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

May 30, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

May 30, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 21

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Convention of Me's
  • Digital Projection
  • A Real Lapse
  • Marlow in Leiden
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • The Top 16 Biggest Surprises in the New "Star Wars" Movie

Movies

  • Guest Review: Cinderella Man
  • Guest Review: Crash

Letters

  • Malchman on NYT, bad drivers; Sullivan on weight loss; Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Convention of Me's

What would it be like if all the people I've been over my life were able to gather together in a single room for a chat? Would they even know each other? Would they like each other?

In grade school, I was talkative and unruly--it's a wonder my teachers didn't strangle me.

I was such a geek in high school I wore a coat and tie to school when it wasn't required. I buttoned my shirts to the top when I wasn't wearing a tie.

In college, thanks to the efforts of good friends (and a couple of lovers), I got my rough edges smoothed down. I was a very different person by the end of my senior year than I was at the start of my freshman year, through a combination of alcohol and friendship. Friends don't let friends wear red polyester. On the other hand, they never told me to get a haircut either.

I was very nearly the man I am now, except for a few difficult affairs of the heart. Thirty years in journalism and two years as a teacher have made me exactly who I am today. I am not the man my wife married in 1979; I'm better (well, except in terms of physical appearance).

Digital Projection

Like the Sherlock Holmes story of the dog that didn't bark, what is most impressive about digital projection of feature films is what you don't see. You don't see any dust, any splices, any jitter. You watch for about an hour, then you realize the film is never shaky. I saw Revenge of the Sith in 1024 pixel Texas Instruments DLP. I like this "million micro mirror" technology; it is the same technology I choose for my home HDTV screen.

I attended a Siggraph seminar on the future of digital projection which indicates that it is two years away--and that it has been two years away every year since about 1990. But this time it may really be two years away, with a minimum resolution of 2K pixels, and enough bits distributed for 4k pixels, if anyone wants to go to the effort of building a projector that good. The problem until now: distributors (studios) reaped all the benefits, while exhibitors (theaters) incurred all the costs. Now, a deal has been struck: the movie companies will basically pay the theaters to convert. You and I will be the winners, with the best looking pictures we've ever seen.

Now technically, it is true that a perfect film print is better than a perfect digital print. That was true of CDs too. A perfect record, perfectly played, is better than a CD. The problem is, records get warped and scratched and most people didn't own $5,000 turntables. For 99.9% of us, an average CD is incomparably better than an average record. Same with digital projection: average digital projection will leave an average release print in the dust.

If I were in a Hollywood screening room watching an Answer Print, I'd have an incredible experience. But I'm not there. I'm in the Rheem Theater in Moraga, Calif., watching a print that has been manhandled by non-union teenage projectionists for three weeks, and it looks about like you'd expect it to look. I can't wait for digital.

A Real Lapse

I note in passing that Time Magazine's list of the 100 Best Films of all times leaves off the single best movie ever made, Groundhog Day, which is also, by coincidence, my favorite film. Journalism movies also had an almost complete sweep--of not making the list. Citizen Kane, His Girl Friday, and Sweet Smell Of Success are great journalism films, and they did make the list. But The Front Page, a seminal film, one of the first talkies, and the source material for Girl was not on the list. Pheh.

Marlow in Leiden

Marlow is doing graduate work in Leiden, Netherlands. Her latest report actually comes from a friend she met in China and deals with half-naked men:

There's this big push from the government lately to make Guangzhou (and, I suspect, most Chinese cities) more "civilized." That word is thrown about pretty casually in China, referring to such varied phenomena as traffic behavior ("promote a civilized city, follow the traffic rules") to treatment of the environment ("protect the environment to promote a civilized and sanitary Guangzhou"). However, my favorite application of the term is definitely as used in the article below. Take a quick look:

http://gz.dayoo.com/gb/content/2005-05/23/content_2063309.htm

Note the blurred eyes. According to the article, apparently that age-old custom of Chinese men doffing their shirts whenever (and wherever) the weather gets hot has finally fallen under the purview of a new public safety enforcement cadre: the "envoys of civilization" (one possible translation). These wenming shizhe were kept pretty busy yesterday urging men hiking on a nearby mountain to get those shirts back on.

