PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
February 14, 2000
Let The New Yorker and The Chronicle Write It
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:
Nobody's Safe From A Writer
Nobody's Safe From A Writer
I highly recommend you click on the link and read the whole article.
Now, first of all, let me note that Adair Lara has never written a cruel thing about her daughter, her son, her current husband or her first husband. Intensely personal, sometimes embarrassing things, yes, but always clearly told with love.
There is much to be admired in this column; here's two examples.
Random cruel events, viewed from the distance that is writing, are shown to be neither random nor cruel but understandable, and perhaps even salutary to growth. As novelist Kate Atkinson said, ``In the end, words are the only things that can construct a world that makes sense.''
Writing crowds out memory. You can't tell what happened from what you said happened. … The story told takes root, installing itself in the place of the raw memory and growing at its expense. Your myth of what happened to you, written down, becomes your actual history. If you value your memories as memories, not as a trunkful of costumes for the writer's act, don't write them down.
I often think of these issues for three reasons. First, because Adair Lara stresses over them, publicly and frequently, in her column. Secondly, because I write about my daughters. Thirdly, because both of them could end up as writers, which means they'll be plundering me and my life with them for material someday (if they're not already). I examine every word I write about Marlow and Rae to insure that I honestly but not hurtfully. It's like the way I used to pick software to review; the reason I only did positive reviews is that I skipped the bad software. I write only positively of my daughters, despite the occasional presence of negative experience, by choice. Call it my effort to increase the total world supply of positive energy.
Experience Is Age Dependent
While it is easy to grab articles from the Chronicle because they are online, if you want to quote from the New Yorker you have to punch it in yourself, because America's best magazine is so hidebound it doesn't post a single word of content on its site. Anyway, I was struck by this section of an article by Anthony Lane in the Letter From London in the issue of Feb. 14.
The King Lear that we see as sons and daughters (of Cordelia's age, say) can never be the same play that we attend as parents; the sound of paternal fury, and of the mortal fears that echo beyond it, will knock ever more insistently at our hearts.
In my own life, for example, I am convinced that Marlow will someday see that Truly, Madly, Deeply, a very romantic movie I took her to when she was 10 or 12, is actually a fine romantic film, not the very exemplar of terrible moviemaking she thinks it is. Her catchphrase is, "It was awful, but not as bad as Truly, Madly, Deeply."
In any case, I think this ties in with what my mother wrote last week about time and memory. What we experience, what we remember, is an amalgam of what actually happened and what happened to us before, who we were, how old we were, whether we were in love or not, single or married, happy or sad.
My detailed memory of childhood is regrettably spotty (and, according to my mother, often downright incorrect). But what I remember is love and joy. I expect the same from my daughters, now matter how far off they are when it comes to the details.
My Favorite Movie, Redux
With Groundhog Day just behind us and Valentine's Day just ahead, it is time to continue a Valentine's Day tradition of this column and remind everyone to go out and rent my personal favorite film of all time, the romantic comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.
I picked this film a few years back, when I got tired of aping Pauline Kael by always saying that Citizen Kane was the best movie of all time. I approached the process with trepidation and careful thought. I think the answer to the question "What is your favorite movie" says a lot about you, both obvious and unobvious.
After I'd made my choice and start to broadcast it, one of my friends (or, perhaps, one of my children) asked if I was saying that I identified with a man who was doing the same things, wrong, over and over. Actually, no. The part of the film I identify with is the part where Murray changes.
In fact, one of the things I love about this film is the fact that it never overplays anything. Harold Ramis said once in an interview that he'd filmed a scene where Murray (Phil Connors), the "hero" of the film, walks past a classroom during a discussion of time and develops a theory about the time loop he's trapped in. Ramis wisely cut the scene. Who cares why? Nor does Ramis burden the film with any exposition whatsoever on the rules of the time loop: he just shows them to us. Finally, no one tells Murray how to get out.
