PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 9

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

March 6, 2000

It's Great To Be Back

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

  • Whew, The Flu
  • End of the World?
  • Dr. Laura and Gays

Computer Industry News

  • Win2000 Infographic
  • Let's Get Small

Web Site of the Week

  • Forum 2000: Digital Philosophers


  • Pesky Dummy Copy
  • Worst Way To Die


  • Holy Smoke
  • Sports Night
  • The End of the Affair


  • .This and That

General News

Whew, The Flu!

Man, oh man, I can tell you from personal experience this year's flu is particularly nasty. Last weekend I went to Oregon with Rae to visit my mother. I had a lovely Friday night and Saturday.

Saturday night, we had dinner at the Kennedy, a converted grade school that is now a theater, restaurant, brew pub and bed and breakfast. We sat on couches in the old auditorium and watched Princess Mononoke, a serious Japanese animated film that runs more than two hours. Alas, mom hates animation. We thought we were going to see the 1994 film Princess Caraboo, about a mysterious woman who shows up in Victorian England claiming to be an exotic princess. Oh well, the pizza was good.

Sunday morning, about 4:30, I had some intestinal trouble. Nevertheless, at 7 a.m. my dad and I walked down to the 42nd Avenue transit center and caught a streetcar (in Portland, Ore. the system is known as Max), which I wanted to ride through the (relatively) new tunnel under the West Hills, and all the way to the end of the line at the Hatfield Government Center in Hillsboro, about an hour's ride. Dad and I chatted away, watching the back ends of Oregon's electronics firms roll by. As a streetcar buff, the ride was fascinating for me. By the time we got to downtown Hillsboro, however, I was chanting a mantra, "don't throw up, don't throw up." I didn't, but it was a near thing. I slept the whole way back (not very good company for dad) and we took the bus instead of walking home. I slept on the couch the rest of the stay, scrubbing all our Sunday plans.

I have been sick for a week, on and off. I had to take Tuesday as a sick day. I worked the other days, but only just barely, and slept as much as I could. Many of you will recall that I sent out an "I'm sick" notice instead of this column last week. Thank you to all of you who responded with wishes for a speedy recovery. In fact, in one of life's little ironies, I got more response to that note than I do to most columns.

Let me just say it is a hell of a way to lose five pounds and I don't recommend it.

End of the World?

This from my friends Yoli and Ray Pardo:

Wow everyone, Chicken Little Lives!

"On or around May 5,2000 (give or take a few days) these planets (see picture) Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Sun plus our moon will line up on one side of Earth creating major stress on Planet Earth. Predictions range from a few earthquakes to major earth crust movement (slippage), polar ice cap movement, sea levels rising 100 - 300 feet or more, huge tidal waves, high winds 500 to 2000 mph, earthquakes so massive that Richter 13 or more could be possible, both coasts of USA under water, magnetic shift and much more.
Has this happened before? Yes say scientists. Remember the woolly mammoth found with fresh grass still in their mouth? This type of earth change is what they believe happened to them. Could it happen again on May 5th 2000?"
This all appears on this website

Ray continued:

I was led to this site by an excellent astronomy column that was discussing the rather rare planetary alignment. Although the alignment described is accurate, the physics of what will happen is a little exaggerated. May 5 won't even show as a minus tide in most areas of the country. This is because the alignment has all of the other planets on the far side of the sun from us and the moon and earth are not at perigee. Gravitation from Jupiter and Saturn, being a square of the distance force, does not have the effect that it had the last year or two, when these two great planets were often paired with the Full Moon in the night sky. The other big variable in tides is the orbits of the moon and the earth. When the moon is at its closest point to the earth and coincidentally the earth is at the closest point to the sun (perigee), then we see big minus tides. Luckily, neither of these events is occurring in May.
However, you still might see some fun sightings along the Pacific Coast -- the story is that the Age of Acquarius types are going to join the End of the Worlders in a major party.
Have fun !!

Dr. Laura and Gays

Richard Dalton turned me on to this site, a place to express yourself if you're disturbed that popular radio shrink Dr. Laura Schlesinger (whose degree is in physiology, I feel obliged to add) thinks, and frequently says in public that gay people are deviants.

The open letter on the site begins:

We are writing to express our deep concern for the detrimental effects your anti-gay commentaries are having on America's children.
Dr. Laura, with 20 million listeners, you are one of the leading talk radio show hosts in the country. Though you have publicly acknowledged that your Ph.D. is in physiology and not psychology, the loyalty of your listeners derives, in part, from their trust that you are relying on mainstream scientific opinion. Yet the anti-gay beliefs you espouse on a regular basis - that homosexuality is "deviant" and that gays can and should be cured - are entirely outside the mainstream of scientific thought.

