The Rat
Friday, April 30, 2010
      ( 10:30 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY could get used to this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:30 PM

      ( 7:06 AM ) The Rat  
YESTERDAY, BTW, WAS THOMAS BEECHAM'S BIRTHDAY, as I'd have remembered if I hadn't been so busy doing that lolgiraffe thing in reaction to various school stuff.

Here is an alarmingly comprehensive, somewhat saint's-calendar-esque list of Composer Birthdays Sorted by Day of Year (scroll down a bit).

And, a quickie from Beecham Stories:

Reminiscence of stern warning to an audience out of control through wild enthusiasm over one of his [encores]: 'We applauded and applauded and in the end he said that if we didn't go home he would "turn the hoses on us."'

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:06 AM

      ( 5:27 AM ) The Rat  
We stumbled in the frozen ruts of the road that led up Hardscrabble Hill. I had always refrained from interfering with Hart's life, but at last I was making the effort to give him good advice. I said, bringing the words out haltingly, that he had been devoting himself to the literature of ecstasy and that it involved more of a psychological strain than most writers could stand. Now, having finished The Bridge, perhaps he might shift over to the literature of experience, as Goethe had done (I was trying to persuade him by using great examples). It might be years before he was ready to undertake another group of poems as ambitious as those he had just completed. In the meantime he might cultivate his talent for writing quiet and thoughtful prose.

Hart cut me short. 'Oh, you mean that I shouldn't drink so much.'

Exile's Return

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:27 AM

Thursday, April 29, 2010
      ( 7:19 PM ) The Rat  
IN PICTURES: MUSICAL RATS. Because... who needs a reason?

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:19 PM

      ( 6:47 PM ) The Rat  

And... a questionable shopping list from Fail Blog.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:47 PM

      ( 4:02 PM ) The Rat  
THE QUOTABLE HB (of his friend FK, whom he's also been known to describe as "the finest mind ever to emerge from the Isle of Man"): "Well, for years we had a rather imperfect relationship..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:02 PM

      ( 5:59 AM ) The Rat  

It is hoped their slightly erratic behaviour, along with the groaning noises and the sound they make when afraid or angry, will be a deterrent. They are also known to spit at and attack each other when provoked, but are gentle creatures when calm.

The llama and its relative the alpaca are already used as livestock guards to protect lambs and sheep from predators...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 AM

      ( 5:55 AM ) The Rat  
VEGAN TATTOOS. Disturbing.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:55 AM

      ( 5:52 AM ) The Rat  

The problem is so bad that locals say historic monuments are being "devastated' by the rabbits and they are devouring the self-sufficient islanders' gardens away.

Even the island's only restaurant has responded to the bounty and put on dishes of rabbit and cranberry with pistachio and rabbit pie in a rosemary and thyme cream sauce.

The war against the rats began in 2005 when a team from New Zealand laid deadly bait at 4,200 locations around the five-mile long island, which has little more than 20 residents.

So rapid and successful was the slaughter that the body of the last of around 10,000 brown rats was found and removed in February 2006...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:52 AM

      ( 5:39 AM ) The Rat  
FAIRFIELD COUNTY CLOSES HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO TREAT FOR FLEAS. No mention of what department is in charge of inspecting the health department?

Chipmunks and bats also have been spotted in the building...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:39 AM

      ( 5:38 AM ) The Rat  
"[I]n our world, whatever is beautiful is always considered a little bit old-fashioned. And if it's kind of ugly, immediately we say, 'Wow, but it is so modern.'"
—Alber Elbaz, Allure, March 2007

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:38 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
      ( 4:36 PM ) The Rat  
GUÉDELON: CHANTIER MÉDIÉVAL. Those looking to save on airfare can also check out its Stateside counterpart (also by Michel Guyot), the Ozark Medieval Fortress. All of which said, if you need a castle before 2022 I'd imagine you could also commission something from the people who did the inflatable church.

In the heart of Puisaye, in Yonne, Burgundy, a team of fifty people have taken on an extraordinary feat: to build a castle using the very same techniques and materials used in the Middle Ages.

The materials needed for the construction of the castle—wood, stone, earth, sand and clay—are all to be found here, in this abandoned quarry. Before the gaze of thousands of visitors, all the trades associated with castle-building—quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, tile makers, basket makers, rope makers, carters and their horses—are working together to complete the castle.

Work on the site began in 1997 and is scheduled to take 25 years to complete...

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:36 PM

      ( 12:51 PM ) The Rat  
"SHOULDN'T THAT CAPTION BE '2 OF THESE THINGS AREN'T LIKE THE OTHERS'?" Reader comment I wish I'd thought of, left on this amusing post at Manolo's Shoe Blog.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:51 PM

      ( 7:59 AM ) The Rat  
"MACHEN SIE ES WIE MADAME BRUNI." Also see the reader comment.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:59 AM

      ( 7:24 AM ) The Rat  
HELL, via xkcd. Bonus: Computer Problems.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:24 AM

      ( 3:30 AM ) The Rat  
IS TECHNOLOGY MAKING CHILDREN MORE EMPATHIC? I have to say, I certainly haven't seen an uptick in empathy among e.g. college-aged students, as a result of this supposed "revolution"... Linking this article because it's recent, but if you're thinking about this topic at all I'd more strongly recommend reading William Deresiewicz's "The End of Solitude", published last year in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. ("I once asked my students about the place that solitude has in their lives. One of them admitted that she finds the prospect of being alone so unsettling that she'll sit with a friend even when she has a paper to write. Another said, why would anyone want to be alone?"), though I don't endorse absolutely everything in it. And this and this are also worth a skim.

The authors of the Kaiser study say they were shocked. Following a similar survey in 2005, they concluded that the use of electronic devices could not possibly grow further. Their 2009 study found several worrisome trends, such as the correlation of heavy media use with behavioral problems and lower grades. What are parents to do? Some experts suggest they simply get over it. Pediatrician Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health of Children's Hospital Boston, says that media use among kids is so pervasive that it is time to stop arguing over whether it is good or bad and accept it as part of children's environment, "like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat."

Many observers such as Rifkin believe there are positives in the desire of kids to be electronically connected all the time. Concealed in this behavior, they say, is a need for acceptance and to be liked and loved, which is a healthy desire that has always been a part of the maturational process. The obsessive reaching out via electronic media may be one remove from empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If so, could educators proactively pick up this ball and run with it? This seems to be happening. In April 2009 The New York Times, in a front-page article, reviewed the empathy revolution that is taking place in American classrooms. Workshops and curricula to foster core values such as empathy, respect, responsibility and integrity now exist in eighteen states. Results of these pioneering efforts are encouraging. Schools report a marked decrease in bullying, violence, aggression and other anti-social behavior, fewer disciplinary actions, increased cooperation among students, more pro-social behavior, more focused attention in classrooms, a greater desire to learn and improved critical thinking skills...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:30 AM

      ( 12:09 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY FINDS GREAT, ALBEIT PRESUMABLY UNINTENDED, HUMOR in the line: "Festivities include a plein air café and bookstore and meet-the-poet opportunities."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 AM

      ( 12:08 AM ) The Rat  
I, who was acquainted with many Albertines in one person, seemed now to see many more again, reposing by my side. Her eyebrows, arched as I had never seen them, enclosed the globes of her eyelids like a halcyon's downy nest. Races, atavisms, vices reposed upon her face. Whenever she moved her head, she created a fresh woman, often one whose existence I had never suspected. I seemed to possess not one, but innumerable girls. Her breathing, as it became gradually deeper, was now regularly stirring her bosom and, through it, her folded hands, her pearls, displaced in a different way by the same movement, like the boats, the anchor chains that are set swaying by the movement of the tide. Then, feeling that the tide of her sleep was full, that I should not ground upon reefs of consciousness covered now by the high water of profound slumber, deliberately, I crept without a sound upon the bed, lay down by her side, clasped her waist in one arm, placed my lips upon her cheek and heart, then upon every part of her body in turn laid my free hand, which also was raised, like the pearls, by Albertine's breathing; I myself was gently rocked by its regular motion: I had embarked upon the tide of Albertine's sleep. Sometimes it made me taste a pleasure that was less pure. For this I had no need to make any movement, I allowed my leg to dangle against hers, like an oar which one allows to trail in the water, imparting to it now and again a gentle oscillation like the intermittent flap given to its wing by a bird asleep in the air. I chose, in gazing at her, this aspect of her face which no one ever saw and which was so pleasing.

It is I suppose comprehensible that the letters which we receive from a person are more or less similar and combine to trace an image of the writer so different from the person whom we know as to constitute a second personality. But how much stranger is it that a woman should be conjoined, like Rosita and Doodica, with another woman whose different beauty makes us infer another character, and that in order to behold one we must look at her in profile, the other in full face. The sound of her breathing as it grew louder might give the illusion of the breathless ecstasy of pleasure and, when mine was at its climax, I could kiss her without having interrupted her sleep. I felt at such moments that I had been possessing her more completely, like an unconscious and unresisting object of dumb nature. I was not affected by the words that she muttered occasionally in her sleep, their meaning escaped me, and besides, whoever the unknown person to whom they referred, it was upon my hand, upon my cheek that her hand, as an occasional tremor recalled it to life, stiffened for an instant. I relished her sleep with a disinterested, soothing love, just as I would remain for hours listening to the unfurling of the waves.

