Happy New Year, and welcome to the Year of the Rat! In celebration of this holiday, how could I not offer up to you a platter of rats? No, not to eat, silly. That would be gross. This is a generous helping of rat-themed¹ things for a festive ThThTh list.²

  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O’Brien. The Newbery Award winning children’s novel about a mother mouse and a colony of highly intelligent rats.
  • Templeton, the rat from E. B. White’s beloved book, Charlotte’s Web. Was voiced by Steve Buscemi in the 2006 movie based on the book.
  • I don’t give a rat’s ass. An idiom meaning “I don’t care,” akin to “I don’t give a flying fig.” One of those expressions that is always used with the negative. For example, one would not likely hear “I give a rat’s ass.” Or maybe one should. I could design a line of greeting cards, perhaps for Valentine’s Day: “I give a rat’s ass about you.”
  • ratty: An adjective to mean dirty, messy and/or worn out. Also a nickname for a cafeteria at my undergrad University. The Sharpe Refectory was long ago nicknamed the Sharpe Rat Factory, later shortened to The Ratty. The nickname was used so frequently that it was easy to forget that it wasn’t the cafeteria’s official name.
  • Ratatouille (2007) Pixar’s latest animated movie is about a young rat who loves to cook.
  • willard_movie.jpg

  • Willard (1971), and its sequel, Ben (1972). There was also a 2003 remake of Willard, starring the appropriately creepy Crispin Glover. These were movies about the friendship between a man (or boy) and some rats. (Oh, and the rats are vicious killers. Note that you can find these movies on imdb via the plot keywords “eaten alive by rats.”)
  • “You dirty rat!” a phrase popularly attributed to James Cagney, though apparently a misquote:

    It should be noted, however, that he never actually said, “You dirty rat!”, a popular phrase associated with him….The phrase actually originated in the 1932 film Taxi!, in which Cagney said, “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” often misquoted as “Come out, you dirty rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!”

  • Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS): Oversized rats (well, it’s not specified that they’re rats, but they look pretty rat-like in the movie) from the Princess Bride.
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  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin. A legend, sometimes written as a fairy tale, about a man who freed a town of its rat infestation by playing his pipe to lure the rats to drown themselves in the river. When the town refused to pay the agreed upon fees, the Piper then lured away the town’s children.
  • The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett. A Discworld book for young adults about some rats (and a cat) who work a Pied Piper scam.
  • I Was a Rat, a children’s book by Philip Pullman (of The Golden Compass fame). About a boy who was once a rat. A bit of a fairy tale retelling from an unusual perspective.
  • Adventures of the Rat Family,” a fairy tale by Jules Verne
  • Amy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A character who turned herself into a rat to escape being burned as a witch, but didn’t manage to turn herself back into a human afterwards. Was then kept in a cage as pet by Willow for several years. When she eventually returns to human state, says “I felt like I was in that cage for weeks.”
  • “I think I smell a rat,” a song by the White Stripes. For Amy (see above item) clips set to the song check out this YouTube video.)
  • A few more rat-related items include: mazes, the rat race, The Rat Pack, and pack rats. There was also the rat who ate the malt in “This is the house that Jack built

    This is the rat,
    That ate the malt
    That lay in the house that Jack built.


¹ YTSL mentions, though, that this can also be considered to be year of the mouse. All the more reason to get around to a mouse list some time soon.

² Last year, I gave a list of pigs for Year of the Pig.

along came some spiders

spiderweb1.pngHalloween’s around the corner. One thing this means is that people break out the creepy crawly decorations to get festively creepy. It’s harder to get much creepier or crawlier than spiders. So I offer you a whole mess of festively creepy crawly eight-legged critters for this week’s Themed Things Thursday. Enjoy. (Or shield your eyes, depending on your feelings towards spiders.)

A Few Spiders

  1. Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White. A novel featuring a very smart spider who could weave a remarkable web. One of my favorite books of childhood.
  2. Little Miss Muffet
    A nursery rhyme about a little girl who was frightened off her tuffet by a spider.
  3. black_widow.png       black_widow.png       black_widow.png                 black_widow.png

  4. “The Spider and the Fly”, a poem by Mary Howitt. A poem best known for a first line that doesn’t actually appear in the poem: “Step into my parlour, said the spider to the fly”. Here’s how the text actually begins. (You can read the full text here.)

    Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
    ‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
    The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
    And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”
    Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
    For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

  5. Seven Spiders Spinning, a kid’s novel by Gregory Maguire, an author best known for writing Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
  6. Anansi: A spider who is a trickster character in many West African folktales.
  7. peter_sm4_8001.jpg

  8. Spider-Man. (Or Spiderman.) The superhero of comics, cartoons, and the more recent live action movies. A man was bitten by a spider and got spider-themed superpowers. Such as a spider sense. Which tingled. (When I’ve been bitten by a spider I’ve gotten a red welt. I guess you could say it tingled. But I wouldn’t.)
  9. Spider-Man,” the song. The theme song from a cartoon version of Spider-Man. Since performed by a variety of artists, including Moxy Fruvous and the Ramones.

