Wednesday, February 27, 2008
2008: Year of the Rat
Year of the Rat Design available in the Better Holes and Garbage Store
It is an unfortunate fact that rats are rarely celebrated. Sure, there's World Rat Day, a holiday created by rat lovers (although celebrated, in turn, by mostly rat lovers). Plus, every year Kentucky there is the Running of the Rats, although it is hardly as big as the Kentucky Derby. And yet, of one thing I am certain; Chinese New Year is a big deal. And in 2008, the Rat has their year.
The rat is the first sign of the Chinese Zodiac, and those born under the sign are said to be intelligent, charming, and industrial (among other things). Chinese New Year fell on February 7th this year, but the celebrations continued for weeks after.
I was lucky enough to find myself in Honolulu's Chinatown this year for my first ever Chinese New Year festival. It was a celebration like nothing I'd experienced. Dragons danced and drums played and firecrackers sizzled. And the rats! There were rats everywhere to be found. T-shirts, greeting cards, jewelry, plush toys, ornaments, banks, the list goes on and on. Everyone was celebrating the rat.
But the fun didn't end when I left Chinatown. A simple search on ebay (I don't know what compelled me) brought up a multitude of rat goodies, from commemorative coins to sneakers and everything else in between. My will was strong for the most part, but I did break and buy a Year of the Rat USB Drive. How could I resist?
The year has only just started -- I'm sure there's plenty of rat fun to come, so head on down to your nearest Chinatown or Asian Market and celebrate the Year of the Rat.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Rats for Christmas
My name is Sophie, I'm 22 and I still sleep with a stuffed animal. What can I say? I love them. They're cute. They're cuddly. They don't hurt when they fall off the overloaded bookshelf onto my head (unlike those dreaded hardcover books). But I've been trying to cut back. I'm gradually rehoming my animals in hopes that some child may find the same joy that I do.
All except the rats. I love my little stuffed rats. Besides, it wasn't as if I have so many. Or, so I thought..
Suddenly, I'm seeing stuffed rats left and right. I thought Christmas would be a safe holiday -- who wants rats for Christmas? But no, they're everywhere, hiding behind the innocent "mouse" label, but I know better. They're rats.
I've been trying to resist.
I'd just popped in to do some Christmas searching, and to locate a present for my best friend, whose birthday, the first week of December, always seems to slip my mind. And there it was. Sitting on the shelf amid the Young Adult paperbacks. The cutest little stuffed rat beanie, a gingerbread man clutched in his paws. The little tag on his ear dubbed him "Stirring".While wandering so late at nightAnd he was calling to me. It would be okay to buy him as a gift, wouldn't it? Surely no harm could come of that?
I came upon a shocking sight
A jolly man, right by our tree
Who left some treats for you and me !
But that was only the start..
I should have known better than to enter another bookstore, this time in search of a present for my father. Suddenly I was surrounded by rats, all of them calling to me.
The first to accost me was a hand puppet. I'd been aware of the Folkmanis company for quite a while -- their adorable rat puppets have been passed around the Ratlist for probably as long as I've been a member -- but I'd never before seen one in person. Sure, this one called himself "White Mouse", but anyone could see by his eager expression that he was a rat. I danced around the store for a bit, waving the little puppet paws in glee, before I remembered that I was supposed to be shopping for my father, not myself, and reluctantly returned the puppet to his rack.
Really, it was my fault for wandering into the children's section in the first place. Barely had I turned around when I found another creature, looking quite ratlike indeed! The name and brand I've already forgotten, but this one I'm sure was a rat -- look at the narrow snout, the thick whiskers, the... corderoy? I quickly replaced the mysterious rodent and fled. Everything would be ok. My will power was quite in tact, thank you very much.
But then I ran into the Beanies. Curse Ty and their adorable Christmas Mice! And here were two of them, each soft and cuddly and oh-so-cute.
Jinglemouse was the first, donning a red Santa hat, a striped package in his paws, and his tag, too, told a story.Swiftly I'll creep through the house
'Cause after all, I am a mouse
Bringing crumbs of Christmas cheer
To all of those that you hold dear !
The second, a fluffy white dear clutching a wreath, was named Garlands.While I was helping mom and dad
Something for which they were quite glad
I took a little break, you see
And someone decorated me!
That was just too much to bear. Just one little rat couldn't hurt, could it? And he was only $6.99.. Garlands came home with me.
Surely, now, I was safe from the rats. I bought my father some books (see, I'd done what I came to do!), took my purchases, and left.
Just one final stop before I headed home. Just a few groceries and then I'd call it a night.
Oh, if only I hadn't stepped down Aisle 10.. I should have known there would be rodents lurking in the Holiday Aisle! Another Beanie, I should have known, and this one marked down to $4.99! How could I say no, really, how could I? Janglemouse was her name, and her tag read the same as Jinglemouse, who I suppose is her brother.. or spouse (if mouses have spouses).
Well surely, that was it. I was done with my rat plush extravaganza. My wallet was crying for mercy. And yet, as I turned once again, I saw a bin of stuffed animals, all labled $1.. and in that bin, looking lonely and forelorn, a raggedy little grey rat, his whiskers all askew. Take me, he cried, take me! Really, I have no will power. Into the shopping cart he went.
Finally I headed home, swimming in rats. Once an addict, always an addict.
