The Rat
Friday, January 31, 2003
      ( 1:16 PM ) The Rat  
BAD NEWS, EVERYONE: The international community's plan to keep Lance Armstrong from riding in the Tour de France by going to war with Iraq, seems to have failed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:16 PM

      ( 1:06 PM ) The Rat  
THE LATEST ON THE REAL REASON GROUNDHOGS COME OUT ON FEB. 2. And no, it's not because of it being Ayn Rand's birthday.

"He's looking for females," Zervanos told UPI's Animal Tales. "Groundhogs have a very limited window of opportunity to mate because they need the time in the spring and summer to gain enough weight to survive the winter."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 PM

      ( 1:00 PM ) The Rat  
HAVE NOW DISCOVERED A SECOND LITERARY WORK by a celebrated author that takes as its subject one or more severed noses. The first, of course, is by this guy. The second is the first novella in this volume. (Tanizaki, incidentally, is always good, but if you haven't read him before start with this, this, or this; the Secret History, though among his personal favorites, isn't his best book.)

She said that the sight of satisfactory noses on the faces of her father-in-law Ikkansai and her husband Norishige filled her with pity for her father. It probably made her angry to see a nose on anyone's face. The very fact that she had a nose herself must have pricked her conscience. Probably she thought that her father's misery could be relieved completely only if everyone in the world lost their noses. She was a bride of fifteen at the time, and neither old enough nor experienced enough to aspire after anything as ambitious as the destruction of the Tsukuma clan; and so the plan she came up with was exceedingly simple and girlish. In short, she was obsessed with the notion that her father's ghost would forget his anger, and her own grief would be assuaged, if she rendered her father-in-law or her husband noseless in place of all the people of the world. Consequently, her immediate target was their noses, not their lives...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:00 PM

      ( 12:50 PM ) The Rat  
"Well, it's got some rat in it!"
Monty Python

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:50 PM

Thursday, January 30, 2003
      ( 4:55 PM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING ARTICLE on doctors and abortion today. Link via The Corner.

Abortions have the potential to be cash cows for doctors. The average cost for an early surgical abortion is $372; for mifepristone, the abortion pill, it's $490. And the vast majority of women pay out of pocket for both procedures, meaning no administrative hassles, and better profit margins for the doctors. You would think that abortion would have taken off among gynecologists the way Botox has taken off among plastic surgeons.

But it hasn't. And it isn't because they don't know how to do it. The procedure is one that every gynecologist learns to do in the course of their training. It's the same technique they use to treat an incomplete miscarriage or to sample the lining of the uterus in cases of abnormal bleeding. And it isn't because they've been intimidated by anti-abortion violence. The same Guttmacher Institute study found that serious harassment such as vandalism, bomb threats, and personal harassment are non-existent for private offices, and declining sharply for the large clinics.

So why are doctors forgoing this safe, legal, profitable venture? Because the same technology that has made abortion safer, easier, and quicker, has also dramatically changed the relationship between the physician and the fetus.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:55 PM

      ( 4:47 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:47 PM

      ( 11:50 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:50 AM

      ( 11:47 AM ) The Rat  
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the Manhattan Institute.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:47 AM

      ( 11:44 AM ) The Rat  
That Albertine was scarcely more than a silhouette, all that had been superimposed upon her being of my own invention, to such an extent when we love does the contribution that we ourselves make outweigh—even in terms of quantity alone—those that come to us from the beloved object. And this is true of loves that have been realised in actuality. There are loves that not only develop but survive on very little—and this even among those that have achieved their carnal fulfilment. An old drawing-master who had taught my grandmother had been presented by some obscure mistress with a daughter. The mother died shortly after the birth of the child, and the drawing-master was so broken-hearted that he did not long survive her. In the last months of his life my grandmother and some of the Combray ladies, who had never liked to make any allusion in his presence to the woman with whom in any case he had not officially lived and had had comparatively sparse relations, took it into their heads to ensure the little girl's future by clubbing together to provide her with an annuity. It was my grandmother who suggested this; several of her friends jibbed; after all, was the child really such a very interesting case? Was she even the child of her reputed father? With women like that, one could never be sure. Finally, everything was settled. The child came to thank the ladies. She was plain, and so absurdly like the old drawing-master as to remove every shadow of doubt. Since her hair was the only nice thing about her, one of the ladies said to her father, who had brought her: 'What pretty hair she has.' And thinking that now, the guilty woman being dead and the old man only half alive, a discreet allusion to that past of which they had always pretended to know nothing could do no harm, my grandmother added: 'It must run in the family. Did her mother have pretty hair like that?' 'I don't know,' was the old man's quaint answer, 'I never saw her except with a hat on.'
Within a Budding Grove

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:44 AM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003
      ( 5:28 PM ) The Rat  
PETER O'TOOLE DECLINES HONORARY OSCAR. Charming story. (If you haven't yet, see O'Toole in this movie.)

According to a report in Daily Variety, O'Toole sent a handwritten open letter to the academy saying he was "enchanted" by the gesture, but insisting that he is "still in the game and might win the lovely bugger outright." The 70-year-old actor wondered whether the academy would "please defer the honor until I am 80?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:28 PM

      ( 1:42 PM ) The Rat  
TIME MAGAZINE ISSUES A CORRECTION almost worthy of this all-star fuckup from the Yale Daily News. (Click here for the original Time story.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:42 PM

      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  

In future, pupils at Uplands Manor Primary School in Smethwick, West Midlands, will see their mistakes struck through with a green pen... Penny Penn-Howard, head of school improvement for Sandwell Council, said: "The colour of the pen used for marking is not greatly significant except that the red pen has negative connotations and can be seen as a negative approach to improving pupils' work."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 12:56 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:56 PM

      ( 12:42 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 PM

      ( 12:31 PM ) The Rat  

Covering up the "Made In" labels is against the law, a violation of venerable Title 19, Chapter 4, Subtitle II, Part 1, Sec. 134.11, which "requires that every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently" as possible, "in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser... [the] name of the country of origin of the article."

Further, "any person who, with intent to conceal the information... defaces, destroys, removes, alters, covers, obscures, or obliterates any mark required under the provisions of this chapter shall—(1) upon conviction for the first violation... be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both...."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:31 PM

      ( 12:28 PM ) The Rat  
AGE GAUGE. Interesting. Click here and type in your birthday. Via a blogless friend in Chicago.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:28 PM

      ( 12:27 PM ) The Rat  
I am still completely happy.
My resolve to win further I have
Thrown out, and am charged by the thrill
Of the sun coming up.
John Ashbery

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:27 PM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003
      ( 12:17 PM ) The Rat  
AND, LASTLY, I GIVE YOU: CHEESE & PANTS THEATER. Courtesy of a [blogless] friend in San Francisco (it would be).

Cheese & Pants Theater is a surrealistic marriage of found sound and mime. Apparently. Honestly, how does one describe a performance where a gigantic pair of disembodied pants and an equally gigantic can of parmesan cheese act out found, prerecorded dialogues?

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 PM

      ( 12:15 PM ) The Rat  
THE PUTIN-POTTER CONNECTION. As if a Rowling character could ever have said something as cool as this.

Dobby, the computer-animated elf in the new Harry Potter film, could be at the centre of a court battle over his resemblance to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

A Russian law firm is reportedly drawing up legal action against the special effects people who dreamt up Dobby, arguing that the ugly but caring elf has been modelled on Mr Putin.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:15 PM

      ( 12:09 PM ) The Rat  
IRAQ TO CHAIR CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT. Which goes rather nicely with Libya chairing the Commission on Human Rights.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 PM

      ( 12:07 PM ) The Rat  

Today, not sated by yesterday's fill of exotic Buddhism, we decide to hunt down the penis shrine.

