The Rat
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
      ( 7:40 PM ) The Rat  
QVC IS OFFERING A JUNIOR'S CHEESECAKE IN A MADRAS PRINT. The designer: Isaac Mizrahi you needed to ask.

Brooklyn-born Mizrahi teamed up with his hometown borough's legendary Junior's for this couture confection of Junior's classic cheesecake in a chocolate-graham-cracker crust, gilded with a chocolate ganache icing, chocolate cookie crumbs, and a buttercream border.

The "edible plaid" is designed on a thin layer of fondant that sits atop the cheesecake ("plaid has no calories"). I applaud Mizrahi for insisting on a graham-cracker crust ("I'm not just making it look pretty, darling"). While I love Junior's, their signature spongecake crust has always been my least favorite part of the whole affair—I prefer the texture and crunch of a graham-cracker crust as a contrast with the rich filling.

I clearly wasn't the only one watching—the Madras Cheesecake quickly went to "waitlist availability only" on the QVC website...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:40 PM

      ( 2:46 PM ) The Rat  
"—THIS INCLUDES FLAMING TOWELS," via Passive-Aggressive Notes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:46 PM

      ( 11:46 AM ) The Rat  

All of us are like excited children when turned loose for a fun-filled day at an amusement park. The commotion of the enthusiastic crowd combines with mouthwatering scents of delicious snacks waiting to be gobbled up, and then mingles with flashing lights and pounding music from rides and attractions. Yet when an amusement park becomes abandoned and an eerie silence descends to blanket the decay, the atmosphere seems to twist and takes on a nightmarish vibe. Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving Six Flags as another of its victims. Here are 69 uber-creepy urban exploration photographs as we tour the abandoned amusement park Six Flags New Orleans...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:46 AM

      ( 8:59 AM ) The Rat  
HDR PHOTOGRAPHY SLIDESHOW. Gorgeous. I esp. recommend as an antidote for days (like today) when everything outside is grey-on-grey...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:59 AM

      ( 8:48 AM ) The Rat  

"I must have a companion in my old days... I've never been married before so why can't I marry her? (My son) is unfilial," he was quoted as saying...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:48 AM

      ( 8:30 AM ) The Rat  
[A]fter our crudo lunch at Damir e Ornela, we visited two winemakers—now Joe would like to buy lands or vineyards in Istria—and then we were off to Slovenia, a sliver of which lies between Trieste and Croatia. In Slovenia we ate a highly illegal mollusk, of which I will reveal only that harvesting it requires dynamite...
—Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue, June 2005 (found in old e-mail)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:30 AM

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
      ( 12:58 PM ) The Rat  
TEXAS: SMALL-TOWN SPEED TRAPS RAKE IN MILLIONS. And Ratty thought Ohio was bad! For the full top-40 list, go here.

The top forty speed traps in the state of Texas raked in a total of $178,367,093 in speeding ticket revenue between 2000 and 2008 despite having a combined population of less than 56,000 residents. Motorist Aren Cambre collected ticket issuance data from the state's Office of Court Administration to identify which towns generated the most revenue per capita from speeding tickets.

Cambre said "intellectual curiosity" drove him to analyze the records. He found that the town of Westlake issued an average of 38 tickets worth $4696 each year for every resident...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:58 PM

      ( 9:10 AM ) The Rat  
THE BEST BAGUETTE IN PARIS 2010. Includes both a brief history of the competition and a list of this year's ten highest-scoring boulangeries.

Ever since the 1993 decree, Paris has held a competition for the best baguette, which brings together some of the city's best bakers all vying to win the coveted prize which brings not only prestige and 4,000 Euros but the chance to supply the French Presidential palace with bread for the year. This year's competition boasted a record 163 entries. 22 were eliminated off the bat, which left 141 baguettes to judge by the 15 member jury, which included several prestigious bakers (Franck Tombarel, last year’s big winner, and the runner up, Benjamin Turquier); a big name chef (Ghislaine Arabian), a Englishman (Stephen Clark), a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (butcher Thierry Michaud who has some of the best lamb in Paris), other notable members of the food community, and five lucky winners, myself included, who entered a contest sponsored by the Mairie de Paris.

It was an absolutely incredible experience and for now I can't imagine looking at another baguette. Mound after mound of baguettes were brought as we noted 4 points each for: appearance, baking, aroma, the crumb, and of course, the taste. Panel members argued, for some certain baguettes were "trop cuite!" or too cooked, while for others it was just right. On and on it went until the last baguette was tasted and the Mayor’s office went to tally the vote. Surprisingly only a handful of us stayed on to hear the final results. I had tasted an ungodly amount of bread and wasn’t going to leave until I heard the winner's name pronounced...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:10 AM

      ( 9:06 AM ) The Rat  
'DRIVING WHILE CAFFEINATED' DEFENSE? What I find impressive in this is that he actually hit the pedestrians in separate incidents.

A man who allegedly speeds down a country road, hits two pedestrians, gets arrested and then runs handcuffed toward his wife's office in 5-degree weather, all while wearing only pajamas and flip flops, might lead someone to think of alcohol.

But his lawyer argues caffeine might be to blame...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:06 AM

      ( 9:05 AM ) The Rat  
'YOU WERE BEING SHOVED INTO A DALLAS POLICE CAR...' I know I posted this before when it first appeared, but 1) just came across it again in an old e-mail and 2) it's funny enough for a rerun.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:05 AM

      ( 9:00 AM ) The Rat  
In the 1970s, the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the state of Washington encouraged people to harvest geoducks because the mudflats of Puget Sound were overrun with the things. But few people were interested in digging them up. The clams fetched ten cents a pound at best.

Originally, Native Americans harvested geoducks, and white settlers did too, using them as cheap chowder meat. A Canadian folk song pays tribute to the geoduck, in the form of a lament from a fellow whose girlfriend has left him after discovering a particularly fine specimen. Among scientists, geoducks go by a couple of different names—usually Panopea abrupta, but sometimes also Panopea generosa. The folk song makes no mention of which one the lady prefers but the answer seems obvious.

While geoducks may have provided a degree of pleasure, in chowder or otherwise, few people knew them as an expensive delicacy. Then harvesters in Washington heard about sushi. They began shipping geoducks to Japan, and by the mid-1980s, as sushi took root in the United States, prices for geoduck shot up. Poachers supplied a thriving black market and threatened each other with physical violence. In 1998, Washington State authorities clamped down and convicted several criminals for clam rustling...

The Zen of Fish

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:00 AM

Monday, March 29, 2010
      ( 1:05 PM ) The Rat  
'AND THEN THE FDA CALLED US, SAYING YOU CAN'T PUT MEDICINE IN FOOD...' The Voodoo Doughnut segment from Anthony Bourdain's visit to Portland. (For just the doughnut-specific bits, start around 1m35s and go to the end.) For the online menu, go here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:05 PM

      ( 1:03 PM ) The Rat  
A FATHER-DAUGHTER BOND, PAGE BY PAGE. Sweet albeit rather OCD story.

Mr. Brozina, a single father and an elementary school librarian who reads aloud for a living, did not want the same thing to happen with his younger daughter, Kristen. So when she hit fourth grade, he proposed The Streak: to see if they could read together for 100 straight bedtimes without missing once. They were both big fans of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, and on Nov. 11, 1997, started The Streak with "The Tin Woodman of Oz."

When The Streak reached 100, they celebrated with a pancake breakfast, and Kristen whispered, "I think we should try for 1,000 nights"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:03 PM

      ( 6:25 AM ) The Rat  
UMAMI SHOULD NOT BE AVAILABLE IN TUBE FORM. (How's that for a sentence that sounds like a cryptic-crossword prompt?) But if you want it that way, you can get it here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:25 AM

      ( 6:22 AM ) The Rat  
A MAP OF FOUR WELL-TRAVELLED TALES. Via Strange Maps, of course.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:22 AM

      ( 6:21 AM ) The Rat  
CHILDREN'S BOOK FAIL, via FailBlog. This one is pretty crude, so don't go there if you don't want to go there. (It earned me an immediate "IHU" when I sent it to ET...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:21 AM

      ( 6:15 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY WOULD HAVE LIKED LAKE FOREST MORE (spent a summer in neighboring North Chicago in the mid-'90s) if she'd known that this had taken place there just a few years before. Link via IKM.

Angry residents here are calling it "The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre."

The telephones at City Hall have been ringing ceaselessly with complaints from neighbors. The local newspaper, The Lake Forest News/Voice, condemned Mr. T in an editorial last week for what it described as his "arrogant, insensitive action." And an alderwoman, Mary Barb Johnson, has promised to draft an ordinance to prohibit any further "outrageous destruction."

''We take great pride in our trees,'' Char Kreuz, the city's spokeswoman, said earlier this week. ''You can tell that by the name of our town.''

"I understand he's a good man, a religious man," said William Knauz, a dealer in Mercedes-Benz and BMW automobiles here. "But trees are sacred here. And when you rev up a chain saw, you do not endear yourself to many people here."

