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

November 7, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

November 7, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 44

Table of Contents:

General News

  • New York, New York
  • Broadway
  • Meanwhile, at School
  • Political Notes
    • Mierswatch, Alitowatch, Briefs, Plamegate

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Funny Fotoshopping
  • Teaching Math

Movies

  • Shopgirl

Letters

  • Peterman on Halloween, NYC's Good Smell, Coquet on Affinity Mapping & Episcopalian Courage, Dan Grobstein File

General News

New York, New York

New York, New York, it's a hell of a town. I spent last weekend there with my younger daughter Rae. It was Parents' Weekend at Brandeis, but she said she'd rather see some shows and spend time with me in the Big Apple. I am a huge fan of America's largest city--it is, as the cliché has it, a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I started going while I was a student in Boston, sometimes taking the 5:30 a.m. train down and the midnight train back so I could see several movies and a show. For 13 weeks in my junior year, I went to NYC and saw a show every Thursday with my best friends, Norm, John, Barb and Mike. We rode with Dave in his Plymouth Duster; he was taking a photography course at NYU. As a journalist, I worked for a Long-Island based company and made roughly 80 trips to New York during 20 years. I've seen a lot of Broadway shows, a lot of movies, and a little art, ballet and symphony. It always amazes me to meet Californians who went to Cal or Stanford and have been to New York once--or never.

Anyway, I jumped at the chance to stay with Rae at the Times Square Marriott, 45th and Broadway. You can't beat the location, and on the 20th floor, with sealed windows, it is as quiet as Orinda. The elevators are terrible, but in my experience the elevators are terrible at every large hotel in the country, except those in Las Vegas, where it obviously pays management to get you to the lobby as fast as possible so you can be separated from your money.

Rae arrived Thursday night, I arrived Friday morning on the Red Eye. She had some homework to do, so we were pretty much limited to shopping (glasses, tennis racket) and shows (described in the next item). We ate at Planet Hollywood (my second or third time, I think), which was memorable for the knick-knacks and the noise--and certainly not for the food. Give me a place where you can hear the person you came to talk to!

She spent some time telling me the truth, about whether my college musical will ever be produced (no), about whether I was a ceaselessly perfect father (apparently I had my faults), and about what she remembers from her childhood. My mother's curse is in full force: she said, "may your children misremember their childhood as badly as you misremember yours." The process is well under way.

Call me old-fashioned, but the people whose company I enjoy most in this world are my wife, my daughters and my parents. I like and enjoy a lot of other people, some of them almost as much, but you can't beat family. Of course, people who have chosen to be my friend voluntarily for more than 30 years are performing a pretty impressive task...

11am

Broadway

Rae and I split the selection of shows. I just had to see Monty Python's Spamalot. I had heard so much about it, and it certainly lived up to its billing. All the Pythons are geniuses, but Eric Idle doubly so. The others kindly gave him permission to adapt their film, and I think it is the most brilliant musical since The Producers, another film, perhaps not coincidentally, shot by a genius in the first place and adapted by its creator. I was entertained every minute of the show--it was certainly easy for me to see why it won so many Tonys. Many of the members of the audience, like myself, had clearly seen the film, based on the gasps of anticipatory recognition as the introduction to this or that famous bit was launched. Several items from other Python projects were added to the show, including one of Idle's two greatest hits (the other one being the Galaxy song): Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Of course, personally, I was also pleased at the presence of the Finland song, which appeared only on one of their record albums (I own all of them). The addition of the Lady of the Lake was also brilliant, as was the decision to have actual women play the very small number of female roles. Five stars, two thumbs up, worth every penny you'll have to pay the scalpers to get in between now and 2010.

Would I have loved to see Lane and Broderick in The Odd Couple, which opened just before my arrival? Of course I would. But Rae had some things she wanted to see: a straight play (Proof) and an oddity (Putnam County Spelling Bee).

Putnam County Spelling Bee was every bit as cute as it sounded from its description. The Circle at the Square Theater, usually a theater in the round, was not, perhaps, the greatest venue for the show, but gosh, were we close to the actors. It was like a musical version of the documentary Spellbound, but, of course, played for laughs. It was clever and funny, and moved at 90 miles an hour the whole time. Also five stars. You know, you could do worse than letting the Antoinette Perry people pick the shows you go to see.

Case in point: Proof, which captured several Tonys including Best Actress. A "ripped from the headlines" social conscience play, it is set in the 1960s and pits a nun who is certain in her gut that a priest is molesting boys against a priest who is just trying to follow the letter and the spirit of Vatican II. The playwright deliberately strives for ambiguity and hopes to provoke thought and argument. I came away convinced that the Priest did it; Rae was equally convinced that the nun was wrong. And that, my friends, is art. Five stars. See if it you can.

10:00

Meanwhile, at School

It has been a long time since I have written anything about life at the intermediate school where I teach 8th grade. I continue to be impressed by my students, my fellow teachers, and my principal and vice-principal. If there is a better place in the county, the state, or the country at which to teach, I have trouble imagining what it would be like.

