PS... A Column
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.
August 14, 2006 Vol. 8, No. 31
Table of Contents:
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs: On Hiatus
Heading For The Mountains (and Next Week)
As you read this, more or less, Vicki, Marlow and I will be in the High Sierra above Yosemite Valley, hiking between the five High Sierra Camps for a week. It is rigorous, but we expect it to be fun as well. The day after I return, it's back to school. I'm saying this because I am not at all sure I'll be in a mood, or a position, or have enough time, to post on Aug. 21. Despite the unpaid nature of this column (on your part and mine), I feel badly when the continuity is disrupted, and for that I apologize. I promise a full accounting of the Yosemite experience after my return. That will boost my Google profile! [From my own Google efforts, I know a lot of people feel obliged to make detailed posts of their Yosemite experiences]
They say the only constant is change, and I received a slap-in-the-face reminder of that this week. Those of you who have been paying attention know that I learned to play the tenor sax at the age of 40, and shortly thereafter started playing with a group then known as the Lamorinda Town Band. I have been with them for 14 seasons. In the meantime, it became the Contra Costa Wind Symphony, and gradually increased the difficulty of the pieces played. Last week the director wrote the band and told us he was going to cut back to one or two instruments per section, which cuts the overall band by 15 players. Those in the affected sections could audition for their seats. Although I have improved over 14 years, there is no chance I could be selected to play after an audition. I didn't leave the band, the band left me.
It leaves a hole in my life. The CCWS was very important to me; one of the few things I did for pure and absolute pleasure. I don't enjoy making solo music. I am thrilled to ecstasy making music in a large ensemble. I have come to love "Sleigh Ride" and "Stars and Stripes," selections we reliably play year after year.
I am pretty sure I have mentioned that the only thing I like as much as making music in an ensemble is announcing. My last journalism job was as an announcer. I announced JV Girls basketball at the local high school for two years. I was an announcer at my high school's 500-watt AM radio station, and I've been hooked ever since. For the last five years, with the exception of one concert, I have been the announcer for the Danville Community Band, whose director has generously invited me on several occasions to play with his band as well. During the time I was getting used to being a teacher, I didn't want to play in two bands each week, but the CCWS solved that dilemma for me. Come Labor Day, I'll be seated in the sax section of "the world's largest community band," a wry nickname for an estimable ensemble, rehearsing on Mondays instead of Wednesdays.
Life changes. Expect nothing to last and you won't be disappointed.
Fishing for contacts for Marlow
Normally, I wouldn't mention this in my blog, but the world is full of unexpected connections and weird coincidences, so I figure, what the heck, it can't hurt anything. My daughter Marlow has finished graduate school (BA Columbia, MA Leiden University) in international relations. With her degree in hand, and conversational Mandarin under he belt, she's looking for something in banking, insurance, investment banking or NGO, preferably in the San Francisco Bay area, with a focus on China or Asia. If you know a job like that, or know someone who does, email me (my address is in the bar down the right side of the column).
I am thinking of this because I just got around to cleaning up my long-dormant account at linkedin.com (and if I know you and you want to connect with me, look me up) in the hopes of providing her a built-in network.
GOP Abuses Terror Threat: Disgusting
From Tom Lasusa (I couldn't think of any better way to put it, except to say GOP abuse of the issue to distort our democratic system is disgusting):
about the Republicans taking advantage of the Foiled Terror plot in the hopes of regaining momentum for the fall elections.
People need to be reminded that this is a regular practice of the GOP -- they constantly jump on 'thwarted attacks' -- using them as a bandwagon to try and convince everyone that the country will benefit only through their leadership. They use incidents like this to defend the War in Iraq. It's cheap and underhanded politics at its best (or worst)
James Webb, a former Reagan administration official running as a Democratic candidate for Senate in Virginia, has a quote in the article which sums up the situation best:
The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the war against international terrorism, or very little to do with the war on terrorism. It has distracted our attention, it has pulled our forces in, and we are now in a situation where we have 135,000 on the ground, which affects our ability to do a lot of things that we would be able to do otherwise.
Can people really fall for this GOP crap again? How long has the U.S. Government known about the plot [Terror grounded: UK foils plot to blow up 10 planes]? How many times must there be a raised alert or arrested terrorist 30, 60 or 90 days before an election before people catch on? Out at the fringes, they're saying the entire plot was actually made up to help Blair and Bush both. Along the same lines, these stories from the Huffington Post:
The Top 17 Positive Aspects of a Scorching Heat Wave
August 8, 2006
17> New words appearing on the casual Friday rules list include "shorts" and "topless."