This is not the first time that Mr. T, who moved into his seven-acre mansion last fall, has been at odds with the Lake Forest arbiters of taste and decorum. "First he builds a stockade fence and paints it white—now this," said Lucille Biety. "Oh, my goodness."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:15 AM

      ( 6:11 AM ) The Rat  
THE ADVERSATIVE PASSIVE AS A FORM OF ACTIVE RESISTANCE, via JB. Bèi zìshā really does sound wonderfully, passive-aggressively—and concisely!—snarky in the original.

Lately, it has become fashionable to use the passive voice with verbs that don't normally allow it and in situations that seem ludicrous. One of the most celebrated examples is bèi zìshā 被自殺 ("be suicided"), with the implication that someone was beaten to death, but the authorities made it look as though he had committed suicide. Once coined, bèi zìshā spread like wildfire, so that it wasn't long before it merited its own entry in online dictionaries and encyclopedias.

This novel application of the adversative passive is quite versatile.  Here are some other common, but telling, examples (English translations only):

1. employmented: turned into a false employment statistic
2. represented: misrepresented without consent
3. invited to tea: questioned by police, usually on political matters
4. high-speed railroaded: forced to buy expensive high-speed rail tickets because ordinary train tickets are not available
5. harmonized: censored (this must be particularly galling to the party elders, since héxié 和諧 ["harmoniousness"], with all of its clarion Confucian resonances, is President-Chairman-General Secretary Hu Jintao's pet platitude)
6. volunteered: forced to volunteer

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:11 AM

      ( 6:06 AM ) The Rat  
NOW SAY IT THREE TIMES FAST. This is Douglas Rushkoff, making a good point but perhaps with unintentional hilarity, in "The Virtual Revolution: The Cost of Free" (cf. this Lee Siegel book for discussion of some of the same issues):

Recommendation engines are very good at figuring out what people like me would do, and telling me what that is... so that I can then find out what people like me do. I can become much more like a person like me. Recommendation engines, by telling me what people like me do, and encouraging me to be like a person like me—they help me to become... more protypically one of my kind of person...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:06 AM

      ( 6:05 AM ) The Rat  
Every stitch of the embroidery was done by hand, at Michael Stuart's garment-district atelier. So how many nuns toiled over this? Not nuns, I'm told. "Virgins." We all laugh, but Lam says no, it's true: "At Christian Dior the tradition was that only a virgin could finish the hem of a wedding dress." A team member adds, "One woman got so sick of hemming that she came in one morning and told M. Dior that she wasn't a virgin anymore."
Vogue, October 2005 (found in old e-mail)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:05 AM

Sunday, March 28, 2010
      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  

Colin Furze, a plumber who adapted his scooter to shoot 15 ft. flames from the rear, has been arrested for an alleged firearms offence...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:26 PM

      ( 10:25 AM ) The Rat  
TETRIS, TRAUMA AND THE BRAIN. This may explain how I managed to survive adolescence.

Dr. Holmes played clips of traumatic events, including a child drowning, to 40 volunteers. While one group was asked to sit quietly after viewing the films, another played the computer game Tetris.

The results showed that the volunteers who played Tetris experienced about half as many flashbacks as the control group, and that those memories were less vivid or disturbing.

The point about Tetris, Dr. Holmes concludes, is that it employs many of the same areas of the brain—to do with visual processing and coordinating thoughts and actions—that are involved in laying down memories...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:25 AM

      ( 9:55 AM ) The Rat  
STUDY: ADS WITH PLUS-SIZE MODELS UNLIKELY TO WORK. Peter Sagal's awesome take on this on yesterday's Wait, Wait! (which is where I'm lifting this, and several other recent post topics, from): "For years, women have been bemoaning those skinny fashion models—they create unrealistic standards of beauty, and make for unhealthy role models... That's why Dove—remember Dove, the soap company?—they rolled out an ad campaign, with plus-sized women in their skivvies, and Glamour magazine started featuring jiggly women in their pages. Turns out, though—according to researchers at the Universty of Arizona, plus-sized models do not make women feel better about themselves... they make them feel even worse. Why? Because the only thing worse than being reminded what you don't look like... is being reminded what you do look like."

Personally I found the Dove campaign rather condescending, though I know some women were fans. But it seems to me that consumers of fashion/etc. magazines featuring conventionally attractive women tend to bifurcate: Some women get depressed ("I'll never look like that... might as well have another gallon of Rocky Road"), whereas others draw on them for inspiration/motivation. There was at least one study on the latter effect last year—I don't have the info on it to hand, but here is a 2004 study along the same lines. Obviously many/most women struggle with body-image issues (I've known a surprisingly high number of women over the years who were recovering anorexics/bulimics), and I don't mean to downplay that. But the traditional Beauty Myth take—that women expose themselves to these images just out of masochism/stupidity, and/or because The Man is keeping them down—seems to me pretty facile, to say the least.

The study, by lead author Ramona Joshi, a former U of T student supervised by Herman and psychology professor Janet Polivy, appears in the April International Journal of Eating Disorders. Female university students reported on their self-image while viewing different types of images on a computer screen. Their most positive measures of self-image came after viewing photos of thin models taken from popular magazines. This effect was most pronounced in those who were dieters, although it was also present to a lesser degree in non-dieters. This finding may give clinicians some insight into the motivations of people with eating disorders, suggests Herman.

"The idea that these thin media ideals are inspiring rather than depressing is almost necessary to account for the fact that young women—and just about everybody else—spend a lot of time voluntarily exposing themselves to these images," says Herman, noting the study confirms similar findings from other work.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 AM

      ( 9:54 AM ) The Rat  
WIS. COLLEGE SAYS NEW E-MAIL FONT WILL SAVE MONEY. Okay, but... Century Gothic? Really?

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:54 AM

      ( 12:08 AM ) The Rat  

Also see this, ibid.

And... this one strikes a special chord with Ratty, given her longstanding fear that people will secretly think she's illiterate.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 AM

      ( 12:06 AM ) The Rat  
COULD THE NANNY TURN YOUR SON INTO A WOMANIZER? Lots of entertainment value in here... one of my favorite bits being the ominous cæsura in: "'He may look,' warns Dr. Dennis Friedman, 'for another woman.'" But the part of this I thought the most ridiculous was not actually the nanny stuff, but the excerpt below. I mean... mother-daughter relationships as less complicated and fraught than mother-son ones? Has this guy met any mothers or daughters?!

A mother's absence in early infancy is a denial of the child's human rights, Friedman contends. "If his human rights are not respected at a very early age, as I see it, he may grow up to not respect the human rights of others. If he doesn't get the loving input to make a real commitment to his one person—what's he going to feel? He's going to feel very angry, maybe take out his anger on another mother; he may steal love—that's called rape—he may buy love from a prostitute... all sorts of things."

And what about baby girls and their mothers? It's different with girls, Friedman claims from his Regent's Park home in central London.

"The mother and the girl baby, actually have a very close relationship. She's just an extension of herself, there's no real anxiety because they are the same gender and women are more comfortable with their girl babies."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:06 AM

      ( 12:05 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 AM

      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  

"Every other name is taken," Mr. Jones explains. "Think of a great band name and Google it, and you'll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page."

For the generations of musicians who have taken up guitars and drumsticks, picking a band name has been as crucial as teasing out a distinctive style—and usually the name comes first. For a lucky few, a word or phrase can become iconic. The Beatles, before they were legends, were briefly the Silver Beetles, a nod to Buddy Holly's Crickets. Jerry Garcia discovered the name Grateful Dead in a dictionary.

The last decade's digital revolution not only transformed the way people listen to music, it changed the way bands establish identities. In the past, identically named acts often carved out livings in separate regions, oblivious or indifferent to one another. Now, it takes only moments for a musician to create an online profile and upload songs, which can potentially reach listeners around the world.

Lawyers say that has raised the stakes in trademark disputes...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 AM

Saturday, March 27, 2010
      ( 6:05 PM ) The Rat  
THE 20 MOST CAFFEINATED DRINKS. Gentlemen, start your engines!

Caffeine addicts can inject their drug of choice quite literally with 5150 Juice syringes. The shot goes directly into the beverage of your choice, but because of its extremely high potency, you may want to stick with just one fix.

Caffeine per ounce: 500 milligrams

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:05 PM

      ( 6:03 PM ) The Rat  
STARBUCKS, OTHER RETAILERS DRAGGED INTO GUN-CONTROL DISPUTE, via PS. May I just note that "In California, where it's legal to carry a gun openly without a license in most places as long as it's unloaded..." really is like the sentence equivalent of being a cock tease.

In 29 states, it's legal to openly carry a loaded handgun, without any form of government permission. Another 13 allow an unconcealed loaded handgun with a carry permit, according to, which is a loosely organized Web forum for the movement.

In California, where it's legal to carry a gun openly without a license in most places as long as it's unloaded, growing numbers of armed people have been turning up at Starbucks, restaurants, and retailers, with handguns holstered to their belts to protest what they contend are unfair limits on permits to carry a concealed weapon...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:03 PM

      ( 10:30 AM ) The Rat  
LOVE AND MORALS IN MANGALORE. "Love jihad" (on which more here) is one of the coolest phrases I've heard in some time.

A self-proclaimed 'moral police force' is patrolling the streets of Mangalore on India's east coast.

