The Rat
Friday, March 31, 2006
      ( 7:32 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:09 AM ) The Rat  
TWO NIFTY QUOTES Ratty might use in the paper she's working on...

When Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London, he occupied himself with writing a history of the world. He had finished the first volume and was at work on the second when there was a scuffle between some workmen beneath the window of his cell, and one of the men was killed. In spite of diligent enquiries, and in spite of the fact that he had actually seen the thing happen, Sir Walter was never able to discover what the quarrel was about: whereupon, so it is said—and if the story is not true it certainly out to be—he burned what he had written and abandoned his project.
—Orwell, "As I Please," 4 February 1944

[D]on't be too certain of learning the past from the lips of the present. Beware of the most honest broker. Remember that what you are told is really threefold: shaped by the teller, reshaped by the listener, concealed from both by the dead man of the tale.
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:09 AM

Thursday, March 30, 2006
      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  
THIS is not bad. Via WCC.

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      ( 9:48 PM ) The Rat  
HEE! Last paragraph is my favorite.

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      ( 6:11 PM ) The Rat  

When men and women are angry, they both choose the news media articles they read with the goal of regulating their moods, a new study suggests.

But, in some circumstances, men choose to read articles that will fuel their anger, while women choose articles that will dissipate it.

Researchers found that when men were angered and anticipate the chance to retaliate, they chose to read negative online news stories, presumably to sustain their anger until their opportunity to get even.

Women faced with the same situation, however, chose to read more positive news to help dissipate their anger before a possible confrontation.

“For women, it is not seen as appropriate for them to retaliate when they're angry, but it is OK for men. And that's reflected in their selection of media content,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University...

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      ( 10:00 AM ) The Rat  

Archaeologists claim to have unearthed the remains of the 3,500-year-old palace of Ajax, the warrior-king who according to Homer's Iliad was one of the most revered fighters in the Trojan War.

Classicists hailed the discovery, made on a small Greek island, as evidence that the myths recounted by Homer in his epic poem were based on historical fact...

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      ( 2:45 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 2:36 AM ) The Rat  
But the fact is, none of that matters. The only thing that matters to the Robert Redfords of the world is the idea—yes, the idea—that this place is "pristine." The appeal of ANWR to the average environmentalist is an entirely psychological one. If 0.0000001 percent of the Americans who fervently oppose exploration in ANWR ever actually visited this remote corner of the world over the course of a decade, it would constitute a tourism stampede. The fact is, environmentalists simply savor the idea that there is something untouched by grubby humanity out there. Indeed, if the oil companies could extract the oil in secret and keep this dream alive, everybody would be happy—including, probably, caribou.

This, of course, exposes the true place ANWR holds in the worldview of its voluptuaries: It's a religious icon, the Dome of the Rock of environmentalism. Indeed, among environmentalists, religious adjectives crowd out all others. ANWR's coastal plain is "holy," "sacred," "divine," and "hallowed," not merely by the Gwich'in (who don't actually live there), but by the journalists and activists who just like knowing it's there..

—Jonah Goldberg, "Ugh, Wilderness!"

(On a related note, here is a link to the Onion's "Woman Who 'Loves Brazil' Has Only Seen Four Square Miles of It.")

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
      ( 5:57 PM ) The Rat  
WALRUS ON A CONVEYOR BELT, and other suggested SoAP sequels.

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      ( 8:45 AM ) The Rat  

A doctor in India and his assistant have been sentenced to two years in prison for revealing the sex of a foetus and then agreeing to abort it.

This is the first time medical professionals have been jailed in such a case.

Under Indian laws, ultrasound tests on a pregnant woman to determine the gender of the foetus are illegal.

It has been estimated that 10m female foetuses may have been terminated in India in the past 20 years...

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      ( 8:41 AM ) The Rat  
SITCOM WRITER ON DEATHBED THINKS OF ALL THE ZANY PLOTS HE'LL NEVER WRITE. I watched enough TV as a kid that it's impossible not to find this funny.

Though Kaplan, who has advanced lymphoma, made it through 82 episodes of the show, a fixture on CBS's Monday-night lineup, he still laments the fact that he will never get to take his sitcom family to Florida for a Disney vacation episode, watch Brian reach adulthood and get his first apartment in what he assumed was an upscale loft but is actually a condemned property, or witness Judy giving birth to a healthy baby boy while stuck in an elevator.

"It hurts to think of all the half-hours wasted on routine plots," said an emotional Kaplan. "All the class reunions, forgotten anniversaries, new neighbors, bouts of amnesia, living-room weddings, surprise inheritances from distant relatives that end up being worthless, and blind dates disrupted by the meddlesome dad that I'm going to miss out on when I'm gone."

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      ( 8:26 AM ) The Rat  
"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy, "and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
The Great Gatsby

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
      ( 10:28 PM ) The Rat  
MOSTLY-GOOD REVIEW OF V FOR VENDETTA. A couple extra thoughts: 1) Who in hell wrote the "Valerie" subplot?!—it's such a Mary Sue version of a lesbian relationship ("I had roses!"), that I'm guessing it could only have been written by either a straight person or a gay man. And: 2) While I agree with the critics' points about the terrorism (note that the movie had to be set outside New York—even Hollywood recognizes that you can't make a movie about blowing up buildings in NYC, post-9/11), I'm not sure any of them has pointed out what seems to be the wider point, which is that blowing up these buildings would be disturbing even if it was absolutely guaranteed that no one was getting hurt in the process. Even if the act is intended to herald a new dawn, yadda yadda yadda, still, the implicit statement—"We don't need the past to build the future"—is extremely troubling. Or as ET put it when we were talking about the movie: "If this country were taken over by a Nazi government, you wouldn't blow up the Statue of Liberty—you'd find something else to blow up!"

The filmmakers do a good job of maintaining a consistent, gradually escalating sense of menace, and providing persuasive motivations for the characters—though they waste far too much time indulging the sympathies of standard-issue, straight-out-of-the-box contemporary leftism; not only is this government fascistic, it is also loudly Christian. (Have the filmmakers ever met any Anglican clergy?) Not only is the only clergyman a collaborator in torture and biological terrorism; he's also a stockholder in a pharmaceutical company and—not to do overdo things now—a child-molester. Homosexual erotica is forbidden—and so are pre-Raphaelite paintings (?) and the Koran. Absurdly, the homosexual character (played with great sensitivity by the always winning Stephen Fry), keeps the Koran in his secret collection of samizdat; apparently he hasn't read it, or he'd know the kinds of punishments it prescribes for his proclivities. It's a rich irony that outside of a pitiful fringe of pathetic neo-Nazis, the only people proposing a totalitarian government in Britain today are its Islamists; some 40% of Moslems polled recently in that country favor the introduction of Sharia law—you know, the kind they're imposing in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would stone adulterers, behead apostates, and lop the hands off shoplifters. Meanwhile, the Blair government is still trying to threaten people with jail time for making statements critical of Islam. Rule Britannia!

It's puzzling to see so much sympathy for Islam from co-producer Larry Wachowski—whose sexuality is... unconventional. At last report, he left his wife to join his long-time dominatrix Ilsa Strix, and plans to have a sex-change operation so he can become Ilsa's lesbian "bride." I hope they aren't planning a honeymoon in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia; they might cause the Sharia judges a nervous breakdown...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:28 PM

      ( 10:28 AM ) The Rat  

Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.

As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table. Indeed, he may bring too much to the table: children and their mothers from previous relationships, limited earning power, and the fallout from years of drug use, poor health care, sexual promiscuity. In other words, for the circumspect black woman, marriage may not be a business deal that offers sufficient return on investment.

"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."

And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future...

