PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 23

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

June 25, 2001

Too Busy For Life?

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.

Some Material in this column comes from anonymous incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Arial (Sans Serif) type font to distinguish it from the original material

Table of Contents:

General News:

  • Too Busy For Life?
  • Adair Lara on Kids
  • On Getting Old
  • Who moved The Cheese

Computer Industry News:

  • Editing Video Movies
  • Cue Cat: $250m Later
  • Micrsosoft Uses Linux

Web Site of the Week:

  • Corporate Anthems

Humor:

  • Flatulence-proof Underwear
  • The Top 14 Health Complaints of Disney Workers
  • The Top 16 Other Things McDonald's Hasn't Told You

Movies

  • The Anniversary Party
  • Tomb Raider
  • With A Friend Like Harry
  • Trailers

Letters

  • The Greatest Generation, Dan Grobstein on Fake Blurbs

General News

Too Busy For Life?

Vicki noted that I hadn't written about our recent visit to a nearby ashram (we actually go several times a year, but the Guru was in town from India recently). Her remark suggests to me that I come clean: this column doesn't cover everything that happens in my life. It doesn't even cover every important thing that happens. There is a zone of privacy.

First of all, my entire family (my parents, my brother, my wife and children) read this column every week, so I'd never write anything here that would hurt or even upset them. Most of you are friends and acquaintances of mine, and I'd like you to stay friends--if I didn't want that, I'd tell you in some more direct way than writing about you in an unflattering or off-putting way in the column.

I don't write about things that happen to my friends unless I have their permission, or, in some cases, when I do it with such complete anonymity that no one could identify them. Even this is tricky; sometimes I have been dressed down for describing an incident that someone felt was too personal for this public forum.

All that said, I am going to (briefly) discuss an issue much on my mind these days; the work/life dichotomy. Twice in the last two weeks, people I rarely see, but whom I consider friends, caught me wrong-footed, as the Brits say, for curt email responses. They called me on it, and they were right, and I apologized. All me email has become shorter and less personal in the last five years or so, as I have felt unusual stress from work. This period coincided with my diabetes diagnosis, a slight worsening of my intractable weight problem and the deaths of several acquaintances (already noted in this column) who were roughly my age.

So is my life my family and friends or is my life my job? I am taking a rare two-week vacation (not from this column, I don't think, but from work-work), a week of which I am devoting to a medically supervised fast that I hope will help me get off the weight plateau I have been on for two years. I'll let you know.

Anyway, I don't feel I have the ratio right just now. I am investing extra effort in my daughter, Rae, because she's leaving home in two years, in my marriage, because I want it to last the rest of my life, and in myself, because if I don't, I'm going to die before my time. That doesn't leave much time for friends, and I regret that. I don't have any answers, just questions.

Adair Lara on Kids

Adair Lara is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle who writes mostly about her own life (I highly recommend her book Hold Me Close, Let Me Go : A Mother, a Daughter, and an Adolescence Survived). She had some unusually pithy insights into parenting post-adolescent children in her column:

Keeping an ear on the kids
Adair Lara
...
I used to have kids.
Now I have kids' voices on the telephone.
...
I have no idea what the kids are doing when they call, or what they will do after they put the phone down. Having an adult child is like being an extra in a movie: You know only a small part of the plot. Whole scenes happen while you're off the set, waiting to be called.

I think you've heard my metaphor before: in the sitcom of their life, you've gone from being the main character to being a guest star "on a very special holiday edition." Indeed, one of the best parts of Tom Stoppards excellent play Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern are Dead is the fact that the hapless pair know nothing more about Hamlet than what they see in the scenes in which they take part, leaving them baffled and confused. I feel the same way about Marlow's life, and will soon feel that way about Rae's.

On Getting Old

Richard Dalton says this guy is almost as good as Jon Carroll. He certainly wrote a good column on aging for the Boston Globe.