There it can be dangerous to hold your boyfriend's hand, drink juice with him at a stall, dance with him at a club or even talk to him on the bus—especially if he's from a different religion.

The most powerful vigilantes have links with India's Hindu nationalist right; they track down Muslim men who are seen with Hindu women and accuse them of luring them away in a 'Love Jihad'...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:30 AM

      ( 8:58 AM ) The Rat  
AT THE INTERMISSION TO L'ÉTOILE* yesterday evening, I had the unexpected treat of being introduced to this guy by JN, my critic friend and host. Naturally, just minutes into a post-show dessert, I was being interrogated by both men as to which were my favorite singers of the ones I'd heard so far... Almost certainly humiliated myself with my answers to that question (look, I've known about classical music since at least 4, but only found out about opera at 32—cut me some slack!), but at least on Which-are-your-favorite-operas (my retaliatory/self-defense question) my tastes readily stood up to scrutiny—KM does the same thing I do when it comes to picking favorites, juggling the three da Ponte operas around in different permutations at any given time, and when I mentioned that after Mozart (long after Mozart), the opera composer I liked best was Wagner... one of them (I forget which—probably JN) observed that I "[went] straight for the hard stuff."

Last night was also "Boys' Night" (a new thing NYCO are doing this year). As we peered toward the ensuing hijinks, JN was describing an editorial-meeting discussion of a rel. new gay-themed opera (possibly this?), during which RB had snarked: "Finally—a way to get gay men to go to the opera!"

*Which you should see, though I may not get around to a full post on it. Caveat: Go into it aware that it's an operetta—if you're expecting any other genre you might be (as JN and I both were periodically) too distracted by its occasionally twee/kitschy bits. JN heard some dude exclaiming in disgust as we left, "It's a Broadway show!"—and the guy had a point, but the music is charming, the staging (complete with strobe lights, Toulouse-Lautrec-inflected costumes, more than one spate of can-can, a giant yellow inflatable armchair for a throne, a King Ouf who spends part of Act I in a big chinchilla fur coat, etc.) is tons of fun, the singing is much better than it was at the one other NYCO thing I'd seen previously... and the plot is utterly and delightfully ridiculous. Seriously, I would be dragging friends to see this if the NYCO run weren't so short. But don't go expecting an opera!

King Ouf the First roams his city, in disguise, searching for a suitable subject to execute as a birthday treat. Herisson de Porc-Epic, an ambassador, and his wife, Aloes, arrive, accompanied by his secretary, Tapioca, and Laoula, the daughter of a neighboring monarch. They are traveling incognito, and the princess is being passed off as Herisson's wife. Their mission, of which Laoula is unaware, is to marry her to Ouf. Complications arise when Laoula and a poor peddler, Lazuli, fall in love at first sight. Scolded for flirting, Lazuli insults the disguised king and thus becomes a desired candidate for death by impalement...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:58 AM

      ( 3:18 AM ) The Rat  
MOMA ACQUIRES '@' FOR ITS PERMANENT COLLECTION. Click through to MoMA's site for a brief history.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:18 AM

Friday, March 26, 2010
      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
CAKE VS. PIE MARCH MADNESS continues over at Jezebel—go vote!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

      ( 12:15 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 PM

      ( 8:24 AM ) The Rat  
CRAPPY TAXIDERMY. I think the mynah-bird bra is the most disturbing (admittedly I only looked at the front page).

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:24 AM

      ( 8:18 AM ) The Rat  
CAMBODIA'S ACID ATTACK VICTIMS APPEAL FOR JUSTICE. (Contains demi-graphic photo.) Before first learning of this horrific trend sometime last year, I confess I'd thought it happened mainly in Victorian fiction...

Also see this brief interview with a victim (esp. her last comment).

Before the attack, Bunnarith had worked in marketing for a soft drinks company. He enjoyed a decent salary and his children went to good schools.

But the terrible scars on his face and body, along with his blindness, brought his career to an end. In a society which places great emphasis on "face," Bunnarith's no longer fitted.

Acid attack survivors frequently suffer in this way. Their injuries are compounded by discrimination and stigmatisation—particularly for women.

Until recently acid attacks typically involved aggrieved wives attacking their husband's mistresses, or vice versa. That meant many victims would have to endure comments about their moral conduct, and whether they were the authors of their own misfortune.

But over the past few months, the nature—and number—of attacks has changed. The 11 incidents reported in the first two months of 2010 almost equalled the total for the whole of the previous year.

And where Bunnarith used to stand out as a rare male at survivors' meetings, an increasing number of men have joined him.

"It has become a lot more democratic," says Jim Gollogly, a British-born doctor who founded CASC...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:18 AM

      ( 8:17 AM ) The Rat  
FACEBOOK CAUSES SYPHILIS? I'm pretty sure Facebook only causes syphilis in a metaphorical sense.

Meanwhile, Facebook called the reports ludicrous.

"While it makes for interesting headlines, the assertions made in newspaper reports that Facebook is responsible for the transmission of STDs are ridiculous, exaggerate the comments made by the professor, and ignore the difference between correlation and causation," said Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes in a written statement.

"As Facebook's more than 400 million users know, our Web site is not a place to meet people for casual sex—it's a place for friends, family and coworkers to connect and share."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:17 AM

      ( 8:16 AM ) The Rat  
BURY ME WITH MY CELL PHONE. From Dec. 2008, but I only came across it yesterday, while pursuing a News of the Weird-referenced "golden coffin (with cell phone)." Not posting this to mock—there's a lot of pathos to this story. But I confess I'm surprised that anyone would bury a loved one with her/his cell phone with the intent of phoning them post-burial—wouldn't the lack of an answer make you feel worse rather than better?

We take them with us to the dinner table, the bedroom, even the bathroom stall. But in recent years, some of us have started taking our beloved cell phones someplace really startling: the grave.

"It seems that everyone under 40 who dies takes their cell phone with them," says Noelle Potvin, family service counselor for Hollywood Forever, a funeral home and cemetery in Hollywood, Calif. "It's a trend with BlackBerrys, too. We even had one guy who was buried with his Game Boy."

Ed Defort, publisher and editorial director for American Funeral Director magazine, says it's a definite trend. "I've even heard of cases where people are being buried with their iPod. Or one guy who was prepared for his viewing with his Bluetooth (headset) in his ear."

But it's the cell phone, in particular, that seems to be the burial gadget of choice...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 AM

      ( 8:08 AM ) The Rat  
'He thinks with me,' said Dorothea to herself, 'or, rather, he thinks a whole world of which my thought is but a poor twopenny mirror. And his feelings, too, his whole experience—what a lake compared with my little pool!'

Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly than other young ladies of her age. Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the shape of knowledge.


# Posted by The Rat @ 8:08 AM

Thursday, March 25, 2010
      ( 9:24 PM ) The Rat  
'You see, Aschenbach has always lived like this'—here the speaker closed the fingers of his left hand to a fist—'never like this'—and he let his hand hang relaxed from the back of his chair.
Death in Venice

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:24 PM

      ( 4:02 PM ) The Rat  
ON 'DOGWOOD WINTER.' Although, do we have to have a name for this weather? Can't we just swear at it? (Yes, I know March is too early for actual Dogwood winter; was just looking for an early-spring counterpart to "Indian summer.")

The dogwood's beauty and utility have long been celebrated in North America. Early colonists reportedly used every part of the dogwood except 'the rustle of its leaves.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 PM

      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  
THE NEW MACHO MEALS, from a recent Post. But the author fails to notice any connection between the shift in ad execs' eating/drinking habits, and the fact that much of '60s advertising was light-years better than anything produced today...

So with men's power lunches going from larger-than-life to extra-small, does anyone miss the three-martini lunches of New York’s good old days?

"Actually, I don’t remember them," laughs ad man Della Femina. "I don't remember most of the '60s and '70s."

This story also reminded me of this NYT account of the Onion staff's 2006 relocation from Madison to New York.

The absence of solid Midwestern comfort food has posed a challenge for the paper's art department, which requires a certain girthiness of many of the people who pose for the fake news photos.

"Some of our writers, who we would use as body doubles of older Congress people, have started losing weight since we've been here," Chad Nackers, the associate graphics editor, said one afternoon. "That killed us. We used to be able to do Dennis Hastert if we wanted." And Mike Loew, the graphics editor, chimed in, "Oh, yeah, we had all the options, before everyone started eating sushi and getting all svelte."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

      ( 2:29 PM ) The Rat  
LIFE IMITATES MONTY PYTHON (yet again). From the current News of the Weird.

War Is Hell: The day before British army chef Liam Francis, 26, arrived at his forward operating base in Afghanistan, the Taliban shot down the helicopter ferrying in food rations, and Francis realized he had to make do with supplies on hand. In his pantry were only seasonings, plus hundreds of tins of Spam. For six weeks, until resupply, Francis prepared "sweet and sour Spam," "Spam fritters," "Spam carbonara," "Spam stroganoff" and "stir-fried Spam." He told the Daily Telegraph that he was proud of his work but admitted that "morale improved" when fresh food arrived. [Daily Telegraph, 2-5-10]

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:29 PM

      ( 2:25 PM ) The Rat  
Proust felt, however, that a long sentence contained a whole, complex thought, a thought that should not be fragmented or broken. The shape of the sentence was the shape of the thought, and every word was necessary to the thought: "I really have to weave these long silks as I spin them," he said. "If I shortened my sentences, it would make little pieces of sentences, not sentences." He wished to "encircle the truth with a single—even if long and sinuous—stroke."

