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 2, 2006: P.S. A Column On Things

January 2, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 1

Table of Contents:

General News

  • What A Week
  • Thinking About The South: An Apology

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

  • Taking a week off


  • The Three Wise Men


  • Match Point, Memoirs of a Geisha, Walk The Line
  • Munich


  • Malchman on the Fourth, Dumb Iraq Visit, Carroll Finds Snoring Cure, Dinner for One, Dan Grobstein File

General News

What A Week

Vicki returns from India (including a four hour air traffic delay), Marlow, Rae and I spend two days at my parents' house in Portland, Oregon (sorry Portlanders, we were booked solid from dawn to dusk), we celebrated Rae's 21st birthday (belatedly) with a quiet family dinner. A whirlwind of activity and emotion--how cool is it to have my two adult daughters at home for another week with two more weeks in prospect (albeit weeks when I'll be working again)? As cool as it gets, says I.

Happy New Year


Thinking About The South: An Apology

I have had occasion to regret the tone and tenor of recent remarks here about the South. I have, apparently, carried some unresolved and unexamined bile with me for a very long time, and made the mistake of spewing it here in the column. I will not describe in detail a column item you can look up if you're that interested, because I choose not to repeat the libel. Suffice it to say that numerous people whose opinion I respect, including my own parents, have told me in no uncertain terms I was out of line.

My mother commented, in an echo of a comment made by a friend who asked that his remarks be kept confidential. How would I like it if people said Portland was a place they never wanted to visit because of the Meth epidemic or the regular police shooting of African Americans? And how would I feel if someone suggested that we'd be better off without Oregon in the Union because some Oregon politicians have behaved badly (including our once-sainted Bob Packwood and Neal Goldschmidt--one from each party).

I teach my students Freud's dictum that we most hate the people we are most like, and advise them to look to their own souls when they find themselves hating someone. On top of that, one of the things I find most despicable about the right is its demonization of its opponents. As the Cold War proved so vividly, when you are in the heat of battle, it is easy to become the thing you hate. I demonized a region and its politicians, as I have done for 40 years--and for 40 years I was wrong.

We must get out of the miasma of poisonous politics that descended on this country in 1998. People of good will on both sides of the aisle are going to have to accept that there is good in all of and that we can agree to disagree and meet in the center, not ram radical changes and solutions down the throats of our opponents.

Republicans are not bad and evil people. At the risk of being trite, some of my best friends are Republicans. They honestly believe they are doing what is right for the country. I honestly believe they are wrong. We need to keep the discussion at that level, or else experience eternal gridlock.

If not for the Orwellian implications, I would be tempted to remove my rant about the South from the Internet, which would make it difficult, albeit not impossible, to find. I have no desire to use Big Brother's memory hole, and I have mocked, in this column, GOP efforts (and/or failures) to cleanse websites of embarrassing historical artifacts. On the other hand, I frequently laud the Internet for its ability to allow us to correct mistakes that one could never correct in the dead tree media.

And so I ask--what do you think? Should I delete the offensive rant, in addition to recanting it, apologizing for it and promising to try not to write anything like it ever again?

And, of course, I am revising my opinion about the Civil War. I am now, as I always have been, sorry that our nation's regional disagreements had to be settled by force of arms. We were right to insist on an indivisible union and a federal system and we were right to accept the South's return.

I was even right that the South was responsible for a number of indignities in American political history. But the Bible advises us to judge not, lest we be judged. Matthew 7:3 asks, "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye." To say we'd have been better off without the South is to judge a region and its people by the behavior of a few--something I wouldn't appreciate if it were done to me and my region of the country.

The North has made mistakes, and done awful things to African Americans as well as others (e.g.: the Japanese in WWII). The North also was responsible for a number of indignities in American political history. The first step towards healing and reconciliation is for both sides to admit they've made mistakes.

I honestly believe the GOP side find it difficult to admit error and culpability, but someone has to take the first step. I was wrong and it was my fault.

Let the healing begin.


Political Notes

Why an investigation now?

Inquiry into leak of spying program launched
George W. Bush, having been aware for over a year of what he now claims is a leak of classified information failed for over a year to call publicly for an inquiry into the source of the leak to The New York Times of the information that he advocated the unconstitutional and illegal warrantless interception of the communications of U.S. citizens. If there were a real leak worthy of a Justice Department inquiry, why did Bush remain quiet instead of calling for an investigation in October, 2004?



