The Rat
Sunday, April 30, 2006
      ( 9:38 PM ) The Rat  

Women on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus created the world’s longest chain of bras of Sunday, linking together nearly 115,000 of the garments covering 111 km (70 miles), organizers said.

The group of Dutch, British and Cypriot organizers took nearly nine hours to create the chain at the harbor in the resort of Paphos, following a year of painstaking planning.

Their success will shove Singapore, which had held the record since 2003 with 79,000 bras, off the top spot in the Guinness Book of World Records...

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      ( 1:38 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:04 AM ) The Rat  
SAID TO ME BY ET somewhere in the course of the past few hours (there were other, funnier ones, but I only started writing stuff down toward the end):

—"But they do have an ethos! But what's sad is that that ethos is increasingly Pentecostal."

—"The thing to be would be, like, an anteater."

—"On the other hand, he has to suck up live ants with his nose, which is... you know... disgusting. And horrible."

—"Look, you know—for the first, let's say, hour... I don't think I get stupider when I'm drunk."

—"I have this horrible feeling that you're blogging all of this."

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:04 AM

      ( 1:03 AM ) The Rat  

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Saturday, April 29, 2006
      ( 6:55 PM ) The Rat  
AUNTIE EM, AUNTIE EM! Ratty, whose sister-in-law is expecting in August, wants to know why there isn't a female analog to "avuncular." (Yes, I know there's "aunt-like" or "auntly," but those just obviously suck.) Might it be related to the fact that "uncle" beats the crap out of "aunt" on Googlefight—at 88,900,000 hits vs. 38,700,000? (Then again, presumably "uncle" gets a boost from celebrity uncles, e.g., Sam.) Are aunts and auntliness less distinctive/recognizable than uncles and avuncularity?

The earliest usage of "avuncular" recorded in the OED is 1831 and is attributed to Landor. I can only speculate that maybe a greater need was felt for a word to describe a bachelor with (what we would now term) avuncular qualities, than for a word to describe an unmarried woman who behaved analogously? Perhaps the latter quality was subsumed under—or overpowered by—"spinsterlike"? One usually assumes that an avuncular man is probably single, and either middle-aged or older. "Avuncular" can have a slight overtone of "ridiculous," but I think its connotations tend to be more positive—"jolly" or "doting" mostly. Even in its least-positive connotations it probably never really gets worse than "eccentric." Since women did not typically choose to remain spinsters in the era that gave us "avuncular," perhaps a compact adjective characterizing a doting aunt could not be made to "stick" because the idea was too closely correlated with pejorative qualities (envy, etc.)? (Fairy tales give us wicked sisters or stepsisters, as in "Cinderella"; but male siblings tend to be, at worst, merely incompetent—as in the countless fables, from "Three Little Pigs" to The King of the Golden River, where two of the boys behave foolishly and only one behaves wisely.) (Ratty's favorite, in the "farthest arrow" genre, is the one in the Thousand and One Nights in which the able sibling is a girl—possibly connected to the fact that she is a youngest/only daughter, with two older brothers.)

We can also try removing the assumption that such terms would only apply to or connote childless adults (though I cannot remember ever hearing a man described as avuncular in a context that also made anything of his having children of his own; even if he happened to also have children, his avuncular qualities were only being spotlighted as a quirk of his own personality, quite separate from his fatherhood). In this case, I'd say it's possible married women were considered less eligible for an adjective meaning "aunt-like," on the assumption that they'd be far more wrapped up in their own children than in those of their siblings. Fathers, meanwhile, being generally less tied to their children than their mothers are, presumably would be better candidates for doting on nieces and nephews (or, alternatively, doting—in an uncle-like way—upon young people who were not actually nieces or nephews).

Some years ago I commented to ET on how peculiar it is that the word "husband" cannot ever quite become wholly negative. When you imagine a man saying of a wife who is estranged or whom he no longer loves, "I can't go to X tonight because of my wife," it still has greater potential for hostility than "I can't go to Y tonight because of my husband"—or even "Quick, get in the closet—I think that's my husband!"—quite can. Unlike "wife," "husband" never entirely stops sounding like someone who is doing something—fulfilling some role other than that of a hindrance. My guess is that this is because the husband's role has historically been both better-defined and more public—"to husband" can still be used as a verb; when, outside of Feste's song, would one ever hear the phrase "to wive"?

Anyway, while you're here, here's the OED's take on "aunt":

1. a. The sister of one's father or mother. Also, an uncle's wife, more strictly called an aunt-in-law.

b. (in U.S.) Used endearingly of: Any benevolent practical woman who exercises these qualities to the benefit of her circle of acquaintance; cf. Sp.
tia, and see AUNTHOOD. Also used dial. (see E.D.D.) as 'a term of familiarity or respect applied to elderly women, not necessarily implying relationship.'

{dag} c. Formerly used by alumni of Oxford and Cambridge as a title for the 'sister university.'

U.S. (See quots.) [...]

{dag} 2. An old woman; a gossip.