Gray matter
By Sam Allis, 6/10/2001
This is about aging, a subject so terrifying that many of us ponder it under the covers in the womb position.
No group in America handles aging as badly as boomers. No generation has embraced the concept of denial with such fervor. At parties, we extol the wisdom of the venerables and then battle images of Leo G. Carroll in a winding-sheet as Marley's ghost all the way home in the car.

Who Moved The Cheese

Another brilliant, brilliant column by Jon Carroll, this time deconstructing one of those silly corporate fads that so often get out of hand these days. I couldn't agree more with his analysis, and if I'm ever handed "Who Moved The Cheese," then I'm probably one of those people who should "self-select themselves out of the organization," as one manager put it.

I got your cheese right here

Jon Carroll
Thursday, June 21, 2001


THERE ARE TWO kinds of people in this nation: those who know about "Who Moved My Cheese?" and those who don't. The people who know can produce long and sometimes angry monologues about it; the people who don't know are totally bewildered. "This is real?" they ask.

Computer Industry News

Editing Video Movies

David Strom's excellent Web Information tackles the vital issue of editing home movies:

The most fun that I have ever had with any of my computers is using my Mac to edit and produce digital video movies.

It's interesting. Read it.

CueCat $250m Later

From AnchorDesk:

FAILURES: Buh-bye, CueCat. It was obvious to me that people wouldn't want to scan barcodes and ads to go to Web sites. And who were the stupid people who funded this harebrained scheme? I have one last thing to say: As concepts go, you were the weakest link. Goodbye.

Microsoft Uses Linux

Eric Raymond has caught Microsoft. Again:

And the hits just keep on coming. This week (hot on the heels of the Wall Street Journal's story about Microsoft's Hotmail service using freeBSD because Windows is not reliable enough) the revelation that some Microsoft websites are using the Apache webserver over Linux in preference to IIS.

If you have a Linux system, you can check one of these yourself with

lynx -dump -head http://www.microsoft.com.gr

from the command line. You'll see this:

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2001 10:17:20 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.6 (Unix) (SuSE/Linux) mod_perl/1.19 PHP/3.0.11

This, mind you, is from the same company that calls open-source software "a cancer" and "un-American" and insists that if you so much as touch it you'll lose all your intellectual property and grow hair on your palms.

Microsoft just gets funnier and funnier all the time.
--
Eric Raymond

Web Site of the Week

Corporate Anthems

You probably knew corporations had anthems. CMP used to have one called, "We're CMP Today." IBM has a whole songbook. Well, the best of these ditties has been collected in one place, and I know where it is, thanks to Richard Dalton, who even tipped me to one that isn't on the home page, the reggae-style anthem for McKenzie Knowledge Center.

Also, Dan Rosenbaum forwarded this URL from the New York Post. They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true, would they? I mean, they were founded by Alexander Hamilton!

APES INSTRUMENTAL TO ROCKER GABRIEL'S NEW BAND

By BRAD HUNTER

June 18, 2001 -- Rock 'n' roll innovator Peter Gabriel is going ape over his new band. The founder of Genesis hasn't put out a new album in five years, but he has been jamming at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
The rock legend plays keyboards, and so does his new backing band: a dozen bonobo apes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Humor

Flatulence-proof Underwear

Filtered underwear fights flatulence
By Erin Emery
Denver Post Southern Colorado Bureau
Friday, June 15, 2001 - You know the moment everyone pretends to ignore? When someone unpacks their grip, lets one rip, cuts the cheese?
Buck Weimer has a new invention: Under-Ease, airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape. Weimer received a patent in 1998.
The undies are made from a soft, airtight, nylon-type fabric. Elastic is sewn around the waist and both legs. The removable filter - which looks similar to the shoulder pads placed in women's clothing - is made of charcoal sandwiched between two layers of Australian sheep's wool.

The Top 14 Health Complaints of Disney Workers

I was in a six-way tie for ninth place on this list.