Many contemporaries of Proust's insisted that he wrote the way he spoke, although when Du côté de chez Swann appeared in print, they were startled by what they saw as the severity of the page. Where were the pauses, the inflections? There were not enough empty spaces, not enough punctuation marks. To them, the sentences seemed longer when read on the page than they did when they were spoken, in his extraordinary hoarse voice: his voice punctuated them.

One friend, though surely exaggerating, reported that Proust would arrive late in the evening, wake him up, begin talking, and deliver one long sentence that did not come to an end until the middle of the night. The sentence would be full of asides, parentheses, illuminations, reconsiderations, revisions, addenda, corrections, augmentations, digressions, qualifications, erasures, deletions, and marginal notes. It would, in other words, attempt to be exhaustive, to capture every nuance of a piece of reality, to reflect Proust's entire thought. To be exhaustive is, of course, an infinite task: more events can always be inserted, and more nuance in the narration, more commentary on the event, and more nuance within the commentary. Growing by association of ideas, developing internally by contiguity, the long sentences are built up into pyramids of subordinate clauses...

—Lydia Davis

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:25 PM

      ( 8:20 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAS BEEN FORTUNATE in having had many friendships like this over the years.

But as she doesn't want this post to be too schmaltzy she will balance it out by noting that her romantic entanglements have been more like this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:20 AM

      ( 7:15 AM ) The Rat  
LAST SUPPER HELPINGS HAVE GROWN. Brian Wansink is the bomb, btw—Mindless Eating is rather like Cialdini's Influence, but food/eating-specific.

The Christian faith holds several acts of "super-sizing" to be miracles accomplished by Jesus Christ—a handful of fish and loaves of bread expanded to feed thousands; a wedding feast running low on wine suddenly awash in the stuff. Now a new study of portion expansion puts Jesus once more at the center.

In a bid to uncover the roots of super-sized American fare, a pair of sibling scholars has turned to an unusual source: 52 artists' renderings of the New Testament's Last Supper. Their findings, published online Tuesday in the International Journal of Obesity, indicate that serving sizes have been marching heavenward for 1,000 years.

Over the course of the millennium, the Wansinks found that the entrees depicted on the plates laid before Jesus' followers grew by about 70%, and the bread by 23%. As entree portions rose, so too did the size of the plates—by 65.6%.

The apostles depicted during the Middle Ages appear to be the ascetics they are said to have been. But by 1498, when Leonardo da Vinci completed his masterpiece, the party was more lavishly fed. Almost a century later, the Mannerist painter Jacobo Tintoretto piled the food on the apostles' plates still higher...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:15 AM

      ( 7:14 AM ) The Rat  
HOW TO TELL JAPS FROM THE CHINESE. Thought of this yesterday in conversation with IKM, and quickly Googled to see if I could find it online... and, of course, I could, almost right away (the wonders of the Interwebs!). Though I still can't remember how/when I first heard of it—maybe history class?

All of which said, my only comment on the thing itself is: Seriously, "parchment yellow"? What exactly had the authors of this thing been doing to their parchment?!

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:14 AM

      ( 7:10 AM ) The Rat  
Words do not change their meanings so drastically in the course of centuries as, in our minds, names do in the course of a year or two.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 AM

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
      ( 2:35 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:35 PM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  
THE CLASSICS IN THE SLUMS. This is by way of being a postscript to that last post—notwithstanding my Beecham idolatry, even I wouldn't try to pretend he'd been single-handedly responsible for the London performing arts scene being this way. This article (sent to me by ET some time ago, though I don't think I ever blogged it) argues for an enduring thirst for the high arts among "the masses" generally in 19C and even 20C Britain. Rose's book on the same subject, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, will also be coming home with me on my next library forage.

Will Crooks (b. 1852), a cooper living in extreme poverty in East London, once spent tuppence on a secondhand Iliad, and was dazzled: "What a revelation it was to me! Pictures of romance and beauty I had never dreamed of suddenly opened up before my eyes. I was transported from the East End to an enchanted land. It was a rare luxury for a working lad like me just home from work to find myself suddenly among the heroes and nymphs of ancient Greece." Nancy Sharman (b. 1925) recalled that her mother, a Southampton charwoman, had no time to read until her last illness, at age 54. Then she devoured the complete works of Shakespeare, and "mentioned pointedly to me that if anything should happen to her, she wished to donate the cornea of her eyes to enable some other unfortunate to read." Margaret Perry (b. 1922) wrote of her mother, a Nottingham dressmaker: "The public library was her salvation. She read four or five books a week all her life but had no one to discuss them with. She had read all the classics several times over in her youth and again in later years, and the library had a job to keep her supplied with current publications. Married to a different man, she could have been an intelligent and interesting woman."

In the nineteenth century, Shakespeare could still attract enthusiastic, rowdy working-class audiences, who commented loudly about the quality of the performances. Caravans of barnstorming actors brought the plays to isolated mining villages. In response to popular demand, Birmingham's Theatre Royal devoted 30 percent of its repertoire to the Bard and other classic dramatists. In 1862, a theater manager provoked a near-riot when he attempted to substitute a modern comedy for an announced production of Othello.

Working-class autodidacts read the classics in part because contemporary literature was too expensive. A 1940 survey found that while 55 percent of working-class adults read books, they rarely bought new books. An autodidact could build up an impressive library by haunting used-book stalls, scavenging castoffs, or buying cheap out-of-copyright reprints such as Everyman's Library, but these offered only yesterday's authors. Thus Welsh collier Joseph Keating (b. 1871) was able to immerse himself in Swift, Pope, Fielding, Richardson, Smollett, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Keats, Byron, Shelley, Dickens, Thackeray, and Greek philosophy. There was one common denominator among these authors: all were dead. "Volumes by living authors were too high-priced for me," Keating explained, but that did not bother him terribly. "Our school-books never mentioned living writers; and the impression in my mind was that an author, to be a living author, must be dead; and that his work was all the better if he died of neglect and starvation."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 8:45 AM ) The Rat  
SO WHICH OF THE BEECHAM STORIES ARE TRUE? Same article I hyperlinked last night, except that at 4 AM I wasn't feeling sufficiently thorough to actually re-read it (had read it only once before, and that about a year ago). Doing so just now reminds me that the glorious concerts I heard in July/August '08 almost certainly owed some debt to Sir Thomas... I truly believe it was only in London that my classical-music renaissance could have begun—there are other cities with great performing artists, but none that I know of where the performing arts (am mainly thinking of opera, classical music, and theater) manage to combine such high levels of technical perfection with such low levels of pretentiousness. (See next post.) Good luck finding that in New York or Berlin!

Oh, and a P.S. on the Clarinet Concerto: The one time before yesterday that I heard snippets from this recording, I put off listening to it properly in large part because of the slower tempos. Once I actually did sit down and listen to it all, though, I realized this had been a mistake—whether or not you agree with Sir Thomas's tempos, he has an astonishing gift for bringing out colors and passages other conductors miss... quite simply one of the finest musical intelligences I've yet encountered. (This may perhaps be connected to another Beecham epigram I did not yet post: "For a fine performance only two things are absolutely necessary: the maximum of virility coupled with the maximum of delicacy." If this kind of musicianship were a man, you'd want to marry it.)

In the financial crash that followed his father’s death in 1916, Covent Garden had to be sold to pay off death duties and debts on the estate, leaving Tommy tangled up in lawyers as he surged up and down the country with a Beecham Opera Company, created an orchestra in Birmingham and redeemed the Halle from insolvency. When the BBC refused to let him lead its symphony orchestra in 1930, he founded the London Philharmonic; later, in 1946, he established the Royal Philharmonic. When out of funds, he drained the Cunards.

No conductor anywhere, at any time, has done so much to vitalise and diversify the musical life of a nation. If London today has more orchestras than it sensibly needs, the proliferation ensures that we never stagnate into the monolithic torpor of a one-orchestra city like New York. That, in one sense, is Beecham’s visible legacy.

Conductors, unlike poets and composers, leave nothing of permanence except recordings and memories, both of which can be misleading. Beecham, however, left the twinkle in his eye. Rogue that he was towards women and all who were imprudent enough to trust him with cash, he engendered a sense of mischief and effervescence in London’s concert halls that is not to be found anywhere else. The sparkle in their sound is still traceable to Tommy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:45 AM

      ( 4:01 AM ) The Rat  
"SHE IS EXACTLY LIKE THE ANDANTE." I don't have a copy to hand of this wonderful edition of Mozart's letters (which is the one I read while ecstatically snowbound in Vienna last year), so can't give exact references, but there is a passage in a letter (I think dated Dec. 6, 1777) where Mozart wrote of the second movement of one of the piano sonatas—believed to be K. 309—that it had been written as a musical portrait of the 15-year-old Rosa Cannabich: "Pretty... charming... intelligent... amiable... She is exactly like the Andante." This is actually one of my favorite anecdotes ever about Mozart, reflecting as it does both the brazenness, and the entire appropriateness, of the desire one inevitably has to compare his compositions to living people... As a rule it would be merely reductive to compare a changeable and living human being to a (theoretically static and unchangeable) work of art, but when you listen to the Andante you just want to know what the flesh-and-person could have been like to have merited such praise. (Cf. Bernard Shaw on this composer: "the only music yet written that would not sound out of place in the mouth of God.")

