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.


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Tales of Teaching 2005

July 4, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

July 4, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 26

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Sunny South of France
  • Homeschooling
  • Radio Days

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs: on vacation

Humor

  • The Three Cs

Movies

  • Followup Review: Batman Begins

Letters

  • Malchman Musings, Dern on SF writing, Peterman finds self-plagiarism, Dan Grobstein file

General News

A day late; hopefully not a dollar short.

Sunny South of France

I'd say our time in the South of France, in the village of Cassis, was really cool, but literally, it was actually quite hot: 30-33 celsius or more every day (86-91 farenheit). And while it cooled down at night, the breeze died by mid-morning, making it feel even hotter in our un-air-conditioned rental house.

Still, as we often say when we go out to eat, it wasn't about the food, it was about the company. Marlow finished up her term at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and Rae was on her way to a summer program in Montpelier, France, so we got together in Amsterdam, landed in Marseille, and took the bus to the train to the taxi to 7 Arista Gambi, 600 yards from the beach. The 600 yards were vertical, but there was a little shade along the way.

Speaking of food, the entire curved harbor was lined, end-to-end with restaurants, so we had our pick of food. It wasn't exactly three-star; in fact, most nights it wasn't one-star. But French food with French wine at an adequate bistro is still a very nice meal indeed.

We rented a house because we are "self-cater" types, as the British put it. The idea of eating out three times a day for a week is just too indulgent and fattening. We ate out one meal a day (usually dinner) and made the other two at home.

We tried to get by without a car, but shopping and a desire to visit Le Ciotat (where we had a lovely dinner to celebrate Vicki's birthday) and the Calonque beaches (it didn't work out, don't ask) forced us into renting a car. All they had left on short notice was a stick shift. Don't worry, it's like riding a bicycle.

There was satellite TV at the house, with CNN International and several channels of movies in English with French subtitles. We also watched a couple of DVDs I brought with me, and played several rounds of Scrabble and Dutch Blitz. Dutch Blitz will be hard to find, but try it; it is a lot of fun. Every family should have an odd card-based game that they play uniquely.

The house was surrounded by a beautiful walled garden which could be enjoyed for an hour after sunrise and after sunset without risk of melting. We had several meals there. The bed was a bit narrow, but we sleep on a king at home, so anything is liable to seem a bit narrow by comparison.

Vicki and the girls swam in the ocean a half-dozen times; I was too paranoid about sunburn to join them. By the way, yes, it is true what they say about women on French beaches. Not my women, of course, but the French women, young and old alike.

Then we dropped Rae off on the train to Montpelier, and Marlow dropped us off on a plane back to San Francisco. Suddenly, the roller coaster of life once more took a stomach-churning dip. We went almost instantly from the high of a week with out daughters to the certain prospect of not seeing Rae until October or Marlow until November. And if we know anything, we know these separations will grow longer, not shorter. The emotions are unsettling, but they make us appreciate our wonderful adult daughters even more.

Homeschooling

Last week, Dan Grobstein wrote in this column:

I have no studies to fall back on, but my seat-of-the-pants calculation says that about 1 in 100 home-schooled students get a better education than they can get in any public school in the country. Smart people know that they aren't as smart as they think they are. Stupid people have no idea.

Dan Grobstein is a friend of mine (the brother of an ex-fiancée) who does the Dan Grobstein file every week. Still, I put the column together, and it's my name on top. I was rushing to leave the country...

I was careless in letting that through; as a public school teacher, I can tell you for a dead fact that anyone who has the time and intelligence to home school their children should do so, because a student teacher ratio of 1:1 is as good as it gets. I do worry about socialization, however.

Radio Days

In the summer of 1969, Paul St. John worked 20 hours a week at KVAN for $2.50 an hour as a disc jockey. That was me. I was also doing a talk show at KLIQ for the first six weeks of the summer, which was interesting because labor laws prohibited a 16-year-old from working in two places at once. I just took my permit from place to place. It was illegal.

I earned my First-Class Radiotelephone Operator's Permit (aka first phone) that summer. I then served as KVAN's chief engineer during July and August. I signed station logs in the trailer at the gun club (keep your mic closed if people were shooting), at a time when the antenna had been repossessed for failure to pay bills. We broadcast at 1,000 watts daytime from a wire strung between two trees. I am so lucky the FCC didn't pull my license.

It was said that Cathryn C. Murphy had a remarkable ability to talk her way out of FCC fines and censure. I won't repeat the rumors, but if you were around then, you know them.

As I said, I was 16 when I worked there; I am fairly sure Adah Murphy, the station owner's 20-year-old daughter (and the program manager) propositioned me; I was too naive to know what was going on. Nothing ever happened.

