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

June 5, 2006: P.S. A Column on Things

June 5, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 22

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Few Words About PHC
  • What Brings You Here?

Political News

  • Voter Fraud One Step Closer To Proved, McCloskey: Unlikely but Worthy, Republican'ts

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Liberals Sneaking Across The Border

Movies

  • The DaVinci Code

Letters

  • Lasusa's Links, Pay As You Go Computing, Dumb Scammer, America's Coup, MIT View of Global Warning, Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Few Words About PHC

If you've explored the "permanent content" parts of this blog (on the right on Typepad, or at the bottom if you still read the hand-rolled version), you'll see I wrote a skit for Prairie Home Companion. I'd always dreamed that the email I'd get from that sketch would be a request for the PHC organization to perform the skit.

Instead, I got a newspaper reporter working on a feature story (probably keyed to the PHC movie). Here's my response:

I came relatively late to Garrison Keillor and PHC. I didn't live in Minnesota, so I didn't hear the early, non-syndicated years. I remember reading an article that said that Tom Brokaw made it a point to be free on Saturday nights so he could listen. I found it very difficult to free up my schedule on Saturday nights, so I taped the program for years.

I was saddened when Keillor left for Denmark, overjoyed when he returned, and have dragged my two daughters to three different tapings in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I have, on occasion, pondered the source of my interest. It doesn't rise to the level of obsession, since I am now only an occasional listener. Albeit one who owns all of Keillor's books, most of his CDs and cassettes, many of his magazine articles and can recite the Guy Noir opening announcement by heart.

My interest in Keillor stems, in part, from my own history in public radio; in high school (KBPS) and college (WMBR at MIT) I produced radio plays and a program of skit comedy. I considered moving to Britain and trying to land a job at the BBC after graduation, but the consulate told me I'd have to prove there was no one in Britain who could do the job-a hurdle I did not think I could overcome. I didn't have the voice to be a disk jockey or radio newscaster, so I went into print.

Now that I've cleared my throat, some specifics:

  • Keillor has revived a great radio format, of music, story telling and skit comedy that died, to my regret, just before my 10th birthday in 1962. I am one of the young people who wishes they'd been around for the golden age of radio.
  • Keillor is the inheritor of a great tradition of American writers of narrative humor. I own complete collections of Twain, Robert Benchley, S.J. Perlman and Groucho Marx.
  • I admit I am put off by much of what I have read about Keillor as a person (I own all the unauthorized biographies as well as the semi-authorized biography), but, as with Woody Allen, I judge the art, not the man.
  • I love Keillor's wry style of observation, gentle wit and sweet parody.
  • I am absolutely captivated by Keillor's delivery of it; he has mastered the arts of radio and storytelling to an extent unknown outside of the members of the Firesign Theater, of whom I consider him to be a successor (in style, not content).
  • I wish I could be Keillor, or even write for him. Since I can't, I listen to his program, write a script based on a recurring dream I had for years, and voraciously attend to his written output. And I still listen when I can, sometimes sitting in the car until the Guy Noir skit, or the news from Lake Woebegone are finished.
  • I think some people who dislike him do so because of his real-life personality. Others find him low-brow. Still others just cannot accept his pace, or his non-joke style of humor (parodied in a Simpson's episode in which Keillor is on the television and Homer pounds the top of the set, shouting "Be funny.")
  • I love Keillor, Twain, Monty Python, Benchley, Firesign Theater, and Duck's Breath Mystery Theater. Many otherwise intelligent friends of mine loathe all of these groups and authors, including, sometimes, my wife and daughters. There is no accounting for taste, particularly in matters of humor.

11:30am

What Brings You Here?