Partly we are intrigued because, gosh, who wouldn't be intrigued by a penis shrine? It is blithely mentioned in one of our guide books, with nary an explanation, and the detective in us craves to know what and why.

But we must admit that partly we're going because it's really close to our hotel. Honestly, we're not the type of people who schlep all over town in desperate pursuit of a penis shrine. On the other hand, if you throw a penis shrine in our face, we won't turn our backs on it, either.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:07 PM

      ( 12:05 PM ) The Rat  
He takes me to the places you
And I used to go
He tells me over and over
That he loves me so
He gives me love
That I never got from you
He loves me too,
His love is true
Why can't he be you?

Patsy Cline; lyrics by Hank Cochran

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:05 PM

Monday, January 27, 2003
      ( 1:27 PM ) The Rat  
READ THE AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG over the weekend. It's the only extant memoir of the Korean gulag, and worth a look (the author was imprisoned with his family at the age of 9 and released, ten years later, in 1987). Also interesting to note is which remnants of tradition survive Communist ideology: for instance, the Korean belief that the dead should be buried on high ground is adhered to even in the camp; as is much of the Confucian respect for the sanctity of the family—in fact, that is one motive for imprisoning not merely lone enemies of the state but three generations' worth of their relatives. (Another reason is eugenic—in Kang Chol-hwan's account, one guard screams to a woman found to be pregnant: "You, a counterrevolutionary, dare to bring a child into this world? You, from a family of traitors of the fatherland?" Hence also the popularity of forced abortion and infanticide.)

I've read a number of gulag memoirs—this is one of the best—but the Koreans have a few tricks so baroque they were new even to me: e.g., posthumous stonings. By the end of the book, China looks like Las Vegas.


A group of children had been ordered to excavate a ton of fine earth [at the clay quarry] in a single afternoon, an absurd quota. Working without the benefit of either adult supervision or scaffolding, they burrowed child-sized tunnels into the foot of the cliff, whose environs soon turned gloomy with shadows and dust. My job that day was to carry the excavated earth over to the trucks that hauled it away. I was just finishing one of my trips when I heard a muted rumble, then screams. I ran toward the tunnel. There had been a cave-in. A number of kids were trapped. As I worked furiously to help dig out the rubble, I overheard my schoolmaster bantering with one of the guards.

"What a piece of work, these kids!" he mused. "Gone and collapsed the cliff again. What idiots! Guess they won't be siring any little ones!"

We managed to pull five or six of the kids out alive, but all the rest were dead. I remember their bodies, blue but not yet stiffened… After giving the crew a sharp dressing-down, the teacher ordered everyone back to work—for the sake of discipline, I suppose. Still shaken, the kids begged to have the job put off until the next day, but the teacher wouldn't have any of it. He kicked and slapped them until they rejoined their post—at the very place where they had just extracted their friends, whose bodies lay within view, waiting to be moved to the camp's hospital.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:27 PM

      ( 11:59 AM ) The Rat  

Nor can the U.N. claim ignorance of what happens when victims are abandoned to their oppressors. The Srebrenica scenario is reminiscent of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when promises by the U.N. to protect Rwandan civilians proved just as empty. There, too, U.N. personnel knew that the victim groups had been previously disarmed—in this case, by laws enacted in 1964 and 1979. Early on in the genocide, thousands of Rwandan civilians gathered in areas where U.N. troops had been stationed, thinking they would be protected. They weren't. If the Rwandans had known that the U.N. troops would withdraw, they would have fled, and some might have survived. "The manner in which troops left, including attempts to pretend to the refugees that they were not in fact leaving, was disgraceful," an independent report later concluded.

In short, the U.N. was aware of Milosevic's propensity for ethnic cleansing, and had ample reason to know that its actions would create a situation ripe for genocide. The atrocities at Srebrenica could not have been perpetrated by the Serbs on such a grand scale had not the U.N. and its policies first prepared an enclave of victims, most of them disarmed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:59 AM

      ( 11:53 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 AM

      ( 11:47 AM ) The Rat  
A BONE TO PICK with Samuel Butler, who in his 1897 The Authoress of the Odyssey claimed ...well, you figure it out. Butler evidently missed this passage (the meeting with Kirkê [X.365-76]; Fitzgerald trans.):

"What champion, of what country, can you be?
Where are your kinsmen and your city?
Are you not sluggish with my wine? Ah, wonder!
Never a mortal man that drank this cup
but when it passed his lips he had succumbed.
Hale must your heart be and your tempered will.
Odysseus then you are, O great contender,
of whom the glittering god with golden wand
spoke to me ever, and foretold
the black swift ship would carry you from Troy.
Put up your weapon in the sheath. We two
shall mingle and make love upon our bed..."

In short: "You must be Odysseus. Get in the sack!" And he thinks a woman wrote it? Better luck next time, Sam.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:47 AM

      ( 11:46 AM ) The Rat  
I WAS YOUNG; I NEEDED THE MONEY. To the Google searcher who came here looking for "porn + rat": Get help.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:46 AM

      ( 11:45 AM ) The Rat  
On this first day itself, when, on my return to the hotel, I was able to visualise the memory which I had brought away with me, I realized what a conjuring trick had been performed, and with what consummate sleight of hand, and how I had talked for a moment or two with a person who, thanks to the skill of the conjurer, without actually embodying anything of that other person whom I had for so long been following as she paced beside the sea, had been substituted for her. I might, for that matter, have guessed as much in advance, since the girl on the beach was a fabrication of my own. In spite of which, since I had in my conversations with Elstir, identified her with Albertine, I felt myself in honour bound to fulfil to the real the promises of love made to the imagined Albertine. We betroth ourselves by proxy, and then feel obliged to marry the intermediary.
Within a Budding Grove

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:45 AM

Friday, January 24, 2003
      ( 1:32 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:32 PM

      ( 11:27 AM ) The Rat  
WAYS THE WORLD COULD END (article from 2000). Enjoy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:27 AM

      ( 11:25 AM ) The Rat  
STUDY FINDS HIGHER SUICIDE RISK among children of single-parent families.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:25 AM

      ( 11:20 AM ) The Rat  
MORE ON THAT CHINESE FOSSIL FIND, which scientists think could help explain the origin of birds.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:20 AM

      ( 11:08 AM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING TNR PIECE, by Michael Fumento, on ADHD.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:08 AM

      ( 11:04 AM ) The Rat  
THE TIMES ON SHARPTON FIRE CONSPIRACY THEORIES. Let the games begin. And while I'm here, how about a completely unrelated link.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:04 AM

      ( 11:00 AM ) The Rat  
THE FUR IS FLYING over Rolling Stone's claim that some 25 percent of newly infected HIV-positives got it from "bug-chasing." MSNBC, your source for absolutely unbiased journalism, reports here.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 AM

      ( 10:53 AM ) The Rat  
DA VINCI WAS DA MAN, the Post reports. (Their headline, not mine.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:53 AM

      ( 10:49 AM ) The Rat  
I was enclosed in the present, like heroes and drunkards...
Within a Budding Grove

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:49 AM

Thursday, January 23, 2003
      ( 4:33 PM ) The Rat  
"REINDEER PORN," SATURDAY, linked to Peter Singer, the man who brought new meaning to "The Seven Brothers Who Turned To Swans."