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      ( 12:01 AM ) The Rat  
I think being a woman is like being Irish. Everyone says you're important and nice, but you take second place all the same.
—Iris Murdoch

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Monday, March 27, 2006
      ( 7:48 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:40 PM ) The Rat  

As college admission decisions loom near, it seems that parents everywhere are dreaming in orange and black. According to Princeton Review's recently published "College Hopes & Worries Survey," Princeton is parents' number one "dream college."

Stanford and Harvard scored highly among parents as well, coming in second and third place, respectively. Asked the same question, high school students ranked Princeton as their third choice for "dream college," following NYU and Harvard.

The New York-based education services company, which has conducted the survey since 2003, collected responses from 3,890 college applicants and 1,012 parents for a dozen survey questions...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:40 PM

      ( 6:07 PM ) The Rat  
SPRING BREAK AT WAL-MART. This is actually pretty funny.

That 1 to 4 a.m. shift was the daily low point. Subway was closed. Bartels was often the only Wal-Mart shopper, which made it harder to blend into the cosmetics and sporting goods.

"It's just me and the stockers then," he said, "and every once in a while somebody who needs a Swiffer at 2 in the morning."

He was sitting on the floor reading a magazine at 3 a.m. when a man, shivering from the cold, walked in, bought an atlas and left. "You'd see a lot of people reading," Bartels said. "Cosmopolitan was a huge favorite. But nobody ever checked the magazine section. I never saw anybody stocking books or magazines."

He found it strange the way the same two guys kept showing up in the middle of the night to buy movies.

"They looked like 'Devil's Rejects' kind of guys. But they ended up buying stuff like 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'" [...]

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      ( 12:13 AM ) The Rat  
One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.
—G. M. Weilacher

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:13 AM

Sunday, March 26, 2006
      ( 8:29 PM ) The Rat  

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian told China on Thursday to drop the idea of giving the island a goodwill gift of a pair of pandas, saying they would not be happy.

"A-bian sincerely urges the Chinese leaders to leave the giant pandas in their natural habitat, because pandas brought up in cages or given as gifts will not be happy," Chen wrote in a weekly electronic newsletter, using his nickname.

China and Taiwan have been diplomatic and military rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and China still claims the island as its own.

China has offered pandas to Taiwan several times in the past as goodwill gestures, but the island has always turned them down, in part because it says its climate is unsuitable...

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      ( 8:27 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 8:26 PM ) The Rat  

A Miami-based dancer is suing the owners and producers of the Broadway musical "Movin' Out" for more than $100 million in damages on grounds that she was emotionally abused and fired after her breasts grew too large for her costumes.

Alice Alyse was a top dancer in the touring company of the show, which features Billy Joel's music and Twyla Tharp's choreography. Alyse says she was dismissed from the cast of the show last month after her breasts grew from cup size C to D while she was recovering from an injury...

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      ( 3:02 PM ) The Rat  

After Jackson came on board, the title was upgraded to the more generic "Pacific Air Flight 121." The studio said it was a temporary moniker being used for "casting purposes." Executives were searching for something that was more thriller-like and less campy. According to sources, Jackson's camp also was in favor of a title change.

"Who wants to be in a movie called 'Snakes on a Plane'?" asked one talent agent at the time, seeming to echo the studio's concerns.

But once production began, a funny thing happened. Movie fans began noticing the black sheep of the New Line slate. They seized upon the title and created fan sites, blogs, T-shirts, poems, fiction and songs. The title itself, sometimes abbreviated as "SoaP," has emerged as Internet-speak for fatalistic sentiments that range from c'est la vie to "s--- happens."

"The title is so clear and so straightforward," said Brian Finkelstein, a Washington, D.C., native who created the blog and who hopes to score tickets to the movie's premiere. "You know exactly what you're going to get."

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      ( 11:30 AM ) The Rat  

A flock of crows is terrorising people living on an estate in Warwick, local residents have said.

The birds initially attacked cars by pulling off windscreen wipers and scratching the paintwork.

But now they have moved on to attacking the residents themselves, similar to scenes in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Birds...

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Thursday, March 23, 2006
      ( 7:11 PM ) The Rat  

A chewing gum which the makers say can help enhance the size, shape and tone of the breasts has proved to be a big hit in Japan.

B2Up says its Bust-Up gum, when chewed three or four times a day, can also help improve circulation, reduce stress and fight ageing.

The gum works by slowly releasing compounds contained in an extract from a plant called Pueraria mirifica. In theory, this helps to keep the muscle tissue in good order...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:11 PM

      ( 1:19 AM ) The Rat  

China's Ministry of Public Security has a new regulation on registration of names—requiring babies' names be drawn from a government list.

With the introduction of electronic identity cards, authorities will only register names that can be stored in their police database...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:19 AM

Tuesday, March 21, 2006
      ( 10:17 AM ) The Rat  
YAAH!!! Wtf. Via SMD.

While most people at Yale are similarly responding with silence to questions about the Rahmatullah case, there are exceptions. One is Amy Aaland, executive director of the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, where Mr. Rahmatullah takes his meals. (Kosher food also complies with Islamic dietary laws.) Slifka, which has a $1.5 million annual budget, focuses on social and religious programs along with efforts to promote coexistence between Arabs and Israelis. Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Yale graduate, and his wife, Hadassah, are honorary trustees.

Ms. Aaland was friendly and engaging as she told me that when she learned that a former Taliban official was having meals at Slifka, she was surprised but not displeased: "It's a chance to learn about him and his culture. Dialogue starts at a table. You have to share a meal together."

When I asked her if any of the revelations about Mr. Rahmatullah's past disturb her, she said that "while he has made some mistakes," she trusts that university officials had "investigated things" and satisfied themselves about him. She noted that Mr. Rahmatullah was "very, very young" when he had been a Taliban official, and said that "it's not like the Taliban attacked this country." [...]

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Monday, March 20, 2006
      ( 10:15 PM ) The Rat  
WEDNESDAY IS WORLD WATER DAY. Adjust your plans accordingly.

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Friday, March 17, 2006
      ( 5:12 PM ) The Rat  
THOSE WACKY UKRAINIANS! More here and here. Link via IKM.

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      ( 4:33 PM ) The Rat  
EARLIER TODAY, one of Ratty's brothers forwarded her this awesome retelling of the Wife of Bath's Tale.

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      ( 11:55 AM ) The Rat  
SANE CHINESE PUT IN ASYLUM, DOCTORS FIND. Honk if you're even remotely surprised.

Dutch psychiatrists have determined that a prominent Chinese dissident who spent 13 years in a police-run psychiatric institution in Beijing did not have mental problems that would justify his incarceration, two human rights groups said Thursday.

The psychiatrists spent two days testing the dissident, Wang Wanxing, in Germany five months after China released him and sent him abroad. They said in a statement that their examination "did not reveal any form of mental disorder."

The report could add fuel to charges that the Chinese police use a network of psychiatric prisons to silence political dissidents, often without trial or right of appeal.

Mr. Wang, now 56, was confined to the psychiatric center after he was detained in 1992 for unfurling a banner that criticized the Communist Party.

The authorities determined that he had "delusions of grandeur, litigation mania and conspicuously enhanced pathological will," which Western human rights groups say are diagnoses that officials have used to lock up troublesome dissidents who have not broken any laws...

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      ( 11:54 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:42 AM ) The Rat  

Can't remember where, a few months ago, I came upon—in some novel or story or poem or other—a character saying to her (or his?) lover, "You are my country." It reminded me instantly of the far more common lovers' protestation, "You are my world."

I would rather be someone's country.

