PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 14

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

April 17, 2000

What I Did On My Spring Break

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

  • What I Did on Spring Break
  • My Lecture to the National Press Club
  • My Lecture to the AMPAS
  • Bush-isms
  • Anecdotal Biography

Computer Industry News

  • Dry Cleaning Over The Internet
  • Cogent Gates Analysis

Web Site of the Week

  • Skipping another week

Humor

  • The Difference Between The US and Britain
  • Steve Martin on the Millennium

Movies

  • High Fidelity

Letters

  • Something About Mari

General News

What I Did On Spring Break

Too much good material this week. I had to leave several terrific items for next week, and I'll have to be brief about our big New York trip.

When Marlow was in high school, I used to take her to New York each year for the Veteran's Day holiday. This fall, I didn't take Rae, so I promised to take her at Spring Break. We were going to fly Wednesday, return Sunday, until she casually mentioned that she'd never really gotten to see what she wanted to see at the Smithsonian.

Although we got a lot of good recommendations (thanks Ross Snyder, among others), we decided to add one day to the trip and devote it to the Smithsonian. We spend seven hours in the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History museum and the American History museum (where we saw the Fonz's jacket and the Bunkers' chairs). Naturally, the Microsoft judgment came down while I was on vacation, so I took an hour out to record a commentary for TechWeb (thanks Joy Culbertson and Melissa Harris and Jeremy Barna, who doesn't even work here any more). Lunch on Monday was with Norman Sandler (my best man) and his wife Raeanne Hitone at a lovely Washington restaurant across the street from the National Press Club. Tuesday, we ate with Peter Peckarsky in a Georgetown place with a view of the Kennedy Center.

We took the high-speed Metroliner to New York the next day--a 3-hour ride. All the seats have AC outlets now, so we could watch Danny Kaye in the film Hans Christian Anderson on our DVD player without killing the battery.

Last August, when we were in New York, we didn't get into the plays we wanted because they were sold out, so this time, we made reservations at all the shows Rae wanted to see. But we didn't have any reservations for Wednesday, so we grabbed what we could; Jesus Christ Superstar (yes, it's back on Broadway--in the wonderful and well-appointed Ford Center for the Performing Arts on 42nd). Rae loved it--said it was the best show we saw. She has the soundtrack memorized, and we bought her the movie version for Christmas last year.

Wednesday night we went to see Matthew Broderick and Parker "Queen of the Indies" Posey in Taller Than A Dwarf, written by Elaine May and directed by Alan Arkin. With a pedigree like that, what's not to like? I loved it, but it was a little too sophisticated for Rae, who hated it. Afterwards, we met Marlow in her room at Columbia, and hooked up with her friend Ryan Smee. The four of us went to Tom's Restaurant, used for the external shots of the restaurant in Seinfeld. The word "Tom's" was always cut off--all you ever saw was the word "restaurant.". The inside was a Hollywood set, nothing like the real Tom's. The word among Columbia students is that the only edible thing on the menu is the milkshake. So we had milkshakes.

Rae spent all day Thursday with Marlow going to classes at Columbia, while I took the Metro North to Cold Harbor and a lovely luncheon with Joe Brancatelli, who edited me at Information Systems News 20 years ago and is now a topflight travel editor at www.biztravel.com. Thursday night, Marlow and Rae saw Phantom of the Opera while I saw Betty Bacall in Waiting In The Wings, a Cole Porter revival. What a pleasure to watch actresses with a few years on them. She was great. And she looked like the youngest actress on stage. Highly recommended.

Friday, Rae and I went to FAO Schwarz to add to her Star Wars figurine collection, dined with an old friend at a steakhouse, had a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity (a New York East Side institution), and caught an evening performance of Les Miserables.

Saturday, we started with the new planetarium at the Museum of Natural History (narrator: Tom Hanks).

We had extra tickets because Marlow couldn't be with us, so we went with Tom LaSusa, an associate of mine from work, and Ryan Smee, a friend of Marlow's. Ryan reminds me of myself as a young man: intelligent, voluble, funny and witty, with an intense curiosity and a burning desire to learn. Why yes, I did like him. What's not to like?

We followed it up with a matinee performance by Dame Edna (Marlow really wanted to see her, but had to be in Providence for the Ivy League Women's Rugby Tournament), and ended our day with Jekyll and Hyde. Dame Edna really left Rae cold.

But the whirlwind nature of our trip explains, by the way, why Vicki didn't come with us on the vacation. Six Broadway shows in four days is not her idea of a vacation.