16> Barry Bonds switches to injecting himself with ice water.
15> Dehydration-induced delirium makes Mel Gibson's apology sound almost reasonable.
14> Great fun watching White House officials deny global warming while wearing swim trunks and Panama hats.
13> Hasidic Jews wearing little fans on their wool hats.
12> The advice to "replace fluids" means you can crack that first cold Pabst Blue Ribbon at 6:15 am!
11> Technically, if it evaporates before hitting the ground, it's not public urination.
10> Pudding! Everything turns into pudding and I like pudding!
9> New Rob Schneider movie promoted as "Two solid hours of theater-grade air-conditioning."
8> Your pocket watch becomes much more valuable as a Dali collectable.
7> Easier to trick girls into checking out your display of posed "X-Files" figurines in Mom's cool, cool basement.
6> Make tasty panini under your hat!
5> Between Starbucks and the bus stop, your Frappuccino turns into a 20-ounce espresso.
4> Easier to understand why those Middle Easterners are so darn cranky.
3> Hollywood starlets don't have to worry about an attack of RCPNS: Red Carpet Pokey Nipple Syndrome.
2> Al Gore starts development on the World Wide Refrigerator.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Positive Aspect of a Scorching Heat Wave...
1> Grab the stick up Ann Coulter's ass and -- BOOM! -- instant Bitchsicle!
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
I toyed with giving this 2.5 stars, but Vicki, who saw it with me (and normally has a strong visceral dislike for "bang bang" films) talked me into 3 stars with the simple statement, "For the genre, it's pretty good."
Based on the television series of the same name, written and directed by Michael Mann, the writer/producer of the series, the movie features high-powered talent:
In a way, this is the celluloid equivalent of the comfort food they serve at all those diners; you could tick off the copy movie tropes as they rolled by. Undercover agent gets too wrapped up in his false identity? Check. Revenging a dead informant? Check. Arrogant FBI agent proves operationally incompetent? Check. Cop falls in love with girl from the other side? Check. Movie concludes with amazing, blazing, night-time gun battle? You got it, Chester.
Nothing wrong with recycling old ideas if you do it well and with some style. That's what Westerns and Musicals were all about, back when they made those kind of films. Of course I heartily object to a 130 minute running time! Come on, Mann, you could tell this story in 90 minutes. That's the director's cut I want to see on most movies! The shorter version you could have made if you'd had more time to edit.
To sum up: "For the genre, it's pretty good."
The best thing you can say about this film is that it is only 83 minutes long. It's now official: computer-generated animation is so cheap it can be used to create a feature-length movie with a crummy plot. The voice talent is interesting (albeit mostly second-tier) and the "funny stuff" is mildly amusing. But at the fairly crowded showing I attended, the plot was too infantile for the adults and too complicated for the five-year-olds ("Why is that cow sad, mommy?"). Not only not fun for the whole family, but barely fun for the toddlers. Of course, if you're in a heat wave, it's an hour and a half of air conditioning. No new or interesting ground is broken in computer animation or childrens' movie music. How many more films with anthropomorphic father-son relationship troubles must we endure?
Conversations with Other Women
Director Hans Canosa and screenwriter Gabrielle Zevin are geniuses. Their only previous credit is Alma Mater, a 2002 movie they worked on together). Once again, they prove that you have to be a neophyte to really challenge the standards in a field--because you don't know what "can't" be done. In Conversations with Other Women, they are fiddling with the technical and narrative aspects of film-making in brilliant ways, in the service of a fascinating and ambiguous story. This could be the Citizen Kane of our generation, blazing new trails in terms of technique and organization. There have been split-screen films before, but never like this. There have been odd two-people dancing, plot-points dribbled out scripts before, but never like this. I was particularly fascinated by the way the pair toyed with each other about the nature of their previous relationship. I don't imagine anyone talks like this in real life, but it was fun to watch. See if it doesn't cause you to wonder what it would be like to meet an old flame decades later--it certainly had that effect on me.
The film is rated R for sex and language. If you don't like talk (and a quick peek) at sex and adultery, this film is not for you. Helena Bonham Carter (who calls herself 38, and really was 38 when the film was shot) and Aaron Eckhart between them have 90% of the lines in this film, yet it never feels stagy or boring. In fact, it would make an excellent play.
The extra half star is for making a serious film that is only 84 minutes long.