Perhaps it is laid down that people must be capable of making us suffer intensely before, in the hours of respite, they can procure for us the same soothing calm as Nature. I had not to answer her as when we were engaged in conversation, and even if I could have remained silent, as for that matter I did when it was she that was talking, still while listening to her voice I did not penetrate so far into herself. As I continued to hear, to gather from moment to moment the murmur, soothing as a barely perceptible breeze, of her breath, it was a whole physiological existence that was spread out before me, for me; as I used to remain for hours lying on the beach, in the moonlight, so long could I have remained there gazing at her, listening to her.

La prisonnière (text taken from here)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 AM

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
      ( 9:50 PM ) The Rat  
'A RAT THAT MOVES TOWARD A CHEESE, BUT DOES NOT EAT IT.' So many snarky jokes about Ratty's romantic history—so little time...

Is there a difference between wanting and liking? Only within the last decade, scientists have found out that there is. Here's a simple explanation. Everything from outside is perceived by our senses, the sight, smell, sound, and taste of it. From there, it goes on its way to the brain through a few circuits (we call them neuronal pathways), which, once the signal has reached the brain, will elicit a response, such as liking, wanting or hating. Neurologists have a device which can detect the active circuits (the circuits that are being used). For example, if you see a flower and you like it, the circuit from your senses into your brain will light up. Many people thought that liking and wanting are the same. It makes sense, doesn't it? For example, you want a cheeseburger because you like it. You want to play basketball because you like it. For many years, scientists thought this too, but a failed experiment revealed it's wrong.

An experiment was done on rats and primates, in which the 'want circuit,' the circuit which is activated when you want something, is cut off. Scientist believed that this will suppress their 'wants' towards food, so that the rats wouldn't have an effect toward the presentation of food (in this experiment, a cheese). But what they discovered was surprising. The rat instead still moved toward the food like a hungry animal, but once it came close to the cheese, the rat just stayed there and didn't eat it! They tried moving the cheese, and still, the rat moved towards the cheese, but then just stayed there, not eating it. It totally puzzled the scientists. So they used the device to measure the brain circuits, and realized that although the 'want circuit' is cut off, another circuit which ends at the same area of the brain lights up. Now this is the discovery of the 'like circuit.' The scientists concluded that there are different circuits in the brain for 'liking' and 'wanting'...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:50 PM

      ( 5:26 PM ) The Rat  
THEME FAIL, via Fail Blog.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:26 PM

      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  
AN INTERACTIVE MAP of NYC subway stops.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 PM

      ( 1:11 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:11 PM

      ( 12:39 PM ) The Rat  

A strapping Army sniper who once brimmed with confidence, [Crawford] had returned emotionally broken from Iraq, where he suffered two concussions from roadside bombs and watched several platoon mates burn to death. The transition unit at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs, seemed the surest way to keep suicidal thoughts at bay, his mother thought.

It did not work. He was prescribed a laundry list of medications for anxiety, nightmares, depression and headaches that made him feel listless and disoriented. His once-a-week session with a nurse case manager seemed grossly inadequate to him. And noncommissioned officers—soldiers supervising the unit—harangued or disciplined him when he arrived late to formation or violated rules.

Last August, Specialist Crawford attempted suicide with a bottle of whiskey and an overdose of painkillers. By the end of last year, he was begging to get out of the unit.

"It is just a dark place," said the soldier, who is waiting to be medically discharged from the Army. "Being in the W.T.U. is worse than being in Iraq."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:39 PM

      ( 12:30 PM ) The Rat  
BEFORE TODAY, Ratty would have said there were few things to rival the particular quality of horror she experiences on arriving at a friend's house and discovering that he or she has actually kept one or more of her letters. A couple of hours ago, though, she discovered at least one way it can get worse: viz., the friend who's done so can be an eminent literary critic whose collected letters and papers are bound to be fully archived in the course of time. (I'd thought HB threw out all his letters—that's what he's always done with every letter he's ever received from anyone and read in my presence, and there've been tons of those!)

Fortunately, however many of my letters may have survived to go that route (and there's a decent chance it's just the one I spotted this morning), I doubt I'll need to worry about anyone reading them, as I also learned this morning that HB once received a fan letter from David Bowie (though he couldn't recollect where and whether he'd kept it). I'd thought my respect for HB was already maxed out before; I was totally wrong.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:30 PM

      ( 8:51 AM ) The Rat  
AND ON A SLIGHTLY LESS SUBLIME NOTE... check out these creative Jello shots.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:51 AM

      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
Their places of refuge often changed. The old car, which the girl drove, took them to the zoo to see the giraffes, to Bagatelle to see the irises and the clematis in the spring, or the asters in the fall. She noted the names of the asters—blue fog, purple, pale pink—and wondered why, since she was never able to plant them (and yet we shall have further occasion to refer to asters). But Vincennes, or the Bois de Boulogne, is a long way away. In the Bois you run into people who know you. Which, of course, left rented rooms. The same one several times in succession. Or different rooms, as chance would have it. There is a strange sweetness about the meager lighting of rented rooms in hotels near railroad stations: the modest luxury of the double bed, whose linen you leave unmade as you leave the room, has a charm all its own. And the time comes when you can no longer separate the sound of words and signs from the endless drone of the motors and the hiss of the tires climbing the street. For several years, these furtive and tender halts, in the respite that follows love, legs all entwined and arm unclasped, had been soothed by the kind of exchanges and as it were small talk in which books hold the most important place. Books were their only complete freedom, their common country, their true travels. Together they dwelt in the books they loved as others in their family home; in books they had their compatriots and their brothers; poets had written for them, the letters of lovers from times past came down to them through the obscurity of ancient languages, of modes and mores long since come and gone—all of which was read in a toneless voice in an unknown room, the sordid and miraculous dungeon against which the crowd outside, for a few short hours, beat in vain. They did not have a full night together. All of a sudden, at such and such an hour agreed upon ahead of time—the watch always remained on the wrist—they had to leave. Each had to regain his street, his house, his room, his daily bed, return to those to whom he was joined by another kind of inexpiable love, those whom fate, youth, or you yourself had given you once and for all, those whom you can neither leave nor hurt when you're involved in their lives. He, in his room, was not alone. She was alone in hers.
—Réage, "A Girl in Love"

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 AM

Monday, April 26, 2010
      ( 6:03 PM ) The Rat  
PHILOSOPHICALLY POORLY TIMED EARTHQUAKE COINCIDES WITH BOOBQUAKE. Putting this up before JB can e-mail to suggest that I put it up...

According to the Associated Press, a 6.5-magnitude "earthquake struck off the southeast coast of Taiwan on Monday, causing buildings to sway briefly but no casualties or damage. The temblor was felt at the site of a massive landslide in northern Taiwan but did not hamper rescue efforts." News of the quake has, shall we say, shaken up the event's Facebook page. One member wrote, "The Taiwan EQ doesn’t count because it happened before the official start of the experiment." Another surmised: "Our girls are powerful but as half the planet wasn't even out of bed yet, I seriously doubting [sic] the correlation!" Will Earth lose its cruelly ironic edge?

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:03 PM

      ( 5:21 PM ) The Rat  
ET'S REVIEW of that punk Richard III is up! Only real addition I have (besides a seconding of her point about Nick Pollifrone having been ridiculously good as Richard) is that one of my favorite moments in the entire production was Richard's death (V.v)—not only for the contorted pose Richard assumes after he falls (which reminded me both of Woman With Her Throat Cut and, more broadly, of a big, dead insect), but also for the ghastly look, and indeed whole attitude, of revulsion Richmond displays as he backs away from the corpse. I thought of mirror neurons, watching it—Richmond's (Kenneth Semerato) retreat from the body not only looked but actually made me viscerally feel as though I myself were backing away after squashing a particularly large and disgusting insect. Will definitely be keeping an eye out for future HitW productions (they're doing The Bacchae next month!)—this was a terrific night of theater.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:21 PM

      ( 1:02 PM ) The Rat  
RELATED TO THAT LAST, here is a Charity Navigator list of 10 charities drowning in administrative costs (is it wrong that no. 10 made me laugh?). Also see their 10 inefficient fundraisers.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:02 PM

      ( 12:50 PM ) The Rat  
IS THAT RIGHT? BUYING KFC BUCKETS FIGHTS BREAST CANCER? I rather wish more were written about this kind of thing... It's perhaps most galling with environmental causes—really, if you like the bag (or whatever) for itself, then buy it, but don't try and pretend you're saving the earth by buying more stuff rather than less. I was particularly annoyed by those "World Food Programme Feed Bags" a year or two back, which were all over Whole Foods-es but which only funneled 1/3 of the purchase price to actual people in need. If you really want to get a bigger bang for your philanthropic buck, there are better ways to go about it (well-run organizations require closer to 10 percent for administrative costs—poke around to find one doing work in a field you care about).

This link and the subway-keys thing are both via Consumerist.

So maybe you're thinking, okay, I want to be supportive, so I'll buy the bucket and chuck the chicken. No need. The fine print at the foot of the Web page points out that "KFC restaurant operators have contributed 50 cents to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure for each Komen branded bucket purchased by the operators from April 5, 2010-May 9, 2010.... Customer purchases of KFC buckets during the promotion will not directly increase the total contribution." (It's also noted that KFC has guaranteed the contribution will be at least $1 million. Which really is very nice.)