Interesting week of visitors: people who were looking for reviews of the Whale and the Squid, Tristam Shandy and Scary Movie 4 all found their way to this site. Craig Reynolds won a search from search.blogger.com for... Craig Reynolds. (If you use that site to find Paul Schindler, you end up finding the Paul Schindler who edits the Gay City News) I guess it is the season for students to write thank-you notes to their teachers; several ended up at my thank-you note to one of my college professors. I hope they got a few ideas. One person looking for manufacturing information about the 1974 Plymouth Duster was probably very disappointed to find my casual reference to David Tenenbaum's ownership of said vehicle. Also disappointed: the searcher who found my article Cleaning Up Rat Poop In The Guru's Garage (looking for rat poop photos, not an essay on Seva), and the person looking for a Randi Rhodes biography, who found my item State Impeachment Resolutions: NOT POINTLESS! which was based on something she said on Air America.

9:00

Political Notes

Voter Fraud One Step Closer To Proved, McCloskey: Unlikely but Worthy, Republican'ts

This column, along with a number of blogs, has been saying for some time that the 2004 presidential election was stolen in Ohio, even more blatantly than the 2000 election was stolen in Florida. How about that? Two stolen elections in a row, both benefiting the same man. Coincidence or conspiracy? You be the judge.

Was the 2004 Election Stolen?
Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House. BY ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.

***

Have you been following Pete McCloskey's bid to unseat Richard Pombo? (This is in the oddly gerrymandered rural-exurban California 11th district: You may remember him as an anti-(Vietnam-)war anti-Nixon liberal Republican from the old days. My god, a liberal Republican. What must Rockefeller and Scranton think? Of Jerry Falwell? Oh wait, Falwell doesn't care about the environment because the end days are here. Pete McCloskey for Congress--11th district. Or Pombo Watch: Pete McCloskey

***

There is much in modern American politics that makes me furious. But almost nothing (other than the shredding of the constitution via silent vetoes) irritates me more than the combination of a) Republicans referring to my political party as "The Democrat Party," and b) reporters that don't call them on it. It's the Democratic party. We call them what they want to be called; you don't see Democratic politicians (Note, please, that is Democratic politicians, not Democrat politicians) calling the GOP the "rich angry Christian white-guy party," even if it is "more accurate."

The whole thing is designed, pure and simple, to disrespect the Democratic party and its members, to irritate and anger Democrats and to drive a wedge into the American body politic. In other words, it is a perfect Republican strategy. Or, should I say, as Tom Lasusa alerted me to say, Republican't strategy. As in can't balance the budget, can't handle a disaster, can't prosecute a war, can't tell the truth. I do believe I will call them Republican'ts as often as I can remember to do so.

And as long as we're renaming things, all references to HAVA (the Help America Vote Act) should hereinafter be to FUBAR (Facilitating Universal Ballot Accounting by Republicans or Facilitating Universal Ballot Accounting by Republican controlled machines).

***

Did you see the Carl Hulse story in the New York Times: A Build-a-Protest Approach to Immigration?

Advocates of tougher border security have sent thousands of bricks to Senate and House offices in recent weeks to make a none-too-subtle point with lawmakers about where many of their constituents come down on emerging immigration bills.

Guess who's behind the campaign? Well, you'd have to guess, because the Times' description was so cryptic as to be deceptive. Whether deliberately deceptive or not, I leave up to you:

Ms. Heffron, who has been active in political campaigns and public affairs...

To find out who's really behind it, you need Google, two phone calls and a blog: How a Political Operative Sneaks In Under the NY Times Radar. Any reporter who does a story with an unfamiliar source in this day and age without Googling them is committing journalistic malpractice. Shame on you Carl Hulse. Even I would have made the calls, and I was only an average journalist, not the recipient of a vaunted job at the New York Times.

Briefs

8:00

Technobriefs

by Craig Reynolds

Sorry, this week it is more brief and less structured than normal. Sometimes a week's worth of collected links seem to self-organize into neat clusters. Other times it takes a cattle prod and gaffer's tape to form clusters. This week, bupkis.

A sad note from the world of computer graphics, a pioneer of that field, and founder of early industry leader Wavefront Technologies, Bill Kovacs passed away this week.

Technobits: Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality: "that's not... Internet... that's...cable TV": Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End --- The 25 Worst Tech Products of All Time --- Google Trailers --- Apple Recycling Program --- At an Industry Media Lab, Close Views of Multitasking --- Hacking your Prius --- The RFID Hacking Underground --- Insight into the anti-cancer effect of exercise --- Unknown creatures found in cave --- Intelligent Beings in Space! --- Satellite could open door on extra dimension --- Tying it together with string theory --- a library made of airplanes.