{dag} 3. A bawd or procuress; a prostitute.

4. Aunt Sally. a. A game much in vogue at fairs and races, in which the figure of a woman's head with a pipe in its mouth is set up, and the player, throwing sticks from a certain distance, aims at breaking the pipe.

b. A nickname for a wicket-keeper in cricket.

fig. An object of unreasonable or prejudiced attack.

5. my (sainted) aunt! and similar phrases, as trivial exclamations.

6. Special collocations:
Aunt Edna, used of a typical theatre-goer of conservative taste; Aunt Emma, used in croquet of a typically unenterprising player (or play); Aunt Fanny, in various slang phrases expressing negation or disbelief.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:55 PM

      ( 2:44 PM ) The Rat  
THIS IS GOING NOWHERE GOOD. Ratty—who was given her first orchid by TCB only this February—has just acquired a second, again a phalaenopsis. This one's a "Brother Sara Gold 'Peach,'" yum.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 PM

Friday, April 28, 2006
      ( 1:54 AM ) The Rat  

A new television reality show invites porn stars to test their serious acting abilities in London's theater district, raising the question: Debbie can do Dallas, but can she take on Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard"?

"My Bare Lady" will cast four leading ladies from U.S. porn studios in a classic piece of drama to be performed in London's West End. Their experiences undergoing a crash course in acting and appearing before a discerning British audience will air in three episodes on the Fox Reality cable and satellite channels this fall.

"It's a wonderful tale of redemption," said David Lyle, general manager of Fox Reality. "Do they want lines that are a little more challenging than 'Oh, here's the pool guy...'?"

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:54 AM

      ( 1:28 AM ) The Rat  
'ATLAS' PIC MAPPED. Proof positive 1) there is a God, and 2) He does have a sense of humor.

As for stars, book provides an ideal role for an actress in lead character Dagny Taggart, so it's not a stretch to assume Rand enthusiast Angelina Jolie's name has been brought up. Brad Pitt, also a fan, is rumored to be among the names suggested for lead male character John Galt...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:28 AM

      ( 12:46 AM ) The Rat  
REASONS ENGLISH TEACHERS RETIRE EARLY, via retired English teacher. (I suspect this is actually culled from Bulwer-Lytton and Style Invitational entries.)

—It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

—The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.

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

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:46 AM

Thursday, April 27, 2006
      ( 9:17 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 4:11 PM ) The Rat  
Mrs. Slocombe. And where is Madam going for her honeymoon?

Customer. Well, we're torn between Eastbourne and Brighton.

Mrs. Slocombe. It is difficult to make up one's mind, isn't it?

Customer. It is.

Mrs. Slocombe. Why not compromise and try Beachy Head?

Are You Being Served?

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:11 PM

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
      ( 10:50 PM ) The Rat  
SCHOLARS DISCOVER 23 BLANK PAGES THAT MIGHT AS WELL BE LOST SAMUEL BECKETT PLAY. Awesome. (Grease Fire Rages Through Midwest is also not bad.)

"In what was surely a conscious decision by Mr. Beckett, the white, uniform, non-ruled pages, which symbolize the starkness and emptiness of life, were left unbound, unmarked, and untouched," said Trinity College professor of Irish literature Fintan O'Donoghue. "And, as if to further exemplify the anonymity and facelessness of 20th-century man, they were found, of all places, between other sheets of paper."

"I can only conclude that we have stumbled upon something quite remarkable," O'Donoghue added.

According to literary critic Eric Matheson, who praised the work for "the bare-bones structure and bleak repetition of what can only be described as 'nothingness,'" the play represents somewhat of a departure from the works of Beckett's "middle period." But, he said, it "might as well be Samuel Beckett at his finest."

Scholars theorize that the 23-page play might have been intended to be titled Five Conversations, Entropolis, or Stop...

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      ( 10:34 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:41 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 5:59 PM ) The Rat  
How blest am I
In my just censure, in my true opinion!
Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accursed
In being so blest! There may be in the cup
A spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart,
And yet partake no venom, for his knowledge
Is not infected: but if one present
The abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
With violent hefts. I have drunk,
and seen the spider.
?The Winter's Tale II.i

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
      ( 12:26 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 10:27 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 1:37 AM ) The Rat  
MODERN-DAY TAKE on As I Lay Dying... Link via IKM.

A 53-year-old German woman who was driving her dead mother across country to save on mortuary transportation costs was fined by police for disturbing a dead person's peace. [...]

The woman had already driven 450 km (280 miles) after picking up the body from a mortuary in the northern city of Bremerhaven. She wanted to bury her mother, who died of natural causes aged 90, in her hometown Daun.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:37 AM

Monday, April 24, 2006
      ( 10:19 PM ) The Rat  
CAN I REALLY BE THE ONLY PERSON ON THE $#@! PLANET who thinks Lang Lang is overrated??! Because I certainly seem to have been the only one in the $#@! concert hall... (Grr.)