Notice that the promotions are careful not to mention that any purchase is necessary. They simply say that "for every pink bucket"—not the sale of every bucket—fifty cents goes to Komen. So we consumers are off the hook, really.

A 10-piece bucket of KFC fried chicken (including the sides) costs about $20. If you're really interested in supporting Komen for the Cure's efforts, why not just mail them a check directly?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:50 PM

      ( 12:49 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:49 PM

      ( 12:48 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:48 PM

      ( 11:01 AM ) The Rat  
ANTI-THEFT LUNCH BAGS. Yes, Ratty has friends (GV, in this case) who send her links like this first thing on a Monday. Life is good.

Anti-Theft Lunch Bags are zipper bags that have green splotches printed on both sides, making your freshly prepared lunch look spoiled. Don't let a sticky-fingered coworker or schoolyard bully get away with lunch theft again!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:01 AM

      ( 10:58 AM ) The Rat  
A COMPENDIUM OF BEAUTIFUL LIBRARIES. As ET would say, "That's a lot of libraries, Brian." I actually saw and/or was sent this page around the time it was published (2007), but completely forgot about Strahov till I happened to visit it while in Prague about two years later. It really does look exactly like it looks in the photos here.

Edited to add: Also check out these spiffy designs by David Garcia ("Archive II is a circular library for the nomad book collector, allowing the user to step inside, and walk away with half a ton of books...").

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:58 AM

      ( 2:09 AM ) The Rat  
It often seemed to her that she thought too much about herself; you could have made her colour, any day in the year, by calling her a rank egoist. She was always planning out her development, desiring her perfection, observing her progress. Her nature had, in her conceit, a certain garden-like quality, a suggestion of perfume and murmuring boughs, of shady bowers and lengthening vistas, which made her feel that introspection was, after all, an exercise in the open air, and that a visit to the recesses of one's spirit was harmless when one returned from it with a lapful of roses. But she was often reminded that there were other gardens in the world than those of her remarkable soul, and that there were moreover a great many places which were not gardens at all—only dusky pestiferous tracts, planted thick with ugliness and misery. In the current of that repaid curiosity on which she had lately been floating, which had conveyed her to this beautiful old England and might carry her much further still, she often checked herself with the thought of the thousands of people who were less happy than herself—a thought which for the moment made her fine, full consciousness appear a kind of immodesty. What should one do with the misery of the world in a scheme of the agreeable for one's self? It must be confessed that this question never held her long. She was too young, too impatient to live, too unacquainted with pain. She always returned to her theory that a young woman whom after all every one thought clever should begin by getting a general impression of life. This impression was necessary to prevent mistakes, and after it should be secured she might make the unfortunate condition of others a subject of special attention.
Portrait of a Lady

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:09 AM

Sunday, April 25, 2010
      ( 10:52 PM ) The Rat  
OPERATION VIRGIN, a (predictably) really depressing Crossing Continents documentary on views of virginity in the Arab world.

Across the Arab world, whether the woman is Christian or Muslim, virginity before marriage is the most coveted gift on the wedding list. It signifies the honour of the bride's family and reflects the integrity of the groom and his family.

Now women who have lost their virginity before their wedding night have discovered a face-saving solution to this controversial and sometimes life-threatening dilemma. Under cover of the burgeoning fashion for plastic surgery, women are undergoing hymen repair surgery to artificially restore the appearance of "virginity," and so bridging this cultural and sexual divide.

Lebanese journalist Najlaa Abou Merhi from the BBC Arabic TV Service meets "Nada," "Mouna" and "Sonia"—Arab women spanning three generations who lost their virginity while teenagers but felt compelled to regain it through the medical procedure called hymenoplasty...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 PM

      ( 10:28 PM ) The Rat  

"This is a scan of the cocktail napkin for The View, the rotating restaurant/cocktail lounge at the top of the Times Square Marriott," says Liam Flanagan. The 360-degree map on this napkin, oriented with west on top (shouldn't that be 'occidented' then?), provides the names of some of the buildings visible from that vantage point.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 PM

      ( 10:27 PM ) The Rat  

Yamamoto eats instant noodles for breakfast five days a week—Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are cup noodle days; on Saturdays and Sundays he eats the kind that comes in plastic packaging. Until recently, Yamamoto was eating instant noodles seven days a week. He recently decided to slow down his pace for logistical reasons. "For one person to chase a single theme over a long period of time is a very special thing," he says. "I feared that, if I continued at that pace, I would get bored."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:27 PM

      ( 10:23 PM ) The Rat  

The restaurant may be another example of globalization in China, but it's also a snapshot of changing attitudes toward sex in a country full of contradictions. Gone are the days when public displays of affection were frowned upon, although selected things remain off-limits.

Pornography is strictly prohibited. A government campaign last year netted 5,000 arrests for distributing porn online. The crackdown even extended to dirty jokes sent to cellphones. Last summer, local officials blocked the opening of a sex-themed park named "Love Land" in Chongqing that featured a large collection of genitalia sculptures, calling it an "evil influence."

Yet authorities turn a blind eye when it comes to illegal brothels. Often disguised as hair salons, they remain one of the most common sights in any city, operating unabated next door to businesses and schools without the slightest fuss from locals.

"In terms of sex, China has these really competing views, socially and personally," said James Farrer, a professor at Sophia University in Tokyo who has studied sex in China. "What Hooters does is give a new model.... It's an almost family-style restaurant. It's clean. It's very far removed from the salacious commercial sex that is rampant in China."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:23 PM

      ( 9:07 AM ) The Rat  

Forget about getting a job as a police officer in Indonesia's Papua if you have had your penis enlarged. You won't get it, according to local media reports citing the Papua police chief.

An applicant "will be asked whether or not his vital organ has been enlarged," said Papua police chief Bekto Suprapto. "If he has, he will be considered unfit to join the police or the military."

The ban was applied since the unnatural size causes "hindrance during training," said police spokesman Zainuri Lubis in Jakarta...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:07 AM

      ( 8:45 AM ) The Rat  

For the fifth year in a row, the faithful bird has flown back to the same rooftop in east Croatia to see his disabled partner.

He spends his winters alone in South Africa because poor Malena cannot fly after being shot.

But every spring Rodan returns, presumably telling his wingmen before they land: "What happens in Cape Town stays in Cape Town"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:45 AM

      ( 1:00 AM ) The Rat  
KFC DOUBLE DOWN LUTHER BURGER. Um, don't click through on this one if you're eating. And actually, maybe even if you're not eating.

With all the KFC Double Down hype recently we knew we had to one-up all the madness that is this meat monster of a sandwich. What to do? Well the choice is obvious. Take the infamous Double Down and the fabled Luther Burger and make the KFC & Krispy Kreme Fried Chicken Luther Double Down Sandwich.

So what you've got here is one tasty mother of a sandwich that starts with a half Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut, extra Colonel's Sauce (gotta get in those added calories where you can), fried chicken breast, Colonel's Sauce, cheese slice, bacon, cheese slice, fried chicken breast and other half doughnut...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:00 AM

      ( 12:59 AM ) The Rat  
I think no one who has lived east of Suez will deny that certain characteristics have been attached by general consent like labels to the different races who serve our needs. Thus a Malay servant is lazy, a Tamil dirty, a Japanese untrustworthy, and the Chinese, though admittedly the highest development, are dishonest as a class, and of the genus Inhuman.
—"A Heathen Chinese," Blackwood's, September 1898

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:59 AM

Saturday, April 24, 2010
      ( 9:34 AM ) The Rat  

Are you a racist looking for a luxury hotel in Florida? Then the Ritz Carlton in Naples might just be the place for you. A lawsuit filed this week claims that when guests of the hotel asked to not be served by "people of color" or with "foreign accents," the management agreed to their demands...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:34 AM

      ( 9:17 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY RATHER DISLIKES EARTH DAY, for the same reason someone-or-other (Hugh Hefner?) called New Year's Eve "Amateur Night"—if it's worth conserving resources, minimizing waste, etc., for one day, it's worth doing year-round.

That said, though, some publications have been running cool photo spreads/slideshows to honor Earth Day—here for instance.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:17 AM

      ( 9:12 AM ) The Rat  
YOU CAN KEEP THAT "SUMMER'S DAY" SILLINESS. Ratty's nomination, since at least 1997, for the best compliment in all of Shakespeare. (From here.)

