PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 2 No. 44

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

December 20, 1999

Marlow's Home!

Holiday Double Edition

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

  • Christmas Message
  • My Sense of Humor (Audio): Firesign, Python, Freberg, Keillor

Computer Industry News

  • None this week

Web Site of the Week

  • The George Liquor Show


  • The Top 20 Slogans for Legalized Marijuana
  • The Top 14 Atheist Holiday Songs


  • Stuart Little


  • Marlow's Report from New York

Like everyone else in America who has the chance, I am taking the week off between Christmas and New Years, so this column will not return until Jan. 9. Maybe the 2nd if I feel REALLY productive. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

General News

Christmas Message

In the fine old tradition of journalists who recycle their holiday messages year after year, here's my Christmas message, based on last year's Christmas message, from Dec. 21, 1998 (with a few slight modifications)

Season's greetings to one and all. Apologies to those of you who feel oppressed by the season. I know Christians, atheists and Jews who feel the seasonal oppression in equal parts. Oppression and depression. I'm sorry. This message isn't going to cheer you up, much.

This is a time of year that has inspired some of the most brilliant writing in the English language, from Dickens' A Christmas Carol, to the sturdy newspaper editorial entitled "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the unforgettable Bill Murray vehicle, Scrooged.

Alas, like so many of us, the muse seems to have taken off early. I briefly considered throwing in some of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas In Wales which Fr. Harrison West and I recited several times at Benson High School assemblies (long before he was Fr. West). But then I decided just to do a quick Christmas column, then leave you to your holiday vacation.

What is Christmas about? It can be about the birth of Jesus, but for most of us it isn't. It's about many things.

Christmas is about singing (or listening to) Christmas carols. My favorite annual Christmas party, bar none, is the Christmas Caroling party held annually by our best friends. They're Jewish, and so are many of the partygoers. Joyful voices raised together. Doesn't matter if they're not in tune. Doesn't matter if some of the lyrics are Christian claptrap. Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock, along with the rest of the secular Christmas liturgy are just plain fun. I wince a little sometimes when we sing the later verses of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," or "Good King Wenceslas." (Question: why is it that the muse flees most lyricists somewhere between the first and second verses?) Besides, Norm Schlansky and I get to do "Five Golden Rings" every year. {This year, we held the party at our house, and I wrote about it in the column a few weeks ago).

Christmas is about family and friends. It is about Egg Nog and all the rest of the seasonal food. It is about the children--bless my wife for her decision a decade ago to limit gift giving to the kids (that is, adults give gifts to kids, not to each other). Since then, not another fruit basket has been sacrificed to the impossible task of thinking up presents for adults who already own everything they want.

It's about travelling, at the worst travel time of year, to be with your family. (Marlow flying in from New York, for example).

Christmas is about family traditions when you're a kid, and the blending of family traditions when you marry. My family stayed at home on Christmas, my wife was always a Christmas runaway. My lights went up the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year and came down the Saturday after New Years. Vicki's went up on Christmas Eve and came down on Boxing Day.

We've had artificial trees for year. Marlow asked for a big tree this year, her first at college, and we got a 14-footer. I think she'll be impressed.

Christmas is about giving thanks. Thanksgiving is the official holiday to give thanks for our good fortune, but nothing says you can't do that at Christmas as well. Every Christmas morning when I wake up with my health, my wife, my children and my parents as part of this world, I count my blessings. Mine are beyond counting. I hope yours are too. I am now diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, but you know what, I'm grateful because there are lots of worse diseases in the world.

Merry Christmas!

I still don't know if it snowed seven days and nights when I was 12 or 12 days and nights when I was 7...

My Sense of Humor (Audio): Firesign, Python, Freberg, Keillor

First, a special surprise Christmas present from me to you: I have encoded the New Eugene Oregon Show, a radio program I wrote and starred in that was recorded during January 1972 and broadcast over WTBS-FM (now WMBR-FM), the MIT student radio station in Cambridge, Mass. The shows are about 15 minutes each and require the RealAudio player if you want to listen to them.

Eugene Oregon Show 1

Eugene Oregon Show 2

Eugene Oregon Show 3

I don't write the pieces of this column in order, and as I write this, the whole thing is too long. So I'm not even going to try to analyze myself. I'll just say that my taste in audio humor runs to Firesign Theater, Monty Python, Stan Freberg and Garrison Keillor (can you find the odd name on this list)?

I am so grateful that the Firesign boys are back together and recording again that it may be affecting my judgment. Their Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death from earlier this year was their funniest and most coherent album since All Hail Marx and Lennon in 1969. Now they're out with a new CD, Boom Dot Bust, and it's just hysterically funny. Although it lakes a truly coherent story line (even one as flimsy as "day in the life of a radio station," which was the plot for Immortality), their spot-on parodies of cultural artifacts include city-boosting videos, films shown to visitors at national parks, commercials, Civil War-style documentaries, Infomercials, Cable-TV shows. Is nothing sacred? Not to the Firesign Theater.