Of course there are a small handful of people who disrupt the education of others, but I have finally figured out which ones are incorrigible and, if need be, I'll remove them from my classroom every day. Fortunately, in our district, if you send a student out to the principal's office, they actually do what you say and they always go there.

This was brought home to me when I was doing first quarter grades. I have about 80 students. I graded the citizenship of 70 of them as outstanding. I am blessed, and I know it, and there are no two ways about it.

When students say nice things to me, I always feel I have to be on my guard; are they buttering me up? But this came from a parent, who was writing to me on another subject:

() speaks very highly of you and the class. Her past experience in history has been bromidic at best. You have made an impression - thank you

Of course, it is I who should thank her for giving me the chance to teach her child--and that's just what I wrote back.

9:00

Political Notes

Mierswatch, Alitowatch, Briefs, Plamegate

Mierswatch (final edition?)

Here's some fun Daniel Dern found:

Harriet, we hardly knew ye. This week of strips on the planned confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers were intended for publication beginning Monday, October 31st. Rendered obsolete by the announcement of her withdrawal from consideration on Thursday the 27th.

Dan Grobstein found an article at Slate that indicating that, whatever else she was, Harriet Miers (based on her disclosure forms) was not a good money manager.

Alitowatch

  • Richard Dalton notes: StoptheNRA has nicknamed Alito Machine Gun Sammy, and has joined the happy minions of the left in opposition to his nearly inevitable assent to the Supreme Court.

Briefs

Plamegate

  • William F. Buckley Jr., like a stopped watch, appears to be correct twice in a lifetime. I don't know when the other time was, but his sharp remarks about the outing of Valerie Plame are pleasantly correct (and influenced by the fact that was once a CIA employee himself).
  • Given that Scooter (who has money) lives in Virginia and therefore leaves the jurisdiction every day while facing 30 years, why is he free without bail? Did Fitz request that he surrender his passport? If not, why not?

8:00

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Sony's invasive DRM: if you use the tools of virus and spyware authors, does that make you a bad guy? What if you are a major media company? Sony Ships Sneaky DRM Software: "Music giant uses spyware and virus writers' techniques to prevent unauthorized music copying." More coverage of the brouhaha: Removing Sony's CD 'rootkit' kills Windows, Sony CD protection sparks security concerns, Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far and DRM Crippled CD: A bizarre tale in 4 parts. Some solutions to this problem: don't buy these CDs, and don't use Windows. (see similar advice from Jerry Pournelle and the blog Big Picture)

Game land: you don't have to be a big music publisher to be accused of using spyware against your customers: Warcraft game maker in spying row. Future less rosy? Electronic Arts profit declines, shares rise.

Google, bodies, books: that heading reads more gruesome than I intended. Google will accelerate the development of the leading open source "office productivity suite" by contributing staff to work on the project: Google throws bodies at OpenOffice. Meanwhile, despite the "shooting themselves in the foot" lawsuit by the Writers Guild, Google Print is back on track: Google Will Return to Scanning Copyrighted Library Books and Google expands online book library.

Microsoft, black, books: sometimes being a MS detractor is too easy: Another Black Eye for Microsoft Patch Creation Process. But then just to keep us off guard, sometimes they do good things. Microsoft plans to the Open Content Alliance: Microsoft to Offer Online Book-Content Searches. Prominent "Web 2.0" developers dish about why not to trust Microsoft's approach to the web.

Wi-fi awry: it seems that wi-fi wireless Internet is a powerful transforming technology. It is being proposed as the basis of connecting the third world to the web. It is seen as an urban utility that will enable the cities of tomorrow, if only we can progress beyond today's business models: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate. Speaking of new business models: To Battle the Telephone Giants, Small Internet Providers Choose Wi-Fi as a Weapon.

MIT news: apparently this has been grinding through some formal process since the allegations first surfaced publicly a year ago, but finally: MIT fires professor for 'research misconduct'. This may be the worst such case since a Bell Labs researcher was fired in 2002. While on the the upbeat side of campus: in 212 BC, did Archimedes save the city of Syracuse by incinerating the Roman fleet with a death ray? Or is the story just so much historic hogwash? Evidence for the anti-hogwash side: Archimedes Death Ray: Idea Feasibility Testing. More along those lines: Solar Death Ray.

Technobits: access to tools: I want to... --- Broadcast flag bill writers run drafts up the pole --- this sounds misguided to me: Wikipedia may go to print --- NHK's next-generation broadcasting system, Super Hi-Vision has 7680 x 4320 pixels! --- adjust the focus after you take the picture Light Field Camera --- The BBC's programme catalogue (on Rails) --- Women valued for technology roles --- the good: low tech cancer prevention and the bad: Debate over vaccine for cervical cancer --- Are we descendants of clay? --- Using Copyrights To Fight Intelligent Design --- Why are tech gizmos so hard to figure out?.

7:00

Humor

Funny Fotoshopping

Fox News coverage of historic events.

6:50

Teaching Math

Nasty, an exaggeration, but funny. Forwarded from Fred Hutchison's ex-school teacher mother.

Teaching Math In American Schools In 1946:

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In American Schools In 1957:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math In American Schools In 1968:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching Math In American Schools In 1979:
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80, and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math In American Schools In 1990:
By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger selfishly makes $20. What do you think of people who destroy nature just to make a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? (There are no wrong answers.)