Florizel. What you do
Still betters what is done. When you speak, sweet.
I'ld have you do it ever: when you sing,
I'ld have you buy and sell so, so give alms,
Pray so; and, for the ordering your affairs,
To sing them too: when you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' the sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that; move still, still so,
And own no other function: each your doing,
So singular in each particular,
Crowns what you are doing in the present deed,
That all your acts are queens.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 AM

Friday, April 23, 2010
      ( 11:18 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:18 PM

      ( 10:40 PM ) The Rat  

Now Columbia Biz School prof Ray Fisman has a nice rundown, in Slate, of what academic researchers have learned so far about peer-to-peer lending. The upshot seems to be that peer-to-peer lenders don't do a demonstrably worse job of assessing credit than banks do. They're not perfect, though: "My colleague Enrichetta Ravina has documented that there is a massive beauty premium—i.e., cheap loans for pretty women—enjoyed by Prosper borrowers, despite the fact that better-looking people are in fact more likely to default on their loans. Economists Devin Pope and Justin Sydnor find that racial discrimination also taints the online loan market—black borrowers are much less likely to obtain funding and more likely to pay higher interest rates relative to otherwise-similar whites looking for financing..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:40 PM

      ( 10:36 PM ) The Rat  
A real explosion of the stable, firmly rooted form of the novel... was undertaken by two non-full Frenchmen, the half-Jew Marcel Proust and André Gide, who was brought up in the gloomiest Calvinism.... In Proust's hands, personalities... crumble into inconsistent individual traits.... He who himself has not been moved cannot move others. The hundred figures remain phantoms, whose blood he silently sucks in his neurotic monologue À la recherche du temps perdu (which swelled from the three volumes originally planned to thirteen): effeminate men and masculine women around whom he flutters with the hair-splitting chatter of his endlessly piled-up similes and whom he analyzes with talmudical ultra-intelligence. Indeed, the stale air of the darkened sickroom, for fifteen years the incubator of this evil-minded, dainty hair-splitter, whose sole concern revolves around the penetration of the strata of society that are closed to him; the inquisitive microscopy of the problems of puberty and of the morass of outrageously depraved sexual perversions, which Proust has in common with many of Europe's Jewish literary men..., all this will probably keep away from this work any present-day reader who is not a neurologist.
—Kurt Wais, writing in 1939, quoted in Peter Szondi's "Hope in the Past" (preface to Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood Around 1900)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:36 PM

Wednesday, April 21, 2010
      ( 6:30 PM ) The Rat  
PORN STAR AOI SOLA PROMPTS CHINESE TO JUMP 'GREAT FIREWALL.' This comes really, really close to being the perfect news story so far as I'm concerned. Its closest competitor, among stories I can recall offhand, would be just about any of the articles that were prompted back in 2002 by this Krispy Kreme heist.

In the past few weeks, thousands of Chinese netizens have successfully jumped the "Great Firewall," China's cyberblockade on sensitive Internet content.

But they're not after democracy, human rights or Taiwan independence websites. No, they're chasing a Japanese porn star.

The porn star in question, Aoi Sola, launched a Twitter site at the end of March. Her Chinese fans went nuts over the news—but then realized Twitter is blocked in China.

No matter—they've been distributing software among themselves that allows a user inside China to get around the "Great Firewall."

The flock to Aoi's Twitter site shows how easy it is for determined Chinese to get around Beijing's cybercontrols. But it also highlights what types of content will actually motivate them to go through the trouble.

"In China you can get anything you want on the Internet, you just have to want to bad enough," said David Wolf, a Beijing-based tech industry expert at Wolf Group Asia...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 PM

      ( 5:37 PM ) The Rat  

The confidence shown by these young nuns is unusual. Buddhist nuns in the Himalayas are normally seen as inferior to monks.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, an Englishwoman who became a Drukpa Buddhist nun more than 30 years ago, says traditionally nuns have been neglected and overlooked.

"The main problem for nuns has always been that they have not normally had a good situation in which to live, they have not received the support from lay people that monks receive and they have not been educated.

"So often nuns became basically just household servants for their families or working in the kitchens and the gardens in the monasteries," she says.

Kung fu was introduced into the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery by the leader of the Drukpa spiritual sect, His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:37 PM

      ( 5:29 PM ) The Rat  

The three Bay Area men say the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance in essence deemed them not gay enough to participate in the series...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:29 PM

      ( 12:25 PM ) The Rat  

When Sarah Kovac watches her son, Ethan, crawl or grab objects, she feels proud, but also has mixed emotions. Already, the 8-month-old has abilities Kovac never had.

"He relies on me, but he's already able to do things that I can't, which is kind of a strange combination of feelings," said Kovac, 26, of St. Joseph, Missouri.

Kovac has a condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a rare disorder that involves multiple joint deformities from birth. From the tops of her shoulders to her fingertips, most of her joints don't move. She hopes that overcoming the challenges of her disability will be a point of bonding for her and her son...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 PM

      ( 12:19 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 PM

      ( 5:15 AM ) The Rat  
TOP 40 NATURE PHOTOGRAPHS, as chosen by the International League of Conservation Photographers. I was initially surprised there were no images here of the Northern Lights (also see the top one, by Rune Christianse, here), or for that matter of various specific landmarks such as e.g. Victoria Falls (link is to background info rather than to any particularly good photos), but of course one could argue that those are a bit predictable/overdone as subjects for nature photography. While I remain skeptical of the idea of trying to round up the top 40—or 400—nature photographs of all time (which seems a bit like trying to list the 40 most beautiful women of all time, in the sense that certain entries simply have to be on the list, but at the same time it's inevitable you'll get others wrong), there are some undeniably lovely images here.

A couple of specific recommendations, in case you're in a hurry and can't look at the whole slideshow (this is with things to do with stingrays and with elephants taken out of the running, as Ratty has long been partial to these animals): water lilies in Botswana... and also (though it pains me to cite an entry from a place as painfully bourgeois as Illinois, this may be my favorite image of the 40) (I was born in Illinois btw; that isn't just a random diss) these cypress and tupelo silhouettes.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:15 AM

      ( 4:44 AM ) The Rat  
BAT WINGED CEILING FAN BLADES. (Alas?) no longer available.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:44 AM

      ( 4:43 AM ) The Rat  
MRS. MEYERS is doing a free-shipping thing today and tomorrow.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:43 AM

      ( 4:42 AM ) The Rat  
"Well," boomed Arnold Littlefield, dousing his scrambled eggs with ketchup, "the hubby stood you up, huh?"

Arnold and his wife, Melba, shared a table with Mary Ann and Michael. The Littlefields were fortyish and always wore matching clothes. Today, in deference to their destination, they were sporting identical Mexican flour sack outfits. They were from Dublin. Dublin, California.

"He always takes longer than I do," said Mary Ann breezily, as she sat down. It was easier, by far, to pass off Michael as her husband than to explain what Michael called "our bizarre but weird relationship."

More Tales of the City

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:42 AM

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
      ( 6:45 PM ) The Rat  
GILDING THE POODLE. The SPCA must have fallen asleep on this one... Also, I really don't know what to say about the fact that I found this in the Sports section.

Angela Kumpe had won the "creative challenge" event the past two years at Intergroom, one of the more prestigious competitions on the calendar. First, she clipped and colored a standard poodle into an ode to Elvis Presley—Elvis on one side, a guitar on the other. Last year, she turned a dog into a peacock. She is one of the best at canine topiary.

This year, Kumpe, a 34-year-old from Little Rock, Ark., spent more than six months turning a poodle into a buffalo. It probably would have won Sunday, beating the seahorse, the Lady Gaga and the Mad Hatter...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:45 PM

      ( 6:44 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:44 PM

      ( 2:19 PM ) The Rat  
"I ACTUALLY DIGESTED A HUGE GUST OF WIND ON MY WAY TO WORK." Harvard Sailing Team presents "Boys Will Be Girls" (4m10s; requires sound, but definitely worth it). The opposite number, "Girls Will Be Boys," isn't as well-acted or -written IMO... or are stereotypical girl-gang-type behaviors just inherently funnier? (N.B. I think my absolute favorite detail in this sketch is the way the guy on the couch has his legs crossed.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:19 PM

      ( 2:10 PM ) The Rat  
NINJA WIN, via FailBlog.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:10 PM

      ( 2:09 PM ) The Rat  
"KITTEH GONNA GET YA!" CAKE. Found via Cake Wrecks.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:09 PM

      ( 10:52 AM ) The Rat  
"YOU'RE CELLOPHANE!" Hilariously illustrated YouTube video of Ella Fitzgerald singing a Cole Porter classic. Though I imagine Porter was referring to something rather more fashionable than the Little House on the Prairie-look sunbonnet chosen for the line "You're a Bendel bonnet..." But then the Louvre didn't include I.M. Pei's pyramid back when Porter was writing either, and everything else about the slideshow (Ratty particularly enjoyed the slide for "You're a turkey dinner") really is pretty funny, so why quibble?

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:52 AM

      ( 10:07 AM ) The Rat  

Children with a neurodevelopmental disorder called Williams syndrome (WS) are overly friendly because they do not fear strangers. Now, a study shows that these children also do not develop negative attitudes about other ethnic groups, even though they show patterns of gender stereotyping found in other children. "This is the first evidence that different forms of stereotypes are biologically dissociable," says Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, director of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, who led the study published today in Current Biology.

Adults with WS show abnormal activity in a brain structure called the amygdala, which is involved in responding to social threats and triggering unconscious negative emotional reactions to other races. Racial bias has been tied to fear: adults are more likely to associate negative objects and events, such as electric shocks, with people of other ethnic groups compared with those of their own group...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:07 AM

      ( 10:02 AM ) The Rat  
IT WOULD BE ALTOGETHER TOO EASY TO MAKE A JOKE ABOUT THIS, so I present the story without comment.

After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn't be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce. That left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can't be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it's not...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:02 AM

      ( 10:01 AM ) The Rat  
SURGEON CUT OFF TESTICLE "BY MISTAKE" AT BURY HOSPITAL. Like me, the friend who sent this was even more disturbed by this line than by the story itself: "Such was the level of concern they immediately realised it could be a serious medical incident and took steps to complete the relevant documentation."