The climactic moment of the film, when Murray stops wasting the endless loop and starts taking advantage of it, is like a buried lead in a newspaper story. He is teaching MacDowell to throw cards in a hat and says living the same day over and over is a curse. She tells him it doesn't have to be. And that's it; that's the exact moment when he changes, even if he does go to sleep with her next to him and awaken the next day to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe."
The film won a British Academy Award and a London Critics Circle award for Ramis and Danny Rubin, who dreamed up the story and co-wrote the screenplay. The film was nominated for a Hugo (the science fiction award) and Bill Murray was up for, but didn't win, an MTV award for the film. Danny Rubin, obviously a genius, wrote just one film before and one film after and has no credits since 1994. Well, better one hit than none.
He now teaches at the College of Santa Fe. Previously, he taught screenwriting at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Columbia College and the National High School Institute. He worked for many years in professional theater companies, industrial films, and children's television.
Here's what Bill Murray says about the script in a Mr. Showbiz interview:
That script by that kid, Danny Rubin — the quality was unbelievable. His script, if you walked in the door, was a masterpiece. If any script I ever did should have won an Oscar, it was that one. It didn't even get noticed! It was because it was early. It came out at the beginning of the year, and by the time the awards came, it was forgotten.
And just once, he was struck by lightning and created one of the cleverest movie ideas ever.
My Niece, Stephanie
Have I mentioned my wonderful niece, Stephanie Schindler, a freshman at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.? If not I should have. Remind me to tell you more about her sometime.
Mandatory Microsoft Registration
This ZDNet story by Lisa Bowman was whipping around the Internet this week:
Retail versions of Office 2000 will require a form of user registration -->or the software will disappear.
Richard Dalton asks:
Why doesn't this qualify for your weekly web site?
Well, Richard, the answer is, it does.
About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourths of the deaths are children under the age of five.
You can click once a day and the sponsors will donate free food.
Separated By A Common Language
Please not that I cannot verify whether this exchange is actually taken from the Far East Economic Review, as was claimed in the e-mail which brought it to me. Such attributions are often in error.
The following is a telephone exchange between a hotel guest and room-service at a hotel in Asia, which was recorded and published in the Far East Economic Review.....
Missives from Peter Peckarsky
Peter Peckarsky now joins John Taylor (so far as I know, they are the only two Wisconsin natives who read this column) in inquiring about my disclaimer. Mr. Peckarsky is a Washington-based lawyer specializing in intellectual property and antitrust law with the firm of Stevens, Davis, Miller & Mosher.
Your always insightful column raises a number of crucial questions which questions include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
And thank you for reading, Peter. Since you're just a few years older than I am, I assume you remember that every national contest run when we were growing up included the phrase, "offer not valid in Wisconsin." When I first started this column 16 months ago, John Taylor informed me that Wisconsin's strict consumer protection rules were such that the national firms were always required to set up a separate, easier to enter and win contest for Wisconsin residents. Just another advantage of growing up in the middle of the country I guess. I wouldn't know; I grew up in Portland, Oregon.
Peter also read Larry King's commentary:
In response to his question, yes at least one computer was tested using the rollover method and found to be in need of brave and bold programming assistance prior to 2000.
Further, and contrary to Larry's misperception, the King transportation theory is conclusively established by the state of public transportation in Los Angeles with its right-wing political milieu (the tennis shoes apparently made it over the border from Orange County). Larry may wish to spend rather more time walking along the banks of the Los Angeles River (during non-flood season) and rather less time on the banks of the Seine in order to gain a better appreciation of the extant political situation in Riordanville.
Finally, Y2K problems in the United States were avoided only due to what I am sure Larry would deem a heroic and unprecedented effort led by the great President of the United States and his office in charge of Y2K problems. Clearly, this President has accomplished something no other President has ever come close to accomplishing and which no other President can ever duplicate (a successful and relatively uneventful transition to Y2K).
I don't hear from Peter or Larry King often enough.
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