Political Notes

Briefs

  • Worst Choice of Words: for worst choice of words it's a toss-up between this one and a certain ex-governor of Texas referring to a "crusade" by the U.S. in the Middle East).
  • That Eisenhower Social Security quote? About the only opponents of Social Security being rich, stupid Texas oil men? He really did say it.
  • Dan Grobstein passed along visual commentary on the filibuster compromise, as well as blog commentary from Steve Gilliard. He added:
    I'm not sure how much of a "win" this filibuster "compromise" is for the democrats. You won't change the rules and we agree not to filibuster.
  • Secret White House Security Tapes

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Phishing tackle: easily the most annoyingly abundant spam scam these days is phishing. Some hacker groups have decided it would be good sport (not to mention socially beneficial) to go after the phisher kings: Underground showdown: defacers take on phishers and Vigilantes Mutilate Phishing Sites. Security firm Netcraft saw 60,000 downloads in a few hours: Firefox users snap up Netcraft's antiphishing toolbar: "...This seems to indicate that the Firefox community is more interested in security..."

Two Bits of Torrent news: looks like Bram Cohen and the gang have a new project up their sleeves Next for BitTorrent: Search. Meanwhile, egged on by MPAA's gift of server logs ("...we didn't do anything that would constitute hacking...or anything of that sort..."), federal agents raided and shut down Elitetorrents.org in what they called "Operation D-Elite" (if nothing else they get credit for a good name): U.S. Jacks Torrent Site. This is apparently the group that distributed copies of Revenge of the Sith several hours before the premiere. I take it as a positive sign that everyone, even surprisingly the MPAA, continues to acknowledge that there is nothing inherently illegal in the BitTorrent software itself -- that it has "significant non-infringing uses".

Requisite Google update: hot new translation technology in development by Google Labs: Google Translator: The Universal Language. This week's "thing paired with Google Maps": BBC News + Google Maps. In case you want to roll your own: Unofficial Google Maps Embedding How To.

Nokia 770, not a phone: Maemo Linux-powered Wi-Fi Tablet Surprise, Almost Perfect and Nokia Launches a Non-Phone.

Technobits: CIA overseeing Internet war game but Homeland Security can't stop online threats - GAO --- feisty activist "outs" politicians SSNs: A Matter Of Public Record --- Television Reloaded --- Video search engines come of age --- point, counterpoint: Crypto wars are over, and we've won! and Are the encryption wars really over? Maybe not --- high server density: IceCube - Petabytes and beyond --- more on Spore: Sims creator takes on evolution --- Wormhole 'no use' for time travel --- the origin of female orgasms --- How to fake fingerprints?

Humor

The Top 16 Biggest Surprises in the New "Star Wars" Movie

I guess I've really lost my touch. Weeks off the list and now No. 15. Well, we all lose a step or two from our game as we age.

May 23, 2005

16> Anakin's trip to the Dark Side begins with a marathon session of "Magic: The Gathering" in a damp basement.
15> George Lucas does a Hitchcock-style cameo as the Jedi Macarena instructor.
14> Wookiee planet populated by thousands of Robin Williams clones.
13> Who's that scrunching himself up to get inside the Yoda suit? None other than Jude Frickin' Law!
12> Jabba and Kirstie Alley appear on-screen together. So much for that theory.
11> A Jedi mutters, "Why the hell is this guy still here?!?" then swiftly lightsaber-beheads Jar Jar Binks.
10> In the end they eat Yoda and decide he tastes like asparagus.
9> The second half is nothing but Jar Jar Binks fishing with his half-brother Ginko Biloba.
8> Chancellor Palpatine played by now-wrinkly Mark Hamill.
7> It's finally revealed why C-3PO is such a pain in the ass: hemmorhdroids!
6> The mystery of Michael Jackson's origin is still unanswered.
5> Rumors of on-screen allusions to the Bush administration are ridiculous. George W. Bush looks nothing like Chancellor W. Palpatine.
4> That "Star Wars" kid from the Internet video totally handed Skywalker his ass.
3> Anakin is actually afraid of the dark and uses his lightsaber as a night light.
2> Tabloid pics of Darth Vader doing laundry on Tatooine in his skivvies.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Biggest Surprise in the New "Star Wars" Movie...
1> Anakin is a sled.
[ The Top 5 List
www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2005 by Chris White ]
====================
Selected from 106 submissions from 46 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
---------------------------------
Jill Gallagher, Seattle, WA -- 1, 12 (3rd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15

