PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 24

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

July 5, 1999

Hope Your Fourth Was Glorious

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

General News

  • The Last Couple Of Weeks
  • The Discipline Of Column Writing
  • Living With Other People
  • What The Fourth's All About

Computer Industry News

  • The IMAC Clone Thing
  • CMP Closes Windows

Web Site of the Week

  • Flea Circus

Humor

  • Signs Your Mayor Has Mob Connections: Paul Makes The Top 5 List

Movies

  • Wild Wild West
  • South Park

Letters

  • Silent Running

General News

The Last Couple Of Weeks

As regular readers know, I took last week off. My brother Stephen's daughter Stephanie came up for a long weekend with our family. The whirlwind of family activity just knocked the stuffing out of me. We had a terrific time, sailing the San Francisco bay on a catamaran, visiting the new Sony Metreon in downtown San Francisco, talking and dining and re-establishing contact between my daughters and one of their favorite cousins.

The week before, as you know from the column, Martin Heller was a guest. In addition, Phillip Boulding, a family friend who both plays Celtic harps and makes them, stopped by on his way to and from a large concert in Southern California. You can learn more about Phillip, his harps, and the musical group he comprises with his wife Pamela (a high-school friend of Vicki's) at www.magicalstrings.com.

On July 1, Marlow left four a month in Europe, Rae for two weeks in Francophone Europe. Plus, Columbia has started raining down paperwork for Marlow's matriculation in the fall.

Saturday morning, I spent three hours in my home radio studio, guest-hosting Tom King's Computalk, a radio program syndicated nationally to dozens of stations via satellite. Sunday, I played tenor saxophone and marched with the Orinda pickup marching band in the morning (picking up a rather painful sunburn in the process), then played a 90-minute concert with the Contra Costa Wind Symphony at Moraga Commons in the afternoon.

Does it seem hectic? It has been.

The Discipline Of Column Writing

I believe that most of you know I write this column for nothing. I send out about 60 email notices each week to people who have indicated a willingness to be reminded of its existence. About 30 of you are kind enough to read it each week. Thank you.

I started it because my real job at CMP hasn't afforded me much of a chance to write in the last three years. Even before that, the kinds of things I wrote didn't really reflect me or my opinions, or even much of my skill as a writer. Thus, this column.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of you who read it regularly and diligently and are not the least bit shy about 1) pointing out errors, 2) writing to me with your opinions and 3) letting me know you miss it when it is late or not there. Again, thank you. There have been weeks when you basically wrote the column, and I appreciate that.

Skipping the column last week was a difficult decision. I derive genuine pleasure from writing this column, and knowing that you're reading it out there. I do not find writing difficult--I never have. But it is an effort, and sometimes I wonder if it is worth the effort, the discipline, the time. Please, do not feel obliged to write and say, "Oh, but Paul, it is worth the effort." Especially do not write and tell me "you're right, it isn't worth the effort."

So many things in my life are mandatory. I hate to let this column become another. And yet, I think if you tell people, "I'm writing a weekly column, come and read it," you incur and obligation to write one every week. If you don't, I think your audience may, justifiably, lose interest and wander away. If I can't be bothered to write it regularly, why should you bother to read it regularly? So, despite ennui, exhaustion, house guests and the press of business, I'll keep cranking them out --as regularly I can--as long as you keep reading them.

They may not be quite weekly, but I promise not to skip a column without a really good reason.

A Special Note: Take a look at the counter; the first person who reads the column this week will be my 1,000th reader.

Living With Other People

Most of you reading this live with other people, spouses, children, or significant others. A few of you, I know, do not. But all of you must have contemplated, from time to time, the nature of the changes we make in ourselves to accommodate the people we live with.

I am mindful of the subject today as Marlow and Rae are in Europe and Vicki is visiting her mother in Los Angeles.

Nothing about my life remains the same when I am alone, not my sleeping schedule, my eating schedule, my menu, my housecleaning habits, the clothes I wear, nothing. All is compromise. We do it because the benefits of society outweigh the changes we have to make.

Still, just to keep things in perspective, I strongly recommend you spend some time by yourself, in your own home, from time to time. It is an enlightening experience, and helps you understand the impact of your social structure on you.