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:19 PM

Sunday, April 23, 2006
      ( 11:31 PM ) The Rat  

'In a rat, there's a mating ritual,' says Palatin's CEO Carl Spana. 'The female rat will approach the male head-to-head. She will wiggle her ears, she will wiggle her whiskers, she will nibble at him, and finally she'll turn and run away.' If the male chooses not to pursue her, she may return and, as one leading rat sexologist puts it, 'kick him in the face'...

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      ( 11:04 PM ) The Rat  
CLICK HERE for my thoughts on Heidegger.

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:04 PM

      ( 10:57 PM ) The Rat  

Nearly 10 million people now drive more than an hour to work, up 50 percent from 1990. The average commute today is 25 minutes, up 18 percent from two decades ago. What drives us to drive so far? Many are doing what California real-estate agents call "driving 'til you qualify." New-home prices have nearly tripled in the past 20 years and now average almost $300,000, according to the National Association of Home Builders. In places like southern California, each exit along the interstate saves you tens of thousands of dollars. That's why Chris Neelley, 43, lives in Lancaster, Calif., and drives 80 miles to L.A. every day. For $400,000 last year, he moved his family of five into a 3,000-square-foot home, twice the size of the place they used to have closer to the city. The trade-off: he now spends three to six hours a day on the road. "I love being out in the middle of nowhere," he says, "and seeing no people around."

But for many people, the long and winding road isn't leading to the exurban bliss. With everyone stuck in traffic, it turns out there's no one around to coach Little League or volunteer for the PTA, not to mention get dinner on the table. Robert Putnam, author of "Bowling Alone," found that every 10 minutes added to your commute decreases by 10 percent the time you dedicate to your family and community...

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      ( 10:33 PM ) The Rat  
OUCH. From Onion archives.

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      ( 10:19 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:01 PM ) The Rat  
Shh, quiet everybody, Tom goes. We're coming up on post time. This old boy takes his derby seriously. Or at least he pretends to. I don't know, I think it's just a way of having a little bit of identity, you know? Like wearing suspenders all the time or collecting art or something.
Story of My Life

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:01 PM

Saturday, April 22, 2006
      ( 8:30 PM ) The Rat  
HEH! (Via Postsecret.)

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      ( 5:59 PM ) The Rat  

Ice cream makers Ben & Jerry's have apologized for causing offence by calling a new flavor "Black & Tan"—the nickname of a notoriously violent British militia that operated during Ireland's war of independence.

"Any reference on our part to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended," said a Ben & Jerry's spokesman.

"Ben & Jerry's was built on the philosophies of peace and love," he added...

# Posted by The Rat @ 5:59 PM

      ( 5:58 PM ) The Rat  

A carpenter who keeps his clothes clean by working in the nude was arrested after a client returned home early and found him building bookcases in the buff.

Percy Honniball, 50, was charged with misdemeanor indecent exposure this week for the October incident...

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      ( 11:18 AM ) The Rat  
THE NEW FOREIGN AID, via the L.A. Times.

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Friday, April 21, 2006
      ( 11:36 PM ) The Rat  
THIS IS A PLUG for the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Mikado, which was a delight. Possibly not for super-hard-core G & S purists (they modernize some lines in the "list" songs, to poke fun at everyone from soccer moms to deconstructionists), but everyone else will like it. I was particularly fond of Stephen O'Brien's Ko-Ko. NYGASP's 2005-06 season in the city seems to be over, but they are on tour through early June (including two more shows of The Mikado, in New Haven in early May).

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:36 PM

      ( 4:09 PM ) The Rat  

Proposals are being accepted for the Midwest PCA /ACA (Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association) Conference in Indianapolis, IN, Oct. 27-29, 2006, in the area of Fat Studies. Papers and panel suggestions can be from any field of study and are welcomed from academics/researchers/intellectuals/activists/artists at any stage in their career.

Fat studies is an interdisciplinary field and potential topics include (but are not limited to):

—changing historical definitions and valuations of obesity
—portrayal of fat people in literature, nonfiction and film
—changing definitions of the "beautiful" body type in art and popular culture
—portrayal of fat people in popular culture
—cultural definitions and meaning of fat from around the world
—the movement for fat acceptance
—legal and social discrimination against fat people
—history and critique of dieting and other weight-loss procedures
—fatness and sexuality in gay and straight cultures

From the same series of listings:

Proposals are being sought for an edited collection of essays on the theme of Zombies in Literature and Film. Essays should address both literature and film as subjects and be aimed at an interdisciplinary academic audience. Interest has been shown by Cambria Press for a 2007 publication date, as part of their series in Literature, Film and Theory.

