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 12, 2006: P.S. A Column on Things

June 12, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 23

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Reflections
  • What Brings You Here?

Political News

  • Some Questions for Condi

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs: On Hiatus

Humor

  • The Top 16 Animal Species Nicknamed After Famous People

Movies

  • Neal Vitale Reviews: Cars, Thank You for Smoking

Letters

  • Tom LaSusa Links, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Reflections

There are days in August that are, literally, the Dog Days of summer. It has something to do with Sirius, the Dog star. But the first week of June seemed that way around here this year. It was the last week of school in my school district, which was a relief. Many of my contributors seemed to vanish in the haze; even ever-reliable Craig Reynolds has been forced by dint of actual work to take a brief hiatus from Technobriefs (unlike TV shows, however, columnists usually return from hiatus). Neal Vitale came through with a review of Cars and his own take on previously reviewed Thanks For Smoking. The week's only really bright spot: Marlow's return from two years in The Netherlands on Friday. She'll be here until she finds an apartment and a job.

Regular readers will recall that this is the end of my third year teaching. During my first and second years, I was required to reflect regularly on my relationship to teaching, lessons learned, that sort of thing. Now I am no longer required to do that regularly, so I do it sporadically. Not only because, as Socrates put it, an unexamined life is not worth living, but because if you don't think about what you're doing now and the, you won't get any better.

First and foremost, it is true what people say: teaching does get easier with each passing year. My sense of panic and foreboding is now intermittent rather than constant. This year, for the first time, I truly enjoyed my relationship with most of my students. Many of them took time to write me lovely notes at year's end, and several showered gifts upon me. You can never tell what's real and what's illusion when it comes to praise from students and teachers, and it is a wise man who does not allow his head to swell inordinately. Still, it felt good to have both groups pat me on the back at the end of the year.

I suppose I will keep doing what I do, which is to try to mix fun and learning--a task that will be assisted, I think, by the Jeopardy game console we just purchased (boy did I have fun writing questions for it! I stayed up until 2 am!)

A new textbook next year, which means a chance to do greenfield or whiteboard (depending on your choice of metaphor) planning for the next year during the summer. This is a chance to reconsider lesson plans and teaching methods we have used for several years and ask whether they are still meeting student needs, as well as a chance to add new ones. Maybe it is time to give lectures/notes a rest.

11:30am

What Brings You Here?

This Google search from Africa ended up at my movie index--I don't know how... "Is it good for us as young Africans to be destructed from our own rich culture like food, TV, films and attire, and be influenced by American culture?"

I think the answer is "no," by the way.

Someone came for a Brokeback Mountain review and stayed to read about my opinion of Prairie Home Companion. Another reader got here from Jim Kunstler's blog (see excellent item on New Urbanism), but darned if I can figure out how. My RSS tutorial (made popular by my former colleague Fred Langa) continues to draw a visit or two every week. Former colleague Mike Elgan also throws me several visits a month. Blog-rolling lives!

No doubt disappointed was the person who searched for "federal government rule work at home awl" which brought him to November 2005, which just happened to include all those terms. I don't know what the reader meant by awl, but the word "all" in Kent Peterman's spellchecker poem probably wasn't it.

Lots of people looking for movies, including Constant Gardner, Whale and the Squid [is it possible people are looking for the original literary reference and NOT the movie?] and The Matador [again, I suspect an error]. I begin to wonder if a fourth of my visits are misfiring Google searches.

9:00

Political Notes

Some Questions for Condi

By backing the sanctity of marriage and calling for a Constitutional amendment on the issue, George has turned the state of his marriage into a policy issue.

Thus it is fair to comment on it as the editors at the New York Times should realize after assigning a reporter to interview 50 people about the political implications of Hill's' marriage. Let me know when the New York Times runs an above the fold front page 2,000 word article on Laura's stay at the Mayflower Hotel. Reading the quotes in this story that George is truth challenged, it seems the first comment ("lump") is Freudian and the second ("great") is as accurate as his view of certain weapons and the state of combat operations in a well-known county to the east. Some viewers may have missed the part of Faze (aka "Face") the Nation where the either panelist asked Condi about the nature and state of her relationship with George (after all it would merely be following a lead already published in the national press).

Alternatively, in diplo-journalistic terms there is a good question for Condi. "You represent our country. GW advocates a national policy of exporting democracy through military force to the rest of the world. GW wants the brand of American democracy being forcibly exported to include a Constitutional amendment declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman. How have your talks gone with the Saudi leaders concerning their need to confine themselves to one wife or face an invasion? In these talks, have any of the foreign leaders raised the issue of your alleged affair with GW as a reason for a change in the American position on the sanctity of marriage or as a reason justifying their invasion to restore the sanctity of marriage to the White House? In connection with your diplomatic efforts to export democracy as advocated by GW, what is your analysis of the proposal to recall to public service a former State Department officer with experience in foreign affairs. Said officer, Jennifer Fitzgerald, "served under [Bush senior] in a variety of positions" at various times, according to the New York Times. Can she convince foreign leaders of the virtues of the sanctity of marriage as an element of American constitutional democracy?