Monday, October 22, 2007
City of Rats
New York City. The City that Never Sleeps. Famous for Times Square, Central Park, bagels and lox, rude drivers, and -- perhaps to the city's disdain -- rats. It is difficult to think of the Big Apple and not think of rats. A simple search of the phrase "new york city rats" turns up over a dozen pages worth of links, and they're not just "Buy New York City Rats!" advertisements. One of my favorite rat books (and, in fact, a big influence in the creation of the Rat Hunter Diaries) is Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants, in which the author details the combined histories of New York City and the rattus norvegicus. Truth be told, I wish I'd had this book when I ventured forth into the city, but even without this Rat-seeker's Guidebook, I managed to fare pretty well in my solo hunt.
I had heard stories of the New York City subway, of giant rats that scurried amid the tracks, but I did not expect them to be so easy to find! Surely, as soon as the sun began to set above, below the rats came out. I was so thrilled at my first rat sighting that I squealed "Ratties!" and chased him along the track, eliciting many odd stares from passerbys and my fellow travelers. At the second rat I fumbled to get a blurry, indistinct photo. Once I realized that the rats were indeed plentiful, I relaxed and was able to get better, albeit poorly lit and grainy, photographs. Despite my exuberance and my cooing words ("come here little ratty, hello little guy") the rats paid the people no mind, and the people treated them likewise. Proper new yorkers, nobody made eye contact, and indeed, they seemed more disturbed by the strange little tourist leaning precariously close to the track. Despite the monster rat stories, all of the ones I saw were cute little things.
Cincinnati is hardly a rat friendly city; so it is that whenever I see anything ratty, I'm compelled to snatch it up to add to my collection. Chinatown, on the other hand, has such a wealth of rat merchandise that I have to exercise discretion with my rat purchases, else I'll be left with an empty bank account and more items than will fit in my suitcase. I found myself at Pearl River Asian Market, a veritable gold mine of rat stuff, but with considerable will power I left with only four items.
I was determined to spend at least one day in Central Park during my short trip. I was excited. I had it all planned out. I had not planned on rain, unfortunately, nor did I have an umbrella. I toughed it out for half an hour before, soaked to the bone, I decided to head back to my hotel, but not before I stumbled across a pleasing little sculpture of Alice in Wonderland. I thought the little dormouse looked more ratty than mousey.
St. Mark's Place
My trip to St. Mark's Place was unplanned, but quite pleasing, especially when I happened to run into a rat of the domestic kind. As we were working our way through the crowd, my rat-radar kicked in and I looked over to spot a young punk kid with a little white rat on his shoulder. I immediately squealed and rushed over, asking to pet the rodent. The boy seemed a bit put-off by my cooing and coddling of what he surely thought was a properly punk pet, and thus I declined to take his photo, but it was a nice little end to the entire trip.
I was only in New York City for less than five days, but found myself overwhelmed by the rattiness of the city. Given the time/money/means, I'd love to return and make a project out of photographing rats in the subway. Maybe after I graduate.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Rat News Round-UpRats have been getting a lot of good press the past month!
Hail to the Rat
Gallery Dog, in Eureka, California, is featuring a month long showing of rat-themed art
'Ratatouille': A portrait of an artist as a culinary rat
Praise for the new Disney movie starring rats.
Filthy rat, or perfect pet?
Focuses on rat ownership, with a mention of University of Minnesota Bell Museum's Rat Fest on July 14th.
Robot with simulated rat brain thinks it's a rodent
Righteous rats: Rescue group touts rodents as pets
Tanzania: Hero Rats
Includes video of Gambian Rats being trained to sniff out land mines.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
In Pursuit of Rattyness
I cannot go anywhere without seeking out rats. It's my nature. The entire two weeks I spent in Hawaii I kept my eyes peeled for rats. Alas, I did not see any of the living kind, although I did stock up on some ratty souvenirs.
Painted Rat Keychain
Woven thread and painted glass bead
Acquired from Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, Aiea
8 1/2" long
Brass Rat Keychain
Brass with bell
Acquired from Ala Moana Shopping Center, Honolulu
Zodiac Rat Statue
Acquired from Chinatown
Wooden Rat Comb
Carved wooden comb
Acquired from Chinatown
6 1/2" tall
Hand sculpted glass
Acquired from Chinatown
Acquired from Pricebusters, Pearl Ridge Shopping Center
Zodiac Rat Pen
Ballpoint pen with hula rat
Acquired from Pricebusters, Pearl Ridge Shopping Center
This blog entry was featured in the Carnival of Aloha, a wonderful collection of blogs from and about Hawaii. Thanks goes to the Homespun Honolulu crew for putting this together and including the Rat Hunter Diaries.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
How-to draw a ratI love when completely random internet searches lead me back to rats. It must be destiny. Anyway, I stumbled across this How to draw a rat page completely by accident, and was immensely pleased with how cute he was. Of course, this lead me to more web searching.
Drawfluffy.com gives a short tutorial on how to draw Scabbers from the Harry Potter books while How to Draw with Slylock Fox gives instructions on drawing an evil drooling rat.
If you prefer your lessons in book form rather than web, check out these books at your local bookstore or library:
How to Draw Cartoon Rodents by Curt Visca
How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm has a page on rats
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
RatatouilleI've been keeping track of Ratatouille since I first heard about it about a year ago. I love rat movies, and this one looks like a winner. Disney has a nine minute preview on their main site, as well as a few trailers on the Ratatouille website, which also has some other really great things.
I have to say it right now, I love the main character, Remy. Watching the trailers, I was squealing in delight at how incredibly rat-like he is in actions and motions. I really, really hope there are plush toys to accompany the movie.
Don't forget to mark your calendars for June 29, the Ratatouille premiere.
I am not a Disney advocate. I am a rat advocate.