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:42 AM

      ( 12:33 AM ) The Rat  
"'Americans,'" he said, quoting his wife's letter to the Times, "'are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.'"
Cat's Cradle

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:33 AM

Thursday, March 16, 2006
      ( 7:45 PM ) The Rat  
He loved three things in this world:
White peacocks, evensong
And faded maps of America.
He hated it when children cried.
He hated tea with raspberry jam, and
Any female hysteria in his life.
Now imagine it: I was his wife.
—Anna Akhmatova

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:45 PM

      ( 11:07 AM ) The Rat  

The eyes in humans and their closest relatives in the primate world are geared to detect subtle changes in skin tone caused by blood oxygen levels, according to a new study from Caltech.

The spectral sensitivity of color cones in humans and chips are somewhat unusual. Bees have four color cones that are evenly spread across the visible color spectrum. Birds have three color cones. By contrast, humans have three types of cones that are sensitive to a limited range of wavelengths. The closeness, however, allows for the detection of subtle tone changes. When someone blushes, the skin becomes red from elevated oxygen levels. If you're exhausted, you become pale from the lack of oxygen. When a primate is ready to mate, oxygen levels rise again leading to blushing. The human and chimp eye can capture these different color levels, which can be signals of fitness or heartiness.

"For a hundred years, we've thought that color vision was for finding the right fruit to eat when it was ripe," says Mark Changizi, a theoretical neurobiologist and postdoctoral researcher at Caltech. "But if you look at the variety of diets of all the primates having trichromat vision, the evidence is not overwhelming."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:07 AM

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
      ( 11:46 AM ) The Rat  
IF I WERE A BANDIT, this is the kind of bandit I'd be.

A 42-year-old gourmet food junkie has skipped out on her restaurant bill so many times that she has been banned from the city of Rome, police said on Monday.

Described as the "mooch artist" by police, the hungry culprit has struck at some of Rome's fanciest restaurants—ordering expensive wines, three-course meals and then feigning surprise when the check arrives...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:46 AM

      ( 10:02 AM ) The Rat  
ASTONISHING. I have no words.

The Grizzlies and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts have teamed up to create "Baseball's Best Burger." The burger, which was debuted at the Grizzlies' December 10th sale, consists of a thick and juicy burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese and two slices of bacon. The burger is then placed in between each side of a Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnut...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:02 AM

      ( 10:00 AM ) The Rat  

China is stepping up military training in Latin America because of a law that limits U.S. military support to nations in the region, the general in charge of the U.S. Southern Command told Congress yesterday.

Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, who oversees U.S. military activities in the region, said a lack of engagement on the part of the United States has benefited China. "If we are not there and we can't provide this opportunity, someone else will," Gen. Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Other nations are moving in. The People's Republic of China has made many offers, and now we are seeing those who formerly would come to the United States going to China."

The growing Chinese role comes amid numerous high-level visits by its leaders and other activities aimed at building military and economic ties to leftist governments and other states in a strategic region long-considered within the U.S. sphere of influence...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:00 AM

      ( 9:57 AM ) The Rat  

For years a layover for budget-conscious motorists and construction crews, the motel has lately become a disquieting symbol of what has gone wrong with Iowa's crackdown on sexual offenders of children. With just 24 rooms, the motel, the Ced-Rel, was home to 26 registered sex offenders by the start of March...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:57 AM

      ( 12:21 AM ) The Rat  

They could not marry, they could not own property, and they performed the most undesirable jobs: ditch diggers, canal builders, house boys. They were banned from most shops and public institutions and were the target of racist violence that went unpunished.

Los Angeles was home to an estimated 10,000 Chinese in the late 19th century—almost all men who came to America to work on the railroads and ended up in desperate straits, crowded into a filthy Chinese ghetto near what is now Union Station.

The recent discovery by a new generation of railway workers building the extension of the Gold Line subway through Boyle Heights has unearthed this dark but largely forgotten period in Los Angeles history.

Last summer, workers found the skeletal remains of 108 people just outside the Evergreen Cemetery, one of the city's oldest and grandest burial sites.

Three-quarters of the remains were adults and most were male. The finding supports the belief among Chinese American historians that the bones belonged to Chinese male sojourners who died a century ago at a time when immigration laws sought to reduce the Chinese population by prohibiting Chinese women from entering the country...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:21 AM

      ( 12:08 AM ) The Rat  
Back in the attic apartment. I can't really call it a home; I no longer have a home. Not that the furnished room I was bombed out of was really mine either. All the same, I'd filled it with six years of my life. With my books and pictures and the hundreds of things you accumulate along the way. My starfish from that last peacetime summer in Norderney. The kilim Gerd brought me from Persia. My dented alarm clock. Photos, old letters, my zither, coins from twelve different countries, a pice of knitting that I'd started. All the souvenirs, the old skins and shells—the residue and warm debris of lived-in years.

Now that it's gone and all I have is a small suitcase with a handful of clothes, I feel naked, weightless. Since I own nothing, I can lay claim to everything—this unfamiliar apartment, for instance. Well, it's not entirely unfamiliar. The owner is a former colleague, and I was a frequent guest before he was called up. In keeping with the times, we used to barter with each other: his canned meat from Denmark for my French cognac, my French soap for the stockings he had from Prague. After I was bombed out I managed to get hold of him to tell him the news, and he said I could move in here. Last I heard he was in Vienna with a Wermacht censorship unit. Where he still is now...? Not that attic apartments are much in demand these days. What's more, the roof leaks as many of the tiles have been shattered or blown away.

I keep wandering around these three rooms, but I can't find any peace. I have systematically searched every single cupboard and drawer for anything usable, in other words, something to eat, drink, or burn. Unfortunately, there isn't much. Frau Weiers, who used to clean the place, must have beaten me to it. These days everything is up for grabs. People no longer feel so closely tied to things; they no longer distinguish clearly between their own property and that of others.

I found a letter wedged inside a drawer, addressed to the real tenant. I felt ashamed for reading it, but I read it all the same. A passionate love letter, which I flushed down the toilet. (Most of the time we still have water.) Heart, hurt, love, desire—how foreign, how distant those words sound now. Evidently a sophisticated, discriminating love life requires three square meals a day. My sole concern as I write these lines is my stomach. All thinking and feeling, all wishes and hopes begin with food.

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:08 AM

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
      ( 10:02 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:15 AM ) The Rat  

A Mexican couple were recovering separately after a marital spat got out of control and saw them firing guns, throwing knives and hurling homemade bombs, Mexican daily Milenio said on Monday.

In scenes taken straight out of hit romantic comedy "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Juan Espinosa and Irma Contreras fought until their house blew up in a homemade gasoline bomb explosion, Milenio said.

Police called to the home in the indigenous Mayan Indian town of Oxkutzcab in the southeastern state of Yucatan arrested Espinosa. Contreras was taken to hospital with third-degree burns. [...]

Espinosa told reporters he was glad his wife had suffered burns, while Contreras said she was only sorry she had not "hacked off his manhood" during the fight.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:15 AM

      ( 9:13 AM ) The Rat  

The "human calendar." That's what some people call the woman who contacted UC Irvine neurobiologist Jim McGaugh six years ago and said, "I have a problem. I remember too much."

She wasn't exaggerating. McGaugh and fellow UCI researchers Larry Cahill and Elizabeth Parker have been studying the extraordinary case of a person who has "nonstop, uncontrollable and automatic" memory of her personal history and countless public events.

If you randomly pick a date from the past 25 years and ask her about it, she'll usually provide elaborate, verifiable details about what happened to her that day and if there were any significant news events on topics that interested her. She usually also recalls what day of the week it was and what the weather was like.

