PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
March 8, 1999
Erratic publishing schedules are SO unprofessional
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
Writing short is hard. But I resolved to be briefer this week than last time out.
Let's Make Life Interesting:
Computer Industry News
Ross Snyder on the HP Breakup
It was an important story, and I'm not sure it got the coverage it deserved. Hewlett-Packard, one of the first major electronics companies formed in Silicon Valley, has decided to break up its instrument business and its computer business. It started out in instrumentation--its first product, sold to Disney, was an oscillator. It hit paydirt with oscilloscopes that were among the world's bests (although Oregonians might argue in favor of Tektronix). Anyway, my close personal friend Ross Snyder was a long time HP public relations official, now retired. I asked him what he thought:
I think it's fine. Instrumentation is where it all began, and I surely hope the instrument company somehow retains the H & P names, if only for sentimental reasons. It appears Ned Barnholt will take it on. He was about 25 when I first worked with him, and even then he was a standout -- super-bright, people-sensitive, technically deeply qualified. Some years after I left the company I wrote for them a history of the HP atomic frequency and time standards. They comprise the timekeeping standards of every modern nation and are the basis of the satellite navigation system. Interviewing for that article, I talked with one of the engineers then in the Santa Clara Division, which made the things. He said he felt it was time for a redesign, "but it's hard to persuade a 30-billion dollar company to invest in a new 10-million-a-year product." They did it, and it had important consequences, but the instrument people just might, until now, have felt that while their specialty was the company's foundation, they were a bit neglected.
I was just put in charge of this site. It needs all the traffic it can get. Why don't you all swing by four or five times a day. Thank you.
It is a great site if you are interested in personal computers and their surrounding technology.
I named AltaVista as my favorite search engine last time. This encouraged several of you to write me about your favorite search engines. For the next few weeks, I will be printing your selections and your comments about them. If anyone else wants to chime in on this subject, feel free to do so. My email address is at the end of the column.
Paul Makes The Top 5 List At No. 9
T H E T O P F I V E L I S Ttop5@gmbweb.com http://www.topfive.com ]
[ Do not forward, publish, broadcast, or use in any manner ]
[ without crediting "The Top 5 List at www.topfive.com" ]
Selected from 131 submissions from 46 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Ed Smith, Chattanooga, TN -- 1 (16th #1)
Daniel Weckerly, Limerick, PA -- 2
Greg Sadosuk, Fairfax, VA -- 3
Greg Pettit, Houston, TX -- 3, 13
Elliott Downing, Antioch, CA -- 4
Curt Cutting, Santa Monica, CA -- 4
Larry G. Hollister, Concord, CA -- 5, 11, HM list name
Fred Hesby, Portland, OR -- 6
Dave Henry, Slidell, LA -- 7, RU list name
Patrick Douglas Crispen, Univ of Alabama -- 8
Bob Mader, Knoxville, TN -- 9
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9
Dave Wesley, Pleasant Hill, CA -- 9
Tony Hill, Minneapolis, MN -- 10 (Hall of Famer)
Chris Gleason, Gaithersburg, MD -- 12
Gary R. Smith, Florissant, CO -- Banner tag
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Al Stewart, Glasgow, Scotland -- Ambience
One Quick Joke
Four Catholic ladies were having coffee.
The first Catholic woman tells her friends, "My son is a priest. When he walks into a room, everyone calls him 'Father.'"
The second Catholic woman chirps, "My son is a bishop. Whenever he walks into a room, people call him 'Your Grace.'"
The third Catholic crone says, "My son is a cardinal. Whenever he walks into a room, people say 'Your Eminence.'"
Since the fourth Catholic woman sips her coffee in silence, the first three women give her this subtle, "Well...?"
So she replies, "My son is a gorgeous, 6' 2," hard-bodied stripper. When he walks into a room, ladies say, 'Oh, my God....'"
All-Time Great Putdowns II
Remember that review I quoted in the last column?
Sometime in the early 1970s, about 1972 or 1973, long-time NY Times critic Clive Barnes wrote a reveiw of Futz, a musical that opened at the McAlpin Rooftop Theater in New York. If anyone can find the review, please send me a copy. I carried it around in my wallet for years, because it was such a beautiful example of the well-crafted smart-Alec put-down. It began something like this:
Other than the acting, directing, script, lighting, staging, cast, location and theater, all of which I hated, the thing I disliked most about Futz was...
A friend of mine informs me it definitely wasn't Futz. I am still sure it was Barnes and the McAlpin Rooftop Theater, but beyond that, I guess I don't know as much as I thought I did.
200 Cigarettes: Lovely Little Art Film
200 Cigarettes is a perfectly lovely little art movie with outstanding supporting performances by Christina Ricci and Ben Affleck. Ricci does a letter-perfect Long Island girl (from Ronkonkoma). Affleck plays a clumsy, handsome, clue-impaired bartender. It is set in the far southern reaches of Manhattan on the night of Dec. 31, 1981-Jan. 1, 1982. Paul Rudd and Courtney Love, as the central pair in the movie, turn in first class, low-key performances. I still wonder if Love will ever get a role that doesn't involve her playing a blowsy slut. In the meantime, she's got that persona down pat.