What The Fourth's All About

This comes from a mailing list of former UPI staffers I subscribe to:

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more.

Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes,
and our sacred honor." They gave you and me a free and independent America.

So, take a couple of minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Computer Industry News

The IMAC Clone Thing

In case you didn't catch this item in the news, there's a PC maker about to market a machine that looks a whole lot like the Macintosh. Craig Reynolds tipped me to a good story:

Apple Sues iMac Clone

And a picture of the system in question:

http://futurepowerusa.com/products/epower.html

It has been suggested that Apple should have used "trade dress" as a basis for its suit against Microsoft, instead of breach of contract and copyright violation. If it had, it might have been able to prove in court what everyone with two eyes and a sense of history knows: that Windows ripped off the Macintosh operating system something fierce.

CMP Closes Windows

My professional home from 1990 through 1996 was Windows Magazine. I am proud to have been the first CMP employee asked to join the staff. E. Drake Lundell, then the publisher, invited me to come over from InformationWEEK to help transition the publication and its staff. Mike and Dan (Silicon Beach) founded it in Carpinteria, Calif. CMP bought it and moved it to Manhasset, Long Island, New York.

We worked many long, hard hours in those first six months. I mark that period as the start of my stress-induced weight gain of recent years. But I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

There are too many people to mention, and I might leave someone out, so I'll just mention one colleague: Jim Forbes. I am proud to say I collected the bounty for recruiting Jim to the staff of Windows. He left earlier this year for IDG, where he runs the Demo conferences. My role in hiring Jim is the single best hire I've ever been associated with.

Although I left the magazine for my shot at TV, and then for the Internet, I still respected the magazine even as it began its death spiral -- a spiral which ended with the closure of the magazine on July 1.

This is not the time or place to dissect what went wrong, and whether Windows could have been saved. In any case, it is too late now, and while it will live on as a web site, most of the staff is leaving. Thus is one of the finest collections of technical journalism talent it has ever been my privilege to be associated with scattered to the four winds. Farewell, Windows Magazine.

Web Site of the Week

The Acme Miniature Circus

A tip o' the Schindler hat to Richard Dalton, who sent me this URL. I don't know how much, if any of the content on this site to take seriously, but it is so odd I could not help but recommend it to all of you.

Humor

Your Mob Connected Mayor:
Paul Makes The Top 5 List

July 2, 1999


NOTE FROM CHRIS:

Former Mafia defense lawyer Oscar Goodman was recently elected Mayor of Las Vegas.


The Top 11 Signs Your Town's Mayor has Mob Connections


[ The Top 5 List
www.topfive.com ]
[Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]


11> Heroic deeds earn you the Brass Knuckles to the City.

10> He refers to taxes as "the vig."

9> Unique budget has neighboring towns paying a "horizon use" tax.

8> Mayor McCheese's real name: Formaggiano

7> Department of Sanitation accepts bodies every other Wednesday.

6> He appeared in The Godfather as "Himself."

5> Jury duty replaced by "mayor's car starter" duty.

4> Creates a Relocated Witness Exposure program.

3> Parking meters replaced with little slot machines. ("Two cherries and an orange -- we have 30 minutes.")

2> Let that parking meter expire and you'll find a horse's head wedged under your windshield wiper.


and Topfive.com's Number 1 Sign Your Town's
Mayor has Mob Connections...


1> Sanitation Department makes you an offer to can your refuse.

==========================

TODAYS' LIST CREDITS:

Selected from 131 submissions from 51 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
------------------------------------------------------------------
Kevin Wickart, Normal, IL -- 1 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
David Hyatt, New York, NY -- 2
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- 3, 7 (Hall of Famer)
Jeff Downey, Raleigh, NC -- 4 (Hall of Famer)
Martell Stroup, Boston, MA -- 5
Josh Robertson, Bronx, NY -- 6
Jim Rosenberg, Greensboro, NC -- 7 (Hall of Famer)
Joe DiPietro, Brooklyn, NY -- 8
John Voigt, Chicago, IL -- 9 (Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10
Dave Wesley, Pleasant Hill, CA -- 11 (Hall of Famer)
Lloyd Jacobson, Washington, DC -- Topic (Hall of Famer)
Jeff Rabinowitz, Denver, CO -- Topic
Larry G. Hollister, Concord, CA -- RU & HM names (Hall of Famer)
Dave Henry, Slidell, LA -- Banner Tag
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Frank Sinatra, whereabouts unknown -- Ambience
==========================
[ T H E T O P F I V E L I S T ]
[ Do not forward, publish, broadcast, or use in any manner ]
[ without crediting "The Top 5 List at www.topfive.com" ]