Briefs

8:00

Technobriefs

by Craig Reynolds , who is working hard at his real job this week.

7:00

Humor

The Top 16 Animal Species Nicknamed After Famous People

June 5, 2006

NOTE FROM CHRIS:

Eunice aphroditois is a worm that dwells on the ocean floor. The female may attack the male's sex organ after mating, detaching it with her sharp bone plates and then feeding it to her young. The common name used to refer to the species by marine biologists is the "Bobbit worm."

16> Jacko Russell terrier: Though extremely eccentric, this breed loves children and often attempts to sleep with them.

15> Tammy Faye baboon: Applies way too much makeup to its shiny red ass.

14> Axl Rose groundhog: Sporadically suggests he'll emerge from self-imposed hibernation to great fanfare, then disappears again.

13> Spears robin: Attracts mates more by seductive thrusting of its breast and tail feathers while singing than by the song itself.

12> Cowell penguin: Although it cannot fly at all itself, it spends inordinate amounts of time criticizing the flying skills of other birds.

11> Anna Nicole boa constrictor: Uses antennae to locate half-dead prey, then squeezes the cash right out of them.

10> Kate Moss sparrow: The most skilled of all birds at regurgitating food for its young.

9> Federline leech: The male somehow attaches itself to a female, feeding on food gathered by her; often impossible to remove.

8> Dan Brown snake: Distracts his prey with a long, convoluted tail.

7> Gore loon: Thought to be extinct until recently, it nests in movie theaters and issues mournful cries.

6> Robert Blake koala bear: Eats shoots and leaves.

5> Hilton Chihuahua: Yaps incessantly until someone pays attention to it; has no particular skills or abilities, but everyone seems to take pictures of it preening or mating.

4> Condoleezza swallow: Otherwise discriminating and intelligent bird will accept anything fed to it by the Texas loon.

3> Taylor Hicks killer shark: Simply refuses to dye.

2> Clinton spiders: Male makes constant attempts to breed; female ignores this and pursues control of colony.

and Topfive.com's Number 1 Animal Specie Nicknamed After a Famous Person...

1> DeGeneres woodchuck: Mates only with beavers.

[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2006 by Chris White ]
Selected from 134 submissions from 45 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Colleen Stelmaszek, Houston, TX -- 1 (16th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 7

6:40

Movies

Neal Vitale Reviews: Cars, Thank You for Smoking

Cars 3.5 stars

The latest from John Lasseter and Pixar is good, not great. In Cars, the world is populated by animated cars rather than people. While the characteristics, behavior, and interactions of these vehicles (with voices from the likes of Paul Newman, Michael Keaton, and Owen Wilson) are all too human, they are simply not that engaging, for at least the first hour of the film. By the end of Cars, warm emotions and a bit of sweet nostalgia for a bygone era have surfaced, to leave a viewer with a smile. The clever references, inside jokes, and spectacular visual rendering expected from a Pixar film are fully in evidence, but I found Cars to come up short of its illustrious predecessors at that studio, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc.

Thank You For Smoking 4 stars

I normally would not write about a film released months earlier and already reviewed by Paul, but Thank You For Smoking is good enough to deserve some renewed attention. This satire is crisply written, in the style of Christopher Buckley's novel on which it is based, and follows the career and life of Nick Naylor, lead spokesperson for the tobacco industry. Aaron Eckhart ( Erin Brockovich, Your Friends & Neighbors, Any Given Sunday) is brilliant as Naylor, who has the tricky task of trying to do his job while being a role model for his son - and he succeeds, though not necessarily in the way one would anticipate. For me, this film is very funny without devolving into farce, and nicely handles interesting issues of values, morality, and public debate.

6:30

Letters

Tom LaSusa Links, Dan Grobstein File

Weird links from Tom Lasusa and his friends... Special for last Tuesday: A Devilish Number... Oh that Wacky AntiChrist... Let's Party in Hell (Michigan)... The Pit of Ultimate Darkness -- starring Sir Simon Milligan and Manservant Hecubus. Also: Think no one falls for the Nigerian email scam?... The always entertaining "Alien Loves Predator"... Stephen Colbert commencement address at Knox College [Ed note: although it is early, this is likely to be the best commencement address of the season]... 'Saved by the Bell' Actress Sues Tabloid, claims she's a "famous and popular actress"... Who voted to ban / suport gay marriage in the Senate.... Newest Diet Fad -- lose weight with Microsoft Excel... Cave face is "oldest portrait on record"... Now THAT's a Tree House...

Dan Grobstein File

5:00

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