If you want to order the new Firesign Theater CD, use this Tower Records URL, because it gives credit to Spumco, where my favorite animators work hard on the successors to Ren and Stimpy (see the Website of the Week).

I love Freberg. I've loved him since the first time I heard him, in a Freberg marathon on KSFO in 1967, as my family drove to LA from Portland on a trip to Disneyland.

Here are the notes on a new collection of his greatest hits:

Stan Freberg was one of the most popular comics and satirists of the '50s and '60s. This four-CD set includes selections from his Capitol albums, from radio programs (an entire disc's worth of never-released radio spots) and a Freberg video.

Same deal on the URL; it gives credit to Spumco.

Computer Industry News

None this week

Web Site of the Week

The Goddamn George Liquor Show

Did you like Ren and Stimpy? Then you'll love this flash animation from John Kricfalusi, the guy who created that whacky, lovable, tasteless cat and dog team. Elsewhere at his Spumco site, you can see the new take he offered on Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith (including, for the first time ever--a glimpse of Yogi's head under his hat).

You have to love animation and be a little bit sick to like George Liquor or Spumco. But if you like toons with 'tude (I mean, for example, did you prefer Warner Brothers to MGM cartoons? Bugs Bunny to Tom and Jerry?) then you'll like these.

Speaking of Toons with Tude, have you seen the preview for next summer's Rocky and Bullwinkle, staring Robert DeNiro as Fearless Leader, among others? Apparently Rocky and Bullwinkle are animated, life size, into a live-action movie. This, as they say, should be interesting.

Say, what ever happened to that live-action Boris and Natasha that sunk like a stone in 1992, the one with Sally Kellerman? I think it went direct to video…


The Top 20 Slogans for Legalized Marijuana

I scored a rare double play, landing both spots 15 and 19 on the list. It isn't the ranking, it's the quantity that counts. I guess I'm ready for a job when legal marijuana comes around.

20> Got Buzz?

19> Pot: When You Care Enough Not to Care At All

18> A Day Without Pot is Like School

17> Weed My Lips!

16> Hey, America -- Let's Blow This joint!

15> What's So Great About Short-Term Memory Anyway?

14> Obey Your Jones

13> Hemp: The world's practical solution to making, like, paper and rope and necklaces and stuff

12> It's Not Just For Glaucoma Anymore!

11> Help Eradicate Road Rage in Our Lifetime

10> Official Sponsor of the NBA

9> Because the waste is a terrible thing to mi... Dude! I totally f***ed that up!

8> Cannabis: The PRE-Coital Smoke

7> This is your brain.
This is your brain on pot.
This is your brain desperately searching for Doritos.

6> When Was the Last Time You REALLY Looked at Your Hand?

5> SMOKE POT! (Did we just say that out loud? Or did we just think it?)

4> Recommended by 5 Out of 5 Deadheads

3> Just Doob It

2> It's the all-the-time smokey, skunky, sticky, greeny, seedy, stemmy, doobie so-you-can-get-high medicine.

and's Number 1 Slogan for Legalized Marijuana...

1> Skull-Shaped Bong: $12.00
Primo Maui-Grown Bud: $25.00
Watching Teletubbies with Your Buddies: Priceless

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

Selected from 136 submissions from 49 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors include:
Carla Brandon, San Diego, CA -- 1 (6th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15, 19
Eric Huret, Atlanta, GA -- Topic
Tristan Fabriani, Passaic, NJ -- List Moderator
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
ZZ Top, Houston, TX -- Ambience
[ The Top 5 List ]
[Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]

The Top 14 Atheist Holiday Songs

Tied for fourth…

December 16, 1999

14> O Little Town of Birmingham

13> I Don't Fear What You Fear

12> Oh, Krispy Kreme

11> Angels I Have Heard While High

10> Grandma Got Run Over By a Train, Dear

9> Oh Come *On*, All Ye Faithful!

8> Silent Night. Total F**king Silence.

7> Hark! The Victoria's Secret Angels Jiggle

6> We Kiss You a Mahir Christmas

5> Livin' La Vida Loca -- not that it has anything to do with atheism, but that Ricky Martin is HOT!

4> Whose Kid is This?

3> O Stoli Night

2> Amway -- I'm a Manager

and's Number 1 Atheist Holiday Song...

1> Got Breasts, Ye Merry Gentlemen?

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

Selected from 153 submissions from 57 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Jeffrey Anbinder, Ithaca, NY -- 1, 3, HM list name (3rd #1)
M.J. Finan, Cleveland, OH -- 4
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 4
Peg Warner, Exeter, NH -- Topic
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- RU list name (Hall of Famer)
Chris White, New York, NY -- List owner/editor
Billie Holiday, Baltimore, MD -- Ambience
-> Ambience explanation:


Stuart Little

Facts from the Internet Movie Database.