I have often wondered what happened to the Murphys, and now, thanks to my friend Bruce Murdock and the PDXradio.com chat board:

A funeral service will be held at 9:30am Saturday June 25, 2005 at Community of Christ Church, 400 N.E. 179th St. in Ridgefield WA for Adah Louise Murphy who died June 15th at age 57 of liver failure.

Adelaide Louise Rhodes was born February 22, 1948 in Hollywood California to Cathryn & Dustin Rhodes. Her mother would later marry William B. Murphy, Sr. in 1952. The Murphy's moved to Camas Washington in 1957 when Bill & Cathryn purchased radio station KRIV 1480kc. They changed the call letters to KVAN in 1960 after a short time as KPVA.

Bill & Cathryn divorced in 1960 with Cathryn C. Murphy becoming 100% owner of KVAN on 11-2-60. Adah helped her mother run KVAN and became Program Director in 1966 as "Adah Louise" when she was 17 years old. By this time KVAN was a Vancouver station. KVAN went through a succession of money losing formats until Adah came up with the idea to switch to a new album format concept that might turn a profit. It was called "Progressive" sometimes known as "Underground" or Progressive Rock. Up to that time no Portland area station had attempted the new format long form.

Between July 31st & August 3, 1968 KVAN became Portland areas first Progressive radio station and would develop a loyal audience. Adah became one of the first K-Van mono maniac disc jockeys, working the 6 to 11am air shift. In 1970 Adah married Randall Evans. Survivors include son Dean Evans; daughter Kathy Evans & brother William B. Murphy, Jr.

Judging from the black and white publicity stills at the station, Mrs. Murphy had been a radio singer in Los Angeles.

I just wasted a half-hour of my life at pdxradio.com and touring the Internet for news of the radio days in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. It is a remarkable failure of the Internet that if you enter "KEX" and "Rose in Bloom," you are not immediately show the lyrics to a song called "Call of the Northwest." The song was played regularly on KEX in the 50s and 60s, when the station was known as "The Call of the Northwest" because of its 50,000-watt signal. The song was a beautiful, lush arrangement. A KEX station manager once explained the disappearance of the song to me this way: the station licensed the song directly from the writer, not ASCAP or BMI. The man who wrote the song played a game of chicken, asking for a huge increase in royalties because he figured the station couldn't get along without it's theme song. He was wrong; the station dropped the song and the writer's royalties dropped to nothing.

Anyway, a few lines quoted by way of review and nostalgia:

A rose in bloom,
The scent of pine,
A young romance at Timberline,
It's the call of the Northwest, in Portland.

There were several more verses, concluding, "Portland, Portland, KEX in Portland."

Political Notes

Richard Dalton notes:

I recently sent an e-mail encouraging Bush's support at the G8 conference for significant African support.

In response, old George's automated e-mail answering system suggested I use the White House's Web mail site (https://sawho14.eop.gov/ PERSdata/intro.htm) to make any further comments I wanted. I picked the subject "National Security (Iraq)" and composed a "differing comment," as you might expect--you get a choice of supporting comment, differing comment, and general comment.

I suggested that an immediate disengagement plan was needed and provided my address which no doubt now resides in some Patriot Act database. When everything was ready to send, I clicked the "continue" button and got this response:

"An error has occurred during your transaction. Please follow this link to start again."

Anybody else want to try a "differing comment" and see if they get the same diversion to the electronic waste basket?

Briefs

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

I fooled Craig by suddenly decided to do a column this week after all. He'll be back next week, I'm sure.

Humor

The Three Cs

From my extraordinarily alert friend, author Don Davis:

Three things that we must think about: cows, the constitution, and the ten commandments

COWS

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington. And, they tracked her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give them all a cow.

THE CONSTITUTION

They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore.

TEN COMMANDMENTS

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse........You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians! It creates a hostile work environment!

Movies

Batman Returns: Followup

My friend Daniel Dern wanted to weigh in on Batman Returns, and since I was interested in what he had to say, I let him. But I swear, this is the last of my coverage of THIS movie.

I carefully avoided reading/seeing any reviews, previews, or trailers as best I could until I (finally) saw the movie, July 3, in the local iMax theatre. Belatedly, I'll add a few thoughts.

Like Tom LaSusa, I'm an avid comic book reader (I'm probably a fan, but don't consider myself a 'fanboy') -- I've been reading them since DC's "Silver Age" started, in the late 1950's, with (Barry Allen as) The Flash, (Hal Jordan as) Green Lantern, The then-new Justice League, along with Superman (and Superboy), Superman, World's Finest, with backup features like J'ohn J'onzz, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Tommy Tomorrow, Space Taxi, etc., and continue to buy (or get book format from the library) and read stuff to this day.

