PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr. Vol. 2 No. 35
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
October 11, 1999
It's Rae's Week. Big Week. Big Column.
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:
In a sweet and unexpected gesture, two of Rae's best friends called Monday night, before her birthday and asked if they could come over at 6 a.m. to make her breakfast, giver he presents and wake her up. It was supposed to be a surprise.
When Laura Gilmore and Sara Fischer called to ask for permission, Rae answered the phone. Oops! She transferred the call to me, then came in a few minutes later and asked, "Why did Laura call you." I made up some mind-bogglingly lame excuse and changed the subject. Rae asked again. I changed the subject again. I had to do this four times before she finally forgot what she was asking me about.
I am normally up at 6 anyway, but to make sure I was up, awake, alert, dressed and ready to roll (several of those things are not strictly necessary to check e-mail and make phone calls) I got up at 5 that morning. Thus I was ready to greet them when they arrived.
They made waffles (well, Vicki and I made waffles, and then pancakes). They surprised Rae by waking her up. Then they dressed her in a bizarre costume and wrote "It's My Bday" on her face. One thing I will never understand is why the expression of true friendship so often involves humiliation. It certainly has in my life. Something about bonding, I guess.
Another thing that struck me is that the birthday is the holiday for all ages. When Rae came home that night, she mentioned that, even without the costume, everyone remembered it was her birthday. "It's always a surprise when people rememer, isn't it?" She asked. I agreed. And a pleasant surprise at that. Several of my best friends remembered mine on Sept. 17, and Peter Peckarsky offered a belated greeting when I spoke to him on Rae's birthday.
In youth, it is the holiday that no one ever forgets and everyone celebrates as a landmark in the glacial progress towards the (seeming) Valhalla of adulthood. In adulthood, it is an occasion to remember and contact friends who have spun out of our daily orbit but still matter. Based on observation, in old age it is an occasion for nostalgia, a chance for celebration of dodging death for another year, and sometimes a moment to remember the friends who are no longer around.
Family weekend at Columbia University just ended, and I was lucky enough to be able to spend it with Marlow. Friday we went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, then saw the movie Blue Streak. Saturday Marlow played Alto Sax with the Columbia University Marching Band. The tee-shirts call it the world's most clever band. The PA announcer, reading a script written by the band, called it the world's most annoying band. Sunday, I went to Vassar with the men's and women's rugby teams to watch Marlow play Rugby.
Thursday we had dinner at the Cottage, a Chinese restaurant near campus that serves a bottomless glass of wine. I found out how they do it: they serve adequate Chinese food and virtually undrinkable wine.
Friday, I went to a lecture on the second-year core course, Contemporary Civilization. It was an absolute inspiration and obviously a great and useful course. Standing a few feet away from me was Leonard Nimoy, whose son is in Marlow's class. Later, I learned that Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, among other things) has a daughter in the class.
Marlow and I lunched at Pronto Pizza, one of two pizza places on Broadway within spitting distance of Columbia University In The City Of New York. We then went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, on which more (much more) later. Marlow had to be back for rugby practice. We had dinner at The Empire, the hotel I stay in at W. 63rd and Broadway, across from Lincoln Center. There is a very serviceable restaurant, the West 43rd Street Steakhouse, on the mezzanine. Then we watched Martin Lawrence in Blue Streak at the multiplex on Broadway at 84th.
Saturday I went to a brunch where I met a lot of fellow parents and no administrators, then took a bus the 100 blocks uptown to Baker Field, where Columbia plays football and baseball. Columbia beat Bucknell 10-7, but I almost couldn't have told you who won, because I was sitting with the band, which provided substantially more mirth and entertainment than the football game. When we got back to Marlow's room, we looked for either a Broadway show or a movie. Nothing appealed much to us except Dame Edna, and she was sold out. So we went to dinner at a place I like, the Rio de Jaineros on W. 43rd, east of 7th, where we had Rodizio. Marlow wasn't sure she would like it, but she did. We were both tired, so we made an early evening of it.
Sunday, the plan was to take a bus to Vassar and see the Rugby game. In order to file this column on time, I'll have to describe this next time. However, I can say that it is raining which, in Marlow's own words, produces a situation that is "muddy and fun".
The best day working (which I did Wednesday and Thursday at Internet World) is not as good as any day I get to spend with either of my daughters.
Marlow is an excellent writer, by the way, so I'll share a little of her description of this week and our first night together:
I had a pretty good week this week. No tests, no papers. Monday was a rather rough rugby practice, because we needed to work on tackling, but since it was raining it was muddy and fun.