    Spiderman, Spiderman,
    Does whatever a spider can
    Spins a web, any size,
    Catches thieves just like flies
    Look Out!
    Here comes the Spiderman.

  10. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” A children’s folk song. About a small spider, itsy bitsy even, who went up a spout. Then down, then back up.
  11. Spiders,” a song by Joydrop

    When love was fresh like a web we’d mesh
    Nothing felt better than your flesh against my flesh
    One fatal slip one rip a tear
    Touch me now and every single hair on my body stands on end
    So don’t touch me anymore
    ‘Cause it feels like spiders
    Like spiders all over me
    Like spiders
    Like spiders all over me

  12. It: a book by Steven King and miniseries based on the same. Involves a big evil spider. (And a clown.)
  13. spider_1.png

  14. Shelob: A giant, nasty spider from the Lord of the Rings
  15. Aragog: A giant, nasty spider from the Harry Potter books and movies
  16. Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
    A TV movie with William Shatner, about evil, venemous spiders that infest a town.
  17. Arachnophobia (1990)
    A movie about evil, venemous spiders that infest a town.
  18. A few other random spiders include: spider(a type of pan, basically a frying pan with legs), web spider, Alfa Romeo Spider, Spider (2002), and spider veins.

removing all doubt?

Tonight in my class we discussed, among other things, an article on the use of silence in Western Apache culture.* In this culture, people often remain silent in circumstances when people from mainstream American culture would be inclined to talk. Such situations include reunions of children returning from boarding schools with their parents, meetings of young couples who are courting, and meetings between strangers.

It may seem strange to think of people refraining to speak in these cases, but if you think about it, many cultures have a tendency to “fill the void” with idle chit chat. Talk about the the weather, or about near-meaningless nothings:

    A: So how’ve you been?
    B: Oh, fine. You?
    A: Not too bad.
    B: Good, good.
    A: So, um…uh…nice weather we’re having.
    B: Uh…yup. It’s warm out.
    A: Warmer than expected.
    B: Blah, blah, blah, blah, warm.
    A: Blah, blah, blah pants.
    B: Blah blah minotaur.

I couldn’t help but remember, or half remember, this saying:

    “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Problem was, I couldn’t entirely remember the wording of it, or who said it. Apparently there’s a reason for this:

Searches on “better to keep your mouth closed” and “better to remain silent” (using the quotation marks in both cases) turned up numerous web pages, all offering different versions of the phrase. Some sources quoted the saying as “It’s far better…”, some substituted the words “stupid,” “ignorant,” or “simpleton” for the word “fool,” and still others twisted the saying into an almost unrecognizable form.

A page titled Mark Twain and the Mutating Quote attributed at least four variations of the same phrase to the eminently quotable Twain, explaining that it was a case of “split personality” that accounted for the variations, rather than a rash of misquotes.

Other pages suggested a number of other authors for the saying, including: Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot, Groucho Marx, Albert Einstein, and a mysterious figure named Silvan Engel.

Googling even came up with attributions to Confucius. Plus I’ve found stuff ending in “leave no doubt,” and even more variations.

So, to quote the wise/illustrious/immortal/venerable/witty and/or possibly fictitious Confucius/Twain/Lincoln/Eliot/

    “It’s (far)? better to ((remain|keep|stay) (silent|quiet)|(keep your mouth shut)) and be (thought|considered) a (fool|idiot|total dork) than to (speak|open your mouth|blather on) and (remove all|leave no room for) doubt.”

Ah, right. I’ll shut up now.

*Basso, K.H. 1972. “To give up on words: Silence in Apache culture.” In P.P. Giglioli, Ed. Language and Social Context. pp. 67-86.

My ability to talk with fish is of no help, Wonder Woman!

I’m not sure what recently reminded me of this Cartoon Network interstitial (new word for me, by the way) featuring Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the Powerpuff Girls. I hadn’t seen it in ages. (We don’t actually get Cartoon Network now, sadly. Just bottom of the barrel basic cable. which means no Comedy Central or SciFi, either. Sigh.) But thanks to the marvels of YouTube, I was able to watch it once more. (Actually more than once.) And since it’s late and I don’t have much time to write, I thought I’d share it. Because it is just so damn funny.

I particularly like the way Wonder Woman rolls her eyes in response to Aquaman’s statement.

Interestingly, this clip seems to contain an oft misquoted line. (Actually, it’s one I remembered wrong.) Searching Google for the misquote (“my ability to talk to fish”) gets more hits (26) than the right version (“my ability to talk with fish”), which gets only 8 hits. Different pages on Wikipedia feature two versions of the misquote:

“My ability to talk to fish is of no use to us, Wonder Woman!”


“My ability to talk to fish is of no help, Wonder Woman!”