It is nice to see Chevy Chase back making films again--IMDB shows him with 50 film credits, and those of us of a certain age can remember when it looked like he might be one of the all-time great comic actors. Somehow, despite a few memorable films, the dogs came to outnumber the winners and he faded from view. Chase has replaced his trademark pratfall with a rapid blink (both parodied within the film), but his droll delivery and, well, funny face, are always a pleasure to see on screen. Perhaps it is intentional irony that Courtney Cox takes a number of pratfalls in this film--homage to Chase's famous falls? Tim Allen, of course, is lovable, family-friendly Tim Allen.
It is a shame to see such great live-action talent wasted in a decidedly second-rate piece of genre' hackwork. Allen plays a retired superhero who comes out of retirement to train a new team of young superheroes and protect them from the depredations of a power-mad General Rip Torn (delightfully chewing all the scenery in sight as usual). You could write out the plot yourself about 10 minutes into the film. And talk about clumsy handling of the exposition--I thought you were supposed to show things in movies not tell them. I guess the rules don't apply when the audience is children. In fact, I didn't stay for the end (it would have made me late for Conversations next door), but I'll bet I can tell you exactly how it ended.
There are worse children's films (especially animated ones), but you're going to spend more time wondering about how much Wendys paid for the product placement than you are pondering the eternal verities of the plot. The message of course, is uplifting. It's just that I've seen all this done better.
Lasusa Links, Star Wars In Brief, Dan Grobstein File
Normally, Lasusa links are short and amusing. This week, Tom had something he wanted to get off his chest, and I'm here to help.
This one struck me hard, particularly as the father of two year old twins who are already starting to become very impressionable.
"You can command the latest M-1 tank, feel the rush of a paratrooper freefall, fly a Cobra Gunship or defend your B-17 as a waist gunner," according to the proposal, which was obtained by The Washington Post."
No one is denying that we need military support to protect our country and its assets. And sometimes in our country's existence, we have had to draft our young adults to fight for it. Most times we've simply encouraged them to defend it. But in that case, it was their choice to either join the military or not.
But, children as we know are impressionable. What they see on TV, what they see their peers doing and what lessons their parents impart upon them essentially tell them what to eat, what to play with, what to wear, who to like in school, what God they should pray to, etc.
To 'Disney-up' the Military life is child manipulation at its very peak. This park is going to do it's very best to show kids how 'awesome' it would be to become a soldier by making the experience as fun as the teacup ride at that very well known Florida Theme park. No doubt they hope that the impressionable children will simply conclude that their natural course of action is to join the military when they 'grow up.'
I'm hazarding a guess, but I'm sure among the other attractions the park will have, it won't include things like 'battlefield surgery fun' or "Hall of lost limbs" or the "Tailspin Dive" ride.
As children get older, they should be taught about pride in their country and what it takes to protect it. Along that path of discovery they will learn about the military -- and if they want to explore it as a career, we should allow them to do so. It's their lives after all. But it should, for as long as possible, remain a matter of choice. The life of a soldier can be a rewarding experience, but I doubt it's as fun as a ride on the merry-go-round
Daniel Dern found this on CNN:
LONDON, England (AP) -- U.S. director George Lucas has given permission for the "Star Wars" saga, which lasted for over 13 hours, to be shortened to a production of just 20 minutes, officials from Britain's Reduced Shakespeare Company said Tuesday.
The company is famous for staging the Bard's 37 plays in just 97 minutes and has also staged "The complete history of America" and "The Bible: the complete word of God," among other abbreviated productions.
Now for the short and amusing ones: The top 10 WTF?!?!?! Movie Endings (part 1) ... "Bad" Video games (Photoshopping fun) ... Meet the UK's 'Mole Man' ... The Rubber Band Man...er Girl ... Insanely Realistic artwork ... Build a better Bender Costume ... Whiplash, the Dog Riding Cowboy Monkey (That's right)... Moby Dick Jr!... 11 of the Wierdest Ancient Mysteries (We had a female pope?!?!?)... 10 Worst Movies
Dan Grobstein File
Chinese Tech Buffs Slake Thirst for U.S. TV Shows
By HOWARD W. FRENCH
Numerous Chinese groups are translating U.S. television shows and putting them on the Internet, dodging Chinese censors and American copyright lawyers.
A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749
By MICHAEL BARBARO and TOM ZELLER Jr.
Detailed records of searches underscore how much people reveal about themselves when they use search engines.
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