I bring all this up because, yesterday morning, I finally got around to listening to this recording of Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Clarinet Concerto (which I previously had only heard on this highly serviceable album of the wind concertos, with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra)... and, seriously, the conducting makes such a difference here that it truly was like discovering Mozart all over again: I'm in love. I had previously known/known of Beecham primarily for his many bon mots—he is one of those people who wind up having every great quote in the field attributed to him whether he actually said it or not (call it "You will, Oscar, you will" syndrome)—and of course for the rather colorful details of both his own love life and those of his father and grandfather (each of the latter two had a wife secretly committed to an asylum, not because she was actually ill but, as I understand it, more just to get her out of the way).

Anyway, so the Clarinet Concerto under this conductor = epic win! In its honor I'm going to start posting the quotes I took down from Beecham Stories when I read it a year or so ago—just a few at a time, as I have at least a couple dozen stored up. Caveat emptor on them all, as I doubt it will ever be entirely clear which of the Beecham stories are actually true—but of course, whether any particular story is true or not is not really the point... the point is that the dude was amazing. If I could post sound clips here instead I would, but since I can't, these blurbs will have to do for now. (Meanwhile, here is a starter article on this wonderful man; I'm going after both this book and Sir Thomas's own memoir as soon as I can get myself to a library.) His conducting of the Clarinet Concerto alone would suffice to earn Sir Thomas a permanent place on even my shortest shortlist for those hypothetical "What famous/historical figures would you most like to invite to a dinner party?"-type questions... so long as he could be prevailed upon to talk primarily about music rather than about his affairs. Well, actually I'd be fine with both.

Members of the Delius Trust were once discussing the setting up of a university professorship of music. Someone suggested a chair of musical criticism.

Sir Thomas observed: 'If there is to be a chair for critics, I think it had better be an electric chair.'

—At the Lucerne Festival, Beecham was conducting a rather noisy version, re-orchestrated by Eugene Goossens, of
Messiah, with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Twelve timpani accompanied 'Rejoice Greatly.' Sir Malcolm Sargent, perturbed, went round afterwards to see Beecham about this.

Sir Thomas greeted him thus: 'My dear boy, it will be good for you to hear the
pagan view of your Messiah.'

—Description of Elgar's A flat Symphony: 'The musical equivalent of St. Pancras Station.'

—Sir Thomas once stopped a rehearsal and said, 'I would like to ask the gentleman playing the big drum to be so kind as to ask the gentleman to his right, if union regulations do not preclude it, if he would be good enough to request the gentleman on
his right, who is holding the cymbal, to hit the damned thing a bit harder!'

—On Mozart: 'He emancipated music from the bonds of a formal age, while remaining the true voice of the 18th century. His new sentiment or emotion, as expressed by a matchless technique, was his supreme gift to the world. That sentiment was an intimacy, a masculine tenderness, unique—something confiding, affectionate.'

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:01 AM

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
      ( 10:21 PM ) The Rat  
Balenciaga had the most wonderful sense of color—his tête de nègre, his café au lait, his violets, his magentas, and his mauves. Every summer I'd take his same four pairs of slacks and his same four pullovers to Southampton with me. Then... one year I went down to Biarritz. I laid out exactly the same four pairs of slacks, exactly the same four pullovers... and I'd never seen them before! It's the light, of course—the intensifying light of the Basque country. There's never been such a light. That was Balenciaga's country.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:21 PM

      ( 9:45 PM ) The Rat  
INDIAN ARMY DEVELOPS BLINDING CHILI GRENADE. Mainly worth it for the photo caption, and for this:

The scientist said: "There are other applications as well, what we call women power. A specially made chili powder could act as a tool for women to keep away anti-socials and work in this regard is also on."

The department have come up with another plan to rub the chili powder on the fences around army barracks. And Mr. Srivastava said: "The chili paste could also act as a major repellent against wild elephants."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:45 PM

      ( 11:51 AM ) The Rat  

[A]ccording to the latest look at the nation's shopping habits, what we are really chucking in the supermarket trolley is rather more passé, with garlic bread and fish fingers making their debut in the "shopping basket" of goods used to calculate inflation.

And it is not just in the food department where the way we shop might be said to be regressing to the 1980s. On the makeup front, too, Britons are apparently channelling Farah Fawcett rather than Lady Gaga: this year, the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the prices of 650 items throughout the year to monitor fluctuations in the cost of living, has decided that lip gloss is a more modern inflationary marker than lipstick, while tongs and straighteners have replaced the humble hairdryer.

Each month, the ONS collects about 180,000 prices for an imaginary basket containing about 650 goods and services on which people typically spend their money. Changes in the prices of these items form the basis of two of the main inflation trackers, the consumer prices index (CPI) and the retail prices index (RPI).

This basket already contains such contemporary culinary treats as frozen pizzas, dehydrated noodles, gammon and chicken kievs.

The majority of goodies in the basket remain constant from year to year—sausages, sliced bread and flour have been in since the exercise began.

But each year the compilers tweak the list a little to reflect changing consumer habits...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:51 AM

      ( 11:48 AM ) The Rat  
THAT SEPARATE COMPARTMENT IN YOUR STOMACH FOR DESSERT, via This really would have been better if the diagram had been altered to indicate the exact location/position of the dessert compartment.

Flash forward a few minutes later and we're scraping our plates and licking our forks as the waiter comes by and asks if we'd like dessert.

There was the classic Dessert Pause where everybody sorta squints and sizes each other up around the table—nobody wanting to make that fateful first move and be the lone Cheesecake Ranger who goes out on a limb and extends the trip for everyone...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:48 AM

      ( 11:45 AM ) The Rat  

The bravery of the thousands of Commonwealth, Italian and German soldiers, who fell far from home will forever be remembered in the tranquil cemeteries and mausoleums built along the coast.

It was said of Alamein that before the battle the Allies knew only defeat. After it they tasted only victory.

But for the Bedouin, Alamein marked only the beginning of the bloodshed. And almost 70 years on, World War II continues. For them it is equally cruel and it is never ending.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:45 AM

      ( 2:25 AM ) The Rat  
WHY IS THERE SUCH A DISCONNECT BETWEEN MODERN MUSIC AND ART THESE DAYS? via Ask a Urinal. Do I need to specify that ET sent me this? I mean, is there anyone else it could have been?

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:25 AM

Monday, March 22, 2010
      ( 9:00 PM ) The Rat  

...Okay, I admit I just liked that one for the headline. Here is an article I find much more interesting, about the origins of consciousness.

Consciousness is one of neuroscience's long-standing mysteries. At its most basic, it is the simple question of why we become aware of some thoughts or feelings, while others lurk unnoticed below conscious perception. Is there a single module in the brain, a "seat of consciousness" if you like, that is responsible for awareness? Or is it a result of more complicated activity across a number of brain regions? Solve this, and we may be a little closer to explaining the more esoteric aspects of our complex internal experience.

Now one theory that claims to do just that is rapidly gaining weight, with strong evidence from research such as Laureys's to back up its predictions. The idea, dubbed the global workspace theory, was first floated in 1983 by Bernard Baars of The Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, California. He proposed that non-conscious experiences are processed locally within separate regions of the brain, like the visual cortex. According to this theory, we only become conscious of this information if these signals are broadcast to an assembly of neurons distributed across many different regions of the brain—the "global workspace"—which then reverberates in a flash of coordinated activity. The result is a mental interpretation of the world that has integrated all the senses into a single picture, while filtering out conflicting pieces of information...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:00 PM

      ( 6:16 PM ) The Rat  
AFRICAN TEEN KING LIVES DUAL LIFE. Forgot to post this last week.

"The first few years, I did not know what was going on," he says. "I think I realized when I was about 6 that I really was king, and my life was going to be different. I was going to have responsibilities toward a lot of people."

In addition to serving as the figurehead for members of the Batooro tribe—the group that makes up most of the Tooro kingdom—the king oversees efforts to raise money for projects involving such things as health and education. He implements programs to boost cultural pride. He also helps oversee how his kingdom spends tax money that it gets from the Ugandan government...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:16 PM

      ( 10:47 AM ) The Rat  

This day began next to a man you don't know in your bed. Maybe you like him, you think. You examine his face while he sleeps. No, you do not like him...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:47 AM

      ( 10:40 AM ) The Rat  
"You know, I find myself—I noticed this recently, that most of my dreams take place in England. So I find myself commuting daily—or nightly—back and forth across the Atlantic... and wake up most mornings to find myself in a distinctly foreign culture."
—British expat writer-turned-Seattle resident Jonathan Raban speaking to Matt Frei, Americana podcast, BBC Radio 4, March 21

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:40 AM

      ( 12:12 AM ) The Rat  
THE LAST DAYS OF THE POLYMATH. An uneven article, mainly worth it for some of the descriptions of specific polymaths...