The 40-year-old woman, who was given the code name AJ to protect her privacy, is so unusual that UCI coined a name for her condition in a recent issue of the journal Neurocase: hyperthymestic syndrome...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:13 AM

      ( 9:02 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:02 AM

      ( 8:55 AM ) The Rat  

In the beginning, Jackson was psyched about dating Wan Mae. She was bright and funny and enjoyed many of the same activities he did. "But then I found out she was seriously into psychics and astrology—and I mean seriously." He successfully ignored it until she emerged from the bathroom one day, claiming she was channeling emotions from her blow dryer. "Wan Mae was a highly educated woman, and she wasn't insane," he recalls. "She just had this mystical side I couldn't quite handle."

Is this enough of a reason to break up? Is "She's everything I want, but..." a sentence that you really feel the need to complete? Or can you hang out a while at conjunction junction until you know which way the train is running? That depends on whether you're talking about contending with a belief system or getting used to a quirky habit.

If she's acting on a belief system, or she's expressing a particular personality type, it will be almost impossible for you to change her—and it's disrespectful to try. If she's just acting out of habit, you might be able to ask her to modify her behavior. The bottom line, though, is how much the "but" bugs you.

Wan Mae's behavior is rooted in a belief system that Jackson doesn't share. He's not annoyed by her "channeling," he simply doesn't understand where it comes from. And not understanding it is something he isn't comfortable with.

"That made it almost impossible for me to relate to her on any kind of higher level," he says. "I entertained asking the blow dryer for advice, but that seemed dumb. The closest I could get was asking my Magic 8 Ball, which offended her. I realized it was never going to work and I broke up with her."

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 AM

      ( 8:54 AM ) The Rat  

In a recent Penn State study, sexually active male first-year college students who had a positive view of their appearance had a higher likelihood of having multiple sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex.

However, sexually active female first-year college students who were happy with their looks were less likely to undertake those same risks...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:54 AM

      ( 8:50 AM ) The Rat  

A mother who authorities say cheered on her son and his gangster friends as they allegedly took turns raping a 23-year-old woman is among 10 people charged with the crime.

Authorities said the rape was payback by members of an Anaheim Latino gang for something the victim's boyfriend did.

The alleged victim, who was not identified, had gone to a Feb. 23 party with the reputed gang members at a motel near Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue in Anaheim, authorities said. Early the next morning, she was lured into a room and beaten by 23-year-old Jolean Disbrow, they said.

During the next seven hours, authorities said, gang members raped, orally copulated and digitally penetrated the victim. Connie Retana, 38, is accused of encouraging her 18-year-old reputed gang member son, Martin Delgado, and his friends as they allegedly sexually assaulted the woman.

The gang members told the victim the rape was "to teach her man a lesson," prosecutors said...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:50 AM

      ( 8:43 AM ) The Rat  

Still, she cannot pinpoint what melted her heart. The apartment, she said, "just feels right." Countless home owners know the feeling. And like Ms. Lowy, many say it is difficult to explain why they knew they had found "the one." Some attribute it to the way sunlight seeped in. Others say they were won over by details like a marble mantelpiece or basket weave floor. Yet whether or not they are able to articulate their feelings, they all have notions of what home is—and most recognize it when they see it.

Through the years, the meaning of home has evolved far beyond a Three Little Pigs notion of shelter. It is a respite, a refuge, a conveyor of style or status, a gathering place and a lockbox of memories. Yet what triggers our affections for a space may have more to do with the experiences we had in our childhood homes than with the space's size or amenities.

"We all have an environmental autobiography, our own past history of place, and we rework that past history of place often unconsciously," said Toby Israel, the author of "Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places." "While we may think we're purchasing a home based on rational criteria, like nearness to work or number of bedrooms, often what drives this choice is this past history of place."

Psychologists who study interactions between people and environments say that buyers often unknowingly seek out spaces that are physically evocative of childhood havens. And the aha! feeling that a person experiences upon walking into a space can often be attributed to his or her recognition of unconscious yet happy memories. On the other hand, those who gravitate to a housing location or style that is the opposite of what they had in childhood are frequently making a statement that they are not like their parents...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:43 AM

      ( 12:18 AM ) The Rat  
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

"Pooh!" he whispered.

"Yes, Piglet?"

"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."

—A. A. Milne

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:18 AM

Monday, March 13, 2006
      ( 11:00 PM ) The Rat  
NEARLY EVERYTHING RATTY HAS BLOGGED TODAY has been about sex... so to compensate, here is an article about the innocence of old-fashioned striptease. Thanks to ET for the link.

Rachel Shteir's history of the striptease is also a celebration of a vanished art form. She obviously relishes her subject, and her relish is infectious. Not for her the dour puritanism of first-wave feminists, who would insist on taking pity on their poor, exploited sisters on stage. But nor, one senses, would she subscribe to the post-feminist notion that for a woman to sport artificial GG breasts is somehow liberating and, gulp, "empowering." Her account of the disappearance of erotic undressing before the onslaught of hardcore porn is a sad one; because, in its heyday, striptease was a lot of glamour and fun.

Was it ever exploitative? Well, it certainly wasn’t a prelude to prostitution, as some might glibly assume; and although she finds one tragic example of a stripper who was also a heroin addict and committed suicide, it is only one case among many happier stories: tragic, but not statistically significant. Most of the women made a great deal of money, and managed their careers with a fierce independence. [...]

My favourite stripper by far in this gallery of nudes must be the wonderful Gypsy Rose Lee, with her "regal persona." The girl was Dorothy Parker in a G-string. Hard-nosed and sassy, she understood her craft precisely. "The naked skin to the naked eye is just so much epidermis," she said. It’s what's "hinted at rather than hollered about" that is erotic. Gypsy Rose could do an absurdly demure but tantalising routine that began with her on stage in a long polka dot skirt, like a virgin bride on her honeymoon night; or she could do an almost absent-minded routine in which she stripped right down while chatting casually to her audience about whatever came into her head, as a wife might talk to her husband in the bedroom. Perhaps that was its intimate appeal, though it could also be extremely funny. She would even teeter about on stage, rolling down her garters while explaining to her admirers why she simply couldn't strip to the music of Brahms...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:00 PM

      ( 10:54 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:54 PM

      ( 10:13 PM ) The Rat  

This one is also pretty good.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:13 PM

      ( 9:12 PM ) The Rat  
GAY PORN 'DA VINCI CODE.' Awesome. Link via ET.

PZP head Peter Zaragoza told Gay Video News, "The DaVinci Load is our most ambitious and expensive film to date. The star, new discovery Sebastian Young, is a hot bad-boy with a [remarkable appendage] and great charisma."

The plot—"very loosely" based on that of Dan Brown’s novel—suggests that DNA from Da Vinci's own sperm has been found in the paint the artist used for his masterworks, and that the sperm is discovered to have supernatural powers...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:12 PM

      ( 11:32 AM ) The Rat  
THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR. Must-read TNY piece, with some really interesting commentary on America's f---ed up views on sexuality. While you're at it, also check out the Onion's American Teen Somehow Developing Unhealthy Attitude Toward Sex.

Ratty is also reminded, of course, of David Mamet's line—"I was raised on James Bond and Hugh Hefner's Playboy Philosophy. Bond went through life impressing people with his gun, and Hefner went through life in a bathrobe; and the capper was that, of the two of them, Hefner was the one who actually existed."

Hugh Hefner always said that his ideal for the magazine's famous Playmate of the Month, the woman in the centerfold photo, was "the girl next door with her clothes off." In other words, he was trying to take his readers back to a time before their first sexual experience, a time when they still liked their stuffed bear and thought that a naked woman might be something like that. Taschen has just published "The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds," by Gretchen Edgren, a contributing editor to Playboy, and the book is a testament to Hefner's fidelity to his vision. Six hundred and thirteen women are represented, but there is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield. Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 AM

      ( 11:18 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:18 AM

      ( 11:13 AM ) The Rat  

Even as the small but growing group of genital plastic surgeons devise new and better surgical techniques, they acknowledge the standards women hope to achieve are set mostly by adult film actresses, strippers and nude denizens of the Internet.