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:01 AM

      ( 3:45 AM ) The Rat  

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's comments follow a warning by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit the capital Tehran and that many residents should relocate.

In a prayer sermon, the cleric said: "Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes"...

Also see this old Instapundit blurb.

Sadr's neo-hijab made its first appearance in Iran in 1977 as a symbol of Islamist-Marxist opposition to the Shah's regime. When the mullahs seized power in Tehran in 1979, the number of women wearing the hijab exploded into tens of thousands.

In 1981, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, announced that "scientific research had shown that women's hair emitted rays that drove men insane."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:45 AM

      ( 3:42 AM ) The Rat  
On my way out of the store, as I cradled my tissue-wrapped bottle to my chest like a talisman, the city seemed to have changed its aspect. It was all light farce, and I felt tall enough to cross outside the crosswalk. I could stop cars with a glance, I could contend with their bumpers and hulls, and I no longer had any fear that the distress and indigence of the world might rub off on me. No, never again would my own opulence be reduced to begging, I chanted to myself, for at that moment it seemed to
me that I had earned the right to quote Holderlin, a thing that doesn't happen every day.
The Mystery Guest

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:42 AM

Monday, April 19, 2010
      ( 9:39 PM ) The Rat  

Once biologists started figuring out that their discoveries could get a lot of attention riding the coattails of a famous namesake, they began to get quite creative with taxonomy. As a result, there's a myriad of new species named after fictional characters, actors, musicians, and politicians—from the Calponia harrisonfordi ant and the Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi spider, to a species of orange-colored lichen named in honor of Barack Obama. But now, in hopes of raising funds to continue research, scientists in Indonesia have begun granting the rights to name newly discovered species to the highest bidder.

According to The Jakarta Globe, the bidding has already generated some $2 million, producing such monikers as Paracheilinus nursalim for a recently discovered fish, named after Sjamsul and Itjih Nursalim. Some private companies, too, have gotten in on the action, resulting in another fish, the Chrysiptera giti, named after the Giti Group.

The auction which named these species was conducted by Christie's auction house, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to train more taxonomists...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:39 PM

      ( 9:37 PM ) The Rat  

All across the continent, Chinese companies are signing deals that dwarf the old railroad project. The most heavily reported involve oil production; since the turn of the millennium, Chinese companies have muscled in on lucrative oil markets in places like Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan. But oil is neither the largest nor the fastest-growing part of the story. Chinese firms are striking giant mining deals in places like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and building what is being touted as the world’s largest iron mine in Gabon. They are prospecting for land on which to build huge agribusinesses. And to get these minerals and crops to market, they are building major new ports and thousands of miles of highway.

In most of Africa's capital cities and commercial centers, it's hard to miss China’s new presence and influence. In Dar, one morning before my train trip, I made my way to the roof of my hotel for a bird's-eye view of the city below. A British construction foreman, there to oversee the hotel's expansion, pointed out the V-shaped port that the British navy had seized after a brief battle with the Germans early in the First World War. From there, the British-built portion of the city extended primly inland, along a handful of long avenues. For the most part, downtown Dar was built long ago, and its low-slung concrete buildings, long exposed to the moisture of the tropics, have taken on a musty shade of gray.

"Do you see all the tall buildings coming up over there?" the foreman asked, a hint of envy in his voice as his arm described an arc along the waterfront that shimmered in the distance. "That's the new Dar es Salaam, and most of it is Chinese-built."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:37 PM

      ( 8:08 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:08 AM

      ( 8:07 AM ) The Rat  
I WOULD CALL THE EXORCIST if my cat did this.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:07 AM

      ( 6:56 AM ) The Rat  

I am glad to have two homes, glad to be able to catch a cab outside Grand Central Station and, six hours later, step out of a rented car and stroll up the driveway to the back door of my parents' house and sleep in the bedroom where I slept as a child. Once I thought I would spend the rest of my life in a place like that. I did not know when I went off to college that I would someday stand at both ends of the long road that stretched invisibly before me, beckoning vainly across the continent to myself...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:56 AM

      ( 6:55 AM ) The Rat  
I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.
—Coco Chanel

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:55 AM

Sunday, April 18, 2010
      ( 7:25 PM ) The Rat  
HOW SEX AND STRESS MADE ONE MAN LOSE HIS MEMORY (UNTIL, TO HIS WIFE'S RELIEF, HE SAID THE WORD 'CORNFLAKES'). Definitely one of the better headlines I've seen in a while. Link via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:25 PM

      ( 8:48 AM ) The Rat  

It's a great time to be imaginary.

Global markets are rapidly recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and so are the fortunes of the fictitious. There are six new characters on the 2010 edition of Fictional 15, our annual ranking of fiction's richest, with an average net worth of $7.3 billion. In aggregate, the nine returning members are worth $79.8 billion, up 9% since we last checked in on them.

Topping the list this year is newcomer Carlisle Cullen, patriarch of the Cullen coven of vampires in the Twilight series of novels. Cullen, age 370, has accumulated a fortune of $34.1 billion...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:48 AM

      ( 6:30 AM ) The Rat  

Kaus was the president of his senior class at Beverly Hills High School in 1968 (he was also voted "brainiest"), and according to his classmates, he somehow managed to book the Velvet Underground to play a school assembly. According to a Washington Post chat with Lloyd Grove, who was a ninth-grader at the school at the time, the school's psychiatrist complained about the noise and cited studies showing rock music had caused hearing damage in hamsters. Lou Reed replied, "When we play for hamsters, we will turn the volume down."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:30 AM

      ( 6:27 AM ) The Rat  

On Oct. 5, 1789, Washington borrowed the "Law of Nations," a treatise on international relations, and Vol. 12 of the "Commons Debates," which contained transcripts of debates from Britain's House of Commons.

Beside the names of the books, the librarian wrote on the ledger only, "President."

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:27 AM

      ( 6:11 AM ) The Rat  
YES. YOU WERE GOOD IN BED. Via Why Travel to France.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:11 AM

      ( 6:10 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:10 AM

      ( 6:08 AM ) The Rat  

Led by Michael Schredl and Boris Stuck—who have shown, respectively, that women are not awakened by the smell of rotten eggs, and that snores do not correlate with nightmares—a team of German researchers tested the effect of odor on the dreams of 15 young adult women, the demographic scientifically shown to have the most sensitive olfactories.

Once deep in REM sleep, they were exposed to ten-second aromatic flushes of phenyl ethyl alcohol, roughly analogous to roses, or hydrogen sulfide, typically found in rotten eggs and a standby of odor-and-dream science. (In a methodological aside, the test apparatuses are formally known as "Sniffin' Sticks.") An odorless chemical was used as a control.

Having sniffed, the women were roused and asked to report. The tone of their dreams consistently tracked with the tenor of the smells—but unlike dreamers who incorporate external sounds, such as an alarm clock radio, the women did not recall having smelled roses or rotten eggs. Instead they experienced a shift in the emotional content of their dreams. This suggests that "olfactory stimuli are processed differently than other sensory modalities on higher brain levels," a fancy way of saying that brains handle smells differently than sound or touch...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:08 AM

      ( 6:06 AM ) The Rat  
TASTING TOUR: A GUIDE TO PARIS BAKED GOODS. Too short, of course (though otoh, in a sense, on the right sort of day in Paris all you need is a baguette and a pound of butter...).

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:06 AM

      ( 5:55 AM ) The Rat  
Though he's been at it for a while, Elbaz's job does not seem to get easier for him. "I was walking with Yves Saint Laurent one night before a show with his dogs," Elbaz said. "I said, 'How are you?' And he said, 'Scared.' I said, 'Even after all these years?' He said, 'Because of all the years.'"
—again from The New Yorker

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:55 AM

Saturday, April 17, 2010
      ( 9:35 PM ) The Rat  
MOTEL GUEST ARRESTED FOR HITTING MAN IN FACE WITH SNAKE. I had really been under the impression this kind of thing only happened in Florida.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:35 PM

      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  

A first-class thief in Poland pulled off a series of raids by climbing into large parcels and posting himself to businesses—then climbing out and burgling them at night.

Stanislaw Muchy, 39, would then make his getaway by sealing both himself and the loot in another box addressed to his Warsaw home...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

      ( 2:28 PM ) The Rat  
2001: Year an AOL survey found that the TV mom the majority of men saw as most like their own was 1950s housewife June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver), while most women named working mom Clair Huxtable (The Cosby Show).
—"Beauty By Numbers," Allure, May 2010

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:28 PM

      ( 1:13 PM ) The Rat  
EEP. Though somehow not all that surprising, all things considered...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:13 PM

      ( 9:51 AM ) The Rat  
"I'M ON A HORSE." "Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" (requires sound, but it's short), via MG. Ratty will always have a soft spot for the advertising industry—despite not having worked in it since 1996—and she particularly appreciates the kind of thinking that produces work like this "meta-advertisement." (Bonus points for the casting, too.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:51 AM

      ( 6:59 AM ) The Rat  
NOAH TAKES A PHOTO OF HIMSELF EVERY DAY FOR 6 YEARS. Interesting, if a bit unnerving. Also, I found it rather odd how many people read this as a statement about mortality (my own reaction perhaps more closely approximating 1971SuperLead's comment: "Let's just be glad it wasn't his wanger he photographed everyday").