June 21, 2001

NOTE FROM CHRIS:

A recent contract agreement between Disney and the Teamsters union says that the workers who portray the famous Disney characters at Walt Disney World now have the right to assigned individual undergarments, which they can take home to clean themselves, rather than having to rely on Disney launderers like before.

14> Nobody ever walks those stupid Dalmatians.

13> Dental plan only covers grotesquely oversized and badly gapped front teeth.

12> Actresses playing Little Mermaid forced to have their nipples sanded off.

11> Huey, Dewey and Leukemia.

10> Goofy has a nasty habit of marking his territory near the Food Court.

9> Hand rashes caused by the daily rubbing of Walt's frozen head.

8> EuroDisney workers required to bathe at least once a month.

7> HMO requires referral by primary care veterinarian.

6> Repetitive "Small World" Syndrome.

5> "My neck aches from holding my nose up, I'm a pathological liar, and I catch on fire every time Ms. Pinocchio and I have sex."

4> It's a small wart, after all.

3> Them kids is all covered in germs!

2> The guy who tattoos the Disney ID on your forearm hasn't changed the needle in years.


and Topfive.com's Number 1 Health Complaint of Disney Workers...


1> Supercalifragelisticexpihalitosis.

[ The Top 5 List
www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]

The Top 16 Other Things McDonald's Hasn't Told You

June 25, 2001
NOTE FROM CHRIS:
Recently it was reported that in the United States, McDonald's has been cooking their French fries in beef fat at their processing plants before freezing them and shipping them to the restaurants, where they're fried again, this time in vegetable oil. As you might imagine, American Hindus and vegetarians are pretty upset about this. Kind of makes you wonder just what else McDonald's might be hiding, doesn't it?
16> The shakes? Also fried in beef fat.
15> Tell the vegetarians to brace themselves; we have some bad news about the salads.
14> Want to avoid beef fat altogether? Try our hamburgers.
13> Mayor McCheese has had five coronary bypass surgeries.
12> Burgers that don't sell after two days spend the rest of the month as "Filet-O-Fish."
11> The Hamburglar MUST dress like that because of Megan's Law.
10> McNuggets are shaped to honor the states with lenient meat-handling laws.
9> The reason we wear rubber gloves is for OUR protection, not yours.
8> The real Ronald McDonald died in 1969, trying to wrestle the controls of a small plane from an inebriated Hamburglar.
7> We never asked; we just assumed you'd prefer it lukewarm.
6> The Bible might be a series of allegorically instructive fables, rather than historically factual accounts.
5> You can McNugget almost anything and people still think it's chicken.
4> If our lawsuit succeeds, many Irish people will lose the first two letters of their surname, as did Hammer.
3> We modeled Ronald on a painting by John Wayne Gacy.
2> Actually, seeing you smile kind of creeps us out.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Other Thing McDonald's Hasn't Told You...
1> "Okay, you got us; there aren't really any salads back here."
 
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
==================
Selected from 176 submissions from 65 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are: -------------------------------
Joe DiPietro, Brooklyn, NY -- 1 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 7

Movies

The Anniversary Party

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Long week, late column, short reviews. As good as they say, if you love Inside Baseball, Hollywood style. Remarkable quality for a film that was shot on digital video; if you didn't know, you wouldn't be able to tell. Standout cameos by Kevin Kline and Gwyneth Paltrow. Recommended, but for adults only (nudity, language, sexual situations).

Tomb Raider

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Not as bad as you think. An OK way to kill time, if you can stand Angelina Jolie. One way to keep interested: look for the shots (especially after she's been in water) where the makeup that covers the Billy Bob tattoo on her upper arm wears a little thin, and you can see traces of blue.

With A Friend Like Harry

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Rae loved it. I sat through 45 minutes of it, and the going was slow as well as predicable. French with English subtitles. Maybe I shouldn't have seen it in the same week as the other two films. OK, I guess; another one of those foreign films where not much happens to people you aren't all that interested in.