Tuesday I found myself completely over-extended. I had band practice from 9-11, a French movie I was quasi-supposed to see at 6:30, rugby weight lifting from 6-8, and my PBS show airing at 10. So I decided to screw everything else in favor of my being on TV. I got some homework done, took a shower, and enjoyed watching myself swear on the educational
Wednesday I took a study break with Mike who promised me tacos. I know you've all been wondering if I've been getting my weekly dosage of Taco Bell food since I am no longer hanging out in Rheem or
Wednesday was also my first pledge meeting. They will apparently be weekly on Wed after rugby practice for an hour, mandatory until December 10th when I will be initiated.
Anyway, that bring me to today, or Thursday rather. Classes, blah, blah, blah, then I met Dad at Lerner at 5:30ish. We went through my goodie bag [EDITOR: presents from home, including a tee-shirt that said "The beatings will continue until morale improves] and then checked my mail,
I showed him ADP house. Cresta let us in, but since I was only really supposed to show him the first two floors we didn't see any other members around. Dad can give his own report on what he hought of the house, and purple pool table [EDITOR: I liked them. They reminded me of Student House, where I lived in college]. After ADP, we came back here to Hartley, he got to see my room after it's been lived in for a month, but I must admit Miru and I cleaned a fair amount last night so any pictures you see aren't exactly representative of the way I'm living... [EDITOR: I saw it again on Saturday night, and it looked more like what I expectedÖ] When I'd changed out of my rugby socks (today was Rookie Sock Day, until 7 o'clock), I took Dad to the Cottage. It's the all-you-can-drink, semi-decent Chinese restaurant on Amsterdam near the Hungarian Pastry Shop. We had an all right dinner, the company of course outweighing the food, and then I had to get back to campus for marching band practice. For some bizarre reason, dad didn't want to hang out until 11 and hit the town with me, so I let him go.
Marching band practice went well. I got lightly chastised for missing the last two practices, but I got the new music and picked it up with no problems, but once again I'll let dad attest to that after Saturday [EDITOR: her playing was fine]. Since we have a game Saturday, Mike had an issue of the Suck (the Columbia University Marching Band newsletter). I've hung out with Mike enough the last two weeks to get quoted! This is my second Suck in a row where I got mentioned.
After only a month, I've conditioned my body to not get sleepy until obscenely late on weekends, apparently, because here I am typing away, not feeling groggy at all.
SensAtion at the BAM
You may not remember the name of the art exhibit (SensAtion), but you've surely heard of it. It's been in the papers, on television and in the news magazines. It's the show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that has New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani frothing at the mouth, cutting off funding, going to federal court to have the museum's lease broken and its board thrown out.
There are only two pieces from the large exhibition that I've seen depicted: the controversial one (Madonna with camel dung) and the 5-foot tall head. Have you wondered why this is?
It's probably because so many of the rest of the pieces in this exhibit are repulsive. A few are disgusting. There is a literal dead cow's head with maggots and flies. The stench is quite something. An artist who works with mannequins has a half-dozen pieces on display that depict pre-pubescent girls with penis noses.
There is some remarkably misogynist work that is apparently "OK" because it is done by women. There are a half-dozen pieces that are "art" simply because an "artist" has decided to call them "art." And I can assure you quotations were never more valid.
Damien Hirst is a great favorite of the Saatchi Collection, from which this exhibit is drawn. His works include a fake shark in 22 tons of formaldehyde, a fake sheep in formaldehyde, a real cow cut into pieces with each piece in formaldehyde, and a pig cut once laterally, preserved in formaldehyde. Do you see a pattern here? He also does dots.
By the way, along the same line, the guy who did the camel-dung Madonna did a half-dozen other pieces, all of which are daubed with dry, odorless camel dung, except his Victorian-style dresses rendered in African cloth. He's African. He's also Catholic. He thinks camel dung is part of his heritage--that's what David Bowie says in the audio tour. I'd tell you the artist's name, but I didn't write it down because I figured it would be in the literature the museum hands out. Hah! And I'm offline now, so I can't look it up.