In the first half of 1802 a physician and scientist called Thomas Young gave a series of 50 lectures at London's new Royal Institution, arranged into subjects like "Mechanics" and "Hydro­dynamics." By the end, says Young's biographer Andrew Robinson, he had pretty much laid out the sum of scientific knowledge. Robinson called his book "The Last Man Who Knew Everything."

Young's achievements are staggering. He smashed Newtonian orthodoxy by showing that light is a wave, not just a particle; he described how the eye can vary its focus; and he proposed the three-colour theory of vision. In materials science, engineers dealing with elasticity still talk about Young's modulus; in linguistics, Young studied the grammar and voc­abulary of 400 or so languages and coined the term "Indo-European"; in Egyptology, Jean-François Champollion drew on his work to decode the Rosetta stone...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 AM

      ( 12:08 AM ) The Rat  
STRIPPER MOBILE BACK ON THE STREETS—though it rather sounds like they took all the fun out of it anyway. And: a relevant bumper sticker.

Terrell says a registration issue has been resolved allowing them to drive the stripper mobile again. He also says after meeting with police they've agreed to make some changes. They include having the dancers in the back of the vehicle wear more clothing while performing less suggestive moves...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 AM

      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  

The performers are mainly in their 50s and 60s, with one member being 76, and were spotted by a music business producer while he was on holiday.

The Fisherman's Friends had simply been doing what they have done for 15 years—singing sea shanties at a pub in their village in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. Now they are about to release an album after signing with recording giant Universal and are booked to play the Glastonbury Festival...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 AM

      ( 12:03 AM ) The Rat  
"One of the quickest ways to get to know a woman decently and well is to dance tango with her. There has to be a mutual surrender or there's a thrashing of limbs."
Robert Thompson

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 AM

Sunday, March 21, 2010
      ( 4:40 PM ) The Rat  
A PRETTY DUMB HYPOTHESIS ABOUT GOOD LOOKS. So many jokes! So little time! (Link via a friend.)

In a paper recently published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers Robin K. Gay and Emanuele Castano set out to document the detrimental effect of women being on the receiving end of appraising glances. A group of women took an intelligence test to set a baseline for their smarts, and then each walked around, all the while being videotaped. Each volunteer was shown her video, and then given another IQ test. By and large, the scores on the second test dropped—especially if the videographer was male.

Of course, it's not clear that the researchers have demonstrated anything with this exercise other than that when young women sit down and watch film of themselves walking back and forth, they get self-conscious and distracted. Or perhaps it's merely proof that participation in contrived social psychology experiments is in and of itself stupefying. But maybe it does explain one of the most durable and perplexing caricatures of popular culture: the notion that pretty women are dumb. It's all the leering of men, you see: lookers attract more looks, and their IQs suffer accordingly...

And here is a related article (from a few months back, but I don't think I posted it at the time), Men lose their minds speaking to pretty women.

[M]en who spend even a few minutes in the company of an attractive woman perform less well in tests designed to measure brain function than those who chat to someone they do not find attractive.

Psychologists at Radboud University in The Netherlands carried out the study after one of them was so struck on impressing an attractive woman he had never met before, that he could not remember his address when she asked him where he lived.
Researchers said it was as if he was so keen to make an impression he "temporarily absorbed most of his cognitive resources"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:40 PM

      ( 4:36 PM ) The Rat  

Given her jet-black hair, thick black eyeliner, black clothes and combat boots, people didn't always know what to think upon meeting her. She was quirky, the sort who excused herself from a social gathering by saying she had to wash her socks. And she was fearless, the kind of woman who not only kept the camera rolling while under fire, but zoomed in on a soldier who was shooting at her.

Born Margaret Wilson in Gisborne, New Zealand, to a homemaker and a man who made swimming pools, she got her first camera at age 8. She later changed her name to Margaret Gipsy Moth, a nod to the airplane, which was appropriate for a woman who had a penchant for jumping out of planes, barefoot.

She said she never aspired to be a photojournalist. Rather her path, she explained, was mostly driven by a love of history and her desire to see it unfold firsthand...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:36 PM

      ( 7:46 AM ) The Rat  
I FORGOT TO MENTION THIS, but yesterday was National Ravioli Day. (Much as I love ravioli, I'm much more excited at the prospect of Something on a Stick Day next Sunday—though it seems odd that that should fall in spring rather than in summer.) Found this awesome site recently where you can look up food holidays like on a saints' calendar. My own birthday, going by this, would appear to coincide with both Eat All Your Vegetables Day and National Apple Streudel Day, which seems an appropriately manic-depressive combination.

Note that there's actually somebody out there blogging a "one-year journey through the national 'Food(s) of the Day'" throughout 2010!

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:46 AM

      ( 7:42 AM ) The Rat  
TRAVEL AGENCY SEEKS 'HONEYMOON TESTER,' via IKM. Not to be a wet blanket here, but I could see this leading to a certain amount of marital discord once the honeymoon, as it were, was over...

In what could possibly be the world's greatest job, one fortunate pair will be paid £18,000 to sip champagne and relax on beaches in locations including the Maldives, Thailand and Zanzibar.

According to the job description, they will be required to sample cocktails, test outdoor waterfall showers and "lie in hammocks slung between two palm trees"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:42 AM

Saturday, March 20, 2010
      ( 6:38 PM ) The Rat  
AN AMAZON PAYPHRASE from (scroll down a little). Totally a cheap laugh, but you know what, some of us don't throw the little ones back.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:38 PM

      ( 6:34 PM ) The Rat  
A DOG-AND-MOZART-OPERA STORY, via JB. Here is one YouTube clip of the relevant aria (with surtitles, and Bryn Terfel as Figaro).

Despite my positive emotional response to talking animals, I've never taught an animal to speak, not even a parrot or a mynah. It's definitely one of the those things about my life I would regret, if the question came up. I once taught a dog to sing, though.

Well, I'm exaggerating. A disinterested observer might conclude that it was the dog who taught me to sing. Here's the true story.

In the summer of 2000, I was dog-sitting for Rich and Sally Thomason at their cabin in rural Montana. Once a week, I had to drive an hour to the nearest supermarket to do the shopping, and course Kwala would come with me.

When I played music in the car, I discovered that at certain points, Kwala would howl along. Her favorites were the soulful climaxes of country-western ballads and the tutti passages of Mozart orchestral works...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:34 PM

      ( 2:45 PM ) The Rat  

The contents of Kennedy's home have been here at Mini U Storage since Jan. 17, the day he moved from his Newport Beach condo after getting kicked out by a couple sheriff's deputies. Kennedy, 46, lost his six-figure corporate development job 19 months ago, he fell behind on his mortgage payments and his house went into foreclosure. He filed for bankruptcy last August and it was finalized in January. To the logical Kennedy, the story is simple.

'I'm not going to claim I was cheated out of my house,' Kennedy says several times. 'I didn't pay my mortgage.'

Now the former frequent flier from his days working in IT and finance is living off those rewards—airline loyalty programs and hotel points. His clothes and everyday supplies packed into his leased BMW the single Kennedy stays a few nights here, a few nights there, always running the numbers of how many points he will use and trying to stick to a self-imposed $5-a-day food budget...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:45 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.

'At any rate I'll never go THERE again!' said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. 'It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!'

Just as she said this, she noticed that one of the trees had a door leading right into it. 'That's very curious!' she thought. 'But everything's curious today. I think I may as well go in at once.' And in she went.

Once more she found herself in the long hall, and close to the little glass table. 'Now, I'll manage better this time,' she said to herself, and began by taking the little golden key, and unlocking the door that led into the garden. Then she went to work nibbling at the mushroom (she had kept a piece of it in her pocket) till she was about a foot high: then she walked down the little passage: and THEN—she found herself at last in the beautiful garden, among the bright flower-beds and the cool fountains.

'A Mad Tea-Party'

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:42 PM

      ( 10:14 AM ) The Rat  
WOMAN WISHES HAPPY MEAL A HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I actually get this weird feeling of satisfaction when something goes moldy (though of course try to avoid that happening to minimize food/money waste), just from knowing that it got the microorganism vote for having at least some nutritional content. (It really is an obvious difference, as I noticed when e.g. I switched from lighter breads to darker—the latter go bad much faster than the former.) Don't remember when this particular mental tic started—may have been back in high school, when JS tried leaving a stick of butter out for three weeks for a science experiment, only to be foiled because nothing happened to it—presumably thanks to preservatives, it not only never went rancid but didn't even smell.

And on a related note, here is an old favorite Far Side.

A Colorado woman recently celebrated the the first birthday of a burger and fries she's been keeping on her office bookshelf.

"I bought a Happy Meal and then placed it on my office shelf, right behind me and my computer. It sat on my shelf for a year as a silent witness to our fast food industry," wrote Joann Bruso on her blog,

Bruso said the Happy Meal, despite being left out for an entire year, hasn't decomposed one bit...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:14 AM

      ( 1:57 AM ) The Rat  

According to police, the 17-year-old suspect broke into the office of a furniture store to heist some stuff, including an iPhone and a camera. He also used the office computer to check out porn sites and post updates to his MySpace page... for about five hours.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:57 AM

      ( 12:58 AM ) The Rat  
FOUND BY ACCIDENT while trying to locate an article version of the preceding story: Peru poison frog reveals secret of monogamy. This is apparently the first monogamous amphibian yet discovered—who knew amphibians were such sluts??