This is actually about reindeer porn, and has links to more things actually about reindeer porn.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:33 PM

      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  
TUSHNET: Child services is always underfunded, since, as the doctor I worked for at Bellevue put it: "Kids can't vote." Outrage never lasts. So even rich New York spends little.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:05 PM ) The Rat  
STUDY FINDS LOVE KEY TO WEIGHT LOSS. Looks like us fat, egotistical types are just screwed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:05 PM

      ( 3:03 PM ) The Rat  
TWENTY THINGS YOU MUST EAT BEFORE YOU DIE. Not long before, either, going by what's listed. Via the Guardian.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:03 PM

      ( 2:59 PM ) The Rat  

I admit Castle Wolfenstein rocks. But it wasn't realistic enough, at least in my day, to include yellow stars.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:59 PM

      ( 2:53 PM ) The Rat  
CENTRAL PARK TO BE DRAPED IN FABRIC. Amazing what some people would rather have than $3 million.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:53 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:39 PM ) The Rat  
CLONED KITTENS. Interestingly, the markings differ regardless of DNA (see caption).

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:39 PM

      ( 2:32 PM ) The Rat  
NELL CARTER, whose show I watched endlessly as a kid, has died at 54.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:32 PM

      ( 2:14 PM ) The Rat  
Lasagna without meat is a pretty good meal. Lasagna without meat and without cheese is a hate crime.
—Jonah Goldberg in the new NR (preview here)

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:14 PM

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
      ( 4:15 PM ) The Rat  
OUR PRECIOUS BODILY ESSENCES ARE SAFE!!!—for the next four months, at any rate.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:15 PM

      ( 4:11 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:08 PM ) The Rat  
SO, THIS "FIRST EVER NUDE AIRLINE FLIGHT" was all over the news Sunday. If I might ask a couple of [what would seem to me] obvious questions: 1) Remember how ugly the people you see in airports typically are? 2) Do you really want to see them naked?

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:08 PM

      ( 4:05 PM ) The Rat  
FASCINATING STORY ABOUT SWAMP MONSTERS AND THE MAORI. Link via Eve, the original swamp monster, and your best source for swamp-monster news.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:05 PM

      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
INTERESTING. Just found the term "parachute kid"—one of The Rat's many descriptors—in an online dictionary. There's more about us at this Columbia site (with which I have no affiliation) too.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
SORT OF RELATED to that, here is an excellent TNR piece from last year on how immigrant families tend to do less well with each successive generation after coming to America.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 4:00 PM ) The Rat  
I'M A LITTLE LATE WITH THIS, but in case any readers haven't heard, NARAL is changing its name.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:00 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  
"RECENT MEDICAL STUDIES," via the Onion. Good stuff.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  
"AMERICAN IDOL" SUED FOR AGE DISCRIMINATION. Too bad this guy wasn't shooting for Miss America.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

      ( 3:57 PM ) The Rat  
AND HERE IS A PHOTO OF SHAMU PUNTING. They don't pay me those big journalist bucks for nothing.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:57 PM

      ( 3:55 PM ) The Rat  
STRAWBERRY POP-TART BLOWTORCHES. This is a very old site—I think I first read it as a sophomore in college—but good for a few yuks if you haven't already seen it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:55 PM

      ( 3:55 PM ) The Rat  
AL HIRSCHFELD died Monday.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:55 PM

      ( 3:51 PM ) The Rat  
DON'T GET EXCITED, the Rat isn't dead—I just haven't been able to post because of internet functions being on the fritz here for the last three days. However, I now have plenty of links saved up and will be splashing them all up at once. My apologies for any slightly aged news items.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:51 PM

      ( 3:47 PM ) The Rat  
...she was still drinking herself to death for her two unchallengeable reasons: because of all that had not happened and because of all that had.
—Philip Roth, Sabbath's Theater

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:47 PM

Saturday, January 18, 2003
      ( 4:12 PM ) The Rat  
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS, HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS... I seldom go above 42nd St. and so never saw this, but my Russian teacher was telling us this afternoon that for the holidays this year, French Connection ("FCUK") decorated their shop by Radio City Music Hall with an enormous photo of dozens of down-at-heel Santa Clauses interspersed with topless women, hands laid modestly over boobs. (Their own hands, that is.) Hip advertising? Public menace? Only their mothers know for sure, but according to my own teacher more than a few parents were covering their children's eyes as they passed. Her own little girl, looking a bit perplexed but clearly a master of inductive logic, wanted to know: "Mommy... When you go to meet Santa Claus, do you have to take off your clothes?"

Anyway my teacher, rather miffed, proceeded to call and complain to people all the way up FCUK's corporate ladder. It turns out the ads were designed by a U.K. agency, representatives of which assured her they had had many complaints from repressed American parental types such as herself. Foreign ads are traditionally edgier than domestic ones—at least back when I was still in the business, some of the cleverest advertising was coming from London—and they are also, as everyone knows, a lot freer with nudity.

The ad might have been less sketchy elsewhere—in front of their Soho store for instance—but this one was right by a theater where many parents like to take their children, hence my teacher's annoyance. In any case, the ad did finally come down, a few days before Christmas, and was replaced with big SALE signs. But stick around—maybe next year they'll try tapping into the advertising potential of reindeer porn.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:12 PM

      ( 3:46 PM ) The Rat  
LEATHER FETISHISTS VS. PETA. Another story reality got to ahead of the Onion. Via Eve.

Hundreds of leather-clad homosexuals hailing from across the country were confronted by animal "rights" activists Friday as they kicked off Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, D.C. Avoiding condemnation of the leather enthusiasts, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent homosexual activists to offer "cruelty-free" alternatives to the alternative lifestyle crowd.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:46 PM

      ( 3:43 PM ) The Rat  
THE TRENT LOTTE. Thanks are due the now-blogless Shamed for this one.

Bitter brew? For the past couple of weeks, those wags at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle have been marketing a beverage called the "Trent Lotte." The menu describes the $3.25 item as "separate but equal parts of coffee and milk"—a not too veiled reference to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott's career-damaging 100th-birthday praise of fellow Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist 1948 presidential campaign. Yesterday bartender Mark Kutcher told us that the coffee and steamed milk are served in two different containers, and it's up to customers to integrate them. "We think it's really funny," Kutcher said. "That's why we do it." But we seriously doubt if Lott is laughing. Our call to the deposed Senate Republican leader's press office yesterday was greeted by grim silence.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:43 PM

      ( 3:42 PM ) The Rat  
It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday.
The Epiplectic Bicycle

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:42 PM

Friday, January 17, 2003
      ( 6:01 PM ) The Rat  
SCIENTISTS AT UC SAN FRANCISCO have identified the first molecular step that allows an embryo to attach to the uterus.

The finding is expected to provide a new tool to diagnose and treat infertility and early pregnancy loss, the scientists report.

The researchers found convincing evidence that a molecular sticking process stops the embryo’s journey along the uterine wall and starts attaching it to the wall—the first stage of implantation. Failure of the embryo to implant causes about three-fourths of lost pregnancies.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:01 PM

      ( 5:25 PM ) The Rat  

According to investigators, increasingly large quantities of drugs have been slipping past inspectors, concealed in seemingly ordinary clothing—only these clothes have been specially prepared and impregnated with liquid heroin that can be extracted once the clothes arrive in the United States...

"It is very difficult for inspectors to detect," Manifase acknowledged, noting that the only tip-off is that the clothes appear stiffer than usual, as though they had been starched.

