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 16, 2006: P.S. A Column On Things

January 16, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 3

Table of Contents:

General News

  • The Nest Empties--Again
  • Long Movies
  • Political News
  • Cheap Shots From The Cheap Seats, War as Game, Impeachment Watch and Alito Watch

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Taking a week off...

Humor

  • Winter classes for men at the learning center for adults

Movies

  • The Producers, Matador, The Ringer, Casanova

Letters

  • Just Dan

General News

The Nest Empties--Again

How many essays can I write on the subject of the sorrow of bidding farewell to my wonderful daughters? The last month has been exquisite, as is the pain of their departure. Vicki and I find that when they are here our lives are noisy, disordered and disorganized. We fall behind in our work and short in our sleep. And yet... and yet... this is the goodbye you never finish saying (until the point, decades from now I hope, when you stop say anything at all). The pattern is so familiar. They live at home, then they go off to college, and come home, if you're lucky, for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring Break and the summer. Then they find work at school in the summer. Then, perhaps, they leave the country and can't even get home for Christmas. Then they bounce back a last time or two (like this month, for Rae's 21st birthday party). After that, maybe they spend a few weeks in the house while looking for an apartment in the city. Marlow expects to do that this spring or summer. The thing is--all of this is the exact same pattern I followed, down to the living with the parents, which I did for eight weeks at Marlow's age--it took me a long time to find an apartment as nice as my parents' house. And I was so unaware of the emotional whipsaw I was applying to my folks.

If the past is any guide, what we can look forward to is some week-long Christmas visits when boyfriends are brought home, then some four-day visits with spouses, and, perhaps, eventually visits with grandchildren. But of course we'll share our married daughters with their husbands' families, which means some years we'll get to see them, and some we won't. And sometimes we will go to their houses instead of them coming to ours. Summer won't be so special any more, once they start working and their vacations are measured in weeks instead of months.

One final note on the subject. It has been my policy throughout my 26-year marriage to put family ahead of work. Thus, despite the fact that I have already used up all my sick days this year, I took Wednesday off for Marlow's 25th birthday. We had lunch at Tamami's, her favorite local Japanese restaurant, then saw three movies at the AMC 16 on Van Ness in San Francisco (Matador, The Ringer and Casanova), interspersed with dinner at Mel's, a block from the theater.

Of course, my students and their education are important to me, vitally important. But I will be their teacher only for a year; I will be Marlow and Rae's father for the rest of my life.

11am

Long Movies

Neal Vitale noted this, and he and I certainly agree, I know, with this New York Times article:

MOVIES | January 13, 2006
Critic's Notebook: Films in Need of a Little Nip and Tuck
By CARYN JAMES
The length of films like "King Kong," "The New World" and "Munich" is likely to make viewers fidget instead of drawing them in.

10:00

Political Notes

Cheap Shots From The Cheap Seats, War as Game, Impeachment Watch and Alito Watch

Judging the judge's judges by Debra J. Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle was a cheap shot from the cheap seats. I normally avoid reading Saunders for the same reason I avoid reading the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, because of the feeling of mild nausea that overcomes me in the face of commentary that comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. Plus, I admit, there's a twinge of jealousy, when I think how easy it must be to earn your living by expanding the bullet points of the daily GOP talking points memo into columns and editorials.

In Debra's column, if I may mix a metaphor, she's floating a trial balloon in the right-wing echo chamber, and it's a doozy. Alito's decisions don't matter; his disingenuous memory gap with regard to the concerned alumni of Princeton is a simple senior moment--and by extension, don't pay any attention to wireless wiretaps, Abramoff, or DeLay. Debra's ready to show us the real villain: Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick. Let me help you, Debra, with the difference between Alito and Kennedy; if you ask Kennedy about Chappaquiddick, he'll remember. He'll remember an incident which took place 13 year before Alito used his connection with Princeton's women-bashers to get a job in the Reagan Justice department--a connection he now can't remember.

When the day comes, as it will the day after the Republican National Committee transmits the idea by fax, that Debra accuses the Dems of the "politics of personal destruction," I hope to see her column again so I can award her the "hypocrite of the year" award. In the meantime, I hope you're all old enough to know that misdirection is the most popular of the deceiver's tools.

***

Go read this:

Tit For Tat (Left Coaster)

One has to wonder if the deserters, draft avoiders, and deferment manipulators who make up [the administration] are of the opinion that going to war is little different than playing a game. All one has to do is look at the reactions to certain actions.

For instance, when a Christian Science Monitor reporter was abducted in Iraq on Saturday , the US responded in kind: US troops seize award-winning Iraqi journalist. The World Trade Center was the location for many of New York's television transmitters. Is that why Bush sought to bomb Al Jazeera? Does this mean that regional Muslim leaders will be targeted by air strikes because Suicide Bombers Kill 29 at Iraqi Ministry while the U.S. Ambassador, Khalilzad, and other dignitaries were attending an event at the adjacent police academy?

And just what justifies this insane comment from Bush 'legal advisor' John Yoo ?

Cassel: If the President deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty.

Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

***

Briefs

Impeachment Watch

  • Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11
  • An all-star list of constitutional experts agree: "the Justice Department's defense of what it concedes was secret and warrantless electronic surveillance of persons within the United States fails to identify any plausible legal authority for such surveillance. Accordingly the program appears on its face to violate existing law."