The following topics may provide thematic focus but should not be taken as limitations:

—Zombies and the Sacred/Profane—addressing elements of the Sacred, the Holy, or other religious elements and iconography in literature and film.
—Zombies and the Law—addressing the relation between zombies and authority or government. Destruction/Creation of the Law and/or laws, connections to apocalyptic narratives, etc.
—Zombies and the Family—addressing the zombie's relation to family narratives, including the threat to the family and/or breakdown of the family order, but also childbirth (i.e. monstrous children), and the formation of family enclaves in response to external threat.
—Zombies and Master/Slave narratives—Zombies and loss of control/freedom. Voodoo, themes of Slavery, etc.
—Parodic Zombies—Zombie comedies, camp, and or ironic representations of zombies.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:09 PM

      ( 3:39 PM ) The Rat  
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

—Philip Larkin

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:39 PM

Thursday, April 20, 2006
      ( 11:18 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 3:22 AM ) The Rat  

For every foot of rain in Wailua, the mountain gets 4 or 5 feet. In March alone, Mt. Waialeale received nearly 8 feet of rain. The summit averages more than 45 feet a year, according to the National Weather Service. In 1982, it was deluged with a record 620 inches—almost 52 feet.

From his backyard, Spencer, the mountain's closest neighbor, has an unobstructed view of what tourist pamphlets proclaim and many scientists confirm as the rainiest place on Earth. The title is disputed. But scientists agree that Mt. Waialeale is a perennial contender for the top spot...

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      ( 3:13 AM ) The Rat  

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      ( 12:34 AM ) The Rat  

"Labor was horrible," says a weakened Quigley, who doesn't know the half of it, as she lies in her bed at Divine Savior Hospital cradling her tiny future nemesis, Caitlyn Rose.

"This is the happiest day of my life," she adds, unaware of how true that observation will prove to be...

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:34 AM

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
      ( 3:19 PM ) The Rat  
TODAY'S ADDITION to the 'Yellow-Pages Categories I Hadn't Realized Existed' Files: "Stevedoring."

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:19 PM

      ( 9:21 AM ) The Rat  

Detectives said they were stunned when they entered Ferro's house and came across the wide array of guns.

"We went there looking for two guns," said Det. Joe Rodriguez of the Glendora Police Department. "We didn't expect to find more than 800. It was quite out of anyone's grasp. We are still trying to comprehend it."

Rodriguez said he and his colleagues uncovered weapons wherever they looked—behind framed paintings, thermometers and mirrors, inside hollowed-out walls of closets and under the staircase.

Detectives gave two taps to a bookcase and it opened up to reveal more weapons, Rodriguez said.

They said they found some of the most powerful firearms—Uzis and AK-47s—in the master bathroom and bedroom, behind clothing and plywood...

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:21 AM

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
      ( 3:37 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 9:59 AM ) The Rat  
The first month of the marriage is the honeymoon. The second month is the absinthe moon.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:59 AM

Monday, April 17, 2006
      ( 10:55 PM ) The Rat  

5. "Our fees will eat up the $50 balance in your child's savings account in about five months." Make sure your bank has a kid-friendly savings account before the little one deposits his or her money or you'll end up with a broke, sobbing child. Monthly service fees demolish low balances pretty darn quick. The best children's accounts have no balance minimums, no fees and they pay interest on any balance. If none of the banks in your area offers such an account, look for a bank that offers a free savings account—no minimum balance and no fees, but you might not get interest unless there's a significant balance...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:55 PM

      ( 10:03 PM ) The Rat  

Yale's Board of Governors isn't likely to address those broader issues at its meeting this week. But it will no doubt take some action in response to the Taliban Man scandal. Charley Ellis, one of the university's governors, has written to some alumni noting that 'a careful review' of the school's 'special student' admissions 'is likely to lead to significant change: fewer folks allowed and stricter requirements and really close supervision.' Mr. Ellis concludes that 'if a mistake was made—either by the U.S. government or by Yale—it will not be repeated—not even close.'

His response is revealing. Top people at Yale still won't admit the Taliban Man's admission was a mistake and continue to shift responsibility for his presence to the State Department. Several U.S. senators are indeed demanding answers from State and are preparing hearings on its procedures for granting student visas...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:03 PM

      ( 8:03 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 6:45 PM ) The Rat  

Jay, 43, is co-founder of Barry's Bootcamp, renowned since its inception in 1998 for grueling workouts consisting of uninterrupted cardio and strength training. It's where Hollywood execs, used to screaming at their minions, get screamed at, where celebrities flock when they need to drop poundage ASAP, and where throwing up has always been rewarded with a T-shirt. And although the West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks studios have numerous instructors, for the craziest fitness die-hards, Bootcamp has always been about Barry.

But even as he was cementing his reputation as an L.A. fitness icon for his strenuous, nonstop workouts, Jay was indulging in drug-fueled binges, starting on weekends and bleeding into the week, consuming various combinations of Ecstasy, cocaine, crack cocaine, crystal meth, Quaaludes, GHB, acid, alcohol and pot, resulting in convulsions, chest pains, blackouts and depression. At the time, he was also teaching three daytime exercise classes, starting in the wee hours of the morning, putting his loyal followers through their paces.

Most people didn't suspect his decade-plus-long problem, he says, because he missed only one class. One.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:45 PM

Sunday, April 16, 2006
      ( 11:47 PM ) The Rat  

Simon believes Starbucks succeeds by "selling comfort" in an anonymous, often dislocating world. He says he has lost track of the number of times people have told him that when they traveled to a strange country, "the first thing I did when I got off the plane was go to Starbucks."