 

Movies

Wild Wild West

Just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld; Writers: Brent Maddock and Jeffrey Price; Tagline: It's a whole new west. Will Smith: James T. West; Kevin Kline : Artemus Gordon; Kenneth Branagh: Dr. Arliss Loveless; Salma Hayek: Rita Escobar; M. Emmet Walsh: Coleman.

Plot Outline: The two best hired guns in the West must save President Grant from the clutches of a 19th century inventor-villain;

Whew! What a stinker. This mildly entertaining, vastly overblown film is a blot on the escutcheon of the television series upon which it is loosely (and I mean loosely based). Those of you old enough to remember the series will recall a light-hearted spoof the James Bonds films set in the American West, in the spirit of Man from UNCLE, I Spy and Our Man Flint. Parodying Bond was a regular cottage industry back in the '60s. You had to be there, I guess.

I am second to none in my respect for Will Smith as a comic actor. He was great in his TV series, Fresh Prince, and I loved him in Independence Day. He is (or at least portrays) the cuddly non-threatening black man that white America can take into its heart. Maybe someday we'll have room for two. But for now, there's room for one, and it's Will.

It's not that his performance is so bad here, it's that the script (written by Maddock and Price, from a story by two other guys) is unusually meandering and pointless, even for a light-hearted comedy script. The badinage seems forced, and it is easy to believe, from viewing the final product, the reports that Kline and Smith had no chemistry on set.

It is hard to make a movie seem frenetic and listless at the same time, but Sonnenfeld managed to pull it off with this one. Neither Oscar-bait nor commercial success, this film is destined to be the answer to some trivia question 20 years from now; probably "What was Will Smith's worst-grossing film?"

South Park

Just the facts (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).

Director: Trey Parker; Writers: Trey Parker, Matt Stone; Tagline: Bigger, longer & uncut; George Clooney: Doctor; Minnie Driver: Brooke Shields; Isaac Hayes: Chef; Eric Idle: Scientist; Mike Judge; Trey Parker: Stan Marsh/Eric Cartman/Mr. Garrison/Mr. Hat/Officer Barbrady/Various others; Matt Stone: Kyle Brosloski/Kenny McCormick/Pip/Jesus/Jimbo Marsh/Various Others.

This is the first time I have seen an absolute howler of an error on IMDB. The official plot outline says the four boys are sent to military school after harassing Mr. Hat. Well, that may have been the plot at one point, but the plot now is more like this (written by a reader and posted on a secondary page on the web site:

The South Park kids watch a movie containing bad language, and are soon imitating it in school. When the parents and teachers hear it, they begin turning the USA into a totalitarian state: the stars of the film are sentenced to death and war is declared on the film's country of origin (Canada). Meanwhile, Kenny is killed and enters Hell, where he meets Satan and Saddam Hussein.

OK, there isn't much to say about this film. If bad language, and I mean REALLY extensive use of the "f" word, offends you, don't even walk by a theater showing this film. It is unbelievably foul-mouthed and derives most of its humor from bodily functions. The jokes that aren't based on bad language and body functions are based on ceaselessly crude sexual innuendo. The animation is as crude as ever (except for the scenes in hell, where there's a cool background behind the crude animation).

I guess at least a part of my sense of humor must still be stuck at a developmental age of about 13, because while I didn't particularly enjoy the fart jokes, I found the rest of the film to be knee-slappingly funny. I enjoy the TV show too. I guess there's just no accounting for taste--even mine.

Letters

Silent Running

Apparently we're rigged for silent running. No letters.

To obtain a weekly reminder when new columns are posted
or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism
write to me: paul@schindler.org

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