Impeachment Watch


Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Off this holiday week



The Three Wise Men

In a small Southern Alabama town there was a "Nativity Scene" that showed great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature bothered me. The three wise men were wearing firemen's helmets. Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left.

At a "Quick Stop" on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at me, "You Yankees never do read the Bible!" I assured her that I did, but simply couldn't recall anything about firemen in the Bible.

She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face she said, "See, it says right here, 'The three wise men came from afar.'"



Guest Reviews: Match Point, Memoirs of a Geisha, Walk The Line

Match Point

In a bleak year for film, the reemergence of seemingly lost talent has provided the rare bit of good news. Woody Allen is the latest to do so, in brilliant fashion, with Match Point. It has been a long time since Allen succeeded with the likes of a Sleeper (1973) or Annie Hall (1977); though most of his subsequent work has been at least watchable and occasionally somewhat more, the three decades have not featured anything as good as Match Point. This film is a twisting and tightly-woven story of a young Irish tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) who arrives in London and marries into an upper-crust family, only to begin an affair with his brother-in-law's ex-finance (Scarlett Johansson). Every aspect of Match Point is expertly crafted - an excellent script and direction by Allen, deft casting and performances, high-gloss art direction and photography of tone-y urban London. Not only is Match Point one of the best films of 2005, it is among Allen's career best as well.


Memoirs Of A Geisha

It is the season of films that are overly long and butt-numbing, pretty but unengaging, well-made but more to be respected than enjoyed. Memoirs Of a Geisha is another work in this vein. Rob Marshall (Chicago) has taken Arthur Golden's captivating novel and, in the process of simplifying and streamlining it, including adding a much more upbeat ending than in the book, robbed it of much of its color and excitement. Given the exotic setting and subject matter, this achievement - if it can be called that - is all the more remarkable. Only the fine Japanese actor Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Batman Begins) adds any spark to the film, regrettably in a fairly small role.


Walk The Line

This year's biopic of a dead musician substitutes Johnny Cash for Ray Charles and, while not an outstanding effort, produces a much better film than Ray. Walk The Line is conventional in form, starting with Cash's legendary 1968 Folsom Prison concert, then flashing back to a chronological review of his life. The storyline is more nuanced than that in Ray, with more depth given to Cash's family problems, and therefore more involving. But what invigorates the film are superb performances by Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Signs) as Cash and Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Election) as June Carter Cash - both should be serious award contenders.

--Neal Vitale



Neal offered a much more subtle and nuanced review of Munich on Dec. 19. I finally got around to seeing it this week. Well, what did you expect me to say: it is much too long. It is a clever film, demonstrating Spielberg's mastery of the medium of film, and in particular his deft ability to switch back and forth between drama and comedy while keeping an audience engaged. Tony "Angels in America" Kushner's ability as a screenwriter is now beyond question. He's not a one-shot wonder, nor is he limited to writing epochal plays. Maybe if we all chipped in, the Hollywood studios would hire some editors...It is strangely not moving, in my estimation. It is, as Neal noted, not about the attack on the athletes, but on rather Israel's response to those attacks, and the thorny philosophical issues raised by assassination. I'll give it four stars, but with reluctance.



Malchman on the Fourth, Dumb Iraq Visit, Carroll Finds Snoring Cure, Dinner for One, Dan Grobstein File

Robert Malchman writes about the Fourth Amendment

Read the text: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." The key phrase for Bush is "unreasonable searches." He can take the position (and will) that the searches were reasonable under the circumstances. I disagree -- especially with the Intelligence Court in place -- but that's where he will survive, if he survives.

Was there a newspaper in America that didn't run this one on the front page? And what was this kid thinking? I don't think I'd hire him...

  • High School Student Flies Alone To Iraq
    By Jason Straziuso Associated Press Writer
    BAGHDAD, Iraq - Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare. But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

Chuck Carroll found this:

ZURICH, Switzerland (UPI) -- Swiss researchers say a didgeridoo, a wind instrument traditionally made from the trunk of a tree hollowed out by termites, may help those who snore.

I lost track of who sent me this one;

Dan Grobstein File

I was on the road a lot this week, so some of Dan Grobstein's submissions may have run elsewhere in the column. Sorry Dan.

  • Special Forces dispelling myths. Special forces agent on torture and wiretapping--we don't need them and they don't work.


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