"There's a deep sense of unpredictability in the modern world, and what Starbucks provides a lot of people is predictability," he said...

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      ( 11:41 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:07 PM ) The Rat  

The reputation of the "Ugly American" abroad is not, however, just some cruel stereotype, but—according to the American government itself—worryingly accurate. Now, the State Department in Washington has joined forces with American industry to plan an image make-over by issuing guides for Americans travelling overseas on how to behave.

Under a programme starting next month, several leading US companies will give employees heading abroad a "World Citizens Guide" featuring 16 etiquette tips on how they can help improve America's battered international image. The advice targets a series of common American traits and includes:

• Listen at least as much as you talk. By all means, talk about America and your life in our country. But also ask people you're visiting about themselves and their way of life.

• Slow down. We talk fast, eat fast, move fast, live fast. Many cultures do not.

• If you talk politics, talk—don't argue. Steer clear of arguments about American politics, even if someone is attacking US politicians or policies...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:07 PM

      ( 3:35 PM ) The Rat  

So the question is: Will they do it?

And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the 'proliferation,' but we wouldn't have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness—the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.

Conversely, a key reason to stop Iran is to demonstrate that we can still muster the will to do so. Instead, the striking characteristic of the long diplomatic dance that brought us to this moment is how September 10th it's all been. The free world's delegated negotiators (the European Union) and transnational institutions (the IAEA) have continually given the impression that they'd be content just to boot it down the road to next year or the year after or find some arrangement—this decade's Oil-for-Food or North Korean deal—that would get them off the hook. If you talk to EU foreign ministers, they've already psychologically accepted a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the chief characteristic of the West’s reaction to Iran's nuclearization has been an enervated fatalism.

Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can't be helped. Just the way things are.

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:35 PM

      ( 11:31 AM ) The Rat  

Last year, the number of people who bought watches not in the Rolex and Patek Philippe stratosphere dropped 12% from 2004, according to a leading market research group. The runaway favorite brand for teens, Fossil Inc. of Texas, acknowledged an 18.6% decline in wholesale U.S. sales of its namesake brand.

For many in the cellphone generation, watches now seem about as relevant as grandfather clocks. "It's like a hat," said Francis Eagan, a 21-year-old waiter from Tustin. "It serves no purpose, like earrings."

Kamlyn Snyder said she hadn't worn a watch since she plucked one from a cereal box many years ago.

"The inconvenience of strapping it on in the morning," said the 21-year-old student from Huntington Beach, a pink bow tattooed on her right foot. "My grandma does; that's how she tells time. She's not that old. She's, like, 60, but still...."

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:31 AM

      ( 11:25 AM ) The Rat  

The noun form "nut," meaning "crazy person," may have a different history. By the mid-1800s, nut was slang for head. If someone said you were "off your nut," that would mean you were crazy.

Psychologist Timothy Anderson points out that many recent euphemisms for insanity have sexual connotations. The "nut" once described the head of a man's penis—only later did it come to mean the head of his body, and then his testicles. "Screw" already meant copulation by the time "screwy" came into usage. And various fruit-themed words (like, well, "fruit" itself) connoted homosexuality before they became associated with craziness (as in "she went bananas" or "he's nutty as a fruitcake").

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:25 AM

      ( 4:04 AM ) The Rat  
"One shouldn't live alone. It's wrong..."

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:04 AM

Friday, April 14, 2006
      ( 7:20 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:20 PM

      ( 6:57 PM ) The Rat  
RATTY JUST WANTED TO ANNOUNCE that she bought some of these perfectly-cubical-ice-cube trays yesterday, and they have brought delight to her anal-retentive little heart.

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:57 PM

Thursday, April 13, 2006
      ( 7:46 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:31 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:26 PM ) The Rat  

The job may be long on hours and short on pay. But working for yourself will make you much happier than those employed by others, according to research...

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:26 PM

      ( 12:04 AM ) The Rat  

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
      ( 10:44 PM ) The Rat  
THE IMPORTANCE OF SEX. Some holes in the argument here, but still interesting.

Some people fret that if more women work rather than mind their children, this will boost GDP but create negative social externalities, such as a lower birth rate. Yet developed countries where more women work, such as Sweden and America, actually have higher birth rates than Japan and Italy, where women stay at home. Others fear that women's move into the paid labour force can come at the expense of children. Yet the evidence for this is mixed. For instance, a study by Suzanne Bianchi at Maryland University finds that mothers spent the same time, on average, on childcare in 2003 as in 1965. The increase in work outside the home was offset by less housework—and less spare time and less sleep...

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:44 PM

      ( 7:24 PM ) The Rat  

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      ( 7:23 PM ) The Rat  
A FORMULA FOR THE DEFINITIVE DERRIERE. Look for the phrase "trodden doughnut."