But even then, he said, some of the smugglers are using heavy denim jeans—which are somewhat stiff already—to throw inspectors off the track.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:25 PM

      ( 2:46 PM ) The Rat  

Roth is brilliant, but less appealing, frankly—I say this going by his interviews—than his work. (This doesn’t especially reflect badly on him even if it is true; it would be true of most writers I should think.)

Dante was just really unpleasant (going by his work, as well as by contemporary accounts).

Proust would talk too much.

Shakespeare, from what we know of him, would have just been really quiet and handed me another beer, which is a virtue in a friend, but in this context would be kind of a waste.

Dostoevsky might be liable to suddenly confess (as he did to Turgenev) to having molested a child even though he almost certainly didn’t, and I'm not sure even Miss Manners knows how to deal with that one.

Dickinson was so brilliant that, in an old phrase of the Oligarch's, I’d get a sunburn.

And Gogol was just nuts.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:46 PM

      ( 1:36 PM ) The Rat  
DESERT ISLAND REDUX. Thanks to Eve for her response, which of course means I have to stop fucking around posting pictures of penguins. (For now. However, watch this space.)

New players of this game could perhaps use a quick debriefing: This is not about the ten “best books you’ve ever read” or even about your ten favorite books; it’s about the ten you would restrict yourself to if you absolutely had to, the books you feel you could re-read over and over, because they remain somehow always new—and/or because you have come to confide in them as you would in a friend.

1-2. I cheat, like Eve. But I’ll go with the King James for no. 1. The Riverside Shakespeare—which includes the poetry as well as the plays—is no. 2.

3. The Divine Comedy.

4. The Idiot. Yes, believe it or not, and not Karamazov. This may change with time of course, but for now I find The Idiot more frustrating, more puzzling, and therefore more entrancing. I told a friend a few months ago this is the book I would like to be able to understand before I die.

It’s funny to think this is the same book that my best friend and I used to pick up off library bookshelves to run up to each other with exclaiming, “Hey! They wrote a book about you!”

5. Sabbath’s Theater.

6. Argh. Something of Thos. Mann’s but I’m not sure what.

7. Ditto for Tanizaki. (I wish I could cheat on items 4-7 here and simply bring the complete works of all four authors.)

8. Gogol’s Dead Souls. Maybe. Or possibly Dickinson or Stevens if I was feeling especially virtuous, but friends know me to be allergic to most poetry. I’ll have to think about this one.

9. One Agatha Christie, but I’m not sure which—perhaps this. I have her memorized much as Eve does The Last Unicorn, but still it’s important to have a copy of her physically with me as she is one of the few remaining props for my little remaining sanity. Possibly next week, I will try and post some thoughts on Christie, who has been with me the same length of time (but with fewer arguments) as my best friend—since 1987.

10. In Search of Lost Time. The Rat hasn’t entered a library since her return from Paris because she is firmly wedded to her plan of making it through all six volumes in the English edition (and then, hopefully, all seven volumes in the French edition—hey, a Rat can dream) by summer.

I sent Eve the e-mail asking if she’d had any new books-on-a-desert-island thoughts specifically because I’d been wondering if Proust would make my list. I think he would, but with this qualification: I am not sure he’d be necessary if I was going to be absolutely alone on this island. As everyone knows, Proust is most powerful writing on jealousy, love, and memory; I am not sure how important he would be if love were never again to be a consideration in one’s life.

That said, I suspect I’d bring him anyway; he is able to evoke the goodness of things for me in a way analogous, I think, to what Eliot does for Eve.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:36 PM

      ( 1:10 PM ) The Rat  
IS YOUR SPOUSE TAKING UP TOO MUCH ROOM? Why not use him as a candelabrum.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:10 PM

      ( 1:04 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 PM

      ( 1:01 PM ) The Rat  
HERE, BELATEDLY, IS A PHOTO OF THOSE PENGUINS at the San Francisco Zoo that I (and every other blogger in the business) mentioned yesterday.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:01 PM

      ( 12:54 PM ) The Rat  
NOT QUITE THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS, but hey, good enough on a slow Friday.

Here is another weird photo. Also, note that Yahoo considers this a "Lifestyle" photo. Hmm... (Though to their credit, at this point of my young life the phrase "with all attempts at betterment disappearing in a mysterious sinkhole" somehow, um, resonates.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:54 PM

      ( 12:40 PM ) The Rat  
DHIMMITUDE.ORG. Useful site on the treatment of Jews and Christians under Islamic rule.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:40 PM

      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  

Even at the peak, most Americans disappointed pro-abortion ideologues by persisting in seeing abortion as a tragedy rather than a routine medical procedure. Parents do not dream of one day telling people about "my son the abortionist." Few men brag about pressuring their girlfriends or wives into having abortions. Unease about abortion is so widespread that the politicians most committed to keeping it legal rarely use the word, preferring to talk about "choice." Abortion is the right that dare not speak its name...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

      ( 12:20 PM ) The Rat  
THE NEW YORK POST'S Steve Cuozzo reviews that $41 Kobe-beef hamburger (which I made a yo momma joke about on my other blog, the other day), here. I've had Kobe beef abroad—it's yummy—but to waste it on a hamburger seems a bit sacrilegious. In its paper version (I can't seem to find this online), the Post helpfully runs a sidebar review of a Big Mac, by Braden Keil.

There is a funny episode involving the raising of Kobe beef in this book.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 PM

      ( 12:12 PM ) The Rat  
THE RAT CAN'T REMEMBER if she already posted these. A selection of (real) book titles from Bizarre Books (by Russell Ash and Brian Lake; now out of print, alas), which Eve found and graciously ceded to me in a Charing Cross Rd. bookshop last summer:

The Rhinoceros in Art: from Dürer to Stubbs (n.d.)
How To Be Plump (1878)
One Hundred and Forty-one Ways of Spelling Birmingham (1880)
One Hundred Proofs that the Earth is Not a Globe (1885)
How To Be Happy Though Married (1885) [an enterprising year!]
The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Terrier (1926)
Who’s Who in Cocker Spaniels (1944)
How to Avoid Intercourse With Your Unfriendly Car Mechanic (1977)
Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (1978)
The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling (1983)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:12 PM

      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  

"Autumn" from The Four Seasons, Vivaldi
The "1812" Overture, Tchaikovsky

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 PM

      ( 11:56 AM ) The Rat  
TOMORROW—when, I hope, I won't be anywhere near a computer—is Cary Grant's (né Archibald Alexander Leach) birthday!

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:56 AM

      ( 11:54 AM ) The Rat  
ONE ART, by Elizabeth Bishop.

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:54 AM

Thursday, January 16, 2003
      ( 5:58 PM ) The Rat  
ON NORTH KOREA'S GULAG. This recent memoir by a former prisoner is probably worth checking out too.

At one camp, Camp 22 in Haengyong, some 50,000 prisoners toil each day in conditions that U.S. officials and former inmates say results in the death of 20 percent to 25 percent of the prison population every year...

NBC’s investigation revealed that North Korea’s State Security Agency maintains a dozen political prisons and about 30 forced labor and labor education camps, mainly in remote areas. The worst are in the country’s far Northeast. Some of them are gargantuan: At least two of the camps, Haengyong and Huaong, are larger in area than the District of Columbia, with Huaong being three times the size of the U.S. capital district...

“All of North Korea is a gulag,” said one senior U.S. official, noting that as many as 2 million people have died of starvation while Kim has amassed the world’s largest collection of Daffy Duck cartoons. “It’s just that these people [in the camps] are treated the worst. No one knows for sure how many people are in the camps, but 200,000 is consistent with our best guess."