Here is the puppy version in case you'd rather look at that (and who among us would not?). Both links via IKM.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:59 AM

      ( 6:54 AM ) The Rat  
ALLOTMENT: WHAT WOULD WE EACH GET IF WE SHARED THE WORLD OUT FAIRLY? Think this is the very first thing I've ever blogged that I got via a tweet! (Hey, we all have to cling to the remaining shreds of our youth somehow.)

If we divided the surface of the Earth equally between its 6.5 billion human inhabitants we would each have an area of land 22,898 m2 (2.3 hectares, 5.7 acres). In the pictures below, that area has been formed into an island 107 metres x 214 metres, surrounded by our share of the ocean. The types of land available: grassland, woodland, urban, desert, etc. has also been shared out fairly on this 'allotment'...

Speaking of Twitter, Ratty really can't express how excited she is that Josh and Chuck have finally launched a Twitter feed. Now if they would just agree to do housecalls (perhaps as a benefit for Kiva?—through which, btw, SYSK listeners have cumulatively microloaned an impressive 120K in just a few months, as of this writing), I'd be set...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:54 AM

      ( 6:50 AM ) The Rat  
BEER RESCUE PUTS LANDFILL EMPLOYEES IN HOT WATER. Ratty enjoyed the way the usually staid writers at Treehugger really came to life on this topic.

Well, you don't need me to tell you how dumb this is. But I will. It's so dumb! And freaking wasteful! The blogosphere took note when H&M and a Wal-Mart distributor got busted destroying and throwing out perfectly good clothes and TreeHugger followed up on wasteful practices at Urban Outfitters who were throwing out even more products. Readers were rightly outraged. And that was just clothes and toy phones! We're talking about beer here, people! If you saw a couple pallets-worth of beer just sitting there waiting to be destroyed, wouldn't you rescue a few bottles? And if you had access to some trucks wouldn't you take 50 cases? Okay, well maybe we wouldn't all take 50 cases, but you've got to admit you can see where these guys were coming from. I've never been in this situation, but I can certainly see how these guys, tired & dirty from a hard day's work of moving trash around and all of a sudden seeing cases and cases of beer tempting you like a damn mirage in the middle of the desert...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:50 AM

      ( 1:25 AM ) The Rat  
A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed.
—Coco Chanel

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:25 AM

Friday, April 16, 2010
      ( 8:40 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:40 PM

      ( 7:29 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:29 PM

      ( 12:01 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY HAD BEEN UNDER THE IMPRESSION MFB WAS HER FRIEND, but that was before learning yesterday that he knew about this at the time and didn't tell her!!!

Will get a second chance, however: AFI Silver in D.C. will be running its first flight of Kurosawa for the centennial from May 15 to June 21.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:01 PM

      ( 2:48 AM ) The Rat  
CHINESE RIGHTS LAWYER PICKS FAMILY OVER DISSENT. Sounds like someone found Room 101. (Even by the standards of Chinese-dissident stories, this article is heartbreaking.)

Mr. Gao said his meeting with a reporter was "a chat"; interviews are forbidden under terms of his 2006 parole for a subversion conviction. He hinted at a compromise with the authorities, giving up his past activism in exchange for contact with his family and perhaps a reunion one day.

"You know that past life of mine was abnormal, and I need to give up that former life," he said. "I hope I can become part of the peaceful life of the big family."

He later added: "You know the main basis for choosing to give up is for the sake of family feelings. I hope I can reunite with them. My children need me by their side growing up."

Mr. Gao acknowledged that his seeming turnabout was sure to dishearten his backers, and he asked for their understanding. "Everybody will be disappointed," he said. "Some people were really involved, concerned, supportive, making appeals. So when they read my words they will definitely feel disappointed. To them, I apologize. I'm extremely sorry."

He said his experiences from his previous imprisonment and run-ins with the police—including a time in 2007 when he recounted that security forces gave him electric shocks to his genitals and placed cigarettes in his eyes—helped him survive the past 14 months.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:48 AM

      ( 2:44 AM ) The Rat  

JAL has long been aware of the uniform's mysterious power and has been at great pains to ensure that none of the real ones ever get on to the black market. Efforts have included putting a serial number into each item of clothing, and keeping meticulous records of the exact whereabouts of garments all around the world.

The risk of a new flood of uniforms on to the black market has raised the stakes for the airlines. All Nippon Airways (ANA)—which has the same problem—has begun sewing computer chips into its stewardess uniforms so that errant skirts, jackets and hats can be tracked from space. JAL is understood to be installing a similar system.

Mr Teramoto told The Times, however, that there had always been a few that escaped the JAL dragnet and which had found their way into specialist shops. In a notorious incident five years ago, twelve ANA uniforms were stolen during an advertising shoot. Eight were returned after a nationwide amnesty but four are still at large. Mr Teramoto claims to know of one uniform from that famous haul that sold for £11,000.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 AM

      ( 2:37 AM ) The Rat  
JOIN THE POLYGAMY CLUB. From some time back. Punchline: "The group has 1,200 members, three-quarters of whom are female."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:37 AM

      ( 2:34 AM ) The Rat  
"After every show, I say to Hania [Destelle, a friend], 'They hated it.'"
—Alber Elbaz, quoted in The New Yorker

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:34 AM

Thursday, April 15, 2010
      ( 8:29 AM ) The Rat  

[T]he alarms were developed by Kobe-based fire extinguisher company Air Water Safety Services, reports Britain's Telegraph. With the help of Seems, a bioventure company in Tokyo, the device was distributed to nursing and elderly homes and it's hoped that the gadget will also be used in loud music venues such as nightclubs and karaoke bars...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 AM

      ( 8:27 AM ) The Rat  
PHOTO CHOICE FAIL. So, so wrong. And I laughed so, so hard...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:27 AM

      ( 7:11 AM ) The Rat  

You might think chubby hedgehogs would draw "ooos" and "ahhhs" from smitten onlookers, but the rescue centre staff soon recognised the extra inches would put the animals in danger.

Their savvy survival technique of fending off predators with their spines had gone to pot because they'd piled on so much weight they could no longer roll into a prickly ball...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 AM

      ( 7:10 AM ) The Rat  
EATING VEGETABLES DOESN'T STOP CANCER. Fortunately I think we're still allowed to eat vegetables because we hate plants.

More seriously—rather wish the reports on this study had noted that even if eating more vegetables only minimally lowers cancer risk, of course eating too much of other foods will meanwhile drive it up (as with meat and colon cancer, to take the obvious example). But it's the usual sort of Catch-22, as with sunscreen potentially causing more skin cancer than it prevents.

Perhaps time to just move to Ikaria...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:10 AM

      ( 7:09 AM ) The Rat  

Whatever the start of the phenomenon, the movement could be seen as a way to preserve Japan's historical heritage—even if their history is, at times, selective. (Many self-described history girls, for instance, enjoy ancient-style sword-fighting, which would have been a man's purview.) There are different theories as to the phenomenon's popularity. Some are quick to ascribe it to the contrast with today's "emasculated" men (an argument we've heard applied to Mad Men)—while, for others, the identification is more immediate. According to one piece in the Mainichi Daily News,

"'In general, men relate battles and the management styles of warlords back to their own corporate environments, and try to use whatever they lessons they can to improve their own work lives,' says Tetsuo Owada, a professor emeritus at Shizuoka University who has written over 100 books on the Warring States period. 'But for women, it's more about the admiration they feel towards the warlords' approach to their lives.' Owada adds that this may be a backlash against what they see as the selfishness of political and financial leaders today."

One persistent trend is for media to reduce the trend to a wide-ranging schoolgirl crush. "For Japanese Women, The Past Is The Latest Fad," says NPR. "New wave of 'history girls' wooed by warlords' masculinity," reads the Mainichi Daily News headline. And, as Caitlin Kelly titled a post on True/Slant late last year, "Japan's 'History Girls,' Fed Up With Today's Guys, Turn To Men Of The Distant Past." Said the BBC, "Japan is a country of fads and obsessions, and the latest among young women is an interest in history"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:09 AM

      ( 7:07 AM ) The Rat  
"THERE IS UTTERLY NO WAY THAT EVEN THE BIGGEST SCHMUCK IN THE WORLD CAN CONFUSE A RIFLE WITH A WEDDING CAKE." Very negative review (which actually sounds like it probably let the book off too easily, if anything) of Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil. (TBH the review is itself not terribly well written; I'm just posting because sometimes it's kind of fun to watch somebody foaming at the mouth...)

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:07 AM

Wednesday, April 14, 2010
      ( 7:08 PM ) The Rat  

If the news had come out two weeks ago we would all be smiling and thinking it was an April Fool's joke.

But alas, the news that popular board game Scrabble is changing its rules is true—and the wordsmiths are up in arms...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:08 PM

      ( 4:06 PM ) The Rat  
A CLASSIC, TAX-SEASON-APPROPRIATE BLOOM COUNTY. (If the link doesn't work right away, try reloading.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:06 PM

      ( 3:12 PM ) The Rat  
WITH CHARACTERISTIC PUNCTUALITY Ratty notes that yesterday was the (57th) anniversary of the day they authorized MK-ULTRA.