Jay Mohr wanders far afield from his usual screen persona, playing a cad. He is paired with Kate Hudson, who you wouldn't know was Goldie Hawn's daughter unless someone warned you and you were looking carefully. She plays the clumsy girl on her second date with Jay. The Indian restaurant scene is priceless, on a par with a young Lucille Ball--or a young Goldie Hawn.
Janeane Garofalo is a cinematic miracle. The woman doesn't know how to make a bad move on screen. She is living proof that there are no small roles, just small actors.
The action is occasionally profane, but never explicit. Liberal use of the seven dirty words, but any reasonably sophisticated teenager could see and enjoy this film.
The title refers to the number of cigarettes in a cartoon. Paul Rudd's character gets a cartoon of cigarettes for his birthday.
Analyze This: Laugh out Loud Funny
Run, don't walk, to Analyze This. Sometimes, I fall in love with a movie during the trailer. Often, the love is unrequited. This time, the affair turned out well. Start with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal. Add a plot: the mobster and the shrink. "What's my goal here, to make you a happy, well-adjusted mobster?" The takeoffs on mobster movies and psychobabble are priceless. I was afraid I was going to injure myself in the climactic scene when Bill Crystal starts slapping around his mob escort.
I still think the funniest comedy ever made was Groundhog Day. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. But for a laugh-out-loud good time, Analyze This now takes second place on my all-time list. There are so many priceless scenes... but to describe them here would ruin the film. Let me just say that if you've seen the TV ads or the trailer, and it seemed funny to you, that wasn't every good moment in the movie--those were just the highlights. Nearly every minute of this film is at least that could and a dozen of them are better. "OK, I was going to whack you, but I was very conflicted about it." :"You flew 1500 miles to see me because you had one incident of impotence?" "Shows I'm motivated, right?"
Due to a nearly indescribable set of circumstances, I ended up seeing this film twice in two nights. Even though I knew every setup and punchline, I still laughed the second time. It doesn't get much better than this.
Blazing Saddles: Still Funny
Marlow, my older daughter, had heard so much about Blazing Saddles from her friends she decided she had to see it. We picked it up at the local video store. I explained to her that Vitamin E was considered a cure for impotence in the mid-70s and we cranked it up.
There was all that Mel Brooks Yiddish stick, being delivered by Goyim (and Indians too, for that matter). Slapstick, stupid jokes, smart jokes, and "I hope you brought enough gum for everyone," "Wow, is he strict." And of course, the horse knockout scene, the campfire scene, and Lili VonSchtup in the dark saying, "It's twue, it's twue." Still a bizarre, twisted, funny film with a weird ending. Not often you see a film rated R for the use of the word "shit" instead of the more ubiquitous and nastier "f" word. If there were any justice, it would have made a star out of Cleavon Little. Hard to believe Dom DeLuise was ever that thin. If it's been a while since you've seen it, see it again. The opening theme alone is worth a revisit.
In the last column, John Kavazanjian and I endorsed Titan, Ron Chernow's biography of John D. Rockefeller. According to Joe Brancatelli (who was my editor at CMP's Information Systems News in 1980-81, we're not the only ones reading it:
I'm only partially through Titan by Ron Chernow (too big to carry on the plane, so I have to put it aside often) and it is, indeed, wonderful. But a key point the book should have reminded people of continues to go astray: when the Feds broke up Standard Oil, Rockefeller got RICHER. And, now, 9 decades later, a recombination of some parts of Standard Oil (i.e. Mobil and Exxon) is hardly threatening. The same would happen at Microsoft. If we break it up, Gates gets richer. And, if years later, putting Microsoft back together again wouldn't harm the economy, we could do it.
An even more apt analogy: when I was at CMP editing you, what were out two big continuing stories? Justice's attempts to break up IBM and AT&T. DOJ gave up on IBM and it went through hell (and several years of astounding losses) trying to keep up with the market. It broke up AT&T and, except for a couple of blips (mostly caused by bad management), has been hugely profitable.
In other words, IBM might have been a better company for a breakup. AT&T surely was!
I thought my complaint about overlong movies was uncontroversial. It just goes to show you never know. Richard Dalton, who has caught me in sloppy thinking numerous times during our two-decade friendship, writes from San Francisco:
If you think that ..."there isn't a story in the world that can't be told in 100 minutes..." (with two noted exceptions) I'd suggest you read some books. Almost every movie based on a book tells such a slender part of the book's richness that it becomes a different "story," often the Cliff Notes (or Classic Comics) version. Even worse, they require more than two hours to read!
Different medium? You bet. Too long? Depends on your attention span.
Ouch. I am in the middle of Tom Wolfe's new book, and I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction in my book reading. Perhaps I should have said, "There isn't a story in the world that can't be told in 100 minutes... on the motion picture screen." And no matter how stupid that statement may, in turn, prove to be when dissected by my clever and witty readers, I still believe most movies are too long.
Let's give the last word this week to Craig Reynolds:
I'd chide you for chiding the movie industry for making over-long movies, since you did it in an over-long column, but I couldn't bring myself to do it at the end of an over-long letter...
I really tried to make the column shorter this week. Thanks for reading!
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