It is the widespread jailing of political prisoners’ families that makes North Korea unique, according to human rights advocates. Under a directive issued by Kim’s father, North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, three generations of a dissident’s family can be jailed simply on the basis of a denunciation.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:58 PM

      ( 4:51 PM ) The Rat  
NO WAY AM I LETTING EVE MENTION MORE PENGUINS ON HER BLOG THAN I DO ON MINE. Awesome story about the penguins at the San Francisco Zoo. Link via Jonah on The Corner.

A few penguins swimming leisurely at the San Francisco Zoo is nothing new. But dozens of them doing laps in unison for hours has zookeepers perplexed.

It all started in November when six newcomer Magellannic penguins, formerly of Sea World in Aurora, Ohio, were brought in.

Since then the penguin pool at the San Francisco Zoo has been a daily frenzy of circle swimming by all of the 52 birds at once.

The penguins start swimming in circles early in the day and rarely stop until they stagger out of the pool at dusk.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:51 PM

      ( 12:53 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:53 PM

      ( 12:32 PM ) The Rat  
I'VE NEVER WATCHED any of these so-called "reality shows"—my position on reality being that I'm against it—but all the stuff in the news about shows like "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette" has reminded me that while in France this trip I learned the word for "bachelor," namely célibataire. (As an adjective or adverb this also means "unmarried.") In a post-sexual revolution era this makes for some interesting conjunctions—as, for instance, in the novelty clock I saw in one shop depicting a guy and girl in bed screwing, under the heading (in French) "[Happy] Célibataire!"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:32 PM

      ( 12:23 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:23 PM

      ( 12:22 PM ) The Rat  
THIS would be a good thing, but I can't say I'm holding my breath.

The European Union should lose some of its powers to national governments, according to a draft constitution drawn up by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the chairman of the Convention on the future of Europe.

An early version of a future EU constitution, prepared by the former French president's staff and seen by the Financial Times, would forbid the EU from harmonising member countries' laws in areas ranging from industry to employment.

The Convention's steering "praesidium" will discuss the draft constitution articles at a meeting on Thursday.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:22 PM

      ( 12:19 PM ) The Rat  

Some 1,000 adults were asked whether, in light of medical advances that reveal the unborn child's body and facial features in detail, "are you in favor of restoring legal protection for unborn children?" Sixty-eight percent of the randomly surveyed adults said they were in favor of legal protection, with 44 percent in strong agreement of such action. Almost the same number—66 percent—said they favored nominees to the Supreme Court "who would uphold laws that restore legal protection to unborn children."

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:19 PM

      ( 11:53 AM ) The Rat  
I’ve been in love before, it’s true
Been learning to adore just you
Some old romance taught me how to kiss,
To smile like that, to sigh like this
I’ve been in love before, you’ll see,
Oh darling, what a bore I've been
My past that makes you hate me
Makes you love me too:
I’ve been in love before...
Haven’t you?

Marlene Dietrich in Seven Sinners (1940)
[lyrics by Frank Loesser]

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:53 AM

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
      ( 5:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:30 PM

      ( 5:16 PM ) The Rat  
SING HO! FOR THE LIFE OF AN EDITOR. In an e-mail with my most recent work assignment a supervisor notes:

"This one can probably be cut much, made unstupid, etc."

I totally want to put "Made things unstupider" on my next resume. Probably wouldn't get me any jobs though.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:16 PM

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
      ( 5:22 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:22 PM

      ( 5:20 PM ) The Rat  
THE MONTMARTRE DEVICE WAS NOT ACTUALLY A BOMB, apparently, just some gas canisters.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:20 PM

      ( 3:04 PM ) The Rat  
BOMB FOUND IN SACRÉ-COEUR. Et in Arcadia ego, to coin a phrase.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:04 PM

      ( 2:47 PM ) The Rat  
NEW EVIDENCE OF THE DECLINE OF THE WEST. So I'm pricing dictionaries at Amazon, since the next several years of my life are going to be taken up largely in learning Russian, German, and Latin, and possibly Italian and Japanese, and improving my French. (I could also finish learning Chinese and Taiwanese properly, but that might let me in for actually having to talk to my parents.) Anyway it turns out Harpercollins last year released a new edition of its Robert French Unabridged Dictionary (French); as part of their sales pitch they provide the following "sampling of the new terms this edition includes":

gray market
mall rat
day trader
deep vein thrombosis

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:47 PM

      ( 1:45 PM ) The Rat  
THIS IS FUNNY. The person who sent me the link would probably prefer not to be credited.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:45 PM

      ( 1:40 PM ) The Rat  
INCIDENTALLY, THE RAT IS NOT SURE SHE APPROVES of the expression "The Rat is on fire." Call it irrational paranoia no. 7.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:40 PM

      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  
Saint-Loup told me that even in the most exclusive aristocratic society his uncle Palamède stood out as being particularly unapproachable, scornful, obsessed with his nobility, forming with his brother's wife and a few other chosen spirits what was known as the Phoenix Club. Even there his insolence was so dreaded that it had happened more than once that society people who had been anxious to meet him and had applied to his own brother for an introduction had met with a refusal: 'Really, you mustn't ask me to introduce you to my uncle Palamède. Even if my wife and the whole lot of us put ourselves to the task it would be no good. Or else you'd run the risk of his being rude to you, and I shouldn't like that.' At the Jockey Club he had, with a few of his friends, marked a list of two hundred members whom they would never allow to be introduced to them.
Within a Budding Grove

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 PM

Monday, January 13, 2003
      ( 3:59 PM ) The Rat  
VERY GOOD TNR ARTICLE ON SEX AND THE CITY, by Lee Siegel. Published a couple months ago—okay, I'm a little behind in my online reading, so sue me. Just read this first.

The problem is that Sex and the City, once it mustered a striking frankness on the tube about urban men and women, has gone about squandering it. Instead of plunging into all the strange new present-day configurations of sex and emotion, the series has proceeded to divide sex from emotion. There is an abundance of fucking in Sex and the City, but it is the sort of fucking you did years ago, when you were very young, lying on the bed and cavorting in the head. As the series rolled along, you became aware of a damning artifice, an un-mimetic quality startling in a series that was supposed to be a candid look at urban life: none of these women is hurt by sex. The show sublimates actual sex into ideal sex-in-an-emotional-vacuum in the same way that sitcoms from the 1950s sublimated actual family relations into ideal family relations. Sex and the City is Leave It to Beaver after dark. […]

Commenting on Sarah Jessica Parker's recent pregnancy, [co-creator] Michael Patrick King said: "Sarah's our workhorse, our show pony. We put her in high heels and tell her to run thirty blocks. Now, all of a sudden, she has to be babied." In its caricature of women who talk about sex like men, and, like men, have orgasms every time they have sex, the show represents a kind of counterattack on women's biology. The expensive, mismatched, chic-ugly clothes that Carrie wears; Sarah Jessica Parker's confused interpretations of her character as a black girl one episode and a self-conscious suburban cutie the next; Samantha's robotic-erotic, stud-like manner (and the sweaty, atrocious acting of Kim Cattrall, who could not stand still and convince you that she is a person standing still); the women's starry-eyed gold-digging; their countless humiliations: the picture of heterosexual life projected by Sex and the City, though it sometimes hits the nail right on the head, is the biggest hoax perpetrated on straight single women in the history of entertainment. The series' misogyny is matched by its homophobia: the only regular gay characters, Stanford and Anthony, are self-hating and flaming, respectively. Perhaps the exhilaration that the show provokes in some of its fans stems from the reactionary character of its assumptions about sexual identity.

