hall or some other very prominent place. For the upper-middles and above, however, the only acceptable place to exhibit such things is the downstairs loo.
Watching the English

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:41 AM

      ( 1:15 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:15 AM

Monday, April 27, 2009
      ( 9:17 PM ) The Rat  
The middle class, on the other hand, has lots of beliefs. It still believes in constipation, for example, holding that if you don't 'have a bowel movement' daily, you're in deep trouble and should immediately swallow a 'laxative,' preferably one advertised on TV. Just as it hopes to fend off criticism by keeping its kitchens spotlessly clean, so does the middle class with its bowels, lest some shameful dirtiness be inferred. 'I'm studying colon therapy,' one young woman told Studs Terkel: 'our system isn't clean.' Other middle-class beliefs are that one ought to be a professional at all costs, because being a dentist or a vet is nobler than being a salaried employee; that nothing wears like leather; that you are judged by your luggage; and that you should dress up for traveling. It believes that Peter Shaffer is a profound playwright, probably the equal of Shakespeare (the way Durrell is the equal of 'Prowst'), and it's likely to stand and applaud at the end of the psychiatrist's speech in Equus. It holds architectural views, and thinks the opera house at Lincoln Center beautiful, what with all the gold and crimson and little lights. (Brief examination in passing: are you sent to an extraordinary degree by the cuckoo in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony? Then you're middle class.)
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:17 PM

Sunday, April 26, 2009
      ( 2:03 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:03 AM

      ( 1:58 AM ) The Rat  
'One who makes birth or wealth the sole criterion of worth': that's a conventional dictionary definition of a snob, and the place to look for the snob is in the middle class. Worried a lot about their own taste and about whether it's working for or against them, members of the middle class try to arrest their natural tendency to sink downward by associating themselves, if ever so tenuously, with the imagined possessors of money, power, and taste. 'Correctness' and doing the right thing become obsessions, prompting middle-class people to write thank-you notes after the most ordinary dinner parties, give excessively expensive or correct presents, and never allude to any place—Fort Smith, Arkansas, for example—that lacks known class. It will not surprise readers who have traveled extensively to hear that Neil Mackwood, a British authority on snobbery, finds the greatest snobs worldwide emanating from Belgium, which can also be considered world headquarters of the middle class.
—from Paul Fussell's often-still-prescient Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:58 AM

Friday, April 24, 2009
      ( 7:05 AM ) The Rat  
'STAYING AT CLUB MUD.' Johnny Carson as an editor from Roget's Thesaurus giving a synonym-strewn eulogy for a deceased coworker. This video should really be used as a teaching tool for undergraduate writers (or, better yet, high-school writers)... I regularly have students who use words without understanding their precise definitions—and who, meanwhile, are constantly trying to use ever-gaudier words (courtesy of Roget,, etc.), because they think that will improve their writing. In actuality, of course, it does the reverse. To really improve your writing, Always use your dictionary more than you use your thesaurus, dammit!

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:05 AM

Thursday, April 23, 2009
      ( 8:34 PM ) The Rat  
THIS DISCOUNT STORE ENJOYS MESSING WITH ITS CUSTOMERS' MINDS, via Consumerist. The reader comments are fun too (my favorite being: "It's a house of mirrors and somewhere in the middle is a box of Hamburger Helper").

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:34 PM

      ( 7:22 PM ) The Rat  

The response was strongest in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which Mr. Chan, one of Asia's wealthiest and best-known entertainers, held out as particularly "chaotic." But even some intellectuals in mainland China spoke out against stereotyping Chinese as people who crave authoritarian leadership.

Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong's biggest newspapers, used its front page to anoint him "a knave." Politicians in Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that China claims as sovereign territory, described him as "idiotic" and "ignorant." Albert Ho, a Hong Kong legislator, called Mr. Chan a "racist," adding: "People around the world are running their own countries. Why can't Chinese do the same?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:22 PM

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
      ( 7:22 PM ) The Rat  
A change of environment is the traditional fallacy upon which doomed loves, and lungs, rely.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:22 PM

Friday, April 17, 2009
      ( 5:53 PM ) The Rat  

A library book 52,858 days (145 years) overdue has just been returned. The story behind its disappearance (and reappearance) stretches from the Civil War on down to a plucky Midwestern college football coach...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:53 PM

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
      ( 11:15 PM ) The Rat  
I've also had quite a few letters from Americans married to English people, telling me that the book has proved invaluable in helping them understand the quirks and foibles of their English partners. Often, these poor souls had been under the impression for many years that their partners' bizarre behaviour and strange beliefs were personal peculiarities, or even symptoms of mental illness, until my book revealed that they were 'just being English.' Several correspondents claim that Watching the English has saved their marriages.

Perhaps the most unlikely and amusing example of this was the young American anthropology student who came up to me after a lecture I gave at Oxford University and said, without preamble, 'I am so grateful to you! Your book totally saved my relationship!' 'Gosh,' I said, a bit taken aback by such an intimate disclosure. 'Really? Er, how? I mean, which bit of the book did you find helpful?' 'The section on class differences in pea-eating,' she replied.

