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

March 27, 2006: P.S. A Column On Things

March 27, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 13

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Look Ahead

Political News

  • Bush India Policy: Wrong

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Another week off...

Humor

  • Air Force One

Movies

  • Neal Vitale Reviews: 16 Blocks, Pink Panther, Eight Below
  • Tsotsi
  • Don't Come Knocking

Letters

  • Peterman on Vodka, Dern on Jeopardy! LaSusa's Picks, Jobs Sells Stock, Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Look Ahead

Next week's column may be short and early, while the following column may well be late; I am leaving for Oregon on Sunday April 2 and will not be back until the following Saturday night--Spring Break. I will have my PC, but who knows if I can find Internet Access in Canon Beach, Oregon. It ain't Ft, Lauderdale, but it meets my needs. My time in my natal state, alas, is booked entirely with either my parents or my relaxation at the beach--I hope to see friends and fans on a visit this summer.

It's been quiet in the classroom; even though the third quarter is nearly over, I continue to tinker with classroom management, as decorum has broken down considerably in recent weeks. Veteran teachers point out that the students are growing tired of me and I of them, and this is a volatile combination. Spring break will help.

Craig Reynolds, whose real job has been soaking up his time of late, assures me he'll be back soon with Technobriefs. Neal Vitale has convinced me we need to pay closer attention to the feature in the right-hand column entitled "Recent Movies." Check it out later this week and see if you agree with us that we've improved its utility. Neal also notes that "What Paul Is Reading" hasn't been changed in a while. All this means is that Paul hasn't been reading anything other than New Yorkers and student papers lately.

11am

Political Notes

Bush India Policy: Wrong

Richard Dalton writes:

Cover story in the March 11-17 issue of The Economist is an (appropriately) merciless cartoon showing Bush in cowboy garb astride a missile. George W. Bush in Dr. Strangedeal or: How I learned to stop worrying and love my friend's bomb.

The article bashes Bush for cutting a deal with friendly India that is illegal according to our law and which weakens existing international nuclear constraints. It goes on to recommend that Congress derail this agreement, stamped with a classical Bush combination of ignorance and arrogance.

Let's help Congress (especially Congressional Democrats) grow a spine and oppose this awful deal.

***

Briefs (If you have a lot of them do they stop being brief?)

8:00

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Another week off

7:00

Humor

Air Force One

The President, First Lady and Dick Cheney were flying on Air Force One. George looked at Laura, chuckled and said, "You know, I could throw a $1, 000.00 bill out of the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Laura shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I could throw ten $100.00 bills
out of the window and make ten people very happy."

Cheney added, "That being the case, I could throw one hundred $10.00 bills
out of the window and make a hundred people very happy."

Hearing their exchange, the pilot rolled his eyes and said to his co-pilot,"Such big-shots back there. I could throw all of them out of the window and make 56 million people very happy."

6:50

Movies

Neal Vitale Reviews: 16 Blocks, Inside Man, Pink Panther, Eight Below

16 Blocks - 4 Stars

Director Richard Donner has a long career in television ("The Rifleman," "Get Smart," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") and film (Superman, the Lethal Weapon series), and he knows how to create visual entertainment that is engaging, fast-paced, and clever. He has made a terrific film in 16 Blocks, telling the story of aging, rummy police detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis), who gets the chance and seemingly simple assignment of ushering Eddie Bunker, a chatty grand jury witness played by rapper Mos Def (seen in several films, including The Woodsman, Monster's Ball, and The Italian Job) the sixteen blocks of lower Manhattan from the station to courthouse. Of course, things are never that simple, as it turns out that Bunker's testimony will implicate a number of Mosley's fellow cops, including his former partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse, of "St. Elsewhere" and The Green Mile). The police are mobilized to stop Mosley and Bunker from ever getting to Centre Street, and the fun begins. 16 Blocks is full of good things - an excellent script, variously funny and sweet; strong acting; plenty of action (including the best bus-driving sequence since Speed) and plot twists galore. Don't miss it.