Genetic tests have revealed that male and females of one species of Peruvian poison frog remain utterly faithful.

More surprising is the discovery that just one thing—the size of the pools of water in which they lay their tadpoles—prevents the frogs straying.

That constitutes the best evidence yet documented that monogamy can have a single cause, say scientists...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:58 AM

      ( 12:54 AM ) The Rat  
FERTILITY CLINIC RAFFLES DONOR EGG. From about a week ago. I hope "baby profiling" isn't the official name of that service... if so they really need to get new marketing people.

A fertility clinic in London is raffling a human egg for older women who are desperate to become a mum.

The clinic has organised the raffle to promote its new "baby profiling" service, which will allow the winner to pick the egg donor based on their ethnic background, upbringing and education...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:54 AM

Friday, March 19, 2010
      ( 1:00 PM ) The Rat  
COLOSSAL AND ULTIMATE LUXURY EASTER EGGS. I'm assuming these are marked "not suitable for export" because they could also accurately be described as "weapons-grade." (Fortnum's closed down their Stateside distribution center about a year ago, btw, which is annoying as it means I now need to go to London to reload once I'm out of their Earl Grey. Wait, did I say "annoying"? I meant "awesome"!) (They do still offer international delivery, but the markup is ridiculous.)

Nice pic of the interior of the Piccadilly store here (scroll down).

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:00 PM

      ( 12:47 PM ) The Rat  
APPARENTLY THE APOCALYPSE ISN'T PLANNING TO SNEAK UP ON US. Ratty just got an e-mail from directing her to this, "a personality image quiz that gives you Los Angeles Times stories personalized for you."

The quiz is easy and fun to do and is powered by a smart technology called VisualDNA. All you have to do is pick the images that appeal to you. Developed in the UK with leading psychologists, over 20 million people have already discovered their VisualDNA. Why not try it today?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:47 PM

      ( 12:45 PM ) The Rat  
NEEDZ... DECAF. Actually not applicable today—for once! Couldn't find this on ICHC (where I originally saw it), so this is off a mirror site.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:45 PM

      ( 3:59 AM ) The Rat  
STAG NIGHT: STRIPPERS, BEER, AUSCHWITZ. How I live for news stories like this... (BBC had a hysterical interview with one of the Chillisauce people—it's the last few minutes of the March 16 Global News podcast.)

The UK paper quoted David Stacey, a satisfied client. "A lady called Kate was our tour guide and she was excellent," Stacey said. "She came out with us on the first and second night and organized white-water rafting and a trip to Auschwitz, which were both very good for different reasons."

The Chillisauce website invites potential clients with the words, "Why not take a break from your stag weekend mayhem and immerse yourself in a little world-defining history before the 20-odd pints later in the evening"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:59 AM

      ( 3:13 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY WAS PLEASED TO FIND that a reader found this blog yesterday by Googling brothers karamazov drinking game. The one ET and I put together way back when was not Karamazov-specific—hope it worked anyway, though!

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:13 AM

      ( 3:08 AM ) The Rat  
WHEN COUPLES FIGHT ON FACEBOOK, EVERYONE KNOWS THE SCORE, via IKM. Please don't ever let me be stuck in an elevator with one of these people.

Mr. Gower, a master of the passive-aggressive status update, lobbed this one in January: "How is it my birthday is only one day, but my woman's last a whole damn week?"

Ms. Andrews, seemingly not one to watch a ball go by, took a full swing with this comment: "GET OVER IT!!! UGH!!!!!!"

Mr. Gower replied by calling his fiancée a name that can’t be printed here, until the exchange became the social networking equivalent of shattered china at a dinner party.

Eventually, Skyler Hurt, 22, a friend and a bridesmaid, intervened: "Hey, you guys know we can still see this right...?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:08 AM

Thursday, March 18, 2010
      ( 9:42 AM ) The Rat  
CÉLESTE BOURSIER-MOUGENOT AT BARBICAN CENTRE, LONDON. Awesome (but does require sound)—and just one more reason to wish I were at the Barbican, sigh. Londonist has a blurb on Boursier-Mougenot's installation here.

There's not really a lot to say about this new installation, other than get the hell down to the Barbican at your next opportunity. Even the most arts-immune cynic can't help but find pleasure in this: a flock of colourful zebra finches playing electric guitars.

Upturned cymbals full of bird seed or water, amped-up guitars and microphone perches have been dotted around the Barbican's Curve Gallery. As you move through the space, the birds soar around you, sometimes at you, coming to rest on the various instruments (they seem to flock, particularly, to the bass guitars). The resulting sound is more minimalist than cacophony. Clangs and twangs (surely that wasn't a chord?) fall randomly, with occasional rhythms emerging from the bass-string hops of an individual bird...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:42 AM

      ( 9:11 AM ) The Rat  

But this story—and Facebook's continued growth in India—is not a prosaic one of devices, apps, and Internet penetration alone. It is about the Indian nature and temperament.

India is a land of the "open crowd"—to use Elias Canetti's idea from his landmark Crowds and Power—the type of crowd which, as soon as it comes together, "wants to consist of more people." As if in fulfillment of a social-media dream, "the urge to grow is the first and supreme attribute of [this] crowd… there are no limits whatever to its growth; it does not recognize houses, doors or locks and those who shut themselves in are suspect." (How else to explain the hurt notes, the messages of reproach, that one gets from Indians when one does not agree to "friend" them? "Sir," one man wrote to me, "I am really unhappy that you will not respond [to] the friendship request. I have admired your writing for several years. Also, I think we both hail from Tamil Nadu state. So please reconsider.")

Not wanting to rely entirely on the insights of Canetti, a Bulgarian-German who never set foot in India, I consulted a couple of Indian experts on the subject. Prem Panicker, managing editor of Yahoo! India, said that Facebook's success had to do with "the whole 'community' thing. We, as a race, tend to herd together. This works two ways: hearing constantly that the world is on Facebook makes us want to be part of that herd. Secondly, we are sold on the idea of being able to rope in friends, even relatives, into a social circle with constant contact."

Social media was invented for Indians, says Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media professor at Columbia and co-founder of SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association. "They take to it naturally and with great passion. It allows them to do two things they love: Tell everyone what they are doing; and stick their noses into other people's business." (The gregarious Prof. Sreenivasan, when last I checked, had 4,995 Facebook friends; he, his wife, and his father—a retired Indian ambassador to the U.N.—are all my Facebook friends. My wife and brother are the professor's friends, too. Q.E.D.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:11 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  
'WEMBLEY WAY' BUILT BY GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR. A sad report, but with a rather sweet love story at the end. Also note the shades of "You started it!... you invaded Poland!"

At one point, in 1946, there were 400,000 German prisoners of war in Britain. The majority were sent to work the land.

With Britain and much of Europe still in the grip of food rationing they were needed to harvest crops. At this time one in five farm workers in Britain were German POWs. [...]

Some argued that Britain was in breach of the Geneva Convention for not releasing the POWs as soon as fighting had finished.

The government denied the charge. It claimed that the convention did not apply because no actual peace deal had been signed with Germany which had surrendered unconditionally.

Ministers further insisted that the use of German POW labour was entirely justified because Germany had started the war and was therefore to blame for Britain's labour shortage...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 8:51 AM ) The Rat  
CONTESTANTS TURN TORTURERS IN FRENCH TV EXPERIMENT; or, Stanley Milgram goes prime-time. Link via IKM.

"The Game of Death" has all the trappings of a traditional television quiz show, with a roaring crowd and a glamorous and well-known hostess urging the players on under gaudy studio lights.

Not knowing that the screaming victim is really an actor, the apparently reluctant contestants yield to the orders of the presenter and chants of "Punishment!" from a studio audience who also believed the game was real...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:51 AM

      ( 8:48 AM ) The Rat  
TIME YOU WENT TO BED, GRUMPY TEENS TOLD. As these are teenagers, might be simpler to go straight to the tranquilizer darts...

Margaret Thatcher famously ran the country on five hours' sleep. But thousands of young people who try to live the same way are suffering brain impairment as a result, harming their health and their ability to learn.

Research in Scotland suggests that some pupils get only four hours’ sleep a night when they need more than nine. The situation is so serious that experts are running a pilot scheme in four Glasgow schools to emphasise the importance of sleep...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:48 AM

      ( 8:46 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:46 AM

      ( 12:03 AM ) The Rat  

Also very, very much worth your time: Fulfill My Waffle House Fantasy (though I found the last line sadly predictable).

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 AM

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
      ( 7:33 PM ) The Rat  

Imagine a number of safety deposit boxes, in different banks in different countries. No one is quite sure what's inside them.

Yet private individuals, state bodies and commercial institutions are locked in a seemingly endless legal battle to own their contents.

