PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
July 24, 2000
How Old Is Old Enough?
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:
Of Twits and Things
My good friend, ex-colleague, American expatriate in London Larry King was one of the first to correct my garbled Dorothy Parker aphorism here two weeks ago; last week, I said his note made me feel like a twit. His response (like all of his responses) was so literate I decided to put it up high this week:
Sorry, I didn't intend to make you feel a fool, or even a twit. I have this pedantic streak that emerges awkwardly at times.
Incidentally, I'm not sure you could be a twit. A true twit is British and lacks a chin. The correct descriptive phrase, in fact, is ``chinless twit.'' He comes from upper, middle-upper, lower-upper, or upper-middle classes and is the product of such relentless inbreeding and rigid upbringing that he lacks independent will, functioning intelligence, personal tastes, an orthodox libido, and, for all practical purposes, a chin.
I say ``he'' because the chinless twit is by definition male. The female equivalent resembles him in all particulars except the last. She has a formidable chin and even more formidable teeth -- so formidable it can be hard to distinguish her from the horse whose company she generally prefers to that of her husband and certainly her children. I realize these are cheap cultural cliches. That does not make them less accurate.
And on the subject of the historical witticism, one I am persuaded did occur as reported was the ``pox or mistress'' remark, because it was made in Parliament, where records of such things are kept. In case there was any doubt about my pedantic streak, I will remind you that the exchange occurred between John Wilkes and the (4th) Earl of Sandwich and went approximately like this:
Earl:You will die, sir, either on the gallows or from the pox.
Wilkes: That depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.
The remark, incidentally, had an added bite because Wilkes and the Earl had once been friends, or at least fellow dissolute 18th century rakes -- they both belonged at one time to one of the offshoots of the notorious Hellfire Club. The possibility they had in fact shared a mistress, or at least a serving wench or two, is quite high.
As is well-known, the eponymous Earl was so dissolute he invented the practice of lying a slab of cold meat between two slices of bread and calling it lunch or dinner. A sandwich could be comfortably carried in a pocket, allowing him to gamble for hours at a stretch without leaving the table for a meal.
He is less well-known as a contributor to the loss by the British of the American Revolution. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he controlled the British fleet during the late unpleasantness. He felt much of it ought to remain in home waters, to protect the British Isles from the French.The French astutely noted that precious little fighting was under way in or around the British Isles -- except, perhaps, when John Wilkes and the Earl of Sandwich happened to run into each other in Westminster -- but a considerable amount of fighting was going on in North America. They sent their fleet to the colonies, where it blockaded Chesapeake Bay in the autumn of 1781. That prevented the British fleet from coming to the rescue of Lord Cornwallis, who had blithely established himself at Yorktown, evidently failing to notice that Yorktown is situated on a pennisula. Cornwallis and his 8,000 men were hemmed in by the James River to the south, the York River to the north, Hampton Roads, the confluence of the two rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, to the east, and soon enough, George Washington and a combined American-French army of 16,000 men to the west.
His options were not extensive: fighting a force twice the size of his own, or drowning. Cornwallis had his own preference, which was for the British fleet to sail down Chesapeake Bay and along the York and pick him up and get him the hell out of town. But with much of the fleet guarding the Channel coast back home, thanks to the Earl of Sandwich, and the rest kept out of Yorktown by the French, that option was foreclosed. Cornwallis realized he had a fourth option and promptly seized it. He surrendered. To quite a large extent, you drink coffee rather than tea, drive on the right, and are governed by people with chins because of the Earl's bloody-minded refusal to let the fleet go fight.
John Wilkes, by the way, supported the American colonists during the Revolution, and presumably he never let the Earl of Sandwich hear the end of it
How Old is Old Enough
I faced, this weekend, one of those eternal parenting questions: when is your daughter old enough to spend a day in the city by herself? This is a particularly difficult question if she's with a group of friends.
At first, the plan was that I'd stick with her and the others as they tooled around the South of Market area in SF at the SF Museum of Modern Art and the Sony Metreon. But Saturday morning, as I walked for an hour with Fran Strykowski and Sue Mellers (two fellow parents), the subject came up, and they said it was never easy to tell when your children were old enough. Sue suggested "drop them off and pick them up."
Now that appealed to me. Actually, I would have loved to spend the day at home, but in SF, you never really know when the "big one" will come, and I didn't want to be on the wrong side of the SF Bay in case the bridge came down. So, I settled down in the lobby of the SF Marriott with my cellphone, and I showed Rae how to user her new one, and the kids thus had close-in support but freedom to move about without a draggy old guy bringing up the rear. I alternated dozing, reading and writing this column--my idea of a great weekend day.
I had hoped, actually, to fulfill my long-time dream of joining the Mechanics Library, a private library in downtown SF ($60 a year to join). It is open on Saturday, but alas the membership office is not open, and unlike the airline clubs, you can't just join on the spot (this is clearly a failure of imagination and procedure on the part of the library). I was admitted to the library to be given this bad news however, and I can tell you it is a lovely, quiet, well-appointed facility. If I am ever in SF on a weekday, I might well join it.
Drop-Kick The Dog
Hey, I liked the dog, but in case you missed it:
Taco Bell Dumps Chihuahua
© The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (July 19) - Drop the Chihuahua!
In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Taco Bell Corp. said it has decided to replace its top executive and the advertising agency that introduced the chalupa-loving talking pup in commercials. …
The Chihuahua, known for his trademark slogan ``yo quiero Taco Bell,'' will not play a prominent role in future ad campaigns, though it might get a cameo role now and then…
The Chihuahua has faded from ads in recent months as Taco Bell decided to focus on its low-price menu items…
Tom Carroll, chief executive of TBWA/Chiat Day, said he was disappointed by the dismissal and felt ditching the Chihuahua would be a mistake. ``People like the dog,'' he said. ``It's just that simple.''