Alito Watch

The blogger Firedoglake is precisely correct. If the national security of the country is to be preserved, the Democrats in the Senate need experienced, motivated, practicing lawyers without conflicts of interest. That is, they need a staff that is not from the big firms representing big multinational corporate interests more concerned with profits than liberty. (As an example, note Google and Microsoft's recent actions in obedience to the dictators running Communist China). This would enable the senators to ask the best questions at the hearings inquiring into the high crimes committed by George Bush, Dick Cheney; Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, John Negroponte, Mike Hayden, and Keith Alexander. The Democrats should have retained such a lawyer (or lawyers) to draft their questions at the Alito confirmation hearing.

***

My friend Steve Coquet offers cogent analysis of the Alito hearings:

I tuned into the Alito hearings near the beginning, but after about five minutes turned it off, saying to Peggy (who can't stand that nattering on NPR even when they are agreeing with her), "I just can't listen another minute to that fascist praising that redneck."* I don't know which fascist it was. But I couldn't stay away. Even though I knew that nothing would be revealed. Actually, a little was revealed. He wouldn't distance himself from his most egregious opinions. It is clear that when the Supreme Court has overturned his lower court opinions, he has not seen the clear superiority of their reasoning. He wouldn't give a definitive answer on (among other things) whether Roe v. Wade was settled. He said it was settled as a precedent. Another supreme, Earl Warren said long ago, "I don't follow precedents-- I make them." All these people kept avoiding the main point: If all the courts had to do was follow precedent, the supreme court would have a lot of time on its hands.

And all this was superflous to begin with. This guy leaves a trail that's easy to follow. They didn't need to ask him any questions. He has answered them in his many opinions. Time after time I heard someone or other comment on how often he agreed with various other court members or courts. What a specious argument! Most of us are right most of the time. Any organism that isn't probably won't exist long enough to pass on its genes. Even sociopaths obey most laws most of the time. It's when they don't that counts. It's when a jurist doesn't agree with others that counts. It doesn't take much to be out of step. I got the following off Slate but it bears repeating: he is on record saying that a grown woman should have to confer with her husband before seeking an abortion, that most underage women would be better off consulting with their parents before seeking an abortion, and therefore it's all right if they all have to. These opinions were reversed. It is clear that he doesn't understand that women in good families probably don't need the law to protect them, that it is the woman or girl who is afraid of her husband or father who needs the protection of the law. It doesn't matter if most women would be better off with help making these decisions. All it takes is some.

He will probably get in. He's got the chops. There probably won't be a filibuster. The good news is that these guys almost always dissappoint the people who appoint them. He won't be as bad as the liberals fear or as bad as the others hope. Even this court has rebuffed the Bush administration from time to time.

*Redneck is an attitude not restricted to the poorer classes. It allows smart people to use their intellect to narrow their viewpoint so that they can espouse the intellectually and often morally indefensible.

***

Someone may wish to advise the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the object of the exercise is to get the nominee talking and not for each senator to say as much as possible and obtain as much television time as possible while being grossly derelict in their duty to their constituents. The press coverage of the confirmation hearings does not reflect that nominee Alito was questioned anywhere near adequately or competently on Samuel Alito's personal statement from his 1985 application for employment with the Department of Justice.

8:00

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Taking a week off....

7:00

Humor

Winter classes for men at the learning center for adults

Registration must be completed by Monday, Jan. 19, 2006

Note: due to the complexity and difficulty level of their contents, class sizes will be limited to 8 participants maximum.

Class 1
How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays --- Step by Step, with Slide Presentation.
Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 2
The Toilet Paper Roll --- Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion.
Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3
Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub? --- Group Practice.
Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4
Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor ---
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics.
Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5
After Dinner Dishes --- Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video.
Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM

6:50

Movies

The Producers, Matador, The Ringer, Casanova

The Producers 3 stars

If you've read the reviews, you've heard that this is just a flimsy adaptation of the Broadway musical, and that Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane do everything but chew the furniture in a frantic burst of overacting. Well, that's as may be, but if you like Mel Brooks and you liked the original film with Zero Mostel, and you liked the Broadway show (if you were lucky enough to see it with any cast) they you'll like the movie version of the musical, the third leg of this movie to play to movie trifecta. I like Mel, the movie, and loved the show. I find this movie entertaining, well-paced, nicely opened up and well performed. Not a masterpiece (like the original), not groundbreakingly great (like the musical), but a well done piece of Hollywood entertainment.

Matador 3 stars

Pierce Brosnan plays nicely off his James Bond image in this cleverly written but pedestrian outing. It is from the increasingly tired "civilian gets involved in spy affairs" genre. It juggles a nice mix of humor and drama, and it is nice to see Greg Kinnear working again. There are some reasonably clever plot twists, one of which I suspect will surprise you as much as it did me (I am not a person who likes to provide spoilers). An entertaining little piece of fluff--nothing to write home about, but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

The Ringer 3 stars

Check out the in-depth review by my daughter Rae; I will simply say that it is hard for me to look at Johnny Knoxville and not think of John Water's A Dirty Shame. Also, I am pleased to report that, while the film is not great, it is not as awful as the previews would lead you to believe. Why would someone make a preview that makes a film look worse than it is--that consists of the worst scenes of the film.

Casanova 3 stars

A romantic comedy. Easy on the eyes: Heath Ledger as Casanova and Sienna Miller as the fiery feminist Francesca Bruni. Jeremy Irons chews up all the scenery in sight as Pucci, the grand inquisitor, and Oliver Platt appears shirtless as Paprizzio, the lard merchant. It will be a long time before I get that image out of my mind. It's a paint-by-numbers, phone-it-in production of a story that may have been told too many times before. There are a few good plot twists, but they aren't great and they don't last very long. Perhaps the best news is its 108 minute length, only about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be. I liked it, but then I love Venice and get all dewy every time I see it on the screen.

6:00

Letters

Just Dan

Dan Grobstein File

You gotta love the email from right-wingers.

5:00

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