PS... A Column
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.
May 2, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 17
Table of Contents:
A Week With Rae
It has been a pleasure having Rae home for "spring break" this week (Brandeis takes Spring Break at Passover, which is unusually late this year). She goes back to school for 12 days and then comes home for the summer. Go figure. Except she won't be home all summer; she'll be spending six weeks in a French program in Montpellier France. Montpellier is near the Mediterranean in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Why no, I hadn't heard of that region before. Vicki and I will join Rae and Marlow for a week in a villa in the Mediterranean town of Cassis. On the 4th of July, Rae starts her program and Vicki and I return to the U.S. Marlow heads for Shanghai for the summer. The Schindlers: scattered to the four winds.
I took Tuesday off from school to spend the day with Rae. We started it off with a lovely hour-long walk above the house on an unusually fog free Donald Drive. Then out to Target for a Dustbuster (for her) and a cheap microwave (for me). One brief failure to communicate later, we're at the Peacock Indian Restaurant (an excellent Indian eatery) for the buffet lunch with Vicki. Then Rae and I are off to Kung Fu Hustle (see review below). Finally, we come home and watch Groucho Marx hosting You Bet Your Life, an experience heretofore denied to Rae. After she left to do her homework, I watched my old nemesis Dave Traini (the man who beat me on Jeopardy) suffer a painful (to me watching, anyway) loss in the Ultimate Tournament Of Champions. Final Jeopardy [which I've always said makes the game into a crapshoot most days] asked for the only word in English that contains the letters "gnt" in that order. Give yourself 30 seconds, then check at the bottom of the column.
I still think there's a cute NPR segment in the concept of "I Lost on Jeopardy." I want to interview Dave and Ian Barondess, who was also on my show and now lives, I think, in Orange, California. He never called me back, but I haven't sold the piece yet. Did you know that "This American Life" only wants narrative stories that reach conclusions? Me neither, and I listen all the time. Maybe I can peddle my idea to ATC or Morning Edition, or the new mid-day show that KQED dropped like a hot potato. Perhaps right when the Tournament ends.
Anyway, we had more fun as the week went on, but she needed to spend a lot of time doing class work. She brings, as I have said so often before, a refreshing if sometimes vexing energy into our lives. It is a joy, as always, to have her home.
I am pretty sure I have mentioned this before, but...
In 1977, I was doing PR for Bank Of America, at what was then its World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. One of my "clients" was the data processing department. Bank of America, in case you didn't know it, invented (with the Stanford Research Institute) the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) system of numbers at the bottom of checks--without which everyone over the age of 18 in American would have to work at least part time sorting checks. Well, in 1977, the Bank had not descended all the way into the mediocrity in which it has been mired since Tom Clausen's second term as CEO. It was still an innovator. The bank joined with NCR to creation a system called BANCR, for Bank of America NCR. Hold onto your hats; the crazy idea was not move images instead of checks. Talk about being ahead of your time--like by about 18 years! Anyway, one of the chief technology guys, who I think worked at some point for both NCR and BofA was a man named Tom Rutledge. I admired and respected Tom and enjoyed working with him. He was a real visionary. When he took his big demonstration check, and removed the layer on top with the information on it, you could literally see how is idea worked. We introduced the idea with a bang (front page of the American Banker, the industry daily trade paper) at the 1977 Banking Automation Conference in New Orleans.
BANCR petered out, BofA went to hell in a handbasket, NCR basically disappeared, and BANCR, like Ampex's ill-fated home video recorder, was a good idea that vanished without a trace. When the new proposal for shipping images around was made earlier this year, I wrote the Banker and suggested a "where are they now," article, based on the 1977 coverage. I never heard back. They probably ignored me. No one there, I am sure, has ever heard of BANCR.
Why am I telling you all this? First, so that if someone puts "BANCR" into Google, they'll get at least one other hit besides Tom's patent. Secondly, because I'd love to commiserate with Tom and chat with him, but I can't find him. Can you?
Making a Difference
These little essays on the nature of teaching come my way now and then. I am frequently asked why I took a two-thirds pay cut to become a teacher. Here's why:
The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.
He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
To corroborate his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Susan. Be honest. What do you make?"
Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make?"
"I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor."
"I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence."
"You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write. I make them read, read, read.
I make them show all their work in math and perfect their final drafts in English."
"I make them understand that if you have the brains, and follow your heart, if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you must pay no attention because they just didn't learn."
"Susan paused and then continued, "You want to know what I make? I make a difference. What do you make?"
