PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

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

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.


To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

January 10, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

January 10, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 1

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Long Break
  • Lynne Marlow
  • We're Back
  • Marlow in the Netherlands
  • Query Letters I Love
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Political Humor

Movies

  • Spanglish
  • Guest Review: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, House of Flying Daggers, Closer
  • Guest Review: The Aviator

Letters

  • SF in Ruins, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Long Break

I've been MIA for three weeks. Sorry about that. This is the longest break I my column has taken since its founding more than six years ago. It was simply the timing of the vacation--I wasn't actually in the US for two weeks and too jet-lagged and swamped, as I knew I would be, to put out a Jan. 3 edition. I am still swamped, but I fear a month's break will cost me dearly, both in terms of sanity and readership. Plus, there's a few things I need to say.

But first, my apologies to those who submitted good stuff I didn't use; maybe next week? It I tried to get all of it in this week, I'd miss another week. It's Friday night, and we're off to LA, and there are 60 ungraded spiral notebooks sitting on the dining room table, and I haven't seen this week's West Wing which Daniel Dern says was great...

Lynne Marlow

My mother-in-law died the day after we got back from Europe. Her daughters asked me to help draft her obituary. It is too short, but hits the highlights.

Evelyn "Lynne" Smith Farman Marlow, who led the Rose Parade on horseback in 1928 and 1932, died Jan. 2. She was 91.

Marlow, a 52-year resident of Pacific Palisades, died Sunday of complications from old age, said her daughters, Pamela Marlow Drake and Victoria Marlow. She was married for 53 years to prominent Los Angeles real estate developer Fred W. Marlow, who died in May 1997.

Born in Sierra Madre in 1913, Marlow was a third generation Californian who helped her mother earn money after her father's death by raising Palomino horses and leading riding tours of the area around their ranch in the foothills. Her formal education ended with high school.

A self-taught artist, she was an accomplished sculptor and painter who spent countless hours in her home studio creating lifelike oil paintings of some of the 113 countries she visited.

Marlow is survived by her two daughters, Pamela Marlow Drake of Kensington, Calif. and Victoria Marlow of Orinda, Calif., as well as her four granddaughters, Kimberly and Kirsten Drake and Marlow and Rae Schindler.

A private memorial service is planned.

My mother wrote a eulogy for Lynne:

I knew Lynne Marlow as my son's mother -in -law for 25 years, but it was in the past four years that I came to know and admire her as an artist, a world traveler, an extremely intelligent, talented and incredibly interesting woman and most of all, a wonderful friend. I admired and respected so many things about Lynne, I was actually in awe of her, her spirit, her strength, and her graciousness.

In the past four years, I spent wonderful weekends visiting with her in her home, among her many fascinating books and some of her wonderful paintings and portraits. I was privileged to enjoy long conversations with her, we often spent our evening sharing our thoughts and experiences late into the night. I thought her life was remarkable. We found many things to laugh about, and a few to weep about, as different as our lives had been, we shared much in common in our emotional lives, in our relationships with others, just in the experience of living.

It wasn't her talent or the wonderful adventures that she lived that meant the most to me, it was her unfailing interest in every thing and every one around her. She seemed to impart a sense of dignity to her surroundings that put people at ease with her.

Lynne and I felt a strong bond in our love of our granddaughters, Lynne often said that the best that came from her life was her granddaughters, a belief she and I certainly shared. Our children and our grandchildren were for both of us, the ultimate joy of life.

A year ago, while talking about the loved ones and friends who had died, Lynne told me that she wasn't afraid of dying, that she thought it would be the greatest adventure of her life! I was profoundly impressed with the absolutely powerful and positive attitude that she lived with. I shall miss Lynne, and the niche she filled in my life - mentor and teacher, and most of all, my friend.

We're Back

I've been in Europe (Netherlands, France and Spain) with the whole family. We got back on Jan. 1. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I know we did, what with Christmas in Spain and our 25th wedding anniversary, with both our children, in the Excelsior Hotel in Amsterdam's luxurious Hotel L'Europe (gentlemen required to wear jackets).

There is so much I could say about Leiden, and Amsterdam and Europe's long-distance trains, including the hotel train that leaves from the Austerlitz station in Paris. Barcelona and Valencia were wonderful. Sandia, where we stayed, was mind-boggling as was the apartment we rented for a week. Our four hours in Paris made us ache to spend a week there this summer, which I hope we will. And the aforementioned anniversary dinner was a culinary experience we won't soon forget.