The long and the short of it: Guiliani is a nut case, but then the liberal Democrats among us knew that already. He says he's fighting to keep kids from seeing this show. Well, Marlow and I have been. It is not possible, simply not possible, to get into this show (which costs an extra $5 above the normal museum admission) and not know that it is wildly inappropriate for any child under high school age and most children under college age. There is a posted called a "health warning" which suggests the contents of the exhibition may cause "shock, vomiting, confusion, panic, euphoria and anxiety." (Quite accurate, except for the Euphoria part). There are specific announcements, several of them, that tell you, "don't bring children and don't come yourself if you are easily disgusted."
No, Rudy this isn't about Rudy's deep concern for children. It isn't even about art. This is about Rudy's poll numbers among Catholics. Having seen SensAtion, I can tell you that, had Rudy not chosen to pick a fight over it, no one would give the Madonna a second look. It certainly wouldn't be behind plastic with an armed guard next to it. No one would have thrown camel dung at the museum. There wouldn't be a policeman and a metal detector at every entrance and two police cars in front.
The exhibit is certainly provocative. It is occasionally disgusting. There are moments of cleverness, and some real "art," in the terms by which I have always understood that term (No space for a full definition here, but I know it when I see it).
There's even some actual paint on canvas (and other surfaces) and some sculpture (or castings of objects in real life, done in interesting ways), and some photography. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but buying a street vendor's cart, painting it and calling it Costermonger's Stall doesn't really strike me as involving anything I recognize as artistic talent. For the most part, however, it consists of young British artists, shouting "look at me, look at me" in whatever way their (sometimes meager) talents permit them.
I've seen better exhibits. I've seen worse exhibits. I've been to very few that were more engaging (often in the "look, there's been a car accident" mode) and none that were more controversial, or that contained more repellent works. SensAtion was worth the 30-minute subway ride into deepest Brooklyn. It runs through January 9. Order your tickets in advance by phone at 1-87-Sharkbite.
If you haven't seen me in a while, you might agree with Neal Macklin's note about the PBS documentary shots of me:
Hey buddy, you better start hiking up and down that driveway a little more often!
He's right, and naturally, I have noticed. I have tried many things: Weight Watchers, psychotherapy and hypnosis, among others. Well, as a result of my bonus from the sale of CMP, I can afford a personal trainer to come to the house once a week. Since nothing is more important than my health, I have committed a fair amount of money to this effort. And I am pleased to say that, finally, I have found something that works!
Ever wonder what screen resolution high-end users, sort of the pro-am set, are using? We wondered at Winmag.com, and we made it a reader poll and here's what we found:
3139 total respondents
Basically, if you're doing anything at your web site to accommodate 640 by 480, foggedaboutit. No one's there anymore. The same thing goes for 14.4 (terrible) RealAudio by the way. If they ain't got 28.8, there just ain't enough of them to worry about. In face, G2 has about 85% penetration, so it is really OK to offer G2-only audio.
The title of this section is Marlow's high-school senior web page. She doesn't have a first-year college student page (yet). You'll read about it here when she does.
Other Marlow sites of interest:
ADP, the co-ed literary fraternity she is pledging
The Top 13 Rejected Action Hero Catch Phrases (excerpts)
Oct. 6, 1999
5> "Yippie Ki Yay, Mother Superior!"
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
The Top 13 Clever Ways to Defend Against a Planet-Destroying Asteroid
Oct, 7, 1999
5> Give *everyone* their own personal asteroid. (Submitted by the NRA)
Selected from 88 submissions from 34 contributors.
This quick note: I haven't seen Three Kings yet, but I got this recommendation from Ray and Yoli Pardo:
I strongly recommend "Three Kings" -- it is as thoughtful as it is entertaining. Plus, I like the demographics it is attracting. It is a story that needs to be told to the teenager and young adult.
The facts, (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.
I didn't grab the facts for you because I'm out of town and the Internet connection is too expensive and takes too long to make.
Kevin Spacey = Oscar. Annette Benning = Oscar. American Beauty = nomination for best picture, but it will never win.
This is the strangest American film I have ever seen. It is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard in the sense that it is narrated by a dead man, so you know, in a sense, what is going to happen (there's a refreshing narrative twist at the end). Frankly, the only way I'd tell someone to see it is if they, like me, pride themselves on having seen all the best picture and best actor films prior to the announcement of the Oscar nominations.
Otherwise, I'd have to say American Beauty is just too bizarre. There is not a single sympathetic character in the movie, and lots of mildly disturbing sexual imagery. It is a savage look at the vacuity of suburban living. Spacey does get to do an unusually funny turn when he quits his job and walks away with a great settlement. There are some very interesting film-making techniques. But I wouldn't exactly call it entertainment, and it doesn't quite rise to the level of thought-provoking, just unsettling and disturbing.