# Posted by The Rat @ 7:23 PM

      ( 11:15 AM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:15 AM

      ( 11:12 AM ) The Rat  
BIZARRE. Incidentally the Swiss are pretty weird too.

Sales of crime books jump around 500 percent in the week leading up to Easter, estimates bookshop chain Tanum, while television and radio programmers schedule back-to-back thrillers over the Easter break, which in Norway lasts 5-1/2 days.

"People sit inside their cabins, watch crime on television and then read crime books at night," said book reviewer Ane Farsethaas, who prefers 19th century detective Sherlock Holmes to the modern thrillers most of her compatriots devour.

"It's a very Norwegian thing to do," she said.

Nobody knows when the Norwegian tradition of crime telling at Easter began, but their warrior ancestors—the Vikings—were renowned for raiding trips to the British Isles.

On their return the Vikings would settle down with flasks of mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey, and recount tales of murder and pillage to their women and children...

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:12 AM

      ( 3:54 AM ) The Rat  

Also, the best subhead found during my past several hours of reading law-review articles: "Should a Social Order Exalting Women's Self-Abnegation Be Condoned or

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:54 AM

      ( 3:52 AM ) The Rat  
"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?"—
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.

—"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"—
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.

—"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon' and 'theäs oon' and 't'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!"—
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.

—"Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!"—
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.

—"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!"—
"True. One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.

—"I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town."—
"My dear—a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain't ruined," said she.

—Thomas Hardy, "The Ruined Maid"

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:52 AM

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
      ( 9:52 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:52 PM

      ( 10:38 AM ) The Rat  
WHO NEEDS THE ONION when real life supplies headlines like this and this?

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:38 AM

Monday, April 10, 2006
      ( 10:19 PM ) The Rat  
FATHER RECALLS SON'S LAST WORDS ON 9/11. You should read this.

Peter had planned to combine a business trip with a family visit to Disneyland and his in-laws, who are Korean immigrants. He called his father as the hijackings unfolded, describing in a soft voice how a flight attendant had been stabbed, Hanson testified.

When he called a second time, Peter said the hijackers' flying was so bumpy that passengers were vomiting.

"I think they're going to try to crash this plane into a building," the son told his father. " 'Don't worry, Dad. If it happens, it will be quick,' " Hanson quoted his son as saying.

Moments later, as his son whispered, "Oh, my God," into the phone three times, Lee Hanson watched on television as the plane struck the tower and burst into a fireball.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:19 PM

      ( 10:14 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:14 PM

      ( 1:06 AM ) The Rat  

Inside California's stately old Capitol, the call comes crackling over a state-issued radio. Maintenance man Dustin Peard drops what he's doing and climbs a steep, narrow ladder to the roof.

There, in the shadow of the grand rotunda, the 35-year-old former Marine slowly lowers the building's three flapping flags—the Stars and Stripes, the California bear and a black POW banner—exactly halfway down the pole.

He is acting on orders from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who drops the flags to half-staff each time a service member from the state dies in the war. [...]

There is no formula prescribing how elected officials should act during wartime, and Schwarzenegger's public commemoration of the fallen is not without controversy. He has taken heat from some groups that celebrate the flag, with members saying they find it demoralizing to see Old Glory flying at half-staff so much. The flags remain lowered for 72 hours after each death.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:06 AM

      ( 1:02 AM ) The Rat  

Kristi Dinh left a note for her mother on the kitchen table. "I'm going to work. I'll be home late," she scribbled in English.

When she got home at 10 p.m., her mom greeted her with a slap in the face. She had no idea where her 18-year-old daughter had been.

Like many teenagers, Dinh has trouble talking to her parents. But her problem goes deeper. Dinh, who emigrated from Vietnam when she was 3, has lost most of her Vietnamese. Her parents never learned English. [...]

But a high school class is helping improve the family's interactions. Facing a growing cultural divide between immigrant parents and their children, the Garden Grove Unified and Huntington Beach Union school districts are offering Vietnamese classes to high school students, making Orange County one of only two counties in the nation with school districts offering Vietnamese as a foreign language elective like Spanish and French.

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:02 AM

Sunday, April 09, 2006
      ( 9:46 PM ) The Rat  
CLICK HERE for the most perfect news story Ratty's seen in a long time. Via ET.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:46 PM

      ( 2:30 PM ) The Rat  
GET 'EM BEFORE THEY'RE GONE! An article on the "7 most endangered wonders of the world."

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:30 PM

      ( 3:10 AM ) The Rat  
DESPITE—WAS IT STEPHEN FRY'S?—SNARKY COMMENT about his paintings seeming to be available only in "either Ice Hockney or Field Hockney," I've always had a sneaking fondness for David Hockney; but I also think Lee Siegel pretty much nails him—and, incidentally, Southern California—in this piece (click on the slide show).

Bright and relaxing, full of a kind of winking, innocent wonder, [the landscapes] are part Japanese print, part Grant Wood, part cartoon, and they appeal immediately to the eye. It's hardly surprising that Hockney has become something like California's unofficial painter laureate, having lived in Los Angeles for decades. The place and the artist were made for each other. And perhaps since America likes to think of itself as sunny California, Americans have long loved David Hockney.