By the fourth season, with the exception of Charlotte, who has been divorced, the four women were in their late thirties and still unmarried, and you began to realize that the show's premise of its protagonists searching in the city for love and happiness was meant from the beginning to culminate in disappointment—but disappointment funnily, sexily, even glamorously portrayed, until disappointment itself started to look like love and happiness, and the object of the search, someone to share your life with, acquired the aspect of a dystopian and dysfunctional fantasy.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:59 PM

      ( 2:35 PM ) The Rat  
THE RAT INHABITS A FRIGHTENING UNIVERSE. Eve's been at me to write this for months. Here are some of my irrational paranoias. Unfortunately the count, at six, is relatively low for the moment, and as I explained to Eve I don’t think I could just make up more for padding because nothing I invented could possibly be as whacked-out as these:

The fear that other people secretly think I’m illiterate. (Alas, if there were only a Latin term for this.) This one’s been with me ever since watching Stanley & Iris with my best friend one day in high school—i.e., at least ten years ago now. It manifests principally when someone asks me to read aloud something they don’t have in front of them (and that I couldn't possibly have memorized beforehand in the expectation I would be asked to read it); afterward I inevitably have a smug feeling that translates roughly to, “See, I’m not illiterate!” Eve, and others, seem to think this is kind of a weird thing for a professional editor whose main pastime is reading, to be paranoid about; but it’s because Stanley, in the film, had so successfully snowed everyone into believing he could read when he couldn’t.

When I confessed this paranoia to a bookish professor friend he immediately said, "Well, you are certainly not illiterate..." which of course only confirmed my fear that people had been thinking I was.

The fear that, if I leave my eyedrops at my desk or otherwise unattended, somebody will poison them. This one’s my own fault. I once co-poisoned, using hairspray, the toothbrush of a girl I didn’t like; and turnabout, after all, is fair play. (Reactions to this have varied from “Wow, you’re really evil” to the more jaded, but also more sensible, “Was it at summer camp or something?”) Chickpea thought this paranoia was lame, but Shamed thinks it's pretty swift.

The fear that, without announcing it to the general public, buildings will have their security sensors modified to not only go off, but also immediately vaporize the person attempting to pass through. This one’s an amalgam of a Bloom County cartoon where Steve Dallas, in a futuristic sequence, is vaporized for smoking in a smoke-free bar; the fact that I used constantly to set off alarms because I had library books with me; and a plan my eldest brother conceived, and worked out all the physics for, that involved suspending three enormous magnifying lenses at different points over the earth, such that the rays of the sun could be focused on any target with sufficient force to instantly vaporize it. He was in middle school at the time and took it to the T.A. at his summer program at Caltech. (“Are these calculations right?” “Hmm—yeah—looks good to me. What’s it for?” “Oh, nothing…”)

The fear of falling bookshelves. There probably is a Latin name for this one. I hate having a guest sleep anywhere near my bookshelves out of a fear they’ll topple over in the night. Probably from watching too many James Bond and other cops-and-robbers chase scenes as a kid.

The fear of being abandoned. Like, at a restaurant. As in, being nervous that a friend who steps out to use the restroom while we’re out for dinner will not come back—and that our entire friendship up to that date has in fact been a front for leaving me stranded on this one occasion. This one’s probably the fault of my eldest brother, who used always to joke, when the check arrived—at a restaurant we had come to by car, before I could drive—that he “had to make a phone call.”

The fear that one’s domicile will run out of toilet paper. Self-explanatory. This one’s not really weird at all except to Eve, which is why I make a better roommate.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:35 PM

      ( 1:47 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:47 PM

      ( 12:49 PM ) The Rat  
RAT HAIKU. Courtesy, if that's the right word, of Old Oligarch.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:49 PM

      ( 11:16 AM ) The Rat  
BEST SPILLS OF 2002 (via News of the Weird). An 18-wheeler full of beer (Interstate 5 near Fort Tejon, Calif., July); 1,500 gallons of Southern Comfort whiskey (warehouse in Louisville, Ky., July); 20 tons of hot dogs (Interstate 70, Kansas City, Mo., August); pizza dough (leaking out of a truck's door, from rising yeast), spread over 25 miles of highway, from a Tombstone Pizza truck (near Chippewa Falls, Wis., July); 270,000 eggs (Interstate 65, Crown Point, Ind., May); $1 million in cash (U.S. Highway 160, near Pagosa Springs, Colo., May); 50,000 inch-long screws (causing scores of flat tires) (Interstate 65, near Lebanon Junction, Ky., December); and 37 voting machines (fell off of a truck and were ruined, six days before primary elections (Albuquerque, May).

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:16 AM

Friday, January 10, 2003
      ( 4:29 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:29 PM

      ( 12:53 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:53 PM

      ( 12:00 PM ) The Rat  
I NEVER MET A VEGETABLE I LIKED. Yesterday evening I overheard three conversations. The first was unspeakably depressing and I won't repeat it. The other two happened at the Strand. Conversation 1 was an exchange between two clerks discussing a matter of great import.

Clerk 1. Do you like brussels sprouts?
Clerk 2. Well, you know I first had them when I was a kid, and I just remember they were really gross.
Clerk 1. Do you like zucchini?
Clerk 2. No...
Clerk 1. Do you like turnips?
Clerk 2. No.
Clerk 1. Hmm.
Clerk 2. [wistfully] I like scallions...

And, elsewhere in the store, conversation 2, between two coeds trying to find books on a syllabus they had with them:

Girl 1. And what else is there... Machiavelli. Do they have Machiavelli?
Girl 2. We also need to get "Neech"—whoever he is.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:00 PM

      ( 11:55 AM ) The Rat  
I'M PRETTY SURE I FOUND SARCASM FUNNY BEFORE THE AGE OF 10, but then so would you if you'd grown up in my family. Link via Shamed.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:55 AM

      ( 11:39 AM ) The Rat  
One becomes moral as soon as one is unhappy.
Within a Budding Grove

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:39 AM

Thursday, January 09, 2003
      ( 5:16 PM ) The Rat  
TWO INCOMPLETE LISTS. First (and in no particular order), THINGS I DIDN'T MISS about the States while I was in Paris:

1. The parks. Our scholars, scientists, rock music, and customer service may be the world's finest, but we can't build a park for shit. As evidence I submit not only my favorite park in Paris but also Kensington Gardens in London. No wonder our young people don't read; our parks bite.

2. The PDAs. In a letter to my best friend I speculated that it's due to some lingering puritan strain, but Americans who show romantic affection in public are always, always annoying (even when you're one of them, you know you're being annoying); French lovers, somehow, aren't. Another likable thing: the refreshingly businesslike way in which (most of) their men take rejection.

3. The food. Duh.

4. The consolidation of …everything. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker are a good thing where possible, though I reluctantly concede that supermarkets may be more practical for those of us whose time, to put it delicately, is not our own.

5. The not-to-human-scale-ness. Because I live in New York, of course. One of my favorite things about the Métro is how close together the stations are; it's just one of the many things that make you feel this is a city built for your convenience, rather than one that expects you to pull yourself to pieces for its own.

6. Cell-phone compulsiveness. Hasn't caught on as frenetically there as it has here. I find myself being more polite about my own since coming back.