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.
Nicholson Baker's Reporter at Large article, Deadline: The author's desperate attempt to save America's Past, appeared in the New Yorker on July 24, 2000. I hope you can find a paper copy. It is not available online because the New Yorker doesn't post its content. I have a scanner, but it isn't hooked up yet, and I'm too lazy to photocopy it for all of you. It is worth reading, and it is scary, just like his previous stories about card catalogs destroyed and SF Public Library deaccessioning.
You can find out how angry librarians are here, including an angry letter to the editor of the New Yorker which was never printed. For a more reasoned discussion of his writing on card catalog destruction, look here.
Bottom line: when libraries microfilm newspapers, they throw them out afterwards. Every US library has discarded all of its New York Sun copies from the 19th century, for example, but the people who microfilmed it for the New York Public Library left six months out by mistake. Those six months are now gone forever.
Microfilm, if you've ever used it (and I have) is a crappy substitute for real newspapers. It is often blurry, and it deteriorates faster than newsprint. Baker's screed is touching. He has formed the American Newspaper Repository to save old newspapers, but doesn't say how to find it to make contributions, and it is nowhere to be found on the Internet (if you can find it, please let me know).
Actually, it is quite depressing how little information on this subject is available on the Internet, and how no one has discussed the latest article anywhere I can easily find.
I wish this column was as consistently interesting as David Strom's Web Informant. Here's the lead of his recent column on cyber-matchmaking:
This week's essay is from Robin, a dear friend of mine who describes a life-altering experience using one particular web site, Match.com.
Glen Speckert writes:
I assume you've seen thisarticle.
What do you think of the approach that they are suggesting of sending out an "anti-virus" e-mail? Seems sort of like a science fiction story I read when I was in high school...
I think its kind of interesting; what do you think?
Daniel Dern gets about 500 pieces of e-mail a day; by contrast, I only get about 150--and I feel overwhelmed. Much of his is generated by mail lists, which I make it a point to avoid. But his mail-list membership sometimes turns up absolute gems, like the version of the Gettysburg Address, as prepared in PowerPoint, that begins like this:
Uh, good morning. Just a second while I get this connection to work. Do I press this button here? No, that's not right. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to reboot. Hold on a minute. Um, my name is Abe Lincoln and I'm your president. While we're waiting, I want to thank Judge David Wills, chairman of the committee supervising the dedication of the cemetery. It's great to be here, Dave, and you and the committee are doing a great job. Gee, sometimes this new technology does have glitches, but we couldn't live without it, could we? Oh - is it ready? OK, here we go:
OK, now all my website of the week recommendations are worth going to, but this one especially so, if for no other reason that the slide headed, "Things We Aren't Going To Do," with the bullet points "Dedicate. Consecrate. Hallow." Now that's funny. Is PowerPoint the medium Bob Newhart would be working in if he were just starting out today?
The Top 15 Ways the Queen Mother Will Celebrate Her 100th Birthday
OK, so a number of us had the same good idea at the same time. Still, I really love No. 15.
15> Bitch-slap some sense into that randy bastard, Prince Charles.www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2000 by Chris White ]
Selected from 118 submissions from 44 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Pam Pickard, North Canton, OH -- 1 (Woohoo! 1st #1!)
Peter Bauer, Rochester, NY -- 15
Ann Rosenfeld, Austin, TX -- 15
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15
Tristan Fabriani, Passaic, NJ -- Topic, Banner Tag
Rob Wolf, Seattle, WA -- Honorable Mention list name
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Federal Government Joke
The NSA, the CIA and the FBI are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals. The President decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it.
The NSA goes into the forest. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations, they conclude that rabbits do not exist.
The CIA goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit and they make no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.
The FBI goes in. They come out just two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling: "Okay, okay, I'm a rabbit, I'm a rabbit."
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
It took four executive producers, two producers and two co-producers, three writers and seven special effects companies to bring this movie to the screen.
Well, it ain't non Tim-Burton-Batman, and it ain't live-action serial Superman, that's for sure. It's a Hollywood, action-movie attempt to take X-Men seriously. And it basically works.
Rated PG-13 for science-fiction action-adventure violence. There is at least one scary scene; I'd leave the pre-teens at home.
Whew, That Aphorism! Redux
If you were waiting to see my Margo St. James story from 1973, it isn't where I thought it was, and will take much more digging than I recalled, so it may be awhile before I reprint it here.
Speaking of Margo St. James, a new reader, attracted by my noisy advertisement of my site at a dinner last week, my superior (at least organizationally) Aaron Fischer wrote:
COYOTE is Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, not Come Off as yr correspondent indicates.
Horticulture. Yes, Ms Parker allegedly said it, at the same table she allegedly said, "Time wounds all heels." [ED: I'd heard that one]
Now who was it who told the messenger boy from the New Yorker, when he came to inquire where her column was, to tell Mr Shawn that "I'm too fucking busy and vice versa."?
OK, I hadn't heard that one. The kind of people who write such things down are usually too genteel to record that kind of language. But I welcome all freelancers who read this column to appropriate that line in the future, as appropriate. Except when you're talking to me.
As for Scary Movie, Kevin Sullivan rings in with this note:
FYI, as an editorial comment on Scary Movie, my 12 year old daughter, after begging and pleading to see the movie, and arranging appropriate grown up accompanyment to this non-PG rated movie, walked out after a half an hour, saying it "just wasn't funny".
If we all did that, maybe they'd stop making unfunny movies? Nahhh…
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