In presenting about 50 years' worth of Hockney's portraits and self-portraits, the show [at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts] makes great claims for Hockney's gifts as a portraitist. But of all the genres and mediums in which Hockney has worked—landscape, still life, and opera sets, among others—his portraiture is the least accomplished and affecting...

Self-portrait with Charlie is a very shrewd commentary on the artist's self. An artist who paints a self-portrait with someone else in the room watching him—or perhaps waiting patiently for him to finish—is making a very particular statement about his identity. He is telling us that being in the company of another person is an essential part of himself. Yet if the artist, his brushes hanging inactive by his side, isn't painting himself, then who is? Hockney seems to be implying that the viewer is. The candid revelation of this self-portrait is that the artist needs someone else's gaze to be completed as a person. The impression you get looking at Hockney's portraits is that his subjects, too, need to be completed by the artist's gaze. This is the radical deficiency of Hockney's representations of other individuals. He sees nothing separate, original, or inviolate about their individuality. In the art of portraiture, solitude reveals the sitter. But Hockney paints his subjects as if they were afraid to be alone.

Why does Hockney feel so at home in Los Angeles? The singular quality of Southern California is that its spaces lack vacancy. They are so filled with buoyant light that even in the absence of people, Californian emptiness seems like it is enjoying the gaze and the presence of people...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:10 AM

      ( 2:44 AM ) The Rat  
FOR TRADER JOE'S, A NEW YORK TASTE TEST. A little slow with this (am clearing out old bookmarks).

The pasta buyer had boiled up six different Italian brands of whole-grain pasta and tossed them in plain olive oil.

The group fell silent and began chewing intently. Immediately, comments flew. "Interesting nutty flavors on No. 1." ... "This one has a cardboardy texture at the end." ... "What about the omega-3's on this one?" Eventually, a favorite was determined by a show of hands and a plan sketched for the step ahead: persuading the supplier to make refinements and solve problems.

Next, aged goat cheeses. Then truffled cheeses. ("Like dirty socks." ... "I think people want to see those black flecks." ... "I worry that we're just too far ahead of the curve with these.") Toasted walnuts, then granola clusters. ("How are these not cookies?" the house nutritionist asked.) And finally a new category: trail-mix-based cereals. The group poured milk and chewed. "I am not happy to get a whole almond in my bowl of cereal," one said forcefully.

That kind of passionate, focused attention to food is clearly sensed by Trader Joe's customers. "This sounds crazy, but you feel like the company likes food even more than they like money," said Marcy Benfiglio, who lives near the branch in Larchmont, N.Y....

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:44 AM

      ( 2:22 AM ) The Rat  

In "Naughty America: The Game," set to launch early this summer, players will assume the forms of alluring but cartoonish people who meet, flirt and have sex with other player characters.

Characters will have their own apartment, but the world will have also have "public sex zones" and themed rooms, said Tina Courtney, the game's producer.

"We've got the cowboy room, the make-your-own-porn room... it doesn't just have to be 'Your place or mine?"' Courtney said.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:22 AM

      ( 2:08 AM ) The Rat  
My own dear love, he is strong and bold
And he cares not what comes after.
His words ring sweet as a chime of gold,
And his eyes are lit with laughter.
He is jubilant as a flag unfurled—
Oh, a girl, she'd not forget him.
My own dear love, he is all my world,—
And I wish I'd never met him.

My love, he's mad, and my love, he's fleet,
And a wild young wood-thing bore him!
The ways are fair to his roaming feet,
And the skies are sunlit for him.
As sharply sweet to my heart he seems
As the fragrance of acacia.
My own dear love, he is all my dreams,—
And I wish he were in Asia.

My love runs by like a day in June,
And he makes no friends of sorrows.
He'll tread his galloping rigadoon
In the pathway of the morrows.
He'll live his days where the sunbeams start,
Nor could storm or wind uproot him.
My own dear love, he is all my heart,—
And I wish somebody'd shoot him.

—Dorothy Parker, "Love Song"

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:08 AM

Saturday, April 08, 2006
      ( 6:40 PM ) The Rat  

In a tale reminiscent of the last Wallace and Gromit movie, furious villagers in northeast England have hired armed guards to protect their beloved communal vegetable gardens from a suspected monster rabbit.

Leeks, Japanese onions, parsnips and spring carrots have all been ripped up and devoured by the mystery were-rabbit—prompting the 12 allotment holders in Felton, north of Newcastle, to hire two marksmen with air rifles and orders to shoot to kill.

"It is a massive thing. It is a monster. The first time I saw it, I said: 'What the hell is that?'" the Northumberland Gazette newspaper quoted local resident Jeff Smith, 63, as saying on its website.

Smith could not be reached for comment Friday, but his mother told AFP that the hare-raising story is true—and no less an authority than the British Rabbit Council said it was credible...