Movies

Guest Review: Cinderella Man

This year's first major Oscar contender has arrived, in the form of a biopic of Jim Braddock, who was dubbed the "Cinderella man" by Damon Runyon for his remarkable transformation from washed-up boxer to world champion. Director Ron Howard (Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) has taken familiar, well-traveled terrain - the Depression-era time frame as well as the boxing movie genre - and crafted a highly moving, inspirational film. Howard's direction isn't showy or flashy, but simply rock steady - there's never a missed step or sense of falseness to undercut the impact of Cinderella Man. He deftly portrays the complicated emotional situations that populate the film - Braddock's rise to working class hero among his struggling immigrant peers, the tensions between Braddock and his wife over their financial struggles and the physical dangers of boxing, the posturings of Braddock and Max Baer before their championship fight. Howard perfectly captures the bleakness, desperation, and despair that spread through the populace as the realities of the Depression take hold and lives are overrun. His fight scenes are mesmerizing in their graphic horror; a sequence in a Central Park Hooverville is crushing in its inhumanity. A trio of fine actors leads the cast. Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind) gives a warm, restrained, and compelling turn as Braddock. Paul Giamatti (Sideways, American Splendor) is spectacular yet again, as Braddock's relentless manager/trainer. Bruce McGill (Collateral, Ali) gives a small but dastardly performance as a calculating, heartless promoter. (The film's other big name, Renee Zellweger, does the best she can in an under-developed role as Braddock's wife.) If Hollywood has any memory at all, Cinderella Man should be a frequent mention on the Oscar stage next February. (And Howard may well stay in people's minds as he directs his next film, based on a little-known book, "The Da Vinci Code.")

--Neal Vitale

Guest Review: Crash

This film by writer/director/producer Paul Haggis (writer of Million Dollar Baby and numerous television shows, such as "L.A. Law" and "thirtysomething") is a fascinating collection of character studies, profiling a day in the lives of a group of strangers in Los Angeles when all their paths intersect. Mostly, it is an exercise in people behaving hideously, in bursts of bigotry and racism, violence and abuse of power, insensitivity and stupidity. But there are flashes of humanity, generosity, and pure dumb luck that give Crash an intriguing texture, and keep it from being unremittingly dark. The excellent ensemble cast features a wide array of talented performers - Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe, Thandie Newton, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, rapper Ludacris. Crash fits neatly midway on the spectrum of films portraying modern-day Southern California - not as pessimistic and corrosive as Robert Altman's 1993 opus, Short Cuts, yet falling short of the radiant hope of Lawrence Kasdan's brilliant 1991 film, Grand Canyon. Even for those of you not from nor living in the City of Angels, Crash is eminently worth seeing.

--Neal Vitale

Letters

Malchman on NYT, bad drivers; Sullivan on weight loss; Dan Grobstein File

Robert Malchman writes:

I just saw a banner ad at doonesbury.com for a subscription to the Times. It reads, "The moon landing was a hoax, the Raelians cloned a baby, Who can you trust?" I think they should have added "There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. - Judith Miller" or "Everything I ever wrote. - Jayson Blair"

He also found a CNN item on the nation's worst drivers.

Kevin Sullivan passed along this interesting article about weight loss:

Dan Grobstein File

Blogosphere

New York Times

  • OPINION | May 22, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: It's All Newsweek's Fault
    By FRANK RICH
    In its war on the press, this hubristic administration may finally have crossed a bridge too far.
  • FASHION & STYLE / SUNDAY STYLES | May 22, 2005
    Seriously, the Joke Is Dead
    By WARREN ST. JOHN
    Replaced by observational humor, irony and wit, the narrative joke has ceased to exist. Blame the Web.

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