"I know what women want," says Dr. David L. Matlock of Los Angeles, an obstetrician turned plastic surgeon who has been a pioneer in devising and popularizing the procedures. He knows, he says, because so many of his patients tote their husband's or boyfriend's magazines into his office and point to photos almost as explicit as the before-and-after ones posted on many surgeons' websites.

More traditional plastic surgeons and gynecologists may be reluctant to endorse such procedures, but the demand is undeniable. Vulvar and vaginal plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing areas in plastic surgery, say some in the field. [...]

Southern California—the seat of the adult entertainment industry—is undeniably the birthplace of this fledgling field of surgical alteration.

In 2000, many Americans learned about a new procedure called labiaplasty when a porn star known as Houston had her labia-reduction surgery filmed and distributed to subscribers, then later auctioned off the excised flesh over the Internet...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:13 AM

      ( 11:11 AM ) The Rat  
We know little about the transition from animals to men but its importance is fundamental. The events taking place during this transition are probably hidden from us for ever yet we are better equipped to consider it than it might seem at first sight. We know that men made tools and used them in order to survive, and then, quite quickly no doubt, for less necessary purposes. In a word they distinguished themselves from the animals by work. At the same time they imposed restrictions known as taboos. Quite certainly these taboos were primarily concerned with the dead. Probably so at the same time, or nearly so, they were connected with sexual activity. We know the early date of the attitudes towards death through the numerous discoveries of bones gathered together by contemporary men. In any case, Neanderthal man, who was not quite a true man, who had not yet adopted exclusively an upright posture and whose skull was not so different as ours from that of the anthropoids, did often bury his dead. Sexual taboos certainly do not date from these remote times. We may say that they appeared as humanity appeared, but nothing tangible supports this view in so far as we ought to draw conclusions from prehistoric data. Burying the dead leaves traces, but nothing remains to give us the slightest hint about the sexual restrictions of earliest man.

We can only admit that they worked, since we have their tools. Since work, as far as we can tell, logically gave rise to the reaction which determined the attitude towards death, it is legitimate to believe that the taboo regulating and limiting sexuality was also due to it, and the generality of behaviour that is essentially human—work, awareness of death, sexual continence—goes back to the same remote past.

Traces of work appear in the Lower Paleolithic era and the earliest burial we know of goes back to the Middle Paleolithic. Of course we are talking about eras which lasted hundreds of thousands of years according to our present calculation; these interminable millenia correspond with man's slow shaking-off of his original animal nature. He emerged from it by working, by understanding his own mortality and by moving imperceptibly from unashamed sexuality to sexuality with shame, which gave birth to eroticism...

—Georges Bataille, Erotisme

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:11 AM

Sunday, March 12, 2006
      ( 4:26 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:26 PM

      ( 4:21 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:21 PM

Friday, March 10, 2006
      ( 11:46 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:46 AM

      ( 11:40 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:40 AM

      ( 11:32 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:32 AM

      ( 11:29 AM ) The Rat  

At the initiative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a state-run Iranian university held a Holocaust-denial conference this week.

The conference, reported by Iran's official IRIB radio, was held at Isfahan University. It was entitled Holocaust: myth or reality, and was attended by students and faculty. According to the report, it was organized by Khamenei's Isfahan office. [...]

At the Isfahan conference, Soltanshahi further asserted that Germany was being compelled to pay reparations to Israel for the Holocaust even though there are no documents to substantiate the claim.

Soltanshahi also blasted the Zionist regime for what he termed its attempts to show that the Holocaust is real through various methods, such as establishing institutions to propagate its memory and offering literary prizes to people who write about the subject.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:29 AM

      ( 11:21 AM ) The Rat  

Robert Oppenheimer agonized over building the A-bomb. Alfred Nobel got queasy about creating dynamite. Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called "monolithic insanity."

Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.

Reviled by workers, demonized by designers, disowned by its very creator, it still claims the largest share of office furniture sales--$3 billion or so a year--and has outlived every "office of the future" meant to replace it. It is the Fidel Castro of office furniture...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:21 AM

      ( 11:19 AM ) The Rat  

"When all of the papers are (burying) it in the same way, something is going on," the editor said, referring to the inside-page treatment that the story received.

The newspapers El Mañana, El Diario and Ultima Hora all printed reports of fewer than 200 words.

The threatening calls, which media here have dealt with a handful of times in the past two years, pitted the importance of the story versus the safety of their staffs.

"If we publish it, we die. It's that simple," the editor said of his paper's decision not to print details about the shooting. "The bottom line is that we have to protect the safety of all our reporters and their families."

An editor at a competing daily reached the same conclusion.

"The directors decided to run it because it was an event that undoubtedly deserved to be published," the editor said. "We just limited its play."

Nuevo Laredo is the scene of a bloody turf battle between rival drug cartels vying for control of the smuggling corridors into Texas. More than 40 murders have been recorded since January...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:19 AM

      ( 1:03 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:03 AM

      ( 12:09 AM ) The Rat  
By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
—Dorothy Parker, "Unfortunate Coincidence"

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 AM

Thursday, March 09, 2006
      ( 10:12 PM ) The Rat  
NOTE: Should circumstances compel you to employ liquids in the ongoing quest to (in CT's immortal phrase) "minimize the pain of being"—like I'm doing now—be advised that this is not a half-bad way to go about it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:12 PM

      ( 9:20 PM ) The Rat  
WHAT BILLIONAIRES DRIVE. Note that nos. 1, 7, and 18 all favor Porsches...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:20 PM

      ( 9:18 PM ) The Rat  
A VERY FUNNY Q&A with Ratty's onetime coworker, John Derbyshire. Link via ET.

Q. Combining your knowledge of math and politics, which of the two major parties is more like an integral and which is more like a differential?

A. They are BOTH like integrals: but the Dem party is a Riemann-Stieltjes, while the GOP is more of a Lebesgue.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:18 PM

      ( 8:33 PM ) The Rat  

Judge Bob Wattles's presentation still has to be approved by the Orange County [Fla.] School Board.

Judge Wattles sent a letter to every Orange County School Board member. It says there has been a consistent stream of cases across the state where teachers are getting into sexual relations with students.

Wattles wants the school system to offer a 30-minute presentation to new teachers on why this is a bad idea...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:33 PM

      ( 8:11 PM ) The Rat  

Caption: Hamster named Gohan, right, and snake Aochan live togther in a cardboard box at Mutsugoro Okoku zoo, outskirts of Tokyo. Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 9 centimeter dwarf hamster; the other is a 120 centimeter-long (yard-long) ratsnake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster—whose name means "meal" in Japanese—to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice...

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:11 PM

      ( 8:02 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:02 PM

      ( 1:21 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:21 PM

      ( 11:33 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:33 AM

      ( 7:12 AM ) The Rat  
MENDOCINO HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ACCUSE MARINE RECRUITERS OF RAPE. I'm still trying to figure out why the Reuters version of this story is running under the headline "Women sue over sex with Marine recruiters," as if this had been consensual sex rather than rape.

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:12 AM

      ( 6:46 AM ) The Rat  
SEX EVOLVED TO PURGE HARMFUL MUTATIONS. Maybe so, but Ratty's still voting we replace all the candy-and-flowers hoopla with parthenogenesis.

Scientists have long wondered why organisms bother with sexual reproduction. It makes a whole lot more sense to just have a bunch of females that can clone themselves, which is how asexual reproduction works.

Turns out sex might have evolved as a way to concentrate lots of harmful mutations into individual organisms so they could be easily weeded out by natural selection, a new computer model suggests.