# Posted by The Rat @ 6:40 PM

      ( 1:27 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:27 PM

      ( 11:39 AM ) The Rat  

Here's a sales pitch I'll bet you'd never expect for a 20-foot-long $390,000 luxury sedan: "It makes a great gift." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 11:39 AM

Friday, April 07, 2006
      ( 3:23 PM ) The Rat  

Massachusetts pranksters, posing as professional movers, stole the beloved Fleming Cannon—traditionally fired at each year's commencement—from the Pasadena campus last week.

On Thursday it popped up, pointed toward Pasadena and adorned with an oversized Massachusetts Institute of Technology school ring, at the Cambridge campus next to a plaque referring to Caltech as "its previous owners."

The plaque explained that the students created the phony "Howe & Ser Moving Company" and used fake work-order forms to get past Caltech campus security guards. After that, a real shipping company toted the 2-ton relic across the country...

# Posted by The Rat @ 3:23 PM

      ( 1:49 PM ) The Rat  

China has recorded details of more than 96 percent of its population on a police database, state media reported on Friday, supplementing Internet and other state-sanctioned surveillance.

Since the 2003 launch of its "Gold Shield Program," the Public Security Bureau had collected information on about 1.25 billion of the country's 1.3 billion people...

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:49 PM

      ( 9:06 AM ) The Rat  

Then there was the client who approached Manhattan CPA Marc Albaum about a very personal tax matter. "He had made some money being a sperm donor and wanted to know if he could take a depletion allowance," Albaum recalls. "I told him he really needed to be an oil well or something like that."

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:06 AM

Thursday, April 06, 2006
      ( 1:23 PM ) The Rat  

An argument at a baby shower escalated into a brawl in which one man was shot and the pregnant guest of honor was beaten with a stick, police said.

Three people were arrested after the fight, described by police as a "baby shower gone bad." [...]

# Posted by The Rat @ 1:23 PM

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
      ( 9:19 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:19 PM

      ( 4:04 PM ) The Rat  
DEEP THOUGHTS. Context is irrelevant. No, really.

ET. It really is one of the things that must suck about being a housepet.

Rat. Being castrated?

ET. Yes.


ET. Well, I think they're supposed to go to weddings and funerals, and be, like, official mourners.

Rat. Well, I would mourn too, if I was a eunuch.

ET. Yeah... 'I'm sorry your father died, but I'm a EUNUCH here!'


Rat. How did we get on to this?


ET. ...I think you started it.

# Posted by The Rat @ 4:04 PM

      ( 2:43 PM ) The Rat  
MARK YOUR CALENDARS! The 27th Annual Mooning of Amtrak is July 8.

# Posted by The Rat @ 2:43 PM

      ( 12:53 PM ) The Rat  

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:53 PM

      ( 12:09 PM ) The Rat  
"However, it's a good opportunity: you can pray for us sinners, we've sat around sinning too much. I keep thinking all the time: who is ever going to pray for me? Is there anyone in the world? My dear boy, you know, I'm terribly stupid about these things, would you believe it? Terribly stupid. You see, stupid as I am, I still keep thinking about it, I keep thinking, every once in a while, of course, not all the time. Surely it's impossible, I think, that the devils will forget to drag me down to their place with their hooks when I die. And then I think: hooks? Where do they get them? What are they made of? Iron? Where do they forge them? Have they got some kind of factory down there? You know, in the monastery the monks probably believe there's a ceiling in hell, for instance. Now me, I'm ready to believe in hell, only there shouldn't be any ceiling; that would be, as it were, more refined, more enlightened, more Lutheran, in other words. Does it really make any difference—with a ceiling or without a ceiling? But that's what the damned question is all about! Because if there's no ceiling, then there are no hooks. And if there are no hooks, the whole thing falls apart, which, again, is unlikely, because then who will drag me down with hooks, because if they don't drag me down, what then, and where is there any justice in the world? Il faudrait les inventer, those hooks, just for me, for me alone, because you have no idea, Alyosha, what a stinker I am...!"
The Brothers Karamazov

# Posted by The Rat @ 12:09 PM

Sunday, April 02, 2006
      ( 10:07 PM ) The Rat  
FREED AMERICAN REPORTER SAYS PROPAGANDA VIDEO WAS COERCED. Via IKM. I was getting a bit sick of the 24/7 headlines about Carroll having been "treated well" by her captors. These people were already known to have killed Carroll's interpreter at the time of her abduction, yet the Western media were falling all over themselves to report on the decency of her captors.

Here is a link to an article about Alan Enwiyah, Carroll's slain Iraqi interpreter.

# Posted by The Rat @ 10:07 PM

      ( 9:31 PM ) The Rat  
REALLY GOOD MICHAEL CHABON PIECE (Did I just say that?!). I'd rather not pull out just one excerpt—just read the whole thing.

# Posted by The Rat @ 9:31 PM

      ( 8:56 PM ) The Rat  
LESS THAN 24 HOURS TO GO before the eBay auction for that Enigma machine closes!

# Posted by The Rat @ 8:56 PM

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

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