***

Inside Man -- 3.5 stars

Spike Lee has made a film that is very different from much of his work (He Got Game, Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X) and quite good. Inside Man is a thriller that centers around an apparent bank heist, but which takes on new dimensions as the tale unfolds. The storyline is clever and surprising, and moves along sprightly even over a two-hour-plus running time; a strong cast (including Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster - in a nice stylistic departure, and Clive Owen) turn in solid performances. As with many a Spike Lee film, the portrayal of Manhattan is colorful and rich with diversity. But I found myself contrasting this film with 16 Blocks, with which it shares many similar dynamics (including its New York neighborhood), and preferring Donner's work. Through a combination of skillful acting, writing, and directing, the characters in 16 Blocks come alive with human emotions and frailties; they connect with the viewer in ways Lee's never do.

***

The Pink Panther - 1 star

Peter Sellers must be spinning in his grave. This abysmal, unfunny film is a travesty of the memory of the original. Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, and Jean Reno - accomplished actors all - should be embarrassed; at least Beyonce has the excuse of an utter lack of acting ability. A couple of mildly amusing sight gags are as good as The Pink Panther gets. I have only one word for this film - merde!

***

Eight Below - 3 stars

While not breaking any new ground, Eight Below delivers a heartwarming dose of family entertainment. A scientist visits an Antarctic exploration base late in the season. He is injured, and needs emergency care back in civilization. The base's sled dogs - heroes already in helping the fallen scientist - are left behind, but winter's arrival keeps anyone from returning for them for months. Anthropomorphism is in full swing as we watch the dogs cope with their plight, care for each other, and fight to stay alive. Since this is a Disney film, the outcome is never in doubt. But, however predictable Eight Below may be, it is effective - I had a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes at all the right moments. And that's more than many films can deliver.

--Neal Vitale

630

Tsotsi

4 stars

This South African film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. In a brilliant piece of programming, a local theater is showing it as well as fellow nominee Joyeux Noël'; meanwhile, nominee Sophie Scholl - The Final Days is showing a few blocks down the street. God, I love living in the San Francisco Bay area. Anyway, Tsotsi means thug, and that is the obvious self-designation of this ultra-violent resident of a South African township in a film which earns its R rating with a nasty murder in the first 10 minutes. Tsotsi hijacks a car and shoots the woman who was driving it; when he crashes, he finds a baby in the back seat. "Torn from the headlines" as the plot line is (and by the way, South Africa doesn't come off looking too good in this film). Everything about this film, the acting, directing, writing and cinematography are all brilliant from top to bottom. If it were in English, it could have competed for best picture. It is thoughtful, dramatic, provocative and disturbing.

620

Don't Come Knocking

3 stars

Don't you love it when a movie teams two people who are together in real life, so when you see a picture on the wall or on a bedside table of them 20 years ago, it really is them 20 years ago and not some photoshop wonder? I know I do. Sam Shepard the playwright, who also acts (acts well, and whose choices of material are almost uniformly excellent), wrote this film and co-stars in it with his real-life wife Jessica Lange, of whom it can be said, "What a joy to see her on the screen again." The same can be said for George Kennedy in an extremely brief cameo. I'd pay $9 to watch Sam Shepard read the phone book. I thought, from the review in the Chronicle that I was going to a backstage Hollywood film, a genre I love. Instead, it turns out the shooting of the movie is a framing device for a road film with a radically familiar plot--a man finds out he has a child he didn't know about and goes to find him. Another excellent actor with generally good taste (at least when doing independent films), Bill Murray, did the same plot just last year. This is a genre I merely like, so despite some beautiful footage of downtown Butte, Montana and some five-star performances from known and unknown actors alike, the whole enterprise left me mildly moves and mildly entertained.

615

Letters

Peterman on Vodka, Dern on Jeopardy! LaSusa's Picks, Jobs Sells Stock, Dan Grobstein File

Kent Peterman and I exchanged email last week about how much we miss Herb Caen. He followed up with this:

Here is a site from today's Chron on Vodka. Herb's beloved "vitamin V". I think he would have liked the site and possibly embraced the internet.

Daniel Dern found a Slashdot item about Jeopardy! doing on-line screening. Could be trouble...

A few sites from my long-time friend and colleague, Tom LaSusa: Sick of Brokeback Parodies? Then you "Must Love Jaws"...Okay, one more Brokeback parody -- 30 second bunny style...Find That Tune: Ever watch a film or TV show and wonder "Who sings that song?"... Artist recreates San Francisco city scape -- in Jello ... The Simpsons...in "Real Time" [ED NOTE: You DO NOT want to miss this]... And they're playing it at the beginning of this Sunday's ep.

No Technobriefs this week, but isn't it curious: Jobs dumps Apple stock

Dan Grobstein File

5:00

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