The classic explanation for the onset of whoopee, about 1 billion years ago, is that it provides a way for organisms to swap and shuffle genes and to create offspring with new gene combinations that might survive if the environment suddenly changes.

But some scientists think this isn't enough of a justification to outweigh the many costs of getting together to make little ones. Just ask any single person—sexual organisms have to spend valuable time and resources finding and attracting mates.

If all organisms were like starfishes and cacti, which just drop pieces of themselves when they want to multiply, reproduction would be a whole lot simpler. There would be no need for elaborate peacock feathers or bird songs; stags wouldn't need antlers; elephant bulls wouldn't have to produce stinky cologne and guys probably wouldn't spend so much money on dates...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:46 AM

      ( 6:43 AM ) The Rat  
TO LEARN SOMETHING, TESTING BEATS STUDYING. Just another reminder that fear is more effective than love...

"Our study indicates that testing can be used as a powerful means for improving learning, not just assessing it," says Henry L. "Roddy" Roediger III, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scholar of human memory function and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Washington University.

"Students who self-test frequently while studying on their own may be able to learn more, in much less time, than they might by simply studying the material over and over again," he adds. "Incorporating more frequent classroom testing into a course may improve students' learning and promote retention of material long after a course has ended."

Perhaps equally important, this study demonstrates that students who rely on repeated study alone often come away with a false sense of confidence about their mastery of the material.

In an experiment in which students either took quizzes or were permitted to study material repeatedly, students in the study-only group professed an exaggerated confidence, sure that they knew the material well, even though important details already had begun slip-sliding away. The group that took tests on the material, rather than repeatedly reading it, actually did better on a delayed test of their knowledge...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:43 AM

      ( 6:39 AM ) The Rat  

Standing cautiously but bravely at the intersection of Beverly and Normandie, I could feel the racial tension in the air.

The place was about to blow.

A white woman walked into Video Hot, which is run by Koreans, and an Asian man bought flowers from a Guatemalan woman. Given the boiling hatred that pumps through L.A.'s veins, as depicted in the Oscar-winning movie "Crash," could ethnic violence be far behind?

I used to think we could all get along, more or less. I believed that despite its many flaws and obvious divisions by race and class, Los Angeles was one of the more successfully integrated cities in the world. And so to me, "Crash" felt like an artless, dated and manipulative morality tale on the evils of the sprawling metropolis, shot with a long lens from behind the bars of a gated seaside community.

But that was before the all-knowing wizards of the academy set me straight, choosing "Crash" as the best picture of the year. Could so many kabbala and Bikram yoga practitioners have been wrong, even if it's been years since any of them ventured east of Robertson except to hand out Oscars or cruise for hookers?

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:39 AM

      ( 6:32 AM ) The Rat  
THE 25 WORST SEQUELS EVER MADE. Ratty is posting this because she figures TCB will want to see any that he's missed...

And here is a roundup of previous Oscar winners, and the critics who hated them.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:32 AM

      ( 6:31 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:31 AM

      ( 6:26 AM ) The Rat  
A BRUTAL SCENE CAUGHT ON TAPE. Yikes. That "this happened when he was only 17" line is bullshit by the way—yes, adolescence is traumatic by definition, but who doesn't know the difference between right and wrong by that age?

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:26 AM

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
      ( 9:55 PM ) The Rat  
THE DIFFERENCE. This evening, attended a rather fun grad-school function (at which I was clearly given the lobotomy now enabling me to use the word "fun" anywhere near the phrase "grad-school function"). Anyway, so at dinner someone fairly high-up in the administration was telling my table about the glitches they'd run into in trying to redesign a particular student center; and I quote:

"Well, we thought it would be good for both graduate students and undergrads to be allowed to use the space—so we polled both groups to see what they thought was most important for it. And the undergrads said the most important things they wanted were hot tubs and burritos. And the grad students said the most important things were child care and plenty of quiet to work in..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:55 PM

      ( 9:53 AM ) The Rat  
ANOTHER DELIGHTFUL VERDICT FROM THE ITALIAN COURTS. Am I the only one who thinks this is as insulting to soldiers as it is to women?

A U.S. soldier who raped a Nigerian woman in Italy was given a lighter sentence because the court deemed his tour of duty in Iraq had made him less sensitive to the suffering of others.

According to an Italian court document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, James Michael Brown, a 27-year-old paratrooper from Oregon stationed in northern Italy, was sentenced to five years and eight months for rape in February 2004.

Brown beat and handcuffed the woman, a Nigerian resident in the town of Vicenza. He raped her vaginally and anally and left her to wander the streets naked in search of help.

The crime would have earned him an eight-year sentence, but the judges reduced the penalty due to the "extenuating circumstances" of the psychological effects of Brown's year of service in Iraq, the document said.

Brown, who is being held at a U.S. military prison in Mannheim, Germany, may never serve his rape sentence as, under Italian law, he may be allowed to return to the United States pending an appeal to the conviction...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 AM

      ( 9:47 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:47 AM

      ( 2:13 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:13 AM

      ( 12:24 AM ) The Rat  
HATCHER TELLS OF CHILDHOOD ABUSE. Ratty really admires people in the public eye who are willing to go public about sexual abuse—when everything is swept under rugs, it's so easy to pretend that these things never happen, or that they happen far less often than they in fact do. (Only a few decades ago, even the "experts" believed the incidence of incest to be only 1 in 1,000,000 families.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:24 AM

      ( 12:11 AM ) The Rat  

Madonna says she had some explaining to do when her daughter, Lourdes, asked about that kiss with Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

"(Lourdes) is really obsessed with who is gay," says Madonna in an interview in Out magazine's April issue. "And she even asked, 'Mom, you know they say that you are gay?' And I'm, 'Oh, do they? Why?' And she says, 'Because you kissed Britney Spears."'

"And I said, 'No, it just means I kissed Britney Spears. I am the mommy pop star and she is the baby pop star. And I am kissing her to pass my energy on to her." [...]

The pop diva, considered by some to be an icon in the gay community, tells the magazine her 9-year-old daughter likes to guess who is gay: "Oh, and the other thing she likes to do when we go out, she says, 'Mom, do you want me to point out who the gay men are?' And I say, 'Okay, but I think I already know."'

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:11 AM

Tuesday, March 07, 2006
      ( 11:55 PM ) The Rat  
CLICK HERE for a very nifty life.

William Herskovic, an escapee from Auschwitz during World War II whose eyewitness account of the concentration camp horrors is credited with fueling early efforts of the Belgian resistance and saving hundreds of lives, has died. He was 91.

Herskovic, who founded Bel Air Camera in Westwood soon after moving to Los Angeles in 1957, died Friday at his home in Encino after a long battle with cancer, said his daughter, Patricia Herskovic.

On the first night of Hanukkah in 1942, Herskovic dug a pair of wire cutters from a snowy hiding place and, with two other prisoners, cut though chain-link to freedom.

Armed with the memory of a map drawn in the snow, the trio ran for hours before boarding a train that took them to Breslau, Germany. When the escapees tried to tell a local rabbi about conditions in the camps, he threw them out...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:55 PM

      ( 11:42 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:42 PM

      ( 11:17 AM ) The Rat  
CHINESE TV CUTS ANG LEE'S SPEECH. Ratty would be furious, but she already knew this was going to happen.

The Chinese media praised Taiwan-born Ang Lee for his best director Oscar win but state TV cut part of his speech mentioning China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Lee thanked everyone in all three regions. Beijing regards Taiwan as sovereign territory and Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

"Ang Lee is the pride of Chinese people," said the China Daily.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:17 AM

      ( 11:11 AM ) The Rat  
GROUP WARNS OF TOXIC TUNA. Meant to post this the other day.