Loath to be outdone by foreign enemies, the CIA sought, through its research, to devise a truth serum to enhance the interrogations of POWs and captured spies. The agency also wanted to develop techniques and drugs—such as "amnesia pills"—to create CIA superagents who would be immune to the mind-control efforts of adversaries.

MK-ULTRA even hoped to create a "Manchurian Candidate," or programmable assassin, and devise a way to control the minds of pesky despots, like Fidel Castro—giving credence forevermore to claims by the tinfoil-hat contingent that the government is out to control our minds. In addition to drugs, the program included more than a hundred sub-projects that involved radiological implants, hypnosis and subliminal persuasion, electroshock therapy and isolation techniques.

More than 30 universities and institutions participated in CIA-funded research, though not all were aware the spy agency was their benefactor, because funding was sometimes laundered through shell organizations.

Under the guise of research, LSD, whose psychedelic properties were discovered by a Swiss chemist in 1943, was secretly administered to CIA employees, U.S. soldiers and psychiatric patients, as well as the general public...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:12 PM

      ( 3:08 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:08 PM

      ( 8:29 AM ) The Rat  
10 AMAZING TRICKS TO PLAY WITH YOUR BRAIN. The image in no. 7 is likely to "confuse your mindedness" all by itself, sans text, though perhaps not in the way the authors meant.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:29 AM

      ( 8:16 AM ) The Rat  
"THE MADNESS OF KISSES." The rest of this roundup is pretty substandard if you ask Ratty—the kind of literary-pilgrimage list you'd come up with if you'd read approx. three books in your whole life—but scroll down a little for a nice photo of the memorial at Wilde's grave.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:16 AM

      ( 12:44 AM ) The Rat  
FEEL THIS: A PORN MAGAZINE LAUNCHES FOR THE BLIND. Whenever one of my friends sends me this kind of thing, I always check the e-mail's "To:" field... and I always turn out to be the only person they thought it relevant to forward the link to.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:44 AM

      ( 12:28 AM ) The Rat  
RATTY IS SEEING DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE AGAIN TOMORROW NIGHT!* (same production as in September; different cast). This is how I look whenever I'm approaching a Mozart opera (or it's approaching me)! And, yes, I'm this excited even though Zauberflöte is only my fourth-favorite of the five of his 22 operas I know so far!

...Anyway, in anticipation, here is a passage I loved from director David McVicar's essay in the program notes for the life-altering Figaro I saw in London in '08 (review of that production/cast here—esp. see the last line!—though Sophie Koch, not Anna Bonitatibus, was Cherubino the night I attended):

Well, here's my raised glass and let's choose a toast. Do I say that Mozart can say so much in a mere six bars, in a simple change of key, in a line of text set with such apt, unobtrusive, natural skill? Yes, but not personal enough. I have noticed in my work that the pulse of Mozart obeys the rhythms of our own bodies and I mean this literally. The music seems to me to beat, breathe, sigh, sob, turn its head, wink its eye, get angry, get horny, feel pain, feel love with the natural beats and inflections of our physical human experience. To describe Mozart as the most profoundly human of composers is not new; I simply want to suggest that there's something at a DNA level about him that echoes strongly in our collective consciousness...

*Though alas, tomorrow afternoon's lecture had long sold out before I heard about it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:28 AM

      ( 12:25 AM ) The Rat  
"That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes."
—Kurt Vonnegut, Deadeye Dick

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:25 AM

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
      ( 12:43 PM ) The Rat  
SHERPAS CANCEL PLAN TO SCATTER HILLARY ASHES ON EVEREST. Given Sir Edmund's long attachment and service to the people of Nepal*, it does make sense he should find his final resting place there, but personally Ratty is rather glad they've called off the original plan... surely there are enough human remains on Everest already. (Stuff You Should Know did an excellent podcast on this subject, "Are There Dead Bodies on Everest?" which you can download for free by going here. Chuck Bryant also has an article on the subject here, though the SYSK guys are really best experienced via podcast.)

By the way, Ratty loves that Sir Edmund is referred as an explorer here, rather than as a mountaineer. Is it childish of me to miss the days when we still had explorers?

A plan to scatter some of the ashes of explorer Sir Edmund Hillary at the peak of Mount Everest has been called off.

Buddhist lamas had warned it would bring bad luck, so the Sherpas behind the plan said the ashes instead would be kept at a monastery near Everest. The world's highest mountain is considered sacred to the Buddhist Sherpas who live in the region.

Sir Edmund climbed Everest in 1953 and after his death in 2008 most of his ashes were spread in Auckland harbour. The rest were given to the Sherpa community.

Apa Sherpa, who has scaled Everest a record 19 times—and is planning a 20th attempt—had wanted to honour the New Zealander by spreading his ashes at the summit...

*For more on this subject, see A god in Nepal: second only to the Dalai Lama.

When I met Sonam, who completely lost his hearing to meningitis more than 20 years ago, he became animated when he realised Hillary was being discussed. He showed me photographs of him with Hillary, his eyes sparkling.

"To us, Hillary is a living god. Because of him, we have access to schools and medicine. Without him, how could we have this? He climbed Everest, yes, but to us he did much more," he said.

Inside temples throughout the Solu-Khumbu, Hillary is considered a spirit. The Sherpa call him the Godfather, a truism rather than a nickname. In a recent poll of Nepalese children Sir Edmund rated second behind the Dalai Lama as a hero. The Dalai Lama once pronounced himself a Hillary fan.

During an interview in May 2003, not long before flying to Kathmandu to mark the 50th anniversary of his and Norgay's climb, Hillary said his feats on Everest and at the South Pole did not stand out as personal highlights. "I haven't any doubt that the most worthwhile things I have done have not been climbing mountains or going to the Poles or so on," he said.

"It has been helping my Sherpa friends, building the schools and medical facilities. I think that is what I would like to be remembered for."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:43 PM

      ( 8:50 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM

      ( 8:15 AM ) The Rat  

The Full English is the one meal that England does well, with fat bangers, sizzling rashers and eggs oozing sunshine, strong tea and two buttered toast.

This is food that makes you feel good just thinking about it, a platter that pulls on the heartstrings (as well as straining the heart). It's an icon of Englishness, as much of a symbol as the flag of St George, but here's the thing: who really eats it these days?

Less than 1% of the population starts every day with a cooked breakfast, compared to the 1950s when it was more than half of us. I was thinking about this the other day, chewing (and chewing) my compulsory muesli while dreaming of bacon and eggs. If the full breakfast is so representative of the English, what does it say about us? And if our attitude to it has changed so much, what does "the Full English" really mean—not just in the sense of what is on the plate, but in terms of being fully English?

Those questions inspired a mad, bad, salt-soaked road trip from culinary heaven to hell and back, and from one end of the country to the other. Come with me, if you want to see what the English are really like now. But prepare for some very strong and surprising tastes.

Where better to start than at a place that dares to call itself a "quintessentially English hotel"? The Goring in Victoria has been run by the same family for four generations and claims to be the last five-star luxury hotel in London that can say that. Breakfast here is not cheap, if you include a room. My £850 suite is nice enough, and has a very groovy mirror that turns into a television, but I wake up raging at the wallpaper...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:15 AM

      ( 8:10 AM ) The Rat  
TERRY TEACHOUT on reading skeletons.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:10 AM

      ( 12:02 AM ) The Rat  

According to park officials, the coaster begins with an impulsive burst of acceleration that, when riders reflect upon the experience years later, will prove to be the only enjoyable portion of the ride. A series of unexpected and painful twists rapidly follow, leaving riders confused, strangely resentful, and wondering if they made a huge mistake getting on the ride in the first place. For the next 25 minutes, the coaster creeps endlessly forward at an agonizing pace, until it actually starts moving backward.

When the Life Force Crusher-X mercifully comes to an end, park visitors often find themselves speechless, emotionally exhausted, and completely broke.

"What the fuck just happened?" roller coaster enthusiast Derek Schumer said. "At first things were great, but next thing I knew, I was throwing my hands in the air and screaming, 'Why are we even doing this? I don't understand why we're doing this! It doesn't make either of us the least bit happy. Just end it, already, just end it!'

Added Schumer, "I think I'm going to be sick."

Despite only opening last week, Life Force Crusher-X is already one of Magic Mountain's main attractions. The park has even been forced to extend its hours to accommodate ticket holders who said they would never come back, only to find themselves pounding on the gates at 2 a.m., desperate for just one more go-round...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:02 AM

      ( 12:00 AM ) The Rat  
Frank Drebin. I couldn't believe it was her. It was like a dream. But there she was, just as I remembered her. That delicately beautiful face—and a body that could melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. And breasts that seemed to say... "Hey! Look at these!" She was the kind of woman who made you want to drop to your knees and thank God you were a man! ...She reminded me of my mother, all right. No doubt about it.

Ed Hocken. Frank, snap out of it! You're looking at her like she was your mother for Christ's sake!

Naked Gun 2-1/2

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 AM

Monday, April 12, 2010
      ( 9:46 PM ) The Rat  
RUSSIAN BOARD GAMES FROM THE 1920S AND 1930S. Ratty has, somewhere in storage, an old edition of Russian Scrabble, though has never actually attempted to play it. (Only acquired it after leaving Middlebury, which is the last time I was around many Russian speakers/students.) Presumably all the cases, verbs of motion, etc., make for lots more variants on words, but at the same time Scrabble must feel a bit topsy-turvy since this is, after all, a language where it takes two letters to say "hedgehog" (ёж)... but twelve letters to say "hello" (здравствуйте).

