The Rat
Sunday, February 28, 2010
      ( 3:30 PM ) The Rat  
WE'LL HAVE NAAN OF THAT. Been following the "Vindaloo Against Violence" story via BBC in recent weeks... still, surely even racists couldn't hate Indian food?!

The initiative, thought up by Melbourne woman Mia Northrop, aims to get people to dine at their local Indian restaurant to show solidarity with the Indian community.

Ms Northrop was urged to take action after hearing news of increased racial violence in her home city...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:30 PM

      ( 2:21 PM ) The Rat  
WHOA! They determined last year that The Colossus isn't by Goya after all! Wonder if they've corrected the AP exams accordingly.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:21 PM

      ( 9:25 AM ) The Rat  
"BUT WITH THIS EXPERIENCE IT WAS CLEAR FOR ME THAT THIS WAS THE MOST COMPLETE AND WONDERFUL THING ON EARTH"; OR, ♥ DIANA DAMRAU! ♥ CTD. That line (describing her reaction to opera, at 12) and the passage below are both taken from this 2007 interview found randomly last night.

Kaplan. O.K., well, that is a good transition to the next part of our show we call the "wildcard," and all our listeners know this is the moment when you can talk about music from outside the classical music or opera genre, and so what did you bring us today?

Damrau. I brought you, I think also a classic. It's Michael Jackson, "Thriller." Don't be shocked.

Kaplan. No, I'm just waiting to hear the story behind it.

Damrau. Well, with Peer Gynt my dancing career started somehow, and I found out that ballet is not my cup of tea. It was too lyrical. Also in Carnival, I never played the Princess. I never wanted to be a nice princess in a pink dress. I wanted to be the mean stepmother, so I had a red dress and red finger nails, and a silver crown, and a dramatic look. But I looked like a princess.

Kaplan. Sounds like the "Queen of the Night," actually.

Damrau. Yes, somehow, that's how it started, I suppose. Well, and then—well, dancing, I found out with my colleagues from school, with my friends, that we could copy some dance pop videos, and we founded a jazz dance group, and we really performed, and we also performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Kaplan. Well, as you're speaking about dancing, did you perfect Michael Jackson's "Moonwalking"?

Damrau. Well, I can't be compared to him, but I did it, and I actually did it on stage! That—oh, my God!—this was in Covent Garden, I sang the revival of Arabella, and I sang "Fiakermilli." And I got a golden suit and I got a break dancer being my shadow, so it was a really funky girl. I had red hair, a red punk wig. This guy was dancing around me—I can do that too. Let's do it. So we really started to do "Moonwalk" and a little bit break dance, and I sang "Fiakermilli" with that. So that helps.

Kaplan. So you introduced Michael Jackson to opera, in a way?

Damrau. Maybe. I don't know if my colleagues know that.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:25 AM

      ( 8:50 AM ) The Rat  
P.S. That last post should not be taken to imply that I don't still think Koreans are insane. (My sister-in-law is one; so is my oldest friend. I know whereof I speak.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM

      ( 1:33 AM ) The Rat  
KOREAN MARKETS SLOW AS OLYMPICS 'QUEEN' KIM YU-NA SPINS TO GOLD. Possibly my favorite article in all the Kim-related press of the last couple days. I actually haven't cared about figure skating since 1992 (if not 1988), but that free skate was seriously insane. I don't think I really believed, before this performance, that a skating routine could be not just artistically and technically superb but also consistently interesting, rather than just being more of the same (admittedly pretty) old thing we've always seen. (Which may be what Dorothy Hamill meant by Kim's "modernness," as quoted here: "The height of her jumps, the power, the fluid beauty of her skating are like magic, and there is also a modernness about her.")

Financial markets slowed and almost stopped here as Kim Yu-na, "the Golden Queen" in Korea’s media, was running through a flawless free-skating performance, winning a gold medal for herself and unalloyed joy for Koreans.

"Everybody was in front of office televisions watching her," says businessman Kim Yong-jin. "People came back early from lunch. Nobody was interested in the stock or bond markets. There were almost no transactions, nobody was looking at prices."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:33 AM

      ( 1:31 AM ) The Rat  
BOOZY APE SENT TO REHAB. My favorite thing about this article is that the chimp in the photograph is evidently not the chimp in the story, but rather another chimp with the same problem. Link via IKM.

