PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 16

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

May 1, 2000

Remembering What's Important

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

  • Remember What's Important
  • Elian Comment
  • Thank You At Work
  • More on Lynne Marlow

Computer Industry News

  • Lots To Say, No Time To Say It

Web Site of the Week

  • Associated Press Demontrates Cluelessness

Humor

  • Computer Languages

Movies

  • Frequency: RUN TO SEE IT
  • U-571: Walk to see it

Letters

  • Not This Week

General News

Remembering What's Important

The two main things I did this weekend were judge at the California State speech tournament and play a concert with the Contra Costa Wind Symphony.

Rae did not make it to State, but she got extra credit for going and watching the competition, and since I had to drive down and stay as a result, rather than sit around, I judged. I am impressed with the quality of the performances by these high school students. And, as a student of forensics myself in high school (my events were debate and radio commentary), I always disliked the quality of the judging. Single-handedly, I am improving it. And of course, because it is important to Rae, it is important to me.

There are about 10 million things I'd rather do on a Saturday than judge a speech tournament. But none of them is more important.

Sunday, the CCWS played a benefit concert in Walnut Creek. I played second tenor saxophone and served as the announcer for the concert. Some of you may not know that I play sax. All of you know that I really love announcing, and this was a classy occasion, with me and the rest of the band in black tie, and a receptive and appreciate audience. My performance was very well received. I loved it. I can't wait to do it again.

Quick Note: I report for Jury Duty on Wednesday. I'll let you know how it comes out.

Elian Comment

I had frankly hoped to let the whole Elian thing slip by without comment, but when I found myself arguing with a newspaper columnist, I knew I had to put something in the column. The people who write in the newspaper can't hear you, did you know that?

James P. Pinkerton writes for Newsday. On April 25, 2000 (this link is only good until May 2; after that you have to pay to look at the whole column) wrote a particularly ill-informed line of blather under the headline Media Elite Are Twisting Story of Elian's Seizure.

It's another one of those windy, hard-right conservative pieces that the British call "why oh why" journalism. One graf caught my eye:

Now fast forward two decades to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on TV's "The McLaughlin Group." Going far beyond support for Juan Miguel's paternal rights, she insisted, "To be a poor child in Cuba may in many instances be better than being a poor child in Miami." In fairness, few reporters and commentators go that far-at least not now.

It's clear this guy hasn't been in Manhattan in a long time. Well, if I knew Mr. Pinkerton, or though he'd read a letter from me (he wouldn't), I'd tell him that Eleanor Clift has it exactly right. For pity's sake, when was the last time Mr. Pinkerton saw a poor person in this country? Or even a working class person--someone who makes something other than hot air for a living.

OK, time to 'fess up. I live in an upper-middle-class suburb. But I grew up working class. I still know people who are one serious illness and one layoff from living in a refrigerator box on the street.

In my first draft, there was whole long disquisition on this subject that kept getting longer and longer. Instead, let me simply say: this is the best country on Earth, with the best political system, that has produced the most wealth for the most people. We have not done as well as we should by the poor, the slow, the losers in the game of life. Socialist regimes do better for those people, but at a terrible cost to society as a whole. I don't condone socialism or Communism, and I take a back seat to no one in my condemnation of Castro, a murderous, evil dictator in the same class as Mao and Stalin, who is starving his own people to death out of stiff-necked pride. Having said all that, it is quite possible true that poor children in Cuba may be better off that poor children in this country, if for no other reason than that the contrast between the haves and have nots is not so great.

By the way, for the record:

  • Elian does belong with his father
  • the Miami relatives abused him psychologically (just check the video tape of him lecturing his father--he's six years old, for pity's sake)
  • the agents on the raid did have a warrant
  • they had a well-founded fear of armed resistance
  • the raid was appropriate
  • Elian can't possibly have a well-founded fear of persecution because he can't understand any of the terms in that phrase
  • neither of the pictures was faked
  • Janet Reno made the right decision, despite the shadow of Waco. Bully for her.

Shame on the Miami Cubans. As long as the administration obeys the Appeals Court order to keep Elian in the U.S. until the case is heard, the rule of law is alive and well.

I feel much better now. I hope you do too.

Thank You at Work

In June 1974, the month I graduated from MIT, Esquire ran an article about the realities of working life. Among its advice was, "Don't expect anyone to say thank you. The person who brings around your check every two weeks is saying thank you."