7:00

Humor

Liberals Sneaking Across The Border

Probably not from the Manitoba Herald, Canada, since that esteemed organ ceased publication in 1877. Anyone who can trace or claim authorship gets a hat tip from me here and elsewhere. Apparently this was written in Nov. 2005. There are at least 268 (now 269) web sites that have posted this fake story. Here's how it starts:

Update June 19, 2006 A tip of the PSACOT hat to Lerissa Patrick, who informs me that the source of this item was Joe Blundo's So To Speak column in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch on Tuesday, November 16, 2004, entitled Canada busy sending back Bush-dodgers.

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night....

Also, I am now site 758 to post White House voice mail, which starts like this (who wrote it?):

"Thank you for calling the White House switchboard. Our new voice activated system will help direct you to the proper office."

"If you are calling to complain about the mishandling of the war in Iraq, press one."

"If you are calling to complain about the abuse of prisoners and the White House's endorsement of torture, press two, and then say the name of the torture site that you wish to complain about (and please note for the sake of the voice mail system that it is pronounced Abu GRABE, not

Abu grahb)."

"If you are calling to complain about illegal spying on American citizens and the abuse of FISA laws, press 3, but do know that these calls will be recorded."

 

6:40

Movies

The DaVinci Code

3.5 stars

These are not new ideas, of the sacred feminine, Jesus being mortal and married to Mary Magdelane and having children, of church suppression of heresy. These ideas have been passed down from generation to generation in my Protestant family, from my grandfather Raymond (a man who took his religion seriously and studied to be a minister) to my mother in the 1940s and by my mother to me in the 1960s. I was late coming to the book (early in 2006). I have probably been negligent in passing them on to my old children. Note, please, that my grandfather held these views well before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the late 1940s. They may not be good theology, but Dan Brown did not create them out of whole cloth. I just spent a fascinating morning surfing through the catalogs of Da Vinci code error with which the Internet abounds. Did Dan Brown make mistakes? Heck ya. Did he use a few interesting ideas, some of whose factuality is strictly a matter of faith? Heck ya again. Does Opus Dei practice mortification? Listen carefully to their public denials: they are non-denials. We don't practice it much. Not all numeraries do it. No one does it like Silas does in the movie and book. For the record, this from the Opus Dei web site:

Some Opus Dei members also make limited use of the cilice and discipline, types of mortification that have always had a place in the Catholic tradition because of their symbolic reference to Christ's Passion.

Well, there you have it. Mortification must be normal because many great Catholics have done it. I will simply conclude this section by saying that I believe in both God and Jesus, and you can call me a cafeteria Episcopalian if you wish, but mortification does not fit with my concept of either.

Well, enough of the question of content; if I go on any farther, I run the risk of this becoming just another pro or con DaVinci code site. Part of the fun of this movie is how you feel about the content. Apparently, there are no windows in the Louvre bathrooms.

But what about form? Ron Howard is in danger of becoming a really important director. Heck, he may already have crossed the lie (although he isn't Spielberg yet, he could be).

Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, the protagonist, holds the more virulent portions of his "aw shucks" quotient in check and turns in a performance that is better than his reviews. Also, for the record, his haircut does not look as silly on film as it does in still photos. Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu, his right-hand woman, may distract you, as she did me, if you try to remember the name of the 2001 film in which she engaged in some magical realism. The French movie was released in the U.S. as Amélie. She continues to demonstrate a great deal of skill as an actress. Ditto Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabing. Sir Ian has two gigantic films in release this week: X-Men: The Last Stand in which he exercises .01 percent of his acting chops portraying a comic book character, and DaVinci Code in which you see why he is considered an actor good enough to be knighted. Playing a secondary character, he comes close to stealing every scene in which he appears.

Interesting, provocative content, presented in a well-funded, well-acted film. Not fantastic (few films released this time of year are), but above average for sure.