"The beer and cigarettes were ruining him. He would pester passers-by for booze," the Komsomolskaya Pravda paper said.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:31 AM

      ( 1:29 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:29 AM

Saturday, February 27, 2010
      ( 11:48 AM ) The Rat  
TO THE PERSON WHO GOT HERE looking for "bathmat with the word ALLAH written": Good luck, my friend!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 AM

      ( 2:30 AM ) The Rat  
LIKE SO MUCH ELSE ABOUT THE INTERNET, this phenomenon (scroll down to "Penis Show: The lottery that is Chat Roulette") would seem to reveal much about human nature... just not anything we didn't already know.

Those are essentially the three biggest dangers of this new-ish Web craze,, on which you’re linked to the webcam of a random person anywhere in the world. It's an intense relay of various conversations, dancing, masturbation, drugs, alcohol and cyber sex.

It was just launched this past November by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow. The network’s relatively small size—there are about 20,000 to 30,000 users on at a time, chump change compared with Twitter—makes for an intimate and awesomely freaky experience.

I found myself stuck there for a couple of hours, talking and hitting "next" and laughing and gagging and wincing and learning things about people—where they're from, what they do, what they’re listening to, how often they play Chat Roulette.

The "bullet" in this game of roulette is penis. Tons of it. I mean tons and tons and tons.

You might get four men in a row, jacking off and holding signs that say, "PLEASE SHOW BOOBS." One dude I talked to who'd built a sweet bong out of a Coke bottle and duct tape messaged me: "There r so many penises here. :(" I replied: "i know :("

But when Chat Roulette’s not disgusting, it's exciting and funny and fantastic. One guy said "dance party?" and I asked him what he was listening to. "Sweet Caroline!" he typed and stood up, threw his hands in the air and yelled "BUM BUM BUMMMMM" and I typed that I wasn't ready yet, but I'd be back. (I won't be back, unless we randomly meet again. But by then, we won't remember any of this.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 AM

Friday, February 26, 2010
      ( 10:53 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 AM

      ( 10:04 AM ) The Rat  
MORE FROM THE LRB PERSONALS TWITTER PAGE (I promise I won't keep posting these... or at least not more than I can help).

Vostok. Salamanca. My pet names for you will recall Soviet space projects, yours for me will be tributes to the age of locomotion. M, 60.

Why waste time in the bath? M, 45 WLTM F for wash-down in the fountain of the mind. Must be prepared to not be allowed in restaurants again.

F with love of mitten crabs wanted for nights plotting the migrations of mitten crabs with mitten crab enthusiast (M, 35, low sperm count).

My favourite Ben & Jerry’s is Acid-Boiled Bones of Divorce Lawyer. Bed-sit-living doctor (M, 54). Box no. 3678.

There are 289 species of octopus. I can, and will, name them all during the act of love. M, 58. Box no. 2678.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:04 AM

      ( 12:59 AM ) The Rat  
He should have listened to his father and never married her. He had defied him, just that one time, but that was all it had taken—that did it. His father had said, 'There are hundreds and thousands of lovely Jewish girls, but you have to find her. You found one down in South Carolina, Dunleavy, and finally you saw the light and got rid of her. So now you come home and find Dwyer up here. Why, Seymour?' The Swede could not say to him, 'The girl in South Carolina was beautiful, but not half as beautiful as Dawn.' He could not say to him, 'The authority of beauty is a very irrational thing.' He was twenty-three years old and could only say, 'I'm in love with her.'
American Pastoral

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:59 AM

Thursday, February 25, 2010
      ( 12:30 PM ) The Rat  
HEE! From a review of Tide's cold-water-wash detergent here.

I gave tide coldwater as a x-mas gift to this sexy women, and she gave me the hug of a lifetime, it was like i gave her a rolex. I cant wait for her birthday, thank you tide coldwater.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:30 PM

      ( 11:04 AM ) The Rat  
UNITED is offering miles-discounted FF flights on certain routes for this weekend.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:04 AM

      ( 9:45 AM ) The Rat  
LRB PERSONALS ON TWITTER. This is the first time I've ever been tempted to join Twitter. (That the Dalai Lama recently joined is amusing, but it sounds like he's mostly just sending out links.) Not joining as of now, but am adding their Twitter page to my blogroll.

A few from just the front page at the time of this posting:

Daily Mail F (44) seeks light-relief in the form of gay strip duo to 70, creative with olive oil by night, on incapacity benefit by day.