Live Blogging The Presidential News Conference
(All times Pacific)
1715: Bush makes second overtly gay move in a week. First he's holding hands with the Saudi ruler. Now he's proposing to allow people to leave their Social Security accounts to anyone they wish (whether or not they are a family member (as defined by Karl Rove, family member does not include the surviving half of a married gay couple). How long will it take for the family rights advocates to criticize this blatant disregard of their position?
1718: Bush disavows the Christian right. Opposition to judicial nominees based on consideration of their judicial positions and not on opposition to people of faith. (Bush's nose grows one foot in length during answer.)
1721: How will my energy plan affect the current price of gasoline? I don't like the question so my answer is put more crude on the market. Next question I can avoid? More refineries needed. How about putting one in the front yard of his ranch in Crawford?
1723: Admits his energy plan won't do anything for 10 years by saying if my plan of today had been adopted 10 years ago it would now have an effect on today's price of gasoline.
1724: If you're winning the war on terror why did the State Department just report more people are dying due to terror? Spread freedom and democracy (when does he plan to invade Ohio and Florida to spread democracy)?
1726: When you looked into Putin's eyes and decided he was a great guy, did you know he was going to sell nuclear energy components to Iran? Putin is only giving highly enriched uranium to Iran for a civilian power plant. BUSH THEREBY ADMITS NO NUCLEAR WEAPONS THREAT FROM IRAN.
1728: Did you ask Bolton about the credible allegations made about his egregious conduct? (Why would I do that?) The Senate asked him. If you're interested in reforming U.N. they way I am, send Bolton. Major position switch. Bush's standing position has been to ignore the U.N. and lie to it.
1732: What about Social Security without private accounts? Everyone should have the right to save money (which they have now). Have some snake oil. Everyone should save money (that's why I'm supporting additional taxes to waste in Iraq and decrease the money available for saving). Repeats gay friendly position about letting people leave their Social Security account to anyone they wish.
1736: Will the troops begin to be withdrawn from Iraq within the year? I'm not suggesting a timetable (translation: are you kidding, those guys are staying as long as we can use them to try to win elections.)
1738: Do the troops in Iraq constrain U.S. military power elsewhere (as for example the ability to deal with North Korea which, the head of Defense Intelligence testified April 28, has the ability to make a nuclear tipped missile with the range to reach the United States)? Thanks for asking (translation: last time you get a line). It's best to have a lot of nations involved (that's why I suggested ignoring the U.N. and proceeding essentially alone in Iraq). Also we need to build an ABM system. (keeps the campaign contributors in cash because the system has not come close to even testing success).
1743: I don't want to politicize Social Security (Bush's nose grows another foot during answer).
1748: We must work with our friends and allies on North Korea (translation: we have so little combat power remaining due to its waste in Iraq and I have so ignored this issue we are stuck subordinating U.S. national interests to whatever the Chinese want to do).
1749: Are renditions legal? We expect the countries where torture is a way of life not to torture people we send there (via rendition) without any process of law (let alone due process) (Bush's nose grows yet another foot during this answer.)
1751: How is the economy? Great! I think I've got a job. We need more legal reform (screw the victims again) and asbestos reform (no money for them, it's going to Iraq).
We stayed with Bush. According to Drudge, not all the networks did.
Dan Grobstein saw it at James Wolcott's blog:
We got ourselves a right devastating expose.
Some of us always suspected (i.e., believed in the marrow of our bones) that the fix was in between Blair and Bush on the Iraq War.
And now comes Ringing Confirmation.
Adamning minute [ed note: minute is British for memo] leaked to a Sunday newspaper [The Independent] reveals that in July 2002, a few weeks after meeting George Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Blair summoned his closest aides for what amounted to a council of war. The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, adding that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". [ed note: well duh...]
I've seen this before; it is worth repeating. Usually distributed without a credit, the site tvnewslies.org says it was written by: By John Gray Cincinnati, Ohio - email@example.com - in July - 2004
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
Its noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.
Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.
Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
Look At Me
Those wacky French people. They've gone and made a movie (subtitled, of course) about a writer, of all things. He's a nasty piece of work, married to a trophy wife who appears about five years old than his daughter. He is nasty and cruel to everyone in his life. After two hours--he's still nasty and cruel to everyone in his life. Only the daughter shows any character development, and hers is minimal. Find me an American film in which the protagonist starts out bad, doesn't learn anything from his experiences, and ends up bad--except maybe Darth Vader in Star Wars, and even he has a "Come To Jesus" moment in the end. Clever, witty and brittle, but don't go to Look At Me if you're looking for uplift.