Sounds like a Kafka novel? Well, almost...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:33 PM

      ( 6:39 PM ) The Rat  
BRITON IS RECOGNISED AS WORLD'S FIRST OFFICIALLY GENDERLESS PERSON, via ET. My favorite thing about this is the way the reporter studiously avoids any constructions that might require the use of "he" or "she." (I can't tell whether it's done subtly or not, as it's the first thing I checked for once I'd read the headline.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:39 PM

      ( 6:09 PM ) The Rat  
BRIEF CODA TO MY EARLIER NOTE ON THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FINALS. I meant to write a real post on this (perhaps including the entire program, as I was intrigued by the competitors' choices of arias to best show off their vocal/dramatic strengths), but am thinking it'll prob. be easier to cut-and-paste the text of a quick e-mail I just sent JN on the subject (he'd just mentioned being friends with the coach of one of the singers).

I confess Guilbeau was not one of my three favorites (which is not to say she wasn't good). I thought the most outstanding singer of the nine was Leah Crocetto (who sang last in each half of the program—Verdi's "Ernani!... Ernani involami" in the first half, and "Ch'il bel sogno di Doretta" from La Rondine in the second). Though in some ways I liked nearly as much Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who conclusively proved she had a pair by singing a Wagner aria in the first half ("Einsam in trüben Tagen") and a Mozart in the second ("Come scoglio"). Admittedly, I'm probably biased as Mozart and Wagner are (so far) my favorite opera composers... It intrigued me, too, to see that the Mozart actually appeared to be more difficult to sing than the Wagner (or that was my impression from her performance, anyway).

They (understandably) didn't supply surtitles for these arias, btw—so I'm sure a good portion of the audience didn't know what "Come scoglio" is actually
about (I understand this concert was more popular this year than ever before, because of that documentary The Audition having been made about the process—it was very nearly a full house). (I know Così isn't exactly obscure, but its arias and plot surely aren't as well-known as those of e.g. Don Giovanni or Zauberflöte, either.) To be honest, Willis-Sørensen's interpretation of Fiordiligi was not quite my own idea of the character (though I'm prob. biased because of having seen/heard recordings of Fiordiligis I've liked a lot)—still, what astonished me about her rendering of that aria was that you definitely had the sense that even without surtitles, the audience not only understood what Fiordiligi was protesting, but also understood that she was protesting too much! I don't know how much of the credit for that to give to Willis-Sørensen's dramatic/musical intelligence, and how much simply to Mozart's music! (Googling around a few days later, I discovered a doctoral dissertation written at Columbia in '92, on irony in Mozart's operas, which I'm dying to get hold of and read!!!)

Anyway—as I said, I didn't think Willis-Sørensen was
quite as impressive as Crocetto overall. Even so, however, that "Come scoglio," in particular, went down so well with the audience that we were all still applauding even after she'd left the stage—the stage manager didn't let her come out for a second bow, but the audience clearly wanted her to. (This was the only performance of the afternoon that that happened with.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:09 PM

      ( 1:49 PM ) The Rat  
I WOULD WORK ON cutting down on the frequency with which I befriend people prone to gnomic utterances, if only they weren't generally more fun than the non-gnomic people. From an e-mail that just came in from one of same (whose identity can probably be guessed by those of you familiar with my social set). Context is basically irrelevant; also, note how much better this sentence is with the misspelling and dropped apostrophe... sort of vaguely Faulknerian.

Nobody really can figure it out becuase sex you know its a problem.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:49 PM

      ( 1:43 PM ) The Rat  
OPERA FOR BABIES. Link via JB. (Don't miss the reader comments, while you're there.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:43 PM

      ( 12:29 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAS JUST BEEN LOOKING AT this oversized list of Internet abbreviations to see if anybody besides ET uses "IHU" for "I hate you" (looks like not—but hey, when would she and I ever need to say "I hear you" to each other?!).

Just based on a quick scan, I have to say my favorite entry on that list is easily "IHTFP"... some of us don't really know how to intend only one of those meanings at a time, you know?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:29 AM

      ( 12:22 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 AM

      ( 12:21 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 AM

      ( 12:16 AM ) The Rat  
SPEAKING OF LAND/NATURE-RELATED MATTERS, check out these charts depicting the inverse relationship between federal agricultural subsidies and federal nutrition recommendations.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:16 AM

      ( 12:05 AM ) The Rat  
HOW GOING GREEN MAY MAKE YOU MEAN. I seem to remember reading about studies of this type being conducted in relation to other behaviors (e.g., charitable giving). This article also reminded me of the latest nuttiness from Hugo Chávez—I use CFLs myself, but it's not always the "greenest" move to just throw out your old stuff (thereby wasting all the energy and resources that went into producing it) in order to swap it out for the latest "approved" version... besides which, with any luck we'll be on to LEDs in not super long.

Of course, the other reason I'm sticking this article here is so I don't passive-aggressively e-mail it to the friend whose faux-hippie husband I can't stand!

According to a study, when people feel they have been morally virtuous by saving the planet through their purchases of organic baby food, for example, it leads to the "licensing [of] selfish and morally questionable behaviour," otherwise known as "moral balancing" or "compensatory ethics."

Do Green Products Make Us Better People is published in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science. Its authors, Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, argue that people who wear what they call the "halo of green consumerism" are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. "Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours," they write.

The pair found that those in their study who bought green products appeared less willing to share with others a set amount of money than those who bought conventional products. When the green consumers were given the chance to boost their money by cheating on a computer game and then given the opportunity to lie about it—in other words, steal—they did, while the conventional consumers did not. Later, in an honour system in which participants were asked to take money from an envelope to pay themselves their spoils, the greens were six times more likely to steal than the conventionals.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 AM

      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  
WHO'S A GIRL GOTTA FUCK TO GET SOME CLOSURE ON HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HER FATHER? An old one, but still fun (was re-reading it after a friend sent it earlier tonight ...hey wait, was that a hint or something?).

I am so jealous of how easy the other girls make it look. Take my old roommate, Gloria. Her father was a sexually repressed germaphobe who made her feel incredibly self-conscious about her body. Okay, fair enough. But what does she do about it? She overcompensates and goes to bed with a couple of unsavory characters her dad would never approve of, adjusts for it when they don't work out by marrying an anal-retentive button-down-type just like dear old dad, and voila! Total closure, a stable marriage reinforced by mutual sexual neuroses, and in no time, three kids to pass her pathologies on to without realizing it...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 AM

      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  
WHATEVER OTHER EPITHETS you may want to apply to Ratty, "gender-neutral" probably isn't going to work.* Realized at one point last night that I had Safari windows open for Instant Messaging, a short but sweet review of Guerlain's 1912 "L'heure bleue", counterterrorism porn, a brief guide to how long various cut flowers typically last, and Thanks to the magic of cookies, there were ads for the NYCO splashed all over this other page about movie/TV-show body counts, which I was looking at just after that.

If I could, I would post the photo taken of me with the deer I shot in '06 with a pink, watermelon-decoupaged M16** to really clinch my case... (According to a note I sent ET that day, and which I found while digging up said photo in my archives, my hunting partner had come upstairs shortly afterward—in some trepidation lest I be suffering any qualms following the kill—and found me poring over the dresses in the new Vogue. "Sociopath"—in some families, it's a term of endearment!)

*Though a blind girl once told a mutual acquainance that I'd struck her as being "asexual"! Also, I suppose you might argue that highly gendered tastes/tendencies actually count as neutralizing each other in a zero-sum-game kind of way.

**MG felt I should have used this on my Christmas cards that year, but this particular hunt took place about a week or two after Christmas.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
      ( 9:55 AM ) The Rat  
BARING MY HEART—an old xkcd favorite.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 AM

      ( 9:25 AM ) The Rat  
AN 'EXTREME MAKE-OVER' FOR THE SAUDI RELIGIOUS POLICE. Includes a pic of the Committee's "new fleet of vice-busting vehicles"!

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:25 AM

      ( 9:07 AM ) The Rat  
HERE is a fun little story I heard about via Saturday's Wait, Wait!

"So every time [the would-be car thief] tried to get out of the car, the owners just kept hitting the lock button on their key fob, and eventually he gave up trying to get out," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ed Seifert said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 AM

      ( 9:04 AM ) The Rat  
TABLE OF CONDIMENTS. And, a (mostly badly written, so don't say I didn't warn you) piece on convenience foods recently linked over at A&LD.

Some of the blips on the prepared food screen, meanwhile, were at least health-minded (if not actually healthy). The year 2000 saw Shareables, a line of foods and bottled water sold solely by PetSmart. Designed to be shared by humans and pets, Shareables featured treats like yogurt-covered raisins for the humans coupled with pet food. In 2007 there was GOAT, a food-like product that launched after Muhummad Ali signed away his name and likeness. The resulting line of “Greatest of All Time” snacks, each checking in at under 150 calories had a "homemade look and feel," "contain[ed] all of the essential nutrition that young adults need to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle," and allowed snackers to "indulge without guilt or regret." (The same megolomaniac branding claimed that Ali was "the most recognized man in the world"—sorry, Jesus.) GOAT was also the only food listed so far that I had the unfortunate luck to actually try. I was treated to a snack of multicolored pellets that resembled a cross between pet food and futuristic vitamin pills that tasted like peanuts wrapped in a crispy coating of Southwestern disappointment...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:04 AM

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

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