Computer Industry News

Win2000 Infographic

The Onion, an internet humor site, has created a very funny Windows 2000 infographic. Thanks for spotting it goes to my soon-to-be-ex colleague, Kerri McCarthy.

Let's Get Small

Craig Reynolds wrote to me about a contest to create small web pages--the goal is under 5 KB (the average web page is 50 KB). Craig wrote:

This is an interesting exercise, I'm looking forward to seeing the entries:
The news story at Wired.
The Contest

Web Site of the Week

Forum 2000: Digital Philosophers

This one comes from my daughter Marlow. Proving once again that college students don't have enough to do to keep them busy.

As this Artificial Intelligence site describes itself:

Are you troubled by a vexing moral issue? Submit your problem to Forum 2000 and let our Digital Philosophers ponder your problem for you! You'll receive a variety of advice from (simulations of) the world's greatest thinkers. It's easy, it's free, and best of all, it's not blocked by CyberWatch!

For example, click here to find out what Confucius would say if asked how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood. As the digitally simulated Ayn Rand asks, "What's in it for the woodchuck?"


Pesky Dummy Copy

I have seen a half-dozen similar incidents in my years in journalism:

Honesty is the best policy?: Philadelphia Inquirer readers were surprised to see this boxed note on the editorial page Tuesday: "To comment briefly on editorials, call 215-854-5060. The Editorial Board members will roll their eyes and chuckle at your remarks." John V.R. Bull, assistant to the editor, tells MediaNews that staffers were "astonished" when they saw the message, which was part of a gag mock-up page made last week for a departing staffer. Bull says he's not sure how it got in the paper. The newsroom reaction? "Mouths fell open -- literally," he says.


Worst Way To Die

Three guys had recently died and were awaiting entrance into Heaven. But St. Peter appeared and informed them that, unfortunately, Heaven was only allowing 33% of applicants in today, due to overpopulation.

So, only one of the three would be allowed in. Whomever died the worst death out of the three would be let in.

St. Peter took the first man aside in private, and let him tell his story:

"For months I had been suspecting that my wife had been cheating on me. So, one day, I decided to leave home from work early and try to catch her in the act. But when I arrived home, she was in the shower. Suspicious, I searched the house for anybody. And then I found him: He was hanging off my 25th floor balcony hoping I wouldn't see him! Fortunately, there was a hammer nearby and I bashed his fingers. He fell, but he didn't die! Outraged, I grabbed my refrigerator and chucked it down on him. It killed him instantly. But then I felt so bad about it, I took a gun and killed myself."

St. Peter thought this was certainly a decent death, and took the second guy aside to hear his story:

"O.K. I live on the 27th floor of my apartment building, and I was out on my balcony getting some fresh air. I yawned and took in a big stretch, and I lost my balance! I fell over the balcony, but--I was so lucky--I managed to grab another room's balcony a couple of stories down. But then, for some reason, this guy came out and bashed my hands with a hammer. I guess he was mad I was hanging off his deck. Anyway, I fell about 25 stories down, but luckier still, I wasn't dead. But as I looked up, I saw that a refrigerator was on its way down to bash me. That's how I died."

St. Peter thought this death was quite tragic, but still took the third guy aside to hear his story. The third guy started:

"Picture this. You're hiding, naked, in a refrigerator..."


Holy Smoke

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

For the first half of this film, director and co-author Jane Campion has crafted a witty, intellectual movie about the nature of faith. It is a meditation on cults, Hinduism and parental love, around the story of Ruth (Kate Winslet), a young Australian woman (Ruth) who is blissed out (her third eye literally opens) when she is touched by the guru Baba. Her parents hire the world's best deprogrammer, an American, Harvey Keitel (PJ Waters), to convince her to leave the guru.

I was not clocking the film precisely, because I wasn't expecting what happened. But somewhere about halfway through, in the dramatic scene where Winslet walks naked towards the camera, the film becomes a sex farce. A shame, really, that this silly film was spliced onto the end of the serious one. (And by the way, any doubts about Kate Winslet's body should be settled by this film. Voluptuous barely does her justice. James Cameron should look this good naked).

One more thing: is anyone else as tired of Harvey Keitel's butt as I am? I mean, Mel Gibson's butt is one thing, but Harvey Keitel's? Great actor. Interesting face. Plus he's in good shape. Still.

Anyway, if you want to see Kate and Harvey rutting, stay for the whole film. If you want to see a fascinating on-screen depiction of bliss and an interesting discussion of the nature of faith, the meaning of life and the possibility of happiness, use Kate's arrival as your cue to leave. Nothing more is heard of these subjects after that point.

