PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 43

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

December 13, 1999

Marlow's Home In Six Days

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:

General News

  • On The Nature of Throwing A Party
  • We Have A Winner!

Computer Industry News

  • ZD Mags Sold

Web Site of the Week

  • M$-Monopoly


  • The Top 13 Upcoming NASA Projects
  • Two Short Jokes


  • Didn't see any movies


  • Brancatelli, Rosenbaum and Marlow on Manhattan

General News

On the Nature of Throwing A Party

Why do people throw parties? I found myself asking this question shortly after midnight last night, as Vicki and I cleaned up after the largest party either of us has ever thrown--a Christmas carol-sing for 40.

Our friend, Fran Strykowski, has been throwing this party at her house for more than a decade. Last fall, she suggested that our house looked like a pretty good place for a party, and we discussed moving her party to our house, at least once. We decided to make it a joint production of the Schindlers, the Mellers and the Strykowski's. There was a fair amount of logistical work involved, since there is no way we can get 20 cars into our "motor court," and our driveway is too steep and dark for people to walk, so we had to shuttle guests up and down. Don't ask. Anyway, that part of the evening worked fine.

In fact, all the parts of the evening worked fine. Everyone enjoyed themselves--except maybe for the hosts, who, as usual, were busy making sure the trains ran on time. Vicki did more of that than I did; I inherited the role of "team leader" during the carol singing, and I can't say I took on the role reluctantly. I don't sing well, but I sing with great enthusiasm, and this party has always been my favorite party of the year.

Anyway, that takes me back to my question at the start of this essay; why do people throw parties? Some do so out of social obligation. Some expect, I imagine, that they will have a good time themselves. Others, altruistically, want their guests to have a good time.

This annual Christmas carol party is quite odd. It involves an activity I love (singing Christmas carols), with people whose company I enjoy. I don't think it would work as a smaller party. But I have discovered over the years that any party of more than 8 people (really, probably more than six people) will be so hectic that you'll have just moments, at best, with most of your guests, and literally no time at all with many of them.

I guess this is why Vicki and I have always gravitated towards small dinner parties. You get more time to spend with everyone, and feel less of a sense if disappointment afterwards, as you review the faces of people you meant to spend a few minutes with, but didn't.

However, confoundingly, I did have a terrific time at Fran's carol party, as always. I talked to some old friends, met some new people, sang with a group of lustily enthusiastic amateurs for about 90 minutes, and enjoyed an excellent pot luck dinner.

When you build a house around a great room, as we did, people expect you to throw parties in it. So this probably won't be the last. But I suppose they will continue to be a surreal amalgam of snatched pleasure, disappointment at the people we don't spend time with, and joy about the conversations we did have.

On one point, I stand four-square behind Vicki--a party at which there is a planned communal activity (in this case, carol singing) in which the vast majority of attendees participate, is vastly preferable to a simple cocktail party. More fun. Easier to put on. More pleasant, I think for most participants.

My second-favorite party each year, by the way, is Fran's Oscar party. While much younger than her carol party, it is still a pot luck built around a planned communal activity--admittedly the somewhat passive activity of watching the Oscars. But at least we get to trade comments with each other.

We Have A Winner

Rae is participating in the public speaking program at Miramonte High School (where she is a Freshman) this year. She has been to Congress (a debate-like event) and has both a 10-minute memorizes Thematic Interpretation (on the subject of jealousy) and a 10-minute Original Prose and Poetry entry that I would characterize as a Stephen King-like short story with an O. Henry twist at the end.

Well, she took her TI and OPP to the Santa Clara Invitational tournament this weekend (also her first overnight tournament, which is why she missed our Christmas party). She participated in three rounds of each event on Saturday, which means she gave six speeches during a grueling day that started at 8 a.m. and featured the premature closure of one of the cafeterias.

In an act of Grand Larceny, she did not make the finals in TI, but she did make the finals in OPP, and finished third in the freshman or "B" division, out of 11 finalists--and she has the trophy to prove it. Congratulations to Rae, for the first of what will, no doubt, be many victories.