We had planned to spend Sunday on Long Island visiting Michael Leeds and his family, but Marlow's team lost its first two games on Saturday, so its final game was going to be at 10 am Sunday. I figured we could leave town at 6:30, be in Providence by 9:30, watch the game, and still make it back to JFK by 3:30 for our 5pm flight.

Well, you may remember that in snowed on April 9 in New York and New England. Yes, that's right, snowed. We just got to the field in exurban Providence in time to discover that the other team had forfeited, so we didn't get to watch Marlow play. Instead, we watched the boy's game in a 30 mile an hour wind that made the 40-degree temperature feel much colder.

After the game, we drove back to JFK. Thanks to the snow and traffic, we reached the rental car lot at 4:30, and got to the gate at 4:50--where our flight was boarding. As Rae pointed out, yes, we cut it close, but we made it.

My Lecture to the National Press Club

"Ladies and Gentlemen, it couldn't possibly be clearer that you would like all of us to be indignant about Al Gore's fundraising. Get over it. This election is about issues, and about the next five appointments to the Supreme Court. We know you're all really liberal Democrats; do you actually want George W. Bush running the country for the next four years? Spend a little time in Texas--it will make Arkansas look like Utopia. Just ask Molly Ivins.

"And one more thing: you were wrong about Clinton, and you're still wrong about Hillary. Take Bill's advice: the impeachment was the last gasp of the Gingrich revolution, the acquittal in the Senate its death knell and the moment that saved the constitution, as we know it."

My Lecture to the AMPAS

(That's the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the entity which awards the Oscars, among other fine work).

"I love the Oscars as much as the next person. I watch the show religiously each year, striving never to miss a moment of the ceremony. I make an effort to see all the best picture and best acting nominees. I see 50 movies a year. I am your audience.

"But despite Billy Crystal's quite accurate observation that this was the shortest Oscar ceremony in this century, no one, not even me, wants a four-hour ceremony. You made some admirable improvements this year, eliminating the production numbers and the presenter chatter. But you have to go farther.

"It is time to bite the bullet and jettison somewhere between 5 and 10 of the "who cares" categories to another night--as you already have done with the technical Oscars. And its time to consider letting the host present some of the Oscars. Sound recording, sound editing, editing--you know the ones. The ones no one understands. And I'm sorry, but short subjects and documentaries? No one but the jury has seen or likely will ever see any of these. That's 4 categories right there. Bite the bullet a little, and you've killed 10 Oscars, for a show that will really move.

"These two reforms alone could maintain the excitement and the glamour, let the big winners show off and speak, but not kill the audience or even lull it into a deep and restful sleep that not even Peter Coyote or Billy Crystal can awaken it from."

Bush-isms

Richard Dalton forwarded me the latest edition of the scary compilation of George W. inserting his foot in his mouth.

The Complete Bushisms (Updated weekly) Compiled by Jacob Weisberg

HE ACTUALLY SAID THESE THINGS...

"It's evolutionary, going from governor to president, and this is a significant step, to be able to vote for yourself on the ballot, and I'll be able to do so next fall, I hope." In an interview with the Associated Press, March 8, 2000 (Thanks to Joshua Micah Marshall)
"It is not Reaganesque to support a tax plan that is Clinton in nature.'' Los Angeles, Feb. 23, 2000
"I understand small business growth. I was one. New York Daily News, Feb. 19, 2000
"The senator can't take the high horse and then claim the low road." To reporters in Florence, S.C., Feb. 17, 2000

An Anecdotal Biography

This comes from my mother:

An anecdotal biography of Paul - something he has always feared. Call this Installment One: The Beginning.
We got our first television set about the same time we got our first son, Paul. In the early fifties, no one knew that television was going to be the evil destroyer of children's minds and bodies, so we left ours on all day, and Paul fell in love with the commercials and news broadcasts by the time he was two. He never sat and watched the programs, rather he ran around, playing or riding his 'in the house trike', stopping in front of the set only when a commercial or a news program came on. He would stare, transfixed, until regular programming came back on, when he would resume playing. The first result of his viewing habit was that he learned to read from the commercials, would go down the aisles of the grocery store reading the labels aloud before he was three, and could also read the names of the products as they appeared in newspaper ads. He then taught himself to read his children's books and magazines. The second result, a prophetic one, was that he started tying a string to a spoon, and using it as a microphone, would spend a great deal of time interviewing me and his teddy bear (the teddy bear was named Smokey, and that's another anecdote!) So it seems on reflection that Paul's personality and future were largely formed by the media, and weren't my fault at all.

Computer Industry News

Dry Cleaning Over The Internet

The magazine Red Herring sent this out around April 1. Richard Dalton forwarded it to me. Sounds fishy.