There's so much more I could say, and maybe I will say it in the coming weeks, but for now, publish or be damned! If I miss posting by an hour, I'll miss it by a week.c

Marlow in The Netherlands

Marlow is in The Netherlands right now, at Leiden University, working on her degree in International Relations. Here's what's new from her: the Dutch government is screwing around with her residence permit. Anyone know a good Dutch immigration lawyer?

Query Letters I Love

My mother spotted this in Newsweek. I took her advice and followed the link to Query Letters I Love. Since no one (as far as I can tell from Google) knows who writes this Blog, the part about the author being a Hollywood talent agent could be fictional. The cynic in me says this is probably just someone who is clever at making up bad movie ideas. But, in the old journalistic tradition of "don't let the facts get in the way of a good story," I want to believe the myth. Regardless of who writes it, it is the funniest thing I have seen on the net (outside of The Top 5 List of course) in years.

Political Notes

U.S. Election Analysis In Two Sentences

The Democrats' mistake was thinking that a disastrous war and national bankruptcy would be of concern to the electorate.

The Republicans saw, correctly, that the chief concern of the electorate was to keep gay couples from having abortions.

***

Two similar jokes came in, so there's one here and one under humor:

The President, the First Lady and Dick Cheney are flying on Air Force One.

George looks at Laura, chuckles and says, "You know, I could throw a $1,000 bill out the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Laura shrugs her shoulders and says, "Well, I could throw ten $100 bills out the window and make 10 people very happy."

Cheney says, "Of course, I could throw one hundred $10 bills out the window and make a hundred people very happy."

The pilot rolls his eyes, looks at all of them and says to his co-pilot, "Such bigshots back there..... hell, I could throw all of them out the window and make 56 million people very happy."

 

 

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

The $500 iMac and the Crabby Apple -- sometimes these things just write themselves. While on vacation I saw that Think Secret, a well known Apple rumor mongering site, was claiming that Apple would announce a "headless" iMac for $500 at Macworld Expo on January 11. Cool! Then came the news that rather than the normal cease-and-desist letter, this time Apple would planned to sue Think Secret and others. Well, so much for quashing those rumors! Now Daring Fireball weighs in on what may be going on: Plugging Leaks.

Torrential download: Bram Cohen's innovative BitTorrent software for peer-to-peer file sharing has been much in the news recently. Wired carried an in-depth profile: The BitTorrent Effect. Also from the last month or so: A new hope for BitTorrent?, Hollywood Wants BitTorrent Dead and (as previously mentioned here) 'BitTorrent' Gives Hollywood a Headache. Of course, Hollywood's headache probably comes from having its head so firmly wedged up its ass. BitTorrent is a perfect example of "substantial non-infringing uses" (as in the "Betamax case"). In fact I just installed it on my Mac this morning to download some MPEG HDTV test material from the EFF. It is also being used to provide fast downloads of Linux distributions and other large files. Going off on a bit of a tangent here, frequent readers may recall that my son is autistic. I assume I'm somewhere on the autistic spectrum myself as are many, perhaps most, engineers. So is Bram Cohen, BitTorrent's inventor. While autism often has adverse effect the lives and happiness of autistics, it is clear that there is an upside to the condition. Many with Asperger's Syndrome have special talents, some are savants, many have been responsible for important scientific and technological innovations. Society seems to benefit from its autistic fringe. The notion of "curing" autism is surprisingly controversial: How About Not 'Curing' Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading.

Moron: more on "Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress": The U.S. Patent Game: How to Change It. Wired's The Long Tail was previously noted here. There is more on this topic at its own website The Long Tail.

Technobits: Court rejects RIAA request to identify song-swappers --- GPL 3 --- Tor: Internet Lib Group Backs Anonymity Project --- Cory Doctorow responds to Wired Editor on DRM --- Linux: Fewer Bugs Than Rivals --- Should scientific articles be available online and free to the public? --- clean-footed geckos --- Worming Into Apple / The Graphing Calculator Story --- history of the future --- TiVoToGo --- How to fix Mom's computer --- Sims 2 viruses.

Humor

Political Humor

George and Laura Bush and Bill and Hilary Clinton are traveling by train to the Super Bowl. At the station, George and Laura each buy a ticket and watch as Bill and Hilary buy just one ticket.

"How are the two of you going to travel on only one ticket?" asks George W; astonished at what he is seeing. "Watch and learn," answers Hilary.

They all board the train. George and Laura take their respective seats but Bill and Hilary cram into a toilet together and close the door.

Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the toilet door and says, "Ticket, please. "The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The Bushes see this happen and agree it was quite a clever idea, so after the game they decide to try a similar plan on the return trip.

When they get to the station they see the Clintons at the window buying a single ticket for the return trip. To their astonishment, the Clintons see that the Bushs don't buy any ticket at all.