7. The young men, who are not as hot, on average, as they are over there.

8. Butter substitutes. Despite no. 3, being key to eudaimonia, this clearly deserves its own bullet point.

9. The ugly street signs and overpractical and/or unimaginative street names. I grant that New York or Chicago would be chaos if we named streets things like "Fishing Cat Street" (rue du Chat qui Pêche—an actual street, the shortest in Paris). Numbers are obviously a better bet for cities laid out on grids, and particularly for Manhattan on account of its vastness. But that doesn't mean I can't still prefer a city that's named this many streets just after mathematicians.

10. The mania for news. I know, it's part of the democratic process—and far better to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry determined to have his own position on the tiniest points of government policy than to have your law decided for you by some ass at the EU. Still, it was refreshing to be in a place where civic matters could be at least temporarily forgotten.


1. English. This isn't just me being insular—I've lived somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of my life outside the United States. English simply allows for more nuances—five or six, or more, ways for saying a thing for which, in many languages, there may be only one, or none. Admittedly, there are a number of foreign phrases sorely lacking equivalents (to name just three in French: demi-vièrge; esprit d'escalier, jolie-laide) but we tend to simply steal the ones we need. Besides, that is much less serious than the flaws of other languages. All translators are liars, but I suspect translations of foreign literature into French are on average further from the original than are translations into English; there are simply fewer directions you can go in French than in English. Also, French sounds much worse than does English when spoken by angry ladies in subways and by drunks.

Click here for something that sounds much funnier in French than in English.

2. The showing of courtesy to people even if they speak English. Actually, with only one or two exceptions the Parisians were extremely polite to me, but that's because I was traveling alone and know some French. Two in-laws I had dinner with toward the end of the trip saw an entirely different city, because the French will be at best curt, at worst rude, to you the moment they hear you speak English. Ressentiment, of course—they dislike being invaded by not only American tourists but by American culture, even as they lap up MTV and grab for our tourist dollars. I would advise against visiting Paris at all unless you're going alone or else with someone with whom you plan to speak only French in public; I doubt it makes nearly as big a difference, in any other city, to the quality of your reception.

3. The relative lack of Asian fetish. Hard to believe, but it's actually worse elsewhere than here, and combined with the lack of racial cosmopolitanism of just about any non-melting-pot country, it can be a pain in the ass. At least two dozen men introduced themselves by asking if I was "chinoise" or "japonaise." There seems to be an expectation that you'll reply: "Why yes, how clever of you! I will now take you back to my hotel and feed you grapes, after which we will have mind-blowing sex and I'll give you a notarized document certifying that you've slept with an actual Asian woman."

4. Variety in publishing. There are fewer publishing houses there and many things, especially the classics, are available under only one imprint (though the cover illustrations are sometimes changed after a few years just to keep you guessing). This helps ensure that the books on your shelf are of uniform height, but that's lame.

5. Sales, and transfers. Two concepts that, having been weaned on socialism, the European mind remains basically incapable of grasping. They do have sales, sometimes, but they're clearly half-hearted. As to transfers, the Paris Métro is a fabulous thing—I particularly love those manually operated doors, which allow you to jump out before the train's stopped—and it's cleaner and cheaper than, say, its New York or London counterparts. But it would be nice if they allowed bus or train transfers; they don't.

I also suspect that it's healthier for a culture to require tipping than to have everything service compris. Not only because it allows you to stiff a rude waiter, but because it forces cheapskate jerks like me, obeying the call of conscience, to do things like using our bus fare for a tip on a $4 bowl of soup even if it means walking 30 blocks. Such things build character.

6. The young women, who are hotter, on average, here than over there.

7. The American capacity to construct anything after 1960 that isn't hideously ugly. As illustration I give you the Tour Montparnasse.

8. The currency. I don't know who it was that observed that the flashiness of a nation's currency is in inverse ratio to the stability of its government. Besides, the French have discontinued the franc and use only euros now, and the EU is a horrible, horrible thing (for more on the evils of supranationalism, read just about anything by John O'Sullivan).

9. American ebullience. And, of course, its corollary: the New York Post.

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:16 PM

      ( 2:32 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:32 PM

      ( 2:30 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 PM

      ( 2:10 PM ) The Rat  
HOW IS THIS DAY DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER DAY? Not because of this at any rate.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:10 PM

      ( 11:54 AM ) The Rat  
BYRON YORK on that cross-burning case.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:54 AM

      ( 11:34 AM ) The Rat  
Gin had come to Dutchy like fire from heaven. At the first swallow she was conscious of that shock of recognition with which psychologists and literary critics are so familiar. It was as though, all her life, she had been dimly aware of the existence of some miraculous essence, some powerful liberating force, some enlightening catalyst, and here it was! It was gin!
—Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:34 AM

      ( 11:04 AM ) The Rat  
YOU CAN GET THAT FIXED, YA KNOW. All that aside, Wood is a brilliant critic and an entertaining lecturer—and, for a bonus, he reads beautifully. What had to be the funniest moment came early on when he was explaining his reason for having chosen to speak on "Chekhov, Verga, and the Lure of Simplicity" for the 42nd's "Personal Passions" series—that being that, as he frankly admitted, he himself is incapable of writing without a lot of figures and tricks. "When I write," he went on, "I tend to blossom—or perhaps spoil—into metaphor..." I think he genuinely did not realize he'd just used two more metaphors.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:04 AM

      ( 10:58 AM ) The Rat  
HOWEVER, HE'S WRONG ABOUT CHEKHOV. In places, at least, I thought his readings of "Rothschild's Fiddle" and "Gusev" skated across the ice a little too fast. (I won't try and attack him on Verga, whom I've not yet read.) The argument that the first line—which runs something like, "The town was a small one, worse than a village, and it was inhabited by old people who died so seldom that it was even annoying"—is necessarily a case of "free indirect style" (that is, the narrator speaking the thoughts of a character, in neither quite first nor third person) is a little shaky, if only because it seems to me Jacob, the protagonist, would probably have used a stronger statement still (for instance, that it simply was annoying). In some translations, as it happens, the statement is stronger (ex. Constance Garnett: "The town was a little one, worse than a village, and it was inhabited by scarcely any but old people who died with an infrequency that was really annoying"), but not in the one Wood himself was using (Ronald Hingley). Of course that's just more evidence I need to finish learning the freakin' language, which, incidentally, Wood himself doesn't read (ha!).

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:58 AM

      ( 10:42 AM ) The Rat  
JAMES WOOD IS RIGHT about the "hysterical realism" trend among contemporary writers. But then, that's why I don't read that shit. Excerpt:

The DeLilloan idea of the novelist as a kind of Frankfurt School entertainer—a cultural theorist, fighting the culture with dialectical devilry—has been woefully influential, and will take some time to die. Nowadays anyone in possession of a laptop is thought to be a brilliance on the move, filling his or her novel with essaylets and great displays of knowledge. Indeed, "knowing about things" has become one of the qualifications of the contemporary novelist. Time and again novelists are praised for their wealth of obscure and far-flung social knowledge. (Richard Powers is the best example, but Tom Wolfe also gets an easy ride simply for "knowing things".) The reviewer, mistaking bright lights for evidence of habitation, praises the novelist who knows about, say, the sonics of volcanoes. Who also knows how to make a fish curry in Fiji! Who also knows about terrorist cults in Kilburn! And about the New Physics! And so on. The result - in America at least—is novels of immense self-consciousness with no selves in them at all, curiously arrested and very "brilliant" books that know a thousand things but do not know a single human being. [...]