CONTENT REMOVED AT REQUEST OF NEEDLEMAN

Cogent Gates Analysis

The same traits that Gates used to amass his fortune may now threaten his empire as the boyish billionaire discovers that tactics that work in corporate boardrooms cut little ice in federal courtrooms..

If I recall correctly from college, that's the definition of a tragedy: the characteristics that made the hero great are exactly the same ones that bring him down. This sentence comes from a Reuters analysis of the Microsoft antitrust case by Scot Hillis, pointed out by Craig Reynolds. He was right, it is interesting.

Gates's Hard-Nose Court Tactics Yield Hard Outcome

In the meantime, don't look for Republican state attorneys general to file major suits against Microsoft, or any other large American corporations. Craig's friend, former Symbolics colleague and MIT alum Richard Lamson MD forwards an article from the Washington Post:

Attorneys General Raise Funds for GOP

George Lardner Jr. and Susan Schmidt begin with this:

Republican state attorneys general are soliciting large contributions from corporations that are embroiled in--or are seeking to avert--lawsuits by states.

Web Site of the Week

Skipping Another Week

Too much good material and I don't want the column to get TOO long.

Humor

The Difference Between the US and Britain

From Leah Garchik's Personals column in the San Francisco Chronicle of April 11, 2000.

Q: What is the difference between the English and American peoples?
A: Number one: We speak English and you don't. Number two: When we hold a world championship for a particular sport, we invite teams from other countries. Number three: When you meet the head of state in England, you only have to go down on one knee.''
John Cleese quoted in the London Telegraph.

Steve Martin on the Millennium

You can find the full text of this hilarious commentary at the NY Times site. You have to register, but registration is free. I already knew Steve Martin was a genius because I read his stuff in the New Yorker, his books (Cruel Shoes and Pure Drivel), and his play (Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which I have seen twice), not to mention seeing his movies (well some of his movies are excellent) and hearing his standup comedy. Reading this merely cemented my opinion.

January 2, 2000
The Third Millennium: So Far, So Good
By STEVE MARTIN
For me, and I assume for most of you -- since whatever I'm thinking so too is the nation -- it was difficult to know exactly what to celebrate on Dec. 31, 1999. Do I celebrate the end of the year, the end of the 20th century or the end of the millennium? I chose the one remaining option, and therefore I assume so did most of you: the end of the day. This made for significantly reduced partying intensity. However, waking up on Saturday, knowing that Friday was now over, I felt compelled to write about the past 2,000 years and the changes that would be wrought in this new age. This was indeed a challenge to me, as I desired to write the history of humankind, past, present and future, without bothering to do any research.

It stays this funny all the way to the end. Highly Recommended.

Movies

High Fidelity

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

Roy and Yoli Pardo told me to go see it. The trailer looked very tempting. I really like John Cusack and Tim Robbins (although Tim's role amounts to a cameo; Jack Nicholson wouldn't even have taken a credit for a role this small).

High Fidelity is an intelligent, adult movie, with a minimum of foul language. It is a relationship film, no guns, bullets, car chases or explicit sex. The tagline is:a comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favorites.

Here's the plot summary (annotated) from IMDB:

Based on the cult novel of the same name by [British author] Nick Hornby [who set it in London; this version is set in Chicago], High Fidelity follows the 'mid-life' crisis of Rob (Cusack), a thirty-something record-store owner who must face the undeniable facts - he's growing up. In a hilarious homage to the music scene, Rob and the wacky, offbeat clerks that inhabit his store expound on the intricacies of life and song all the while trying to succeed in their adult relationships. [This is the best line in the movie:] Are they listening to pop music because they are miserable? Or are they miserable because they listen to pop music? This romantic comedy provides a touching and whimsical glimpse into the male view of the affairs of the heart.

Highly recommended. Five stars. A lead pipe cinch Oscar nomination for Cusack, although it's too early to tell if he deserves to win. Director Steven Frears (The Snapper, The Grifters, Prick Up Your Ears, Samie and Rosie Get Laid, My Beautiful Launderette) certainly deserves an Oscar nod, although I don't know if he'll get one. I usually hate it when people talk to the camera. I didn't hate it in this case. I credit the director for that accomplishment, and I think he should be rewarded for making a usually awful technique look good.

The screenplay was damn clever, as well it ought be, with four credited writers: D.V. DeVincentis & Steve Pink (screenplay) & John Cusack (the ampersands mean they wrote as a team) and Scott Michael Rosenberg (who came along before or later).

Letters

Something About Mari

Richard Dalton asks:

Mari doesn't get her picture on the masthead?

Simple answer: I didn't have a digitized picture of her.

 

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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