"Aren't you taking a terrible chance by traveling without a ticket?" says Hilary."Watch and learn," answers Laura Bush.

When they board the train the Bushs cram themselves into a toilet and the Clintons cram into another toilet just down the way. Shortly after the train is on its way, George W. leaves their toilet and walks over to the toilet in which the Clintons are hiding. George W. knocks on their door and says, "Ticket, please."

(And you're still trying to figure out how the Democrats lost that election.)

Movies

Spanglish

Plot summary from IMDB:

A woman and her daughter emigrate from Mexico for a better life in America, where they start working for a family where the patriarch is a newly celebrated chef with an insecure wife.

Yes, it's been around for a while, but Rae and I just got around to seeing it. Despite Adam Sandler's limited acting range (he always seems to be playing himself, tightly wound--kind of like Dan Rather) and Téa Leoni (hysterical because that's what the role called for, but hard to watch), there were a couple of interesting performances by Paz Vega, as the mother and a lovely cameo by Cloris Leachman as a retired, alcoholic female vocalist.

All in all--not as bad as the reviews, not as good as it could have been with a different cast. James L. Brooks... I don't know, should stick with TV? The framing device (a Princeton admissions essay) was unusually clever, however. I mean, if you're going to do voiceover, this is the way to do it. Either that, or have a dead person narrating.

Guest Review: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, House of Flying Daggers, Closer

What could these three very different films have in common? Each is executed very well. Brad Siberling's distillation of the first three Lemony Snicket books is vividly realized, with sensational sets that take more than a few cues from Tim Burton, and a nice acting ensemble led by an arch Jim Carrey populating Count Olaf's various villainous guises. Yimou Zhang has created another of his stylized and stunning Chinese martial arts/love stories, taking the genre first presented to a mass American audience in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to another level of visual brilliance. Mike Nichols has adapted Patrick Marber's bleak and cutting play into a well-written, well-acted (Natalie Portman is the stand-out), and hauntingly-scored (by Damien Rice) film.

But the three are truly united in their failure to convey any sense of warmth and to help viewers connect with the characters. Lemony Snicket obviously has the formidable challenge of delivering the wry, tongue-in-cheek sensibility of the books while also trying to make real the fantastic images conjured in a reader's imagination. For House, as with like-minded films such as Crouching Tiger or Jet Li's Hero, it truly is style over substance; in this instance, though, the images are so staggering and impressive as to bring into question whether that is a legitimate criticism. Closer presents four clever and extremely attractive actors in a storyline that is rooted in moral weakness, deceit, and self-loathing. (ed. note: see my review of Closer. Neal perfectly captured my feeling on Lemony Snickett)

It is profoundly disappointing when three films that are so well-crafted prove so unsatisfying.

--Neal Vitale

Guest Review: The Aviator

In a year rife with biopics, one of 2004's last entries, The Aviator, may be the best of the bunch. Martin Scorsese has taken a small slice of Howard Hughes' life (from the 1920s through the mid-40s) and created a grand, powerful film. The Aviator is a testimony to what can be created when all the elements of filmmaking align. Long-time screenwriter John Logan's script is a strong starting point for a diverse cast - Leonardo DiCaprio as a surprisingly believable Hughes, Cate Blanchett in a star turn as Katharine Hepburn, plus Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Gwen Stefani, Willem Dafoe, and Alan Alda, among others. A terrific production team creates what may be the single most spectacular plane crash ever filmed. Scorsese, though again directing a film - at nearly three hours - that is overly long, retains his trademark flair and grandeur. For me, The Aviator is a serious Best Picture contender, and the best from Scorsese in nearly a decade.

--Neal Vitale

Letters

SF in Ruins, Dan Grobstein File

How about San Francisco in Ruins; post-earthquake pictures taken by a panoramic camera held aloft by a balloon.

***

Dan Grobstein File

Dan submitted much more; I just ran out of time to post it. Sorry Dan.

Seattle Times: Groups push for Christmas to get religion. Not "Happy Holidays," they say, but "Merry Christmas." You know, it isn't a war on Christians, it's a war against intolerance of the non-Christians among us, but you can't tell evangelicals that. Actually, you can't tell them much of anything.

Molly Ivins via Alternet: Social Security Suicide. The Bushies don't want to mend Social Security, they want to end it -- and they are quite upfront about it. "It's kind of hard not to be stunned by the irresponsibility of this scheme. To just blithely borrow the money to destroy a successful social program is, well, loony, bizarre and irresponsible."

 

New York Times

it's only a matter of time before someone uncovers an anti-Christian plot in "White Christmas." It avoids any mention of religion and it was, as William Donohue might be the first to point out, written by a secular Jew.

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