[A] public health advocacy group is warning about the safety of tuna sushi and questioning the Food and Drug Administration's system of monitoring the mercury levels in fish, based on tests on a small sample of such delicacies at Los Angeles restaurants.

The group,, purchased sushi from five top Zagat-rated restaurants in Southern California and from the Benihana Inc. chain in late January. Instead of eating the orders, the Forrest Knolls, Calif.-based organization took the fish for testing at CRG Marine Laboratories in Torrance.

The mercury levels of the 12 tuna samples averaged about double the FDA standard, and a quarter of the orders were near or above the limit where the agency says fish should not be sold, said Eli Saddler, a public health analyst and attorney for

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:11 AM

      ( 11:09 AM ) The Rat  
HOW TO GROW A BIGGER BRAIN. Some of us have certainly got room for it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:09 AM

      ( 11:06 AM ) The Rat  
BUSH WEAVES RUG STORY INTO MANY AN OCCASION. I tremble for my country, etc.

Elizabeth Vargas, the ABC News anchor, was the latest to get the treatment. She went by last week to interview Bush before his trip to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Sure enough, she wasn't in the room but a minute or two before he started telling her about the carpet.

"You know an interesting story about the rug?" he asked. "Laura designed the rug."

"She did?" Vargas said.

"Yeah, she did. Presidents are able to pick their own rugs or design their own rugs."

Bush went on: "The interesting thing about this rug and why I like it in here is 'cause I told Laura one thing. I said, 'Look, I can't pick the colors and all that. But make it say 'optimistic person.'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:06 AM

      ( 10:58 AM ) The Rat  
WHITES TO BE MINORITY IN NEW YORK AREA SOON. Reminds me of the "international cabbie exchange program" on The Critic.

The influx of foreigners to New York and its suburbs and the continuing exodus of non-Hispanic whites to other parts of the country have transformed the face of metropolitan New York so profoundly that whites will constitute a minority of the region's population within a few years, demographers say.

The shift would make New York the first large metropolitan area outside the South and West in which whites do not make up a majority, according to an analysis of 2004 Census estimates by the Brookings Institution that was released yesterday.

The analysis also reveals a historic reversal: For the first time since at least the 19th century, the black population of both the city and, to a lesser extent, the region, has declined. In the five boroughs, according to the estimates, the number of blacks declined by about 30,000 since 2000, dipping below 30 percent of the overall population, as the migration of blacks to the suburbs and areas like the South outpaced immigration from the Caribbean and Africa.

In contrast, the analysis found that while the greater New York region over all lost 162,000 non-Hispanic whites and several hundred blacks from 2000 to 2004, the region gained 288,000 Hispanic people and 201,000 Asians—more Asians, in fact, than any other metropolitan area...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:58 AM

      ( 10:57 AM ) The Rat  

One hour into "Brokeback Mountain," Amy Jo Remmele began to cry, and not just for the woman on-screen, standing in a doorway in Riverton, Wyo., watching her husband embrace a man.

"When I saw that look in her eyes, I thought, 'Oh, yeah.' Even though I never saw my husband with another man, I knew exactly how that woman would have felt," said Mrs. Remmele, a respiratory therapist in rural Minnesota.

On June 1, 2000, Mrs. Remmele, then 31, discovered her husband's profile on the Web site The couple stayed up all that night weeping and talking. Soon afterward, 10 days before she gave birth to her second child, Mrs. Remmele's husband went off to spend a couple of nights with his new boyfriend. "I tried to talk him out of it, and he left anyway," Mrs. Remmele said. "I was devastated." Three months later the couple divorced.

Mrs. Remmele—now married to a farmer who raises cattle, corn and soybeans—is one of an estimated 1.7 million to 3.4 million American women who once were or are now married to men who have sex with men...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:57 AM

      ( 12:20 AM ) The Rat  

The legislation, supported by a coalition of liberal and conservative groups, addresses foreign and domestic sex trafficking. In the District, the victims of those charged with trafficking have been American-born—girls and young women from urban, suburban and rural areas, many of them runaways, all of them searching for security, stability and love.

"We talked about having sex for money. Paying him. Being happy," testified one girl, who was 14 and living in Prince George's County when she met Brice in March 2004.

"You'll have everything you want, and I'll take care of you," the girl recalled Brice saying to her. Then he drove her to a Silver Spring Travelodge with a veteran prostitute and another underage recruit. Brice had sex with the three of them, testified the girl, whose name is being withheld by The Washington Post because she is a minor and a victim of a sex crime...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:20 AM

      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  
Humphrey Bogart sits at a table behind a drink, moodily staring into the middle distance, a glint of heroic self-pity in his eyes. We are looking at a shot from Casablanca (1943) which has come to represent for many people the essence not only of that film but of Bogart's whole screen personality. Blown up into a poster, and scattered through the clubs, cafés, foyers, flats, dens, and dormitories of the Western world, it offers a maudlin echo to an equally famous poster of Ché Guevara: the mask of romantic introspection answers the mask of romantic action.

There is a great deal of anachronism in the confrontation, of course. For the Bogart of the poster is not the forties Bogart; he is merely a sixties dropout who has borrowed his face. Yet across the anachronism a certain quality remains, an aspect of the shot both then and now. For, whatever else it may have been or become, the shot is a portrait of a mood that goes well beyond Casablanca and beyond Bogart. It is a picture of what isolation looks like at its best: proud, bitter, mournful, and tremendously attractive. The sadness in the picture and the faint moral censure the film tempts us to apply ('You want to feel sorry for yourself, don't you?' Ingrid Bergman asks Bogart. 'With so much at stake all you can think of is your own feeling') merely help us on our way to reveling in that consummate, paradoxical loneliness, the goal of so many unconfessed or half-confessed longings. We long to be lonely, that is, even as we go in search of others, and Casablanca plays out that puzzle perfectly. (By we I mean everyone who feels this way, although Americans, it seems to me, are the true authors and owners of this feeling. The rest of the world just clutches at it now and then.)

—Michael Wood, America in the Movies

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:04 AM

Monday, March 06, 2006
      ( 11:52 PM ) The Rat  

Much of the morning-after punditry and blog logic have centered on whether members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had trouble giving "Brokeback Mountain" a best picture nod because of its gay love theme. Another theory: like a cinematic John Edwards, "Brokeback" peaked too early and its Oscar buzz dissipated.

In fact, the key to "Crash's" success was that the film—and the carefully orchestrated promotional campaign undertaken by its distributor, Lionsgate—appealed to the Academy's largest voting bloc: actors. With 22% of the Academy's voting members, the acting demographic is nearly three times as big as the next largest group—producers.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:52 PM

      ( 4:09 AM ) The Rat  
"Women are never kind," remarked Poirot. "Though they can sometimes be tender."
After the Funeral

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:09 AM

Sunday, March 05, 2006
      ( 11:12 PM ) The Rat  
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, re-enacted by bunnies. Not as good as the Exorcist one, but still pretty funny.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 PM

      ( 8:06 PM ) The Rat  
YUM! (That is a Keira Knightley-specific comment, many of the pics here are actually kinda freaky.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:06 PM

      ( 9:28 AM ) The Rat  
BOOZING THROUGH THE COMMON COLD. Not that any of Ratty's friends would have needed an instruction manual...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:28 AM

      ( 6:51 AM ) The Rat  
SOME REALLY POWERFUL POSTSECRET CARDS this week (e.g., this), but this just made me laugh really hard.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:51 AM

Saturday, March 04, 2006
      ( 9:57 PM ) The Rat  

Thanks to a food shortage and a man shortage about 10,000 years ago, men were in such demand they had their pick of mates.

With so much competition among women to find a mate, nature and evolution kicked in to give some cave women a distinctive look to attract the opposite sex: blond hair and blue eyes.