Kung Fu Hustle
Rae, who saw this with me, advises you to close your eyes during the montage of black and white crime scene photographs. As with Sin City, a movie whose comic book sensibility is similar, albeit more developed, Kung Fu Hustle includes a level of violence and stereotyping that would be stomach-churning if it weren't so obviously ironic. Perhaps I have become desensitized, but I found the various stabbings, stompings and occasional decapitations to be amusing, in the concept of a gang of black-suited, hat-wearing, hatched-wielding bad guys known as the "Hatchet Guys."
You know how sometimes the previews contain every great moment of the film? In the case of Kung Fu Hustle, the preview is a great sampler, but far from the whole meal. They provide a hint of the atmosphere and rollicking fun, without giving much of anything away. If this film doesn't surprise and amuse you, I'll eat my hat. Or one of the Hatchet Gang's hats.
Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy
Sometimes, when I read the accumulated reviews of a movie at IMDB.com (where do I get that job: creating a precis of the nation's reviewers) I feel as though everything I wanted to say has been said more succinctly by someone else:
And Peter Howell in the Toronto Star concludes: "Neither as good as hoped for nor as bad as feared, the long-overdue screen adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is likely to amuse and vex fans while leaving casual observers mildly baffled."
Spot on, as Douglas Adams would say. Adams, the father of the whole nonsensical enterprise, from BBC radio, through books and through a TV adaptation, co-wrote the screenplay. He was working on it when he died at the age of 49 in Santa Barbara, Calif. (at the gym no less). His death immeasurably lessened the quality of life everywhere in the world.
When you take six hours of radio and cut them down to just under two hours of cinema, some of everyone's favorite moments are going to turn up missing (at least they hinted at a possible sequel; Restaurant at the End of the Universe anyone?) The line I miss most is "this must be some interesting new definition of fun with which I wasn't previously familiar. On the other hand "Dent, Arthur Dent," survived, as did the improbability, a factor of 2 whose exponent was the telephone number of the flat in Islington where Arthur met Triliam. I salute the late Mr. Adams for daring to tamper with the holy writ in the interests of making a cohesive movie. Alas, he failed; this is just a series of vignettes, and pretty good ones at that. Might as well just shoot the radio script, I say. It would put the British satirical vinegar back into the proceedings.
Guest Review: A Lot Like Love
This film is a cute, sweet, simple love story. It works beautifully thanks to the charm of its cast, led by Ashton Kutcher at his understated best and Amanda Peet at the height of her lip-biting, eyelash-batting winsomeness. The plotline is straightforward and the script is crisp and amusing, as the two protagonists flirt with a relationship over several years.. A Lot Like Lovemay not be great art, but it's a delightful way to spend a couple of hours. (Kudos also for nice use of music - in particular, there is a wonderful scene that uses Jet's Beatle-esque tune, "Look What You've Done," to great advantage.)
Guest Review: Second Looks: The Interpreter, The Upside of Anger
At the risk of quibbling, I want to suggest a couple of alternative perspectives. I am also a fan of Pollack but would posit that he can make bad movies - Bobby Deerfield, Sabrina, and Havana would top that list.
Also, I found that The Interpreter was compelling and interesting despite a lack of red herrings, surprises, and all the usual thriller plot devices. I found the storytelling to be very linear and, while there were a few mood swings, most everything that happened fit quite neatly into place. (Yes, a few small details, like the plan to kill the would-be assassin, were surprising, but otherwise I thought everything was fairly plausible.) My conclusion, though, is that it is more of a testimony to how good Pollack is. With a script that had lots of tinkering (thanks for the explanation of credits - I didn't know that stuff) and without all the tricks normally found in such films, the result is still first-rate.
The Upside Of Anger
I also totally agree with your take on The Upside Of Anger, but I don't think you were effusive enough about the acting. It is a wonderful cast. Joan Allen should win as Oscar for her performance regardless of what else is released this year - it's one of the best jobs done in the last several years, and it doesn't involve dying, disfigurement, or accents (unless you count a drunken slur). She is subtle and nuanced, with emotions conveyed via the slightest curl of a lip. Kevin Costner is in fine form as a slacker who finds a backbone, and the quartet of young actresses who play Allen's daughters - Keri Russell (TV's Felicity, but without curls), Erika Christensen (Traffic, Swimfan), Alicia Witt, and Evan Rachel Wood - work beautifully together as well as alone. This film should not be missed.
Dan Grobstein File
New York Times
The Book Business: How to Be Your Own Publisher
By SARAH GLAZER
In the past decade, technology has made it possible to print books one copy at a time, ushering in a new era. Now, with the industry in flux, self-publishers are losing their stigma.
Abduction, Often Violent, a Kyrgyz Wedding Rite
By CRAIG S. SMITH
More than half of Kyrgyzstan's married women were snatched from the street by their husbands in a centuries-old custom.
The Final Jeopardy question: What is Sovereignty?
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