Carl at the Toyota dealership told me I should probably put an ad in somewhere. So here goes. M, 37. Box no. 7363.

Woman, 36. Likes anagrams, crosswords, logic puzzles, and screwing with your head. It’s not that I don’t like you. Box no. 3678.

I wrote this ad to prove I’m not gay. Man, 29. Not gay. Absolutely not. Box no. 8927.

Gynotikolobomassophile (M, 43) seeks neanimorphic F to share euneirophrenia. Must enjoy pissing off librarians. Box no. 9789.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 AM

      ( 2:57 AM ) The Rat  
INCIDENTALLY—and it seems unduly harsh to say this when I really am madly in love with Netrebko's voice—but I literally did not notice when Mimi died tonight. This was my second live Bohème, so it's not like I didn't know the story... it's possible that (as a result of seeing so many much-more-dramatic operatic deaths since that one other Bohème [July 2008]) I was just expecting her to go out on more of a bang. (I missed the death specifically bcs. my attention had been drifting for some time when she actually died.)

Speaking more broadly: The whole cast was a bit off tonight, in greater or lesser degrees (not that you'd notice from most of this audience's reactions, feh), but even if they hadn't been, there's something about this opera that just refuses to open up for me—my experience of it both times has been very pointilist. There will seem to me to be spans of music that hold one's attention, but nothing really linking those spans together, or that provides much real forward momentum—I know it's probably the most beloved opera there is, but for me it really feels just a step or two above a Broadway musical, because of that lack of unity. It's possible I'm just allergic to the storyline, but I've definitely attended operas with even sillier plots, but that nevertheless had greater narrative/musical "thrust." This one just seems to crumble into parts, at least for me (even when, as tonight, some of those isolated parts could often be quite good); in this respect it has pretty much the opposite effect as that described by Stephen Oliver in this passage on the structure/architecture of Figaro. This isn't just an anti-Puccini thing, either, as I was (unwillingly) very moved by Butterfly last season* and also very much enjoyed Il Trittico a couple months back.

*So much so, in fact, that a few passages from it made their way into a dream I had about meeting Callas, and were identifiable by the music rather than just by name (in fact, people in the dream were claiming it was something from La Cenerentola, an opera I've never heard at all). When I mentioned having "heard" bits of Butterfly in a dream, to JN some months ago, he immediately asked, "'Un bel di'?" and I said no; I later identified the passages as being from "Dovunque al mondo" (just the music of course, not the words, and it wasn't the whole duet by any means).

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:57 AM

      ( 2:31 AM ) The Rat  
JN. You don't mind if I cut out now?
Rat. Of course not!
JN. Good—let me know how the rest of it goes, will you?
Rat. Sure.
JN. Her cough gets worse.
—saying goodnight after Act II of La Bohème

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 AM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
FIRST INTERMISSION, LA BOHÈME. Not the best night musically, but I guess two really good performances in three days is asking a lot. Meanwhile, am still trying to figure out if there was any reason the usher who demanded to see my ticket singled out me in particular (we didn't see or hear him ask anyone else). (Am in the orchestra seats for once—ninth row—very much not my usual tier here.) My host for the evening, who's averaged a Met opera a week for twelve seasons, said he'd never seen them ever check anybody for seat-jumping—and he's always in the orchestra section.

Edited to add: Someone from further back in the orchestra seats asked if he could take my host's seat, after he'd left, and I was just about to answer when another usher came running up to scold him. Still don't know if this is a new policy at the Met, or if they were just being particularly hard-assed about it tonight for some reason.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 PM

      ( 12:44 PM ) The Rat  

"I traveled in the direction of sunset for the last 3 months, because I know Berlin is where the sun sets, and that is where my Ika lives," said Gu Yue.

Ika, on the other hand said: "Next time you want to see me, take the plane."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:44 PM

      ( 2:40 AM ) The Rat  
MARATHON 171-HOUR CONCERT MARKS CHOPIN'S BIRTHDAY. I'm a couple days late on this (but, in a sense, still in time). Chopin's grave can be visited next time you're at Père-Lachaise; unsurprisingly it's always festooned in flowers. (Don't think I knew that, as the caption notes, his heart was buried in Poland.)

A marathon 171-hour concert of Frederic Chopin's music tuned up in Warsaw Monday marking the two possible birthdates of celebrated Franco-Polish musician and composer 200 years ago.