So says a new study published in the British science journal Evolution and Human Behavior...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:57 PM

      ( 9:53 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:53 PM

      ( 9:31 PM ) The Rat  
LIST OF SCHOOL PRANKS. I hadn't even heard of most of these.

And here is a list of Caltech pranks—a couple of these are kinda lame, but most are pretty good.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 PM

      ( 8:55 PM ) The Rat  
RAT II, via MY.

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:55 PM

      ( 6:05 PM ) The Rat  
"[Y]ou know I ain't never wanted no half-nothing in my family. My whole family is half. Everybody got different fathers and mothers... my two sisters and my brother. Can't hardly tell who's who. Can't never sit down and talk about Papa and Mama. It's your papa and your mama and my papa and my mama..."

*Ratty read this some years ago and was not particularly impressed, but—despite an only fair-to-middling cast—the production she just attended has forced her to revise her opinion. Wilson's NYT obit called him "perhaps the greatest American stage poet since Tennessee Williams," and that's probably correct—he was not, I think, a great playwright, but was (at least in Fences) definitely a very good one.

Incidentally, another set of ovation sluts in today's audience, GRR.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:05 PM

      ( 1:09 PM ) The Rat  
STILL IN RECOVERY from Kira's and my latest eating tour. Yesterday was the first time I've ever had ice cream at three different establishments in a single afternoon, and going by the queasiness, I'm paying for it now. (Either that, or she's knocked me up.)

Kira will very soon be here incidentally, and yet I managed not to gouge her eyes out! Don't tell me I don't have self-restraint.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:09 PM

      ( 8:23 AM ) The Rat  
But if we give up all thought of achieving or even of pursuing perfection, what clues can we hope to find that will help us distinguish a Christian from a pagan civilization? Perhaps, truthfully, we can count on nothing more than the divided mind, the uneasy conscience, and the sense of personal failure...
—Graham Greene, "The Last Pope"

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:23 AM

Friday, March 03, 2006
      ( 11:43 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:43 PM

      ( 11:41 PM ) The Rat  
GO HERE. Link via... well, let's not get into that.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:41 PM

      ( 2:27 AM ) The Rat  

Gurova hypothesises that, after the 20s, there were three major periods in the history of Soviet underwear.

The 30s and 40s were characterised by a Joseph Stalin speech, in 1935, proclaiming that Soviet life was becoming more abundant and joyful. Women's underwear became somewhat feminine. For both sexes, undergarments could now be in certain colours. According to Gurova: "They become black, vinous, khaki or dark blue, and the explanation was the opposite than previously: dark colours become dirty slower."

In the 50s and 60s, Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev increased Soviet interaction with other countries. Clothing styles were on Soviet minds. Soviet stores offered a wider, if not quite dizzying, array of consumer items. Soviet underwear became "a means of personal expression".

The final period, the 70s and 80s, was marked by consumer goods shortages—and by a government campaign against obesity, with the slogan "To be plump is no good." For many citizens, Gurova says, "it was hardly possible to buy undergarments that fitted well"...

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:27 AM

Thursday, March 02, 2006
      ( 9:59 PM ) The Rat  
I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds
and you are as far as the deepest root and wound,
and I am as far as a train at evening,
as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember.
You are as far as an unimagined animal
who, frightened by everything, never appears.
I am as far as cicadas and locusts
and you are as far as the cleanest arrow
that has sewn the wind to the light on
the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers
that stains the deepest sky between clouds,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

You are as far as a red-marbled stream
where children cut their feet on the stones
and cry out. And I am as far as their happy
mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass
and singing, "You are as far as another life,
as far as another life are you."
And I am as far as an infinite alphabet
made from yellow stars and ice,
and you are as far as the nails of the dead man,
as far as a sailor can see at midnight
when he's drunk and the moon is an empty cup,
and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory.

I am as far as the corners of a room where no one
has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners
of the earth. And you are as far as the voices
of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints
and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal
blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you.
And you are as far as a horse without a rider
can run in six years, two months and five days.
I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with
his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his
jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road.
As far as the space between word and word,
as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved
and the sirens of wars no one living can remember,
as far as this room, where no words have been spoken,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.

Susan Stewart, "Yellow Stars and Ice"

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:59 PM

      ( 3:10 PM ) The Rat  
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES. Said to me by a classmate, earlier today:

"So a few weeks ago, I was walking behind a couple of undergraduates, and I heard one of them say, 'But you know, the thing that I really like best about Princeton, is...' And I thought, Aha! Now I'm finally going to know!—and I'm, like, leaning in to make sure I hear the rest. And then the person said, ' how few grad students there are here...'"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:10 PM

      ( 1:40 PM ) The Rat  
"Bear in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, and add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality..."
—Einstein to a group of schoolchildren, 1934

(Blogged in honor of MW.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:40 PM

      ( 1:30 PM ) The Rat  
SOME STUFF ON Judith Wallerstein's concept of the "sleeper effect" confronting many children of divorce. Ratty read Wallerstein's book several years ago, by the way, and so should you.

This discussion among researchers and policy experts is becoming part of the national conversation thanks to Judith Wallerstein and her important new book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. The "unexpected" part is that divorce produces "sleeper effects," deep and long-term emotional problems that arise only when the children enter early adulthood and begin to confront issues of romance and marriage. The "powerful ghosts" of their parents' experience rise only in later life, Wallerstein told a seminar in New York City last week.

Wallerstein is a psychologist who has been studying 131 children of divorce since 1971, interviewing them intensively at different stages of life. Now these children are ages 28 through 43, and the news about them is not good. Their parents' divorce hangs like a cloud over their lives. Compared with similar grown children from intact families in the same neighborhood, the children of divorce were more erratic and self-defeating. Some sought out unreliable partners or dull ones who at least would never leave. Others ran from conflict or avoided relationships entirely. Expecting disaster, they often worked to create it. Some grew up to achieve success in work and romance, Wallerstein says, but even they are filled with a sense of dread and foreboding that it could all collapse at any moment...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:30 PM

      ( 2:31 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:31 AM

      ( 1:44 AM ) The Rat  

Even in New Orleans, there are limits. Laughing at the dead is a no-no. Cracks about the Superdome or the chaos at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center are frowned upon.

Some comics, including Borrello, have changed the punch lines of their favorite material to respect such boundaries. "I used to always say, 'What comes after a Category 5 hurricane? Heaven,' " Borrello said. "I can't say that. It cuts too close."

Now, the gag goes like this: "What comes after a Category 5 hurricane? The government. Very slowly."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is fair game, as are local politicians, insurance adjusters and anything to do with blue tarps. So are survivors who used their FEMA checks to buy luxuries. One popular shirt reads: "I Stayed in New Orleans for Katrina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt, a New Cadillac and a Plasma TV." Another takes a poke at the New Orleans Police Department: "NOPD: Not Our Problem Dude."

"People won't make fun of the New York Police Department because they were heroes during 9/11. Some of our cops looted Wal-Mart," said Dykes, the stand-up act organizer. "If you can't make fun of that, you'll just get angry."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:44 AM

      ( 12:34 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:34 AM

      ( 12:16 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:16 AM

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
      ( 1:28 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:28 AM

      ( 1:23 AM ) The Rat  

Half of Europeans are obese or overweight, but citizens do not see obesity as a major health threat, a food industry report said on Tuesday. According to the report, commissioned by Kraft, the world's second-largest food and beverage company, Europeans view obesity as a problem that affects others, but not themselves...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 AM

      ( 12:17 AM ) The Rat  
PROBLEMS PROLIFERATE AS BEARS DO. Check out the poolside shot!

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:17 AM

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

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