PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
November 16, 1998
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Table of Contents:
I suspect there are very few of you reading this who didn't come here as a result of my weekly "alert service," in which I send you a piece of e-mail telling you what's in this week's column. But in case you wandered by in some other way, if you're enjoying this, write me at email@example.com and I'll put you on the mailing list.
By the way, as I started writing this (just after posting last week's column) the counter was at 124; that's more than 40 visits a week!
By semi-popular demand, I am leaving quoted material in a larger typeface this week (several people complained about the quotes in small type). Let me know which size you like for quoted material; the one I am using this week or the one I used in prior weeks.
As I copyread the column just now, it occurs to me that I am really starting to feel like the late Herb Caen. Not in the sense that I'm feeling dead (at least not yet--tired, yes, but not dead), but in the sense that my column is really starting to be written by my readers, with me providing the glue and what a Forbes editor once called the "writer's guiding intelligence." It's fine with me (I have very erudite friends); I hope it is fine with you. The proof, as they say on the net, is in the counter.
Why should I bother with original analysis, when someone else has made the point so well? This from Procomp, an anti-Microsoft Washington, D.C.-based trade association:
There's that word again - "snippets." Whenever Bill Gates puts his foot in his mouth, Microsoft blames the government. This time, the shift-the-blame ploy came from Gates himself. In a Wednesday interview broadcast on ABC's Good Morning America, Gates whined again:
"They take every piece of e-mail I've sent, pick the ones that they think can confuse people," Gates said. "They take a little snip of that, then they edit the videotape and don't show my whole deposition, they show these tiny little things. The government could have called me as a witness. Why didn't it."
What Gates didn't say his that it's Microsoft's lawyers who on October 20 kept the deposition under wraps by asking the Appeals Court to reverse Judge Jackson's order to make the entire testimony public.
Gates also failed to mention that Microsoft also chose not to put him on the witness stand.
After several weeks of reticence, I guess it's finally time to fess up. This is where I work. This is where I put in my 40 hours... each day. At least that's what it seems like.
Many of you... Well some of you... Well, one or two of you...
OK, none of you have asked, but what I do is multimedia production on the web. Where you can hear the most of me (if you have RealAudio installed on your computer) is at TechWeb's Week in Review, which I produce. I also read (and write) the weekly news summary at the top of the show. Actually, effective next week, we won't be doing a news summary any more, but you can always go to the archives and listen to old ones! The point isn't the news, it's listening to me!
Most days, I also produce, write and introduce our audio coverage of the Microsoft Antitrust trial.
You could hardly tell it from looking and listening (except at the very start, where I give an over-the-top reading of the line "You're listening to TechWeb Today, your technology news channel"), but I am also the writer and producer of TechWeb Today. This is our daily audio/video program which uses the RealNetworks G2 player. This is a pretty exciting opportunity and our biggest multimedia product, with about 15,000 visitors a day. The reason we get so many is that we're a default button on the G2 player when you install it, along with the big boys, CNet and ZDNet. That, and of course, our great content. During the Microsoft trial, we are using the technology channel to present our Microsoft coverage; the video from CNBC is often the meat in a Paul Schindler sandwich. If you got and listen, you'll see what I mean.
Anyway, that's what I'm doing for a living these days, so feel free to wander over there and increase our traffic numbers.
It's a long way from that spoon with a string tied to it.
First of all, if you haven't seen Brill's Content, go out and buy a copy (if you're in the U.S. and you can). Or surf over to their web site.
They ask whatever happened to media coverage of the investigation of Kenneth Starr's grand jury leaks.
Frankly, this story makes the big media nervous, and no wonder. They are forced into contortions that are painful to watch. The New York Times and Newsweek, among others, have to write about leaks to themselves, and pretend they don't know where those leaks came from. They do, of course.
This is the most disheartening journalistic behavior since the editor of Newsweek allowed speculation about the identity of the anonymous author of Primary Colors to appear in his magazine, at a time when he knew damn well who the author was--his own political reporter, Joe Klein.
Major media are treating the leak investigation like any other, with he said/she said journalism that doesn't hint at who might be to blame. It is the most sickening display of cant, hypocrisy and balderdash I have ever seen.
Also, this bit of James Madison interpretation from Jeffrey Toobin in the Nov. 16 issue of The New Yorker:
And impeachment, as he and his colleagues saw it, was to be reserved for extraordinary occasions, when a broad national consensus had concluded that a president's removal was required for the political health of the state. That idea remains sound today.
All I can add is: Amen.
A Bit More On Glenn
I don't have a lot more to say about John Glenn's flight, except that I think Neal Macklin's analysis in the Letters section is cogent and right-on. I think what he did was great for him, great for the space program and great for America.
However, I also agree with the person who said: "It isn't space if you could drive there on a bus." Which means the space shuttle, even the upcoming international space station, isn't really space. By the way, anybody know who said this?
This e-mail came to me from the friend of a friend. You'll win a special mention in the next column, if you can figure out a) which news organization was involved b) the actual answer c) the right answer.
This is the situation. You're an international news organization with pretensions to being a first-class international news organization.
The U.S. is moving troops, warships, and warplanes into the Persian Gulf and intimating that it's really, really pissed off at Saddam Hussein and is going to give him a Desert-Storm style pasting. Price of oil is up, stock markets are fretting, the Swiss franc is rising, Israelis are getting nervous among other things.