6:30

Letters

Lasusa's Links, Pay As You Go Computing, Dumb Scammer, America's Coup, MIT View of Global Warning, Dan Grobstein File

Weird links from Tom Lasusa and his friends... American food in times of war, Civil War - present day... Superhero/Renaissance art mashup... Join a timeshare island tribe in Fiji... Homeland Security says "What does NYC need Anti-Terrorist money for?"... Three armed infant... Micro Sculptor... 'Left Behind,' the video game: violent, intolerant... Bacteria eats chocolate and poops electricity... Homeland Security's 'incomprehensible' security grants...The 25 worst sequels ever made... Bill Moyers talks about journalism, how it should be and why we need public broadcasting... New Female Caped Crusader prefers the company of women... Sand Sculpture Festival in Brighton, UK brings the Roman Empire to life... Even in Medieval England, Poor Aquaman sucks

Craig Reynolds noted that Bill Gates thinks pay as you go computing is better than the $100, hand-cranked portable PC. Pay as you go computing... A regular reader comments...

The idea of paying for computers as you need them is merely the forerunner of the clear intention of one or more software companies to require payment for each and every use of its software. For example, if software is rented (instead of purchased/licensed outright) in a series of one year or multiyear purchases, there is no legal impediment to the copyright holder changing the license terms at the start of a new license. The first license (which allows the user to create files only in a proprietary format readable for the one year (or multiyear) length of the license) can be for a nominal amount sufficient to cover acquisition and operating costs on a lakeside 40,000 square foot mansion with enough left over to bribe (excuse the typo, make substantial campaign contributions to) just about every politician in the country. After billions of files are created under the first license, the license terms are changed. The new license terms require the user to provide direct access to a credit card or bank account and to permit same day real-time withdrawals of the license fees which will be set very low (about 10 cents for every file access, file open, or file change while new file creation could be at a different price). The user is free to reject the new license terms and to re-create (if possible) the billions of files using some other software. While the legal analysis has not been completed, one might also inquire whether DMCA would provide a disincentive to rejecting the new license terms by making it a felony to access the files created under the first license because doing so might require circumventing the anti-copying protection put in place when the files were created in a proprietary format.

Daniel Dern notes: It's a bad idea to be both a scammer and stupid.

Peggy Coquet checks in:

1898 Race Clash Ruled a Coup
Panel Asks N.C. To Consider Reparations
RALEIGH, N.C., May 31 -- North Carolina should provide economic and social compensation to victims of Wilmington's 1898 racial violence, said a panel that also concluded the attack was not a riot but rather this country's only recorded coup d'etat.

My long-time friend John Hanzel (MIT, PBE '74) checks in with a New York Times article quoting his fraternity brother, PBE alum '77 Dr. Kerry Emmanuel:

 

Dan Grobstein File

  • Tom Tomorrow comments: At this point, you'd have to be blind to miss the pattern. Every prominent progressive leader who comes along is openly derided in the media as fake, dishonest, conniving, out-of-the-mainstream, and weak. We simply can't continue to chalk this up to shortcomings on the part of Democratic candidates or their staff and consultants. It's all too clear that this will happen regardless of who the candidate or leader is; regardless of who works for him or her. The smearing of Jack Murtha should prove that to anyone who still doubts it.

    Manwhile, any conservative who comes along is going to be praised for being strong and authentic and likable. More the media meta-story line at Media Matters.
  • LA Times: Lou Carrol, 83; Gave Nixon the Puppy Made Famous in the 'Checkers Speech'
  • HOME & GARDEN | June 1, 2006
    At Home With Garrison Keillor: Where All the Rooms Are Above Average
    By JOYCE WADLER
    His home is of such beauty and scale that had Rhett Butler been a Midwestern boy he would have found it quite suitable for hauling Scarlett up the stairs.
  • NEW YORK REGION | May 30, 2006
    Beyond Bars and Strip Clubs, City Beckons Sailors on Shore Leave
    By ANTHONY RAMIREZ and KATE HAMMER
    The New York that sailors see today is nothing like the one experienced by the sailors of previous decades.

5:00

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