"As we don't know which of the two dates is true, we had the unusual idea to link them with one very long concert," organiser Pawel Besser from Centrum Smolna cultural association told AFP. More than 250 musicians and singers are to play night and day over the 171 hours spanning the seven-day gap between the two dates, he said.

While Chopin's certificate of baptism indicates February 22, 1810, as his birthday, Chopin himself and his family always mentioned March 1 as his actual birthdate.

"A genius can have a week-long birthday," Waldemar Dabrowski, head of the organising committee for Poland's "Year of Chopin" said recently...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:40 AM

      ( 2:39 AM ) The Rat  
THE AIRPORT AS A SUITCASE SEES IT. Not sure which is more embarrassing—the fact that I get a newsletter with hyperlinks like "Ever wondered what happens to your luggage at an airport? Here's a behind-the-scenes look!" or the fact that I did in fact click on it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 AM

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
      ( 11:41 AM ) The Rat  
THOUGH IT'S SURELY TOO GOOD TO BE REAL, this entry from Best of Craigslist just made me laugh so hard I almost cried.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:41 AM

      ( 9:53 AM ) The Rat  
NEW SEASON ANNOUNCED! Ring-heads rejoice! And, time to start playing the lottery... (The Ring is the one Met production I've ever ruled out entirely—when it was here during 2008-09—solely on account of cost.)

Edited to add: Holy cats—I didn't read this whole page when I posted it this morning, but the star roster here is insane. And they're doing Così, my second-favorite opera (it could even arguably be in a tie for first), for the first time at the Met since I got addicted to this stuff!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 AM

      ( 2:27 AM ) The Rat  
DIANA DAMRAU! ♥ (Ratty is just in from this.) And I don't even get that excited about sopranos (as vs. mezzos, baritones, and the odd bass) as a rule!

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:27 AM

Monday, February 22, 2010
      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  
THE STYLISTS AT DOP DOP seem to have assumed I was on my way to a key party, and have coiffed me accordingly. (Yes, I am loving it.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:20 PM

Saturday, February 20, 2010
      ( 4:48 AM ) The Rat  

One of Longyearbyen's number is Kazem Ariaiwand, a 48-year-old man from Iran. He has set up business here selling kebabs to an appreciative clientele of locals and the occasional tourist—in temperatures that regularly plummet to -30 degrees Celsius and where the sun vanishes entirely for three long months each year.

It is the most northerly kebab shop in the world.

This inhospitable location, some 300 miles above the northernmost tip of Norway, is Ariaiwand's home because of an open-door immigration policy. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 states that citizens from all treaty nations shall enjoy the same right of access to and residence in Svalbard.

As a consequence the Immigration Act does not apply...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:48 AM

Thursday, February 18, 2010
      ( 7:24 PM ) The Rat  

The Dream was probably made for a young Roman nobleman called Tommaso de' Cavalieri, who was celebrated for his outstanding beauty, gracious manners and intellect. Michelangelo had first met him in Rome in the winter of 1532 and had instantly fallen in love. The Dream is likely to have been part of the superb group of drawings which Michelangelo gave to Cavalieri during the first years of their close friendship. This group forms the heart of the exhibition and includes The Punishment of Tityus, The Fall of Phaeton, A Bacchanal of Children and The Rape of Ganymede. In his Life of Michelangelo (1568) the biographer and artist Giorgio Vasari praised these exceptional works as 'drawings the like of which have never been seen'—and they are still regarded as amongst the greatest single series of drawings ever made.

Michelangelo’s drawings for Cavalieri have not been seen together for over twenty years...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:24 PM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
      ( 9:18 PM ) The Rat  

In terms of numerical skills, elephants outperform primates and human children. When researchers tested elephants' ability to differentiate two quantities of objects placed in buckets, they performed very well: Equally as good determining between five and six objects as between one and two.

Professor Dick Byrne of St. Andrews University said elephants have "proved to have abilities which have only been found elsewhere in the great apes and humans"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 PM

      ( 9:15 PM ) The Rat  

Doctors have jumped in, giving women an estimated 2 million "off label" prescriptions every year for high-dose—and potentially risky—testosterone pills, creams, gels, and ointments. For now, though, there are no FDA-approved sex drugs for women. Pharmaceutical companies and device-makers have been scrambling for years to cash in on the largely untapped market in female desire: an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion in annual sales.

