Today's New York Times has a wonderful slide show on rats in the New York City subway. It was launched after the city announced the findings of a two-year study on rats, which concluded that a) rats are fucking smart; b) they live in the walls of subway stations, not the tunnels; and c) they come out to eat trash. Quite frankly, points b. and c. just verify point a. They are smart enough not to live where they may be electrocuted (the third rail in the tunnels) and they live where there is food. If humans were as smart as rats, we would stop throwing trash everywhere. One photo in the slide show verified for me the supremacy of rats over humans: the rat that is climbing up a slippery metal pole in a subway car as humans stand around staring. Crap, these rats are not only smart (the rats probably could figure out a way to post the photo I am referring to although the NYT seems to have a firewall of some sort on it), but also agile and able to defy gravity. It reminded me of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, one of my favorite books-turned-into-a-cartoon-movie ("The Secret of NIMH") from my childhood.

Basically, Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse whose home is about to be destroyed by a farmer. Her son is too sick to relocate, so Mrs. Frisby seeks advice about what to do to save her son from other animals, including an owl, who, like Prof. Owlie, is wise. The owl hooks her up with some rats that escaped from a lab who live in a technologically advanced society. They save her house somehow, and then she in turn aids their "escape to a utopian civilization of their own design, no longer to live 'on the edge of somebody else's, like fleas on a dog's back.'" The lead rat is named Nicodemus. Awesome name, right? Rad rats, utopias, lab experiments gone awry, and bad guys getting their comeuppance? This is some good shit.

As a kid, I remember taking the premise of the story very seriously. It didn't entirely make sense that they would show us this movie in school unless it had a factual basis, and now I realize that is true. The book won a Newbery Medal. The film should have won an Oscar for Best Documentary.

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