—Kate Fox, introduction to the American edition of Watching the English

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:15 PM

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
      ( 9:56 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:56 AM

Wednesday, April 08, 2009
      ( 4:58 PM ) The Rat  
'PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES' BY SETH GRAHAME-SMITH. Made me laugh so hard I almost cried.

"Subconsciously, Austen was writing a horror novel and didn't know it," Grahame-Smith said. "People taking these strolls, riding their carriages to and fro.... There are so many opportunities there—for zombie attacks."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:58 PM

Tuesday, April 07, 2009
      ( 4:34 AM ) The Rat  

Children first experience pride about age 2½, studies suggest, and recognize it by age 4. It's not a simple matter of imitation, either. In a 2008 study, Dr. Tracy and David Matsumoto, a psychologist at San Francisco State, analyzed spontaneous responses to winning or losing a judo match during the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic games. They found that expressions of pride after a victory were similar for athletes from 37 nations, including for 53 blind competitors, many of them blind from birth. [...]

A feeling of pride, when it's convincing, acts something like an emotional magnet. In a recent study, Ms. Williams and Dr. DeSteno of Northeastern had a group of 62 undergraduates take tests supposedly measuring their spatial I.Q. The patterns flashed by too fast for anyone to truly know how well they did.

The researchers manipulated the amount of pride each participant felt in his or her score. They either said nothing about the score; remarked, in a matter-of-fact tone, that it was one of the best scores they had seen; or gushed that the person's performance was wonderful, about as good as they had ever seen.

The participants then sat down in a group to solve similar puzzles. Sure enough, the students who had been warmly encouraged reported feeling more pride than the others. But they also struck their partners in the group exercise as being both more dominant and more likable than those who did not have the inner glow of self-approval. The participants, whether they had been buttered up or not, were completely unaware of this effect on the group dynamics...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:34 AM

      ( 1:23 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 AM

Monday, April 06, 2009
      ( 11:32 PM ) The Rat  
SELF-MOCKING NEBRASKAN WHO CHARMED THE CROWD. An appreciation of Johnny Carson, by Virginia Heffernan. (Here—esp. from 1:55 to the end—is just one example of what she's talking about.)

The misbehaving armadillos and urinating marmosets that Johnny Carson sometimes invited onto the "Tonight" show may have seemed like variety show filler, Z-list guests recruited only when Frank Sinatra or Bernadette Peters—late night's big wonderful stars, in their dinner jackets and sequins—weren't available.

But weird pets were the towering comedian's quintessential scene partners, and the secret to Mr. Carson's enormous appeal as a comic shone through in his responses to them. With his expression of addled forbearance, and in the awkward way he handed off a monkey to a handler, his message was unmistakable: Get this thing away from me. Mr. Carson had a gift for wincing at life's calamities, appealing to the crowd for sympathy and distancing himself from unwholesomeness. At the same time, he wasn't a prig; he was able to send up his own distaste.

The spectacle of this restrained Nebraska man, a former midshipman with perfect posture, trying to keep it together in the midst of so many indignities was just funny.

From Johnny Carson, we got relief. Under his gentle instruction, it seemed suddenly permissible to think that whatever was going on in New York, Washington and Los Angeles from 1962 to 1992, the Carson years—all that primal-scream therapy and disco dancing and Watergate and gold-diggers—was a bit much...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 PM

Sunday, April 05, 2009
      ( 1:37 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:37 PM

Saturday, April 04, 2009
      ( 12:31 AM ) The Rat  

According to a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers who touch products in the aisles will pay more money for them than those who keep their hands off the merchandise. So in the 21 years Procter & Gamble ran the iconic television advertisements for its Charmin toilet paper brand, Mr. Whipple, the uptight grocer with a secret squeezing fetish, should have encouraged his bubbly shoppers to fondle away.

Why does touching an item increase the likelihood of purchase? The motivation traces back to what behavioral economists have labeled the "endowment effect." This phenomenon posits that consumers value a product more once they own it. And simply touching that Charmin may increase a shopper's sense of ownership, and compel the consumer to buy the product...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:31 AM

Thursday, April 02, 2009
      ( 7:58 PM ) The Rat  

Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players' associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:

—By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

—Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke. [...]

Salary aside, the closest analogue to a pro athlete is not a white-collar executive. It's a lottery winner—who's often in his early twenties. "With athletes, there's an extraordinary metamorphosis of financial challenge," says agent Leigh Steinberg, who has represented the NFL's No. 1 pick a record eight times. "Coming off college scholarships, they probably haven't even learned the basics of budgeting or keeping receipts." Which then triggers two fatal mistakes: hiring the wrong people as advisers, and trusting them far too much.

"That's the killer," Magic Johnson says. Johnson started out by admitting he knew nothing about business and seeking counsel from the power brokers who sat courtside at the old L.A. Forum, men such as Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz and Sony Pictures CEO Peter Guber. Now, Johnson says, he gets calls from star players "every day"—Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, Plaxico Burress—and cuts them short if they propose relying on friends and family. "It won't even be a conversation," says Johnson. "They hire these people not because of expertise but because they're friends. Well, they'll fail."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:58 PM

Wednesday, April 01, 2009
      ( 9:55 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 PM

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

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