Directed by Rob Minkoff; Writing credits: E.B. White (novel) Gregory J. Brooker and M. Night Shyamalan; Tagline: The Little Family Just Got Bigger; Plot Summary: The adventures of a heroic and debonair stalwart mouse named Stuart; Geena Davis: Mrs. Little Michael J. Fox: Stuart Little; Nathan Lane: Snowbell; Hugh Laurie: Mr. Little; Chazz Palminteri: Red Rated: PG; Running Time: 92 minutes.

As Rae said when we were leaving the theater, "Not as bad as I expected." That may be damning the film with faint praise, but in fact it is cute and precious without being cloying. The special effects are nearly miraculous. You will believe Stuart Little is real after you've seen this film.

I attribute this to E.B. White, a writer who managed to take the silliest possible concepts (family adopts mouse, spider provides wisdom to barnyard animals) and make them funny and interesting without making them absurd. The seeming reality of Stuart stems not just from the totally amazing visual effects, but from the fact that, within the absurd framework of the movie, everything he says and does makes sense.

It is not profound, but it is clever and amusing. The PG is for a few hells and damns. Take the kids. You won't be as entertained as you would be at most Disney movies, but you won't be bored silly either.

A quick note about Being John Malkovich. You'll recall I raved about this, calling it one of the best American films of the year (along with American Beauty). My friend Fran Strykowski noted that clever and brilliantly written does not necessarily equate to great. I agree enough to note her comment, but I'll also say clever and brilliantly written beats the hell out of what we usually get at the movies.


Marlow's Report From New York

Marlow wrote so brilliantly of her Christmas in New York that I insisted on, and got, her permission to reprint her remarks here:

I'm soooo glad I decided to come to school in New York City. It is so awesome.
I didn't have a final yesterday, and being the studious person I am I handed in my poli sci paper a day early, so I really had no commitments. I'd told Ryan I wanted to go downtown and see the Christmas decorations…
When he got out of his final he gave me a call and we took the 1/9 [subway train] down to 50th street. I don't know if that is technically downtown or midtown, whatever. I mainly wanted to see the big tree (100 ft) at Rockefeller center.
It turns out there were a lot of other cool decorations I didn't know about. Since all of the buildings around there are so huge all the decorations have to compensate.
That meant pinecones over six feet tall, colored light bulbs that probably wouldn't fit in this room, red balls big enough to throw parties in stacked in pyramids, and two story high wreaths in traditional green or ostentatious gold.
We wandered around the busy streets with all the tourists, making fun of them of course since we are New Yorkers and they're just gawkers. There's an ice rink set up near the tree, but neither of us being good skaters or having the inclination to throw large amounts of money at skate rentals, we just observed.
We walked down Fifth Avenue occasionally going into the extremely posh stores and making the security guards look uncomfortable, although they all smiled nervously when we looked directly at them.
We went into St. Patrick's church and heard part of a mass and looked at the stained glass and crèche and what not.
It was too crowded though to really admire anything for too long. We went into an Episcopal church that was almost equally grandiose but empty, it was nice not to have to deal with tourists.
We passed the only Greek Orthodox church in the city too. We ended up at the Plaza and then FAO Schwarz. It was fairly busy, considering the season to be expected. We frolicked in there for a good hour.
I rode a hobby horse around the store with a six foot stuffed centipede around my neck. We played with the Star Wars toys and had a fight with a couple of wooly mammoths.
As I was reminiscing about Legos earlier in the day, it seemed only appropriate that I should buy myself 1200 for what I'm sure will be hours of blissful entertainment throughout the next four years, and beyond.
We went back down Fifth Avenue and we passed Samuel L Jackson on the street. When we got a couple steps past him I elbowed Ryan and said, "Wow, that was Samuel L Jackson."
He tried to convince I was wrong and it was just some random black guy that looked a lot like him. We were still in the middle of this conversation when a guy in a limo parked on the street next to us motioned me over and said, "Hey, who's that guy talking to Samuel L Jackson?"
That was so sweet. I wish people would pull up in limos and settle my disputes more often. It turns out he was talking to some NBA star, though between us we couldn't come up with his name.
That was so cool. I love New York.
We walked around some more and had a late lunch next to Grand Central Station. Ryan wanted to go to Macy's and see Santa Claus, but we'd already been wandering around for four or five hours, and as much as I hate to admit it, I am in the middle of finals week. That was so much fun
There's no place else on earth I could have taken a four hour study break and seen and done so much awesome stuff and then been back in my room in 20 minutes when I decided I needed to go home.

To obtain a weekly reminder when new columns are posted or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism write to me:

Paul Schindler Home Page | PS...ACOT archives | Journalism Movies

You are visitor number

since October 16, 1998