I strive always for graciousness and magnanimity, so I should limit my gloating about the fact that the Campolindo girl's basketball team is 1-3 this year and Acalanes girls just lost in a tournament. These are the bitter cross-town rivals of Miramonte. Myself, I'll be announcing JV boys basketball games this year.

Computer Industry News

ZD Mags Sold

Richard Dalton forwarded this, with the note "How the might have fallen." Indeed, the dismemberment of Ziff Davis proceeds apace. What is the world coming to? The article below is excerpted; click on the headline for the full story.

Ziff-Davis to Sell Publishing Unit for $780 Mln
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Trade magazine publisher Ziff-Davis Inc., seeking to boost its sagging share price, said on Monday it agreed to sell PC Magazine, PC Computing and most of its other publications for $780 million in cash to private investment firm Willis Stein & Partners.
Ziff-Davis said it would retain the publications Computer Shopper and its ownership interest in Red Herring, a Silicon Valley based-venture capital magazine. It will also keep its Internet properties, traded under the separate tracking stock of ZDNet. The deal includes a five-year deal under which ZDNet will pay royalties to use Ziff-Davis Publishing content online for five years.
Ziff-Davis Publishing is the latest in a stream of businesses to be sold by Ziff-Davis, including education, market research and television units. The moves are part of the company's bid to boost the value of its flagging share price.
Last summer, Ziff-Davis said it had retained Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to explore strategic options. In August, the company sold ZD Market Intelligence, its market research unit, to direct marketing company Harte-Hanks Inc. (HHS.N) for a total of $106 million.
It also expects to close the sale of its ZD Education and its interest in ZDTV before the end of the first quarter of 2000 for $172 million and $204.8 million respectively. The ZDTV transaction will give Microsoft Corpco-founder Paul Allen a 97 percent share of the cable television channel focused on computers and the Internet.

Web Site of the Week


My good pal Eddie Frager spotted this one. Worth a look. Funny. But true, too.


The Top 13 Upcoming NASA Projects

OK, so it was a four-way tie for 11th. Still, I made the list. By the way, all contributors are subject to editing. I thought my entry, "Find Uranus with both hands in a well-lit room" was funnier than "Planet Ass."

December 10, 1999

13> Point Hubbell Space telescope towards Los Angeles and help O.J. find the real killers

12> Remake "Heaven's Gate"

11> Find Planet Ass with both hands

10> Pull up alongside orbiting MIR space station and aggressively rev engines

9> Two words: IPO

8> Keep hot side hot, cold side cold

7> Project Scapegoat Locator

6> Debunk that whole "cow jumped over the moon" business

5> $3 million dollar probe to locate all the missing Frisbees on the neighbor's roof

4> "Project Weasel" -- quantitative study of number of M-80s required to blow up Jesse Helms's mailbox

3> Bi-pedal locomotion concurrent with chewing gum mastication

2> Seek signs of intelligent life -- on Mars lander project team

and's Number 1 Upcoming NASA Project...

1> Operation Contact Tom Hanks and Ask Him to Make Another Movie Glorifying the Space Program Before the Public Backlash From Recent Failures Gets Out of Hand

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

Selected from 141 submissions from 55 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Curt Cutting, Santa Monica, CA -- 1 (4th #1)
Jeff Downey, Raleigh, NC -- 11 (Hall of Famer)
Greg Sadosuk, Fairfax, VA -- 11
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 11
Martell Stroup, Boston, MA -- 11
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
David Bowie, Brixton, England -- Ambience

Two Short Jokes

The attorney asked, "Before you signed the death certificate, had you taken the man's pulse?"

The coroner said, "No."

The attorney then asked, "Did you listen for a heart beat?"


"So when you signed the death certificate you had not taken any steps to make sure the man was dead, had you?"

The coroner, now tired of the brow beating said, "Well, let me put it this way. The man's brain was sitting in a jar on my desk, but for all I know he could be out there practicing law somewhere."
- - - - - - -
A drunk goes to the doctor complaining of tiredness and headaches. "I feel tired all the time, my head hurts, I've got a sore ass, and I'm not sleeping. What is it, Doc?"

The doctor examines him thoroughly and says, "I can't find anything wrong. It must be the drinking."

"Fair enough," replied the lush. "I'll come back when you sober up."