That lure has revved up American ingenuity in previously unimaginable ways. Having trouble reaching orgasm? In just a few years, the Orgasmatron spinal-cord stimulator—now available only in a nine-day-trial version—may be fully implantable, with a subcutaneous battery lodged inside what its inventor calls "the anatomical love handle." Stuart Meloy, M.D., says his device delivered orgasms on demand for four of eleven women in his small study. He hopes to persuade others to spend about $12,000 for the semipermanent gadget. The catch: First Meloy has to convince regulators that the benefits of the Orgasmatron outweigh the risks of lodging electrodes near the spine: paralysis, infection, and incontinence, to name a few...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:15 PM

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
      ( 11:08 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:08 PM

      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

Monday, February 15, 2010
      ( 3:20 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:20 PM

      ( 3:16 PM ) The Rat  
Probably one of the dullest stretches of prose in any man's library is the article on Paris in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Yet when we heard the news of the liberation, being unable to think of anything else to do, we sat down and read it straight through from beginning to end. 'Paris,' we began, 'capital of France and of the department of Seine, situated on Ile de la Cité, the Ile St. Louis, and the Ile Louviers, in the Seine, as well as on both banks of the Seine, 233 miles from its mouth and 285 miles S.S.E. of London (by rail and steamer via Dover and Calais).' The words seemed like the beginning of a great poem...
—E.B. White

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:16 PM

      ( 9:01 AM ) The Rat  
HEH! I wish I could use this on a student paper... it's from an Amazon review for this book:

The author vacillates between interesting, insightful, and perceptive, and pedantic, tedious, and dull. It's frightening how equally at home he seems in either mode.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:01 AM

Thursday, February 11, 2010
      ( 12:43 AM ) The Rat  

Ever since cowboys first swaggered onto the silver screen, scientists have been struggling to solve a conundrum. Why do the bad guys always get shot in a gunfight when they're the ones who reached for their guns first?

The Nobel laureate and quantum physicist Niels Bohr was so intrigued with the puzzle he came up with a theory: the one who draws second moves faster because he reacts without thinking. [...] Bohr, who worked on the structure of the atom at the beginning of the 20th century, tested his theory by staging his own mock duels with toy guns at his institute in Copenhagen. His gunslinging partner, the Russian-born George Gamow, drew first and lost every time...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:43 AM

      ( 12:40 AM ) The Rat  

The study, led by James MacCabe, a senior lecturer in psychiatric epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, compared the final school exam grades of all Swedish pupils aged 15-16 from 1988 to 1997, with hospital records showing admissions for bipolar disorder up to age 31. The fourfold increased risk of the condition for pupils with excellent exam results remained after researchers controlled for parental education or income. The findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They suggest that mania may improve intellectual and academic performance, accounting for the link with "genius." People with mild mania are often witty and inventive, appearing to have "enhanced access to vocabulary, memory and other cognitive resources." They tend to have exaggerated emotional responses which may "facilitate their talent in art, literature or music." In a manic state individuals have "extraordinary levels of stamina and a tireless capacity for sustained concentration."

Dr MacCabe said: "We found that achieving an A-grade is associated with increased risk for bipolar disorder, particularly in humanities and, to a lesser extent, in science subjects. A-grades in Swedish and music had particularly strong associations, supporting the literature which consistently finds associations between linguistic and musical creativity and bipolar disorder."

School pupils with low exam grades also had an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder later in life. The researchers suggest there may be two distinct groups of people with the condition—high achievers, in whom mania raises their game—and low achievers, especially those with low scores in sport and handicrafts indicating poor motor skills, who may have "subtle neurodevelopmental abnormalities"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:40 AM

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
      ( 1:08 AM ) The Rat  
'WHAT'S OPERA, DOC?' (one of the best ways in the world to pass any seven minutes of your life) on YouTube. Also see its Wikipedia page here. I would quote from some of the awesome passages about it in Chuck Amuck, but my copy is buried somewhere in storage; Wiki does quote a little.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:08 AM

Tuesday, February 09, 2010
      ( 10:29 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:29 AM

      ( 10:28 AM ) The Rat  
PUNK'S NOT DEAD IN MILITARY-RULED MYANMAR. From a couple of weeks back.

The singer smashes his guitar to pieces on the stage as thousands of spiky-haired punk fans cheer loudly—a rare display of countercultural exuberance in military-ruled Myanmar...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 AM

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

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