The other casualty of recent events may well be—it is to be hoped—what I have called "hysterical realism". Hysterical realism is not exactly magical realism, but magical realism's next stop. It is characterised by a fear of silence. This kind of realism is a perpetual motion machine that appears to have been embarrassed into velocity. Stories and sub-stories sprout on every page. There is a pursuit of vitality at all costs. Recent novels by Rushdie, Pynchon, DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith and others have featured a great rock musician who played air guitar in his crib (Rushdie); a talking dog, a mechanical duck and a giant octagonal cheese (Pynchon); a nun obsessed with germs who may be a reincarnation of J Edgar Hoover (DeLillo); a terrorist group devoted to the liberation of Quebec who move around in wheelchairs (Foster Wallace); and a terrorist Islamic group based in North London with the silly acronym Kevin (Smith).

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:42 AM

Wednesday, January 08, 2003
      ( 2:32 PM ) The Rat  
BY THE WAY, JAMES WOOD will be speaking at the 42nd St. Library tonight.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:32 PM

      ( 11:39 AM ) The Rat  
A MERE 56 YEARS LATER, scientists are preparing an answer to Orwell's essay "A Nice Cup of Tea." Orwell's thoughts on science and scientists can be found in the essay "What Is Science?" in this book.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:39 AM

      ( 11:15 AM ) The Rat  
YOUR JOKE HERE. Liz Smith reports that Gywneth Paltrow could be playing ...Sylvia Plath.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:15 AM

      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  
[I]t struck him that if, like so many other men, he had been poor, humble, deprived, forced to accept any work that might be offered to him, or tied down by parents or by a wife, he might have been obliged to part from Odette, that that dream, the terror of which was still so recent, might well have been true; and he said to himself: ‘People don’t know when they’re happy. One is never as unhappy as one thinks.’ But he reflected that this existence had already lasted for several years, that all he could now hope for was that it would last for ever, that he would sacrifice his work, his pleasures, his friends, in fact the whole of his life to the daily expectation of a meeting which, if it occurred, could bring him no happiness; and he asked himself whether he was not mistaken, whether the circumstances that had favoured his liaison and had prevented its final rupture had not done a disservice to his career, whether the outcome to be desired might not have been that as to which he rejoiced that it had happened only in a dream—his own departure; and he said to himself that people did not know when they were unhappy, that one is never as happy as one thinks.
Swann's Way

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM

Tuesday, January 07, 2003
      ( 3:38 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:38 PM

      ( 11:30 AM ) The Rat  
But then at once his jealousy, as though it were the shadow of his love, presented him with the complement, with the converse of that new smile with which she had greeted him that very evening—and which now, perversely, mocked Swann and shone with love for another—of that droop of the head, now sinking on to other lips, of all the marks of affection (now given to another) that she had shown to him. And all the voluptuous memories which he bore away from her house were, so to speak, but so many sketches, rough plans like those which a decorator submits to one, enabling Swann to form an idea of the various attitudes, aflame or faint with passion, which she might adopt for others. With the result that he came to regret every pleasure that he tasted in her company, every new caress of which he had been so imprudent as to point out to her the delights, every fresh charm that he found in her, for he knew that, a moment later, they would go to enrich the collection of instruments in his torture-chamber.
Swann's Way

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:30 AM

Monday, January 06, 2003
      ( 6:37 PM ) The Rat  
PHILIP MORRIS, as a holiday gesture toward what must be one of its few Fourth Estate allies, has sent my office an enormous box filled with Philip Morris goodies (no, no tobacco products, but plenty of chocolate, dried potatoes, etc.). The box itself is designed to look like a giant—two feet high, two feet wide, and eight inches deep—box of strawberry Jell-O. It’s awesome; I look like the procurement officer for Jim Jones.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:37 PM

      ( 2:52 PM ) The Rat  
It is true that my grandfather made out that, whenever I formed a strong attachment to any one of my friends and brought him home with me, that friend was invariably a Jew; to which he would not have objected on principle—indeed his own friend Swann was of Jewish extraction—had he not found that the Jews whom I chose as friends were not usually of the best type. And so whenever I brought a new friend home my grandfather seldom failed to start humming the 'O, God of our fathers' from La Juive, or else 'Israel, break thy chains,' singing the tune alone, of course, to an 'um-ti-tum-ti-tum, tra-la'; but I used to be afraid that my friend would recognise it and be able to reconstruct the words.

Before seeing them, merely on hearing their names, about which, as often as not, there was nothing particularly Hebraic, he would divine not only the Jewish origin of such of my friends as might indeed be Jewish, but even at times some skeleton in their family cupboard.

'And what's the name of this friend of yours who's coming this evening?'

'Dumont, grandpapa.'

'Dumont! Oh, I don't like the sound of that.'

And he would sing:

Archers, be on your guard!
Watch without rest, without sound.

And then, after a few adroit questions on points of detail, he would call out 'On guard! on guard,' or, if it were the victim himself who had already arrived, and had been unwittingly obliged, by subtle interrogation, to admit his origins, then my grandfather, to show us that he had no longer any doubts, would merely look as us, humming under his breath the air of:

What! do you hither guide the feet
Of this timid Israelite?

or of

Sweet vale of Hebron, dear paternal fields,

or, perhaps, of

Yes, I am of the chosen race.

Swann's Way

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:52 PM

      ( 2:42 PM ) The Rat  
JUST GOT HOLD, briefly, of a professor friend about a favor he had promised to do me. Excerpt of that conversation:

He. And you had a good time, going by your letter... You obviously want to go and live in Paris! What you need is to marry a wealthy Frenchman.
I. Or a wealthy American!
He. Yes, or a wealthy American.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:42 PM

      ( 12:21 PM ) The Rat  
LINES FROM HIGH-SCHOOL ESSAYS. Some are old, and I wouldn't vouch for them all being genuine, but it's still a fun read. The last is the best. (All forwarded to me by my own favorite high-school teacher.)

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30.

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two other sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She grew on him like she was E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

She had a deep throaty genuine laugh like that sound a dog makes just before he throws up.

He was a tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

McBride fell 12 storeys, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.

The hailstones leaped up off the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resemble Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

Even in his last years, grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

Young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for awhile.

"Oh, Jason, take me!" she panted, her breasts heaving like a college freshman on a $1-a-beer night.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a landmine or something.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

He was deeply in love; when she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword.

Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.

Her voice had that tense grating quality, like an older-generation, thermal paper fax machine that needed a band tightening.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But, unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 PM

      ( 12:06 PM ) The Rat  
MICHAEL JACKSON BABY-DROPPING GAME. A bit after the fact, but still, highly addictive. Via a blogless friend in New York.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:06 PM

      ( 12:03 PM ) The Rat  
I MAY BE A RAT, BUT you'd still have to pay me a fuckload of money to get me to participate in this experiment. Link via Eve.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:03 PM

      ( 9:39 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:39 AM

      ( 9:31 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 AM

      ( 9:16 AM ) The Rat  
SEE HOW EXCITED THE PARISIANS WERE to have me in their city?

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:16 AM

      ( 8:58 AM ) The Rat  

In 2001, a woman filed a federal lawsuit in Minnesota (Engleson vs. Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce), seeking to recover for injuries she suffered when she tripped over an orange traffic cone. The lawsuit was dismissed in November 2002 by Judge Donovan Frank, who said the law does not expect anyone to warn people that there's a warning cone up ahead. [Engleson v. Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Civil No. 01-1072 (D. Minn), 11-28-02]

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:58 AM

      ( 8:42 AM ) The Rat  
HEH. Via a blogless friend in Seattle.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:42 AM

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

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