Didn't See Any Movies

If I had, I'd have included facts from the Internet Movie Database.


Brancatelli on Manhattan

Joe Brancatelli writes:

Your site this week--and especially the flagging of the "wholesome" Times Square item--got me to thinking about New York, myth and reality.

First of all, I must say this: Times Square IS rather depressingly wholesome these days. I know tourists love it, but, like most New Yorkers, we haven't really noticed the change until recently. Our little corner of hell has indeed changed: now it's a sanitized, franchised, albeit neat, hell. Porno's out, chain retail is in. Crime is way down, but do is creativity. It's all very peculiar: New Yorkers come and go, oblivious as usual, but the tourists
really do groove on a New York Starbucks or the New York outlet of Disney or some other franchise. Me, I don't get it. One could have wished for better. Still, that's progress for you.

And this all leads me to a movie like You've Got Mail!, which I finally saw last night. Now Nora Ephron, the director, is a New Yorker who should know better, but it was interesting to see her rather glorified view of New York: lovely life at the 72nd Street boat pier, the charming Upper West Side, all the flowers in Riverside Park. And all I keep thinking is: Boy, New York doesn't look this way. (And late-20s-something New Yorkers don't have apartments like they have in "Friends," either.)

As a native, can someone tell me when New York stopped being the grey/brown, slightly tatty Manhattan of "The Odd Couple" (check the streetscape from the 1970s when Randall and Klugman do New York; even Central Park is dreary looking) and when it became this glorified Oz I now see on film? Maybe Marlow, a new comer, can tell us?

Here's Marlow's response to Joe's question:

Well, I'm living on college campus so I'm sure I'm probably not getting the real "New York experience" either. I think I have a better idea than a tourist does though. As you go downtown from campus it gets a little sketchy as the restaurants aimed at college students thin out and you start seeing 99 cent stores and liquor places where they never, ever, ever card. Of course if you go up to 125th you're in Harlem, and the 200's where Baker Field is and where I spent some time this weekend has definitely yet to be touched by Disney. The dog shit on the streets, the signs offering a 40 [editor's note: 40 ounces of malt liquor] for under a buck, the ability to walk for blocks without hearing English, and a lack of level sidewalks insures that you know you're in the city. Then of course there's my favorite piece of advice from my first week on campus from a guy who lives in Staten Island because of our close proximity to Morningside Park, the steps of which lead into Spanish Harlem. He said, "If you're going to go into Spanish Harlem do it at 3 in the morning. Sure other people will tell you to go during the day because its light out, but if you go at 3 most everyone who was going to do something malicious will have already done it and be passed out."

Dan Rosenbaum also mentions Marlow, but in a different context:

This will probably not ease your mind, having a daughter in manhattan and all....

Yesterday afternoon, while passing time before going on stage for a concert (Dessoff Choirs -- Martin Mass and Poulenc's Christmas Motets) I asked a friend whose day job is in MIS at a Fortune 50 company how his Y2K prep was going. "I *think* we're OK," he said, after a pause. "They've stopped talking about staffing all systems through midnight." So you must be sure that you're ready, huh? "Actually, no. They were worried about the rumor that Giuliani was going to seal the borders of the city if anything went wrong. Now we're reasonably certain we'll be able to get staff into town to
fix stuff."

Sealing the city? Can't you just see the barricades along all the highways and armed troops at the commuter trains? Myself, I intend to bring in the year standing on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, watching the power in Manhattan turn off.

A TV hint: Now And Again. CBS. Friday nights. Produced by Glen Gordon Caron, who last brought us Moonlighting. Imagine, if you can, a romantic comedy version of the Six Million Dollar Man. Beautiful writing, complex characters, appealing acting. It's either science fiction for chicks, or romance for SF fans. Nicely done.

And speaking of TV, I'm bereft that it appears that SportsNight is being sacrificed on the altar of ...Millionaire. Much as I love Regis, SportsNight is the best-executed half-hour on TV. Here's hoping they find it another slot.

Amen to Dan's endorsement of SportsNight, an opinon shared by Daniel Dern as well. I will be one of the few who will mourn Jay Mohr and his show Action on Fox, but that doesn't mean I won't mourn it. No room in today's television world for the eccentric little program apparently.

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