One of your reporters, by sheer blind luck, had set up an interview with the oil minister of Iraq some time before. He gets to Jordan Thursday, as everybody is looking for the bombs to start falling any minute. He hires a driver and makes his way to the Iraqi embassy. He fights his way through the hordes of journalists trying desperately to get a visa. He picks up his pre-approved visa after a mere ten hours of negotiation. He and his driver head out across the length of Iraq.
Sixteen hours later, early evening on Friday local time, he arrives in Baghdad, after talking his way through numerous military checkpoints. He's got a nine-day visa, and now Iraq has quit giving people visas, so there are relatively few journalists around. But he hooks up with a French press agency to use its satellite phone, so it won't even cost him anything to file. He makes some calls and finds to his amazement the oil ministry even assures him his interview with the oil minister is still on for Tuesday.
He's an Irishman with an Irish passport, whose headquarter is in London, so he's reasonably safe from threats of reprisals against Americans. He speaks excellent Arabic, because his father was a diplomat and he grew up in the Mideast. He's even unmarried, with no dependents. In short, he's an ideal reporter to have in an Arab capital that may well be ground zero for the next Mideast war, which looks like starting any minute.
The reporter, tired but triumphant, calls to check in at headquarters -- you, the international news organization with pretensions to being a first-rate international news organization. Do you:
(a) Praise him to the skies and tell him to file to the wire, to radio, to television, anything he gets, for as long as he can stay, or until the whole thing blows up or blows over?
(b) Castigate him for making such silly trip?
(c) Order him to leave immediately?
(d) Order under no circumstances NOT TO DO ANY REPORTING?
(e) (b), (c) and (d)
When I was a boy, my father often came home from the dairy he worked at, complaining about what idiots the managers were. As an adult, I have learned that most managers in most companies (present company excepted) are not the sharpest tools in the shed.
I faced an interesting intellectual dilemma this week. The New Yorker Magazine does not have a web site that contains content from the magazine. Thus, I cannot tell you to surf over there and see Emily Dickinson, Jerk of Amherst, a brilliantly funny parody of Joyce Maynard's writings about J.D. Salinger by Andy Borowitz in the Shouts and Murmurs section of the Nov. 16 issue. I thought about everything I had been taught about fair usage, and decided that reproducing the entire article in my column would be a violation.
I thought about doing it as a digression. Still a violation, as it would amount to "publishing" the work.
Then I hit on an idea that I think may meet the spirit and the letter of the "fair usage" exception to the copyright law. You attorneys in the audience, please feel free to weigh in.
As I understand it, non-commercial duplication for small audiences is legal under American copyright law. I think e-mailing copies of this work is the equivalent of faxing copies to a few friends. So, I will print an excerpt. If you think it is funny, write to me with "I Want It" in the subject line and I will email you a copy. I think this is fair use.
By the way, Vicki, my wife, found it unamusing. I found it laugh-out-loud hysterical.
Except when she was drunk. At those times, usually beginning at the stroke of noon, she became a gluttonous, vituperative harpy who would cut you for your last Buffalo wing... [she would] "get polluted 'til [she] booted."...
I attempted to mend the breach that had developed in our relationship; I went on at some length about my debt to her work. She took a sip of water, cleared her throat, and replied, "Bite me, you self-aggrandizing weasel."
Now that's humor.
This has been around the net several times. Last week it was semi-seriously attributed to Sony. These aren't real, folks, but they are funny, which is why they're here:
A file that big?
My topic, and I got the number two slot. Woo-Hoo!See It Here, or if you can't, see it at www.topfive.com.
Look for the Nov. 11, 1998 list:
The Top 13 Changes at Microsoft
Neal Macklin checks in from Silicon Valley with this analysis of John Glenn's second flight:
The publicity NASA is now enjoying is unfortunately only nostalgia for John Glenn and an earlier era. Interest will disappear before the next shuttle flight. I challenge anyone to name the other astronauts on Glenn's flight; it's just another bus departure from Cocoa Beach.
Back when we were kids, you could name all the astronauts, and thanks to Life magazine, their kids and wives, too. For most Americans indifferent to science and dreaming, identifying with the personalities made the space program "up close and personal". This was a Good Thing, because it enabled the funding.
I think it's a shame that this country has no goal today (in space or anywhere else). We seem to be satisfied to live day to day and just "get by". Wouldn't you have liked to have left MIT and gone into something like the space program? Watching it growing up is the reason I went to MIT.
Like you, I hope we can get behind going to Mars; I truly hope to see that in my lifetime.
This cogent analysis from an anonymous correspondent:
Did you hear Gingrich the day after the election? He thought that people got sick of the Lewinsky affair "by the sheer repetition." He also made a comment that people got turned off because it got more disgusting the more you heard it.
This could be the Gingrich Constant, which disproves the old Joe Goebbels "Big Lie" Theory. The Nazis thought you could convince anyone of anything if you lied big enough and kept lying. The Gingrich Constant suggests otherwise, that even truth turns people off if you tell it big enough and often enough.
It's an interesting turn on the media, don't you think?
Yes, I do. That's why I reprinted it here, while preserving your anonymity.
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