I liked the Tim Burton Batman movie with Michael Keaton. It wasn't a good fit to the comics, but hey, it was well done, IMHO. But the Batman movies went downhill from there. Arguably, the most recent, Joel Shumacker Batman movie was closest to the spirit of Batman comics of the 70s, but that isn't saying much, and it still wasn't worth it.

Batman Begins was great. If you've read Batman at all over the past two or three decades, particular Frank Miller's BATMAN: YEAR ONE and also his DARK NIGHT RETURNS Batman, you'll find a lot of familiar pieces/bits, although often in slightly different contexts. And anticipating scenes that we don't get... e.g. when Jim Gordon goes home to his wife and young kid, it's easy to expect a scene from Batman: Year 1 to develop, but it doesn't. (Fine by me.)

Like Tom LaSusa pointed out, there are some notable differences between this movie and basic Batman comic continuity, like the looks of the Batmobile (not explicitly called that in the movie, if I recall correctly), or where Batman gets "his wonderful toys" from... but the internal logic of the movie has it make sense (unlike Daredevil -- where'd he get that roomful of leather costumes from?).

I don't have any meaningful cavils or criticisms. Sure, the ending exchange between Bruce and Romantic Lead could have been finessed more sensibly. Big whoop. A good balance between Origin, backstory, and First Big-Time Challenge. Good bat-cave. Great Bat-Mobile. Yeah, less of Batman The Great Detective, but that's OK.

And thankfully, while there's no shortage of violence and fighting, there's buckets less blood than, say Spider-Man 1 (like where the Green Goblin gets nailed by his Glider, yucka). People are bruised and/or bleeding afterwards, but there's no spurts and gouts of blood as it happens, unlike, to give an extreme example, Kill Bill.

For the out-of-touch comic reader who wants to know "What (Batman) comics/collections should I go read/get?" here's my short answers:

Batman, Year 1, by Frank Miller - available in a variety of collections (just this, or with other stuff)

Hush - a 12-issue series from Batman, from the past year, currently available in two volumes, possibly being re-printed as one large one. Lovely, lovely, lovely art. Great plot, dialogue. A scene in the Batcave to die for.

The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller. Maybe harder to follow for the less knowledgeable, but great stuff.

As noted above, we saw Batman Begins in an iMAX Theater. While BB wasn't in 3D, there were one or two trailers or other shorts that make it clear this 3D stuff is fun, fun.

iMAX is digital, on a big screen, and with a whopping sound system that includes butt-thumping bass to the seats (or something like that). Is iMAX better than another good theater? Not sure. It feels like I've heard better sound... and at least for this theater, there seemed like fewer good seats, which means getting there EARLY (and buying tickets, open seating) ahead of time, is essential. The price was the same as an evening show elsewhere, go figure.

Now to wait for the Fantastic Four movie, he said impatiently...

'Nuff said!

--Daniel P. Dern

Letters

Malchman Musings, Dern on SF writing, Peterman finds self-plagiarism, Dan Grobstein file

Robert Malchman notes the New York Times rating dropped precipitously(it now trails Le Monde, which Malchman says is "just sad"):

FT tops list of world's best newspapers - survey
BERLIN, July 5 (Reuters) - The Financial Times topped a list of the world's
best newspapers, according to a survey of executives, politicians,
university lecturers, journalists and advertising professionals conducted by
a Swiss-based consultant.

He attributes the decline, in part, to the recent problems with reporting by Blair and Miller.

Malchman also found this oil meltdown scenario.

Daniel Dern found What if all stories were written like science fiction stories? I died laughing.

My good friend Kent Peterman recently wrote the San Francisco Chronicle about a rather odd event:

I remember the flack that Stan Delaplane and others received by using supposedly reworked columns (an allegation I never believed...feeling that it was an innocent rewriting of a forgotten topic). I feel that I should point out that today's Bizarro is not new. Yesterday I read the book Bizarro number 9 on page 48 the left panel is almost identical to today's Bizarro.

Has Dan Piraro run out of ideas? Is he recycling to save the comic environment? Is he being held a prisoner by right wing conspirators? Is he on vacation in an obscure locale and therefore unable to send his daily offering? Has the price of oil affected the price of ink and he can no longer afford to draw new cartoons?

Dan Grobstein File

Blogosphere

  • As David Corn says: Is this a sign of how bad things are in Iraq? NPR has posted a job announcement for a Baghdad "reporter"and a "correspondent" on journalismjobs.com. (A "correspondent" is a more senior position than a "reporter.") Within the world of journalism, war postings, despite the danger, are usually considered plum assignments. Was there nobody within NPR eager and ready to go to Baghdad? The salary for these positions was not specified.
  • From Ariana Huffington's blog: Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story
  • Oliver Willis: The GOP sang a different tune for Bosnia.

New York Times

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