Trailers

Never judge a book by it's cover, I say, and never judge a movie by its trailer. But still, now that the Lord of the Rings trailer is showing more than the title, it begins to look intriguing. Maybe Elijah Wood isn't just a poor man's Macaulay Culkin. For one thing, he seems to have a greater shelf life. Also, Ian McKellen seems to be getting better with age (he plays Gandalf). And it appears the moviemakers are playing it straight. We haven't seen the Gollum yet, but Andy Serkis' hiss sounds menacing. Certainly the most anticipated trilogy since Back To The Future (ok, and maybe Star Wars 1-3).

Unlike most Nickelodeon films, Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius looks, from the trailer, like something an adult could enjoy without gagging. Perhaps Martin Short and Patrick Stewart, listed as two of the voices, will help raise this film above the level of RugRats or Doug, which sank too low even for me, now that my youngest child is 16.

Then there's Rat Race, a Jerry Zucker film, which wisely shows John Cleese in its trailer, even though, judging from the credits, his role is minor. The trailer (and the poster) clearly want to echo the famous Stanley Kramer mega-film of 1963, "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World." In one sense, you can see how comedy has gone downhill since then by comparing the cast list of that film to this one. Still, while Jon Lovitz is no Phil Silvers, I like him and Cleese enough to see the film just for then. And, as I discovered with a quick Internet search, not everyone liked the original.

.

Letters

The Greatest Generation

A reader who's just a little older than me checks in with this thoughtful commentary:

I don't want to go off on too much of a rant, and generally I agree with your insights and politics, but to say our generation would "fold" in the same situations faced by our parents is a stretch. Each generation deals with its own realities, and while I'd grade my dad's team higher than ours, we don't get an F.

My father grew up in the depression, quit school in the 8th grade to work in the coal mines and help support his 7 brothers and sisters. He volunteered for the army in 1940 and landed at Normandy and fought on the front line as a GI until V-E Day. He came back to the coal mines, upgraded to a General Motors assembly line, and raised two boys who are now lawyers. He gets an A.

However, his decisions to give his boys things he didn't have precluded us from learning the lessons he learned working in the depression. We also didn't need to demonstrate the qualities he showed in poverty, but that doesn't mean they're not there at need. Sure, lots of us seem spoiled and focused on relatively shallow interests, but if we were faced with the same kinds of deprivation my father faced, I think we'd respond (after the whining and self-pity stopped).

We also didn't have Hitler to fight and kill. We had LBJ. Our generation didn't have the "Good War" to fight. We had a dirty, complicated, political war in which we were the bad guys. History didn't give us the situation to show as well, but I'd give our reaction to Kent State and Vietnam a B/B+. I know all of this is a drive by commentary, but in the area that matters most I might even rate us above our parents.

I think that in many respects we've raised even better children than our parents did. I know I did and it sounds like maybe you did too.

I like to think so, yes. Certainly I was here for more of their childhood than my dad, but those were, as you note, different times. Like this reader's dad, my dad was working class and made sure I aspired to and achieved something better, for which I am eternally grateful. It is my fondest wish to live long enough to see how our generation of children turn out. Rather well, I suspect.

The reader had an afterthought when I asked for permission to print:

Our generation has probably done more to address the issues of race and gender in the US (and perhaps ultimately the world) than any since the Civil War. Sometimes I think about how much things have changed since I was a kid in the 50's, and I'm amazed. We've played a big role.

Dan Grobstein found this:

I am shocked. Shocked! that this is happening.
AMAZON REVIEWS QUESTIONED. Book industry insiders say a significant number of the thousands of customer book reviews at Amazon.com are written by the authors' friends and family members. Nara Schoenberg reports.
The old Spy Magazine used to have a column where they would track the blurbs on book jackets showing that there was a lot of mutual back scratching going on.

I believe the practice is known as log-rolling.

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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