Go here for a few German WWII games.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 PM

      ( 4:51 PM ) The Rat  
"IT'S REALLY A TRIUMPH OF NATURE. WHEN THEY'RE ALIVE, A CHICKEN NEVER GETS TO HAVE A PORK INSIDE OF IT." We Eat The New KFC Double Down And Live To Tell About It (But It's Only Been 15 Minutes), from the staff over at Wait Wait. Reminds me of the time I split an order of deep-fat-fried Oreos with someone at a county fair, after which we walked around in a state of extreme... not so much merely gastrointestinal as moral queasiness. (Or as he put it: "I feel like—people can tell...")

12:46: Shantell: It's lonely without the bread. It's a lonely sandwich.
12:46: Mike: Yeah, I'm nostalgic for bread.
12:46: Ian: Do you remember the days when sandwiches were made with bread, not chicken?
12:47: Mike: Seriously, this is rewriting the rules of lunch. And of sandwiches. We're going to replace peanut butter and jelly with chicken and chicken.
12:48: Ian: Right, from now on, the word "sandwich" just means "stack of chicken."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:51 PM

      ( 1:51 PM ) The Rat  
10 LUXURIOUS MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION. Some questionable concepts here, but at least click through to see no. 9, the "amphibious motor coach." Also, Ratty had no idea the Blue Train still existed!!—having known about it principally via the Christie novel, which after all was published in 1928.

From the same site, also check out 20 Weird and Creative Sofas—though I fear Tim Gunn would have something to say about the "taste level" on most of these ("Enter into realm of pleasure with this hot alien sofa chair especially if you are single").

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:51 PM

      ( 1:47 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:47 PM

      ( 9:36 AM ) The Rat  

Caves are disorientating at the best of times, especially ones as baroque as Luray caverns, deep beneath Virginia's Shenandoah valley. But as you descend underground, past Titania's Veil (a gleaming white calcite formation), crossing Giant's Hall and skirting the mirror surface of Dream Lake, you will hear an ethereal music start to fill the dripping hush. Soon it feels as if you are standing inside a marimba made of stone, in a setting designed by Salvador Dalí. The songs seem to come from all around, as if the cavern itself were singing.

You have found the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a unique instrument that uses cave formations to make music...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:36 AM

      ( 9:35 AM ) The Rat  

Unhappy with your name? Then spare a thought for those rare Chinese families who surnames mean "zero," "ghost" or even "death."

A man in China's southern province of Jiangxi has spent the last 20 years compiling a list of unusual family names, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Most Chinese people share a few common surnames, like Zhang, Wang, Li, Liu and Chen. The Chinese expression for "ordinary people" literally means "the old one hundred surnames"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:35 AM

      ( 9:28 AM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING REVIEW of 'Curious George Saves the Day' at the Jewish Museum.

And the peculiarity of the Curious George books? Like the Babar tales (which also grew out of the milieu of 1930s Paris) they have an almost colonial-era vision of the uncultivated naïf at large in the imperial world. But George is far more childish. One appeal of these volumes is their almost manic celebration of innocent desire.

"Little monkeys sometimes forget," we read of the warnings he regularly violates. Seeing something interesting, George, of course, "could not resist." He lifts a lid on a pot of spaghetti, plays tricks on his bicycle, races down a fire escape, climbs a tree in a natural history museum. His curiosity is clever, but consequences are never foreseen: he seems to be a fearless 5-year-old.

Yet his romps began at a place and time—Europe in 1939—when consequences were all, when almost nothing about the world could be relied on, and when curiosity had to take second place to survival. One reason the Jewish Museum has created this exhibition (and why the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco will later show it) is that the Reys were not only Jewish, but they also had lives whose trajectory was a consequence of their identity...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 AM

      ( 2:17 AM ) The Rat  
Late that afternoon, we pulled the longboat onto a sandy bank and hauled our bags ashore. Bati set up a temporary shelter from leaves and cut saplings while Katong went off into the jungle in search of food. He returned a short time later with a neatly wrapped bundle of fiddlehead ferns tied up in a leaf and a load of wild jackfruit called buah nakan. He also produced a three-foot-long tree root known as Tonkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia)—the fabled Walking Stick of Ali. According to Katong, a tea made from the sliced root enables a man to make love five times in a single night. "More useful than orchid," Katong explained.

Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:17 AM

Sunday, April 11, 2010
      ( 8:47 PM ) The Rat  
AND I'LL TELL YOU ANOTHER THING THAT PISSES ME OFF. Someone Ratty knows recently posted something connecting to this page on "the saddest cookbook ever," a volume called Microwave Cooking for One by one Marie T. Smith. I rather suspect the story has been going viral, as it also turned up over at both Consumerist and Serious Eats (and I haven't been looking at all that many websites today).

Now look, I get the joke. And in fact, the SFWeekly post is actually not all that bad. But what I hate about this kind of thing is how quickly it brings out the smug asshole in so many who read and/or pass it on. What makes me nuts about it, of course, is that it tends to draw out in people some version of the "just universe premise"—the notion that whatever it is you've managed to amass, thus far in this life, it must be proof of either merit or the lack thereof. Single?—you must be ugly/undesirable, or just unpleasant. Your dad just got lung cancer?—"Did he smoke?" Because he must have deserved to get sick, right? What an idiot! (And of course people will say this kind of thing even though 1) up to 15 percent of lung-cancer cases occur in non-smokers, and even though 2) even if the person in question was a smoker, were you just not paying attention at the part where someone just told you their relative or friend fucking has cancer?! Here's a nickel, go buy yourself some class.)

Once you've read past the blurb at SFWeekly, move to the reader comments. Admittedly, many of these are funny ("Aw, Mary T. Smith, you're so cute. I want to be the inspiration for your next book, Microwave Cooking for 2!"; "I bet this would be a top seller in head shops"). But you also get comments like, "wow thats really sad atleast im not single!! haha im happy and taken!!!!!" (Yeah, and you sound like a real catch there, sister.) And, if you keep scrolling, you get to a longer comment, left by Mary T. Smith's daughter. Excerpt:

I just wanted to say thank you for the plug and how much I appreciate all the traffic to our website and Facebook Fan Page your post has generated. Please know I appreciate the humor, but feel obligated to add some clarification for your readers.

The woman on the cover and author of the book is my mother. She spent 10 years developing and kitchen testing the almost 300 recipes. She died in 1987, two years after she enjoyed seeing her labor of love published. Mom developed the book because she foresaw that we would become a society of smaller households (one or two people), especially when the baby-boomers' children grew up and left the nest. Over thirty years ago, my Mother believed that there would be a need for this type of book years into the future. It is a testament to her foresight that
Microwave Cooking for One is still in print after 24 years, when other microwave cookbooks from that era have long been out of print. [...]

People from all walks of life and for a myriad of reasons live alone.
Microwave Cooking for One was my mother's gift to them to help make their lives better. At the time Microwave Cooking for One was published in 1986, Mom was volunteering for an organization that worked with displaced homemakers; women who for a variety of reasons, found themselves alone after years of caring for their families. She felt strongly that food is the center of life, and that these newly single women deserved to take care of themselves as they had for others for so many years. So she invited these women into her home and gave them an all-day microwave cooking class, teaching them 30 basic microwave recipes...

Again: My complaint here is not really with SFWeekly—their write-up isn't actually that bad, and God knows I wouldn't want a book about microwave cooking for one (or for that matter eight). At the same time, though, it's the kind of thing that tends to open the floodgates of a fairly ugly tendency in human nature. And for the record, btw: I hate this kind of thing whether I'm in a relationship at the time or not—it's not about me, it's about the tons of people around you at any given moment who are not part of a couple and who, whether they're happy about that or not, in any case don't need you to be making assumptions about them, let alone supplying unsolicited pity and/or contempt. One thing that particularly made me nuts about the Facebook link was that the acquaintance who put it up is Catholic, thus might have been expected to have at least some understanding of, and/or sympathy with, people who never intend to marry (e.g., for reasons of religious vocation, or perhaps because they're gay), or who are uncoupled (whether through breakup, divorce, or death). To say nothing of people who might remain single longer than others because of other kinds of trauma: childhood abuse or rape, for instance—and, of course, members of the small but real minority who genuinely prefer to be alone. Our society already makes it painful to not be part of a couple—as indeed every society probably needs to, if it's to last. But do you really have to be a dick about it?

N.B. I by no means intend to suggest by this that it's not possible to make fun of the anxiety all of us feel about being lonely or unwanted—we're all scared of these things, which is why they can be funny. (The Onion handled this brilliantly just a couple weeks ago, with "Stouffers to Include Suicide Prevention Tips On Single Serve Microwavable Meals.") In the end I think what gets me about the jerks in the reader-comments section is that they piled on even though Mary T. Smith was a real person... and in many cases continued to pile on even after her daughter had shown up to remind them that her mother had been a real person.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:47 PM

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

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About Last Night
Paula Poundstone
The Daily Mirror
Classic Bloom County
Better Book Titles
Piled Higher and Deeper
Nietzsche Family Circus


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