I wanted to go beyond that, and now that I'm a manager, I can do so. This week, I sent all my direct reports a note reminding them that I appreciate what they do, even if I don't get a chance to say it every day. And I said Thank You. Simply and directly and without any equivocation. I hope I can remember to do it regularly.

More On Lynne Marlow

This from my mother:

I would like to add to what Paul said in last week's column, about the friendship between his mother and his mother-in-law, about the truly remarkable woman I have been privileged to come to know.
Lynne Marlow has lived a life full of adventure and accomplishment: traveler, painter, sculptor, wife, mother, grandmother, and constant intellectual searcher. She has traveled in more than 150 countries, raised two remarkably accomplished daughters, developed friendships with an exciting variety of people all over the world, and made her home an oasis of culture, friendship, and tranquillity. She was a wonderful partner for her business man husband, standing by his side for over fifty years, while never losing her identity.
Lynne never chose to travel the safe comfortable way. Rather, she chose to enter into whatever life style she found in each of the countries she visited, sleeping on dirt floors when necessary, and most often going without the privileges of indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, or comfortable means of transportation. She brought home an understanding of the people and places as she found and enjoyed, and translated this understanding into remarkable oil paintings. Her paintings capture and transmit the reality of what she experienced; camel markets that seem alive with the heat and dust of the desert, villages and castles, women in the outdoor markets, all full of the life she witnessed and understood.
Lynne was born into a family that came to Los Angeles before the turn of the last century. She has seen the area change from farms, orange groves and oil wells, to the Los Angeles of today, and she can make you feel the atmosphere that was, and how it went through the changes that created the complex urban area it is today. As a matter of fact, she makes all of the people and places she has experienced come alive to the very fortunate person who can get her to talk about her remarkable life.
The most recent visit I had with her included hearing about the time she was in China when the first of the clay soldiers that recently toured the US were first uncovered. She also told me about the time she and four native guides hacked their way through the jungle in a successful search for a gorilla family.
Our growing friendship has only one negative aspect for me, that I didn't get to know Lynne many years ago, that I didn't have the chance to be waiting for her to return from her adventures, or better yet, to have gone with her! She is not only a friend, she is a shining example of a life well lived for her four granddaughters, two of whom we share - and they are all very lucky to have her as a grandmother, and I am very lucky to have her as a friend.

Computer Industry News

Lots to say. No time to say it.

Web Site of the Week

Associated Press Demonstates Cluelessness

Recently, my brother emailed me a flash animation that parodied both the Budweiser Wazzup commercial and the Elian in the closet picture taken by the Associated Press.

As an ex-AP and ex-UPI employee, I always knew AP had a stick up its rear-end, but I never knew how far until I read about their cease and desist order to the guys who originated the flash. They've been thoroughly flamed about it by now.

I deleted the flash Steve sent me, by the way, but if you really want to see it, you can poke around in the links that start here and find the flash.

Here's a summary of the AP response to the controversy, from a mailing list I am on:

Seems this parody was created by a couple of guys at Playboy, which interviewed AP's Tomlin. His comments on the aftermath:
"We're like anyone with intellectual property interests on the Internet. This is the first instance in which the infringer has put the cease-and-desist note on the web, and the reaction has been breathtaking. Many hostile messages, some threatening ones, but a number have raised issues of free expression that I think are arguable. In this particular case we might have been wiser to have taken a more thoughtful, less heavy-handed approach. It's been a learning experience."
Asked about the many sites now mirroring the parody, Tomlin says, "You can't turn the ocean back -- if the argument is who can talk louder, the Internet is always going to win. For now we'll just watch what happens."

Humor

Computer Languages

This goes on and on, but doesn't get a whole lot funnier; and best of all you don't have to know a thing about languages to find it funny. At least I don't think so.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot
or
How to Determine Which Programming Language You're Using


The proliferation of modern programming languages which seem to have stolen countless features from each other sometimes makes it difficult to remember which language you're using. This guide is offered as a public service to help programmers in such dilemmas.

C:
You shoot yourself in the foot.

C++:
You accidentally create a dozen instances of yourself and shoot them all in the foot. Providing emergency medical care is impossible since you can't tell which are bitwise copies and which are just pointing at others and saying, "that's me, over there."