Teaching Math In American Schools In 2005:
El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de production es ...

6:40

 

Movies

Shopgirl

Steve Martin is a comic genius, plain and simple. In fact, he may be a genius, no adjective required. He is a comedic performer of unparalleled grace and brilliance, who walked away from his performing career without a glance back to enter the motion picture business. He's had a few duds along the way (The Jerk is among the worst films ever made), but his Roxanne and LA Story are better than the best Woody Allen, without any of the neurotic schtick that makes Allen wear thin after a while. His book Cruel Shoes, while not widely known, spotlights his off-center sense of humor and his delicious irony, as did the series of pieces he wrote for the New Yorker in the 1990s (which I hope someone will collect someday). His novella Shopgirl was sensitive, clever and insightful, and now he has gone and made a movie of it.

That's the thing about Hollywood. The power of huge stars to do any movie they want to do leads to Kevin Costner doing Waterworld, or Bill Murray doing Razor's Edge. But it also leads to Steve Martin doing Shopgirl, a film that, had I written it, wouldn't have been green-lighted in this lifetime by an indie, a studio, or anyone with a credit card.

It is winsome and bittersweet and it has a narrator. The happy ending is ambiguous, and Martin himself ends up alone. Its full of gentle humor, as opposed to the stupid slapstick that packs in the 18-25 demographic nearly all commercial movies are now made for. It pokes fun at some aspects of our culture, but also looks at a type of doomed relationship you rarely see on the screen.. And to top it off, Claire Danes dresses like a normal human being. How odd is that?

First-rate entertainment. Top of the heap. Four Stars. Go see it.

6:00

Letters

Peterman on Halloween, NYC's Good Smell, Coquet on Affinity Mapping & Episcopalian Courage, Dan Grobstein File

Kent Peterman forwarded Trick or Treat Senior Style. Funny and seasonally appropriate.

This happened in NYC last week, but I never smelled it (my room at the Marriott was sealed): Good Smell Perplexes New Yorkers.

Peggy Coquet found this new Google-based mapping application which lets people in affinity groups stick pins in a map to show where they are. She started a Frappr map for this column. I don't have time to manage it, but will try to look in from time to time and see how it's coming.

Also from Peggy:

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA calls on Congress to abandon reconciling the budget on the backs of the poor. The third graph is the keystone. Good quote at the end of graph four, also.

Makes me proud to be an Episcopalian.

Dan Grobstein File

  • Financial Times: A Duke law professor says if the Internet were invented now, it would never be invented.
  • The Big Picture: A blogger who deals simultaneously with the stupidity of Forbes' attack on bloggers and Sony's latest DRM stupidity. Also Iraq: Bad Intelligence or Strategy Failure?
  • Newsweek via Talking Points Memo: President Bush last week appointed nine campaign contributors, including three longtime fund-raisers, to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a 16-member panel of individuals from the private sector who advise the president on the quality and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts."
  • Nora Ephron: What's up With Dubya? Anti-depressants? Alcohol?
  • From andrewtobias.com: FreePress.org: The government's lead investigative agency is known for its general incorruptibility and its thorough, in-depth analyses. Its concurrence with assertions widely dismissed as "conspiracy theories" adds crucial new weight to the case that Team Bush has no legitimate business being in the White House. GAO report. and Washingtonpost.com:What the 'Shield' Covered Up By E. J. Dionne Jr. "Has anyone noticed that the coverup worked?"
  • Noting my recent visit to NYC and my enjoyment of Broadway shows, Dan added his two bits:

I saw Spamalot with my son and enjoyed it. I recommend Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It was a lot of fun. I bought the CD and listen to it a lot. I saw Olympia Dukakis and Veanne Cox and George S. Irving in A Mother a Daughter and a Gun at Dodger Stages. A good piece of entertainment. Sometimes you see a play and walk out and don't understand what you just saw. This was a good story well done. I'll be seeing a preview of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new Woman in White this Saturday. Hopefully in December I'll have Prairie Home Companion tickets. They will let me know in a week or so if I managed to get them. So many things to do in NYC. Not enough time or $$$.

5:00

You are visitor number


since Oct. 16, 1998.

To obtain a reminder when I post my weekly electronic column,
or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism, email me. (pes-at-sign-schindler-dot-org)

Paul Schindler Home Page PS...ACOT BACK ISSUE archives
Journalism Movies Journalism Quotes
You COULD Pay For This Column Journalism Books
Larry King: Letters From Europe Kevin Sullivan on Teaching
My Prarie Home Companion Script Groundhog Day: Best Film Ever
Women in Journalism Movies Larry King: British Journalists
Edwin Diamond: An Appreciation Tales of Teaching

Page forwarding code courtesy of:
BNB: HTML, free CGI Scripts, graphics, tutorials and more- for free!

FavIcon (displayed in browser address box) courtesy of:
Richard Sleegers


Blog-rolling (My Friends' Weblogs):
Jim Forbes' Forbes on Tech
Jim Powell's The Office Letter