For The Love Of The Game
The facts, (courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.
No facts? Same reason as above.
Kevin Costner. Baseball. That's probably all you need to know. Most people--at least most people whose love for baseball is casual rather than fanatical-- will tell you Bull Durham with Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon is the best baseball movie ever made. Fanatics will pick something sappy like Pride of the Yankees.
It's a little long, but For The Love Of the Game IS entertaining. In the here and now, Costner is on his way to pitching a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. We flash back to the story of his dissolving relationship with the only woman he has ever loved and his triumph over a serious injury. The flashbacks are handled well. In addition, there's a cute special effect to show how pitchers blot out the fans when they're pitching.
I have an informal test for whether a film is really entertaining--did I ever look at my watch? I didn't once check the time during For The Love Of The Game. So if you're not suffering from Costner burnout, you might enjoy it too.
No facts required. Loud, noisy, funny in a slapstick kind of way. Distractingly unrealistic. Funny, if you like Martin Lawrence. This is the one where he's a jewel thief, hides the jewel in the air conditioning duct of an unfinished building, comes back to find it's a police station, discovers you have to be a cop to get inside, and fakes his way in. I think the line, "You sure seem obsessed with our duct system, detective," pretty well sums up Blue Streak. And remember, "You have a big cat in your pants."
West Wing, Sports Night
David E. Kelley won an unprecedented two Emmys this year, for best comedy (Ally McBeal) and best drama (The Practice). Now I don't wish to take anything away from these two fine shows, but if the Emmy voters have a lick of sense (something they have never demonstrated in the past), they will quickly duplicate their record-setting achievement next year, by awarding a pair of Emmies to Alan Sorkin, the producer of the two most intelligent shows on television.
Sports Night is on Tuesdays on ABC. Itís a behind-the-scenes look at a sports TV show. I donít like sports much--I have literally never watched ESPN--but I love this show.
It is clever, witty, amusing and engaging. And sports was the perfect topic. The sports department of the newspaper is known to journalists as the toy department. In our hearts, we know sports are often meaningless and frequently boring. What rescues them is writing in newspapers and personalities on television. Sorkin clearly noticed this, so whenever Sports Night has to deliver a few minutes of sports coverage it is filled with wordplay, alliteration and puns. Must-see TV.
Ditto for West Wing, Wednesday at 9 on NBC. Tip o' the hat to Daniel Dern, who sent me the first two episodes on tape. There has never been a serious TV series about the American presidency. This one is great. And I love it even more because the president is a liberal democrat. Also must-see TV.
Pay attention to these shows--there will be a quiz later (except for you, Daniel--you'll probably see more episodes than I will).
Reaction to the Schindler family appearance on the PBS documentary series Frontline last week was fast and furious. Marlow and I were recognized twice on the Columbia campus, and once on the Uptown IRT (I was in NYC for Parents' Weekend) by people who had seen the show, and felt obliged to speak to us about it!
First, Marlow's reaction:
I liked the documentary. I'm so proud of the explicit language warning. All me baby. People found your comment cute as well. I talked to Stacey, she's proud of her half a second in the girl scout scene.
One of my colleagues at Byte.com noted:
There's nothing like saying "fuck" under your breath in your first national television appearance... ;-)
Barry Surman weighed in from New York:
The show seemed mostly to be a plug for Lemann's new book, and not a very compelling one, at that. It covered no new ground, and most disappointingly failed to address critically the destructive and misplaced "if-I-don't-get-into-(name the elite school of your choice)-my-entire-education-to-date-will-have-been-wasted-and-my-whole-life-will-be-ruined" syndrome.
I haven't read Lemann's book, but I read the excerpts in Newsweek and I was impressed.
Lots of letters like this one, from Ray and Yoli Pardo, but I think I'll just print this one as a representative of all:
We saw you, Marlow and Vicki (and your new house) on PBS last night.
Well, yes, I like to think so, he said immodestly.
Finally, I have several correspondents who could have been professional writers if they hadn't been so darn technically competent. One of them is Neal Macklin. His commentary was, as usual, spot-on.
Sorry you got to play the part of the conservative patsy in an otherwise left-leaning documentary. That's funny--if they only knew! That's what comes from having money I guess.
Marlow was very proud of the language warning, as you can tell from her note above. I was not coached, and I almost certainly missed the donut question as well.
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