Objective C:
You write a protocol for shooting yourself in the foot so that all people can get shot in their feet.

370 JCL:
You send your foot down to MIS with a 4000-page document explaining how you want it to be shot. Three years later, your foot comes back deep-fried.

Movies

Frequency: RUN TO SEE IT

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

Directed by: Gregory Hoblit; Written by: Toby Emmerich (as Tobias Emmerich) [Noah Emmerich's older brother]--also producer of the film. Tagline: What if you could reach back in time? What if you could change the past? What if it changed everything? Plot Summary: A young man discovers that his ham radio set can reach 30 years into the past. Dennis Quaid: Frank Sullivan James Caviezel: John Sullivan Elizabeth Mitchell: Julia Sullivan André Braugher: Satch DeLeon Shawn Doyle: Jack Shepard Noah Emmerich: Gordo Hersch.

OK, Toby, dust off your mantle, because come next spring there's going to be an Oscar there.

Why yes, I am familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf. And I am aware of the fact that my usually upbeat reviews, where seldom is heard a discouraging word, tends to devalue what I say about all movies. But let me be very clear about this.

THIS IS A GREAT MOVIE. YOU SHOULD GO SEE IT.

I've only been home for an hour, and I had to rush to the computer to write this, that's how great my passion for this film is. Clear enough? We are in the presence of genius, my friends. This is, plainly and simply, the best time travel movie ever written, and no one goes so much as five minutes into the future or the past. Although the protagonists do nothing but talk over a ham radio--across 30 years--they do so in a believable, clever way. And, of course, they instantly run afoul of the traditional time-travel paradoxes, handled here with unusual aplomb.

I am flabbergasted to find that this is Tobias Emmerich's first script. Until now, he's been a music executive, in charge of such films as Lost In Space, Boogie Nights, Austin Powers I, and Dumb and Dumber. Well, I'm here to tell you he's found his real calling, which is obviously science fiction (by the way, he's the older brother of Noah, who plays Gordon in the movie, and no relation to Roland, who did Independence Day among other films.

It's a nail biting seat grabber, with unexpected twists and several false endings (of course), and a real ending that left me weeping.

Here's a tip, so you can have fun with one of the deft touches I particularly enjoyed. It was just a piece of background business, but filmmakers put these into movies for people like me--and now like you. When you see Dick Cavett in 1999 interviewing an expert on the Aurora Borealis, take note of the expert and his name, and be alert in the next scene from 1969. I'll say no more. I don't think I have to.

This movie never flagged, never slowed down, never got stupid, never lost my interest. It is the best film of the year so far for pure entertainment. It absolutely deserves the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, hands down, although it probably won't win much of anything else, unless its commercial success is as great as I think it should be. It will certainly get wonderful word of mouth because it deserves it.

By the way, I donít ever remember seeing James Caviezel before; he plays one of the protagonists. His credits say he did a shot on Wonder Years, and on Murder She Wrote, and he had small parts in J.I. Jane, Ed, and The Rock. He's good, and when this film is a hit, he'll become a star. The often underrated Dennis Quaid just keeps chugging along, turning in first class performances without anyone much noticing--unlike his splashy older brother Randy. But hey, he's married to Meg Ryan, how hard does he have to work, really?

So, let me conclude by saying, great movie, very entertaining, well worth watching. PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images, and perhaps best of all, only 117 minutes. Yeah Tobias!

U-571: Walk To See It

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

Matthew McConaughey. For some of you, that's all I'll have to say. I saw this film the night before I saw Frequency, and it makes an interesting contrast.

Tag line: Heroes are ordinary men who do extraordinary things in extraordinary times.

Plot Outline: World War II action drama about a U.S. Navy submarine captain on a risky mission to swipe an Enigma encoding device from a stranded German submarine.

It's rated PG-13 for war violence and it only runs 116 minutes. It's very noisy, very claustrophobic, and mildly clever. It's mildly entertaining, if you like either war movies or submarine movies. At least, in a nod to the increasing sophistication of movie audiences, the Americans aren't instantly capable of reading the signs in a German sub.

An unusual number of false climaxes, and a non-stop plot, which lists slightly to the implausible side. I would have written a much better review of this film if I hadn't seen Frequency the next night. As it is, I'll say it isn't bad. It's somewhat entertaining. It sure ain't brilliant.

Letters

None This Week

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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