Sports Night

You want the facts about a TV series? You can also find them at the Internet Movie Database.

Daniel Dern forwarded this alert to me. If you like Sports Night as much as I do, please respond.

Message to all viewers of "Sports Night" and viewers of quality television from Dorothy Swanson:
"Sports Night" is being pulled by ABC after nearly two seasons, leaving two episodes unaired. The network has said these two remaining episodes will air sometime during the summer. This move does not bode well for the series, which has struggled in the ratings for its entire two-year run.
Viewer support for "Sports Night" must be expressed now, by letter, by phone, by Email. I recommend that in your communication with ABC you acknowledge a few basic things:
(1) You recognize that ABC kept this low-rated series on the air despite marginal ratings for nearly two full seasons.
(2) You give ABC credit for not moving the show around.
(3) You give ABC credit for putting the show in a time slot where it would have a good lead-in and a good lead-out.
(4) Thank ABC for putting the show on the air in the first place, and encourage them to continue to air it despite the apparent fact that its audience will be limited and select. Stress that there should be room for a show like this (intelligent and literate) on their schedule.
Contact the following people/addresses to support "Sports Night":

Stu Bloomberg,
Entertainment Chairman
ABC Television
2040 Avenue of the Stars7th Floor
Century City, CA 90067
ABC email:
The Viewers for Quality Television (is a 14-year old positive viewer organization with no agenda other than influencing the commercial networks to retain their critically-acclaimed quality series rather than canceling them because of insufficient Nielsen numbers.

I have always thought VQT was a class act.

The End of The Affair

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

Among his many other talents, Jerry Pournelle is a thoughtful commentator on movies. Herewith, his thoughts after reading my review of Neil Jordan's The End Of The Affair.

My wife asked "What is the difference between that and porn?"
I had to think about it. "It's art," doesn't seem too good an answer. It may or may not be art, but mostly it's about people deciding that marriage vows don't mean anything. It was also so very very English and civilized, don't you know, and you almost had the feeling that after she died, painlessly with good cheer and great looks -well, opera teaches us that nothing is better for a soprano's voice than a deadly case of tuberculosis or syphilis, and one supposes that's now true of the English coughing sickness - after she dies, perhaps the so understanding husband and the so sensitive lover will have their own affair. "I'll help you, Henry."
Why not?
Graham Green's The Power And The Glory is a wonderful novel, and his Burnout Case has some intriguing things to say, but really, this one isn't much. I don't know how faithful this was to the book, but my guess would be "quite"; it has the earmarks of a book written by a man who once said that, forced to choose between living in the United States and the USSR would choose the USSR of Kruschev and Brezhnev. Of course he knew he never would have any such choice forced on him, and in fact he spent considerable time in the US, but it was a good safe politically correct thing to say. We can have all kinds of angst here, and a whackingly exciting porno flick as well, and still get nominated for Oscars. Why not? Porn sells, and if you can make it ART...
But the true fact is that it was a sordid little affair, complicated only by the lover being killed and brought back to life by a miracle (perhaps) that the woman hadn't the strength to pay for. Now one can say that's the story of life in general: we are all redeemed then we fall again. I don't know how many promises have been made in foxholes, and not many of them are kept. The problem with this film is that the lover isn't likable at all, and the woman seems defined only by her adultery: we never find out what else she is interested in, and she is in fact only shown to us after we know she is interesting for having an affair. Does she knit? She doesn't do church socials, and she doesn't seem much interested in her husband's career, although he appears to be successful: he's going to get a knighthood anyway. But we never see what he does, actually, and we certainly know that all she does is sleep around, and sometimes throw parties, but at one of them she meets a man she's decided to bed within ten minutes of the meeting.
Avoid the occasion of sin, said Sister Mary Elizabeth in grade school, but that's too hard for us now. And we get to be Best Actress for portraying a woman who seems to have a bit of a problem keeping her panties and stockings on.
So - just how WAS it different from porn?
Of course what's wrong with porn?

Besides the fact that it is thoughtful, well-reasoned and well-written, I wanted to print Jerry's commentary because it raises an issue I often ask myself after seeing a mainstream entertainment film with major sex content. Frankly, I prefer subtlety. There are times when I miss the Hayes office.


This and That

Yoli and Ray Pardo check in with this advice:

We just watched "Ideal Husband" on video. We liked it quite a bit.

If I didn't review it in this column, I should have. Rae and I saw it in a theater, and we liked it too. Another triumph for Rupert Everett.

Marlow writes every week. This week, she recommends the Serendipity III Restaurant, the Frick Museum and a chocolate shop in Manhattan. Here are excerpts from her weekly letter home:

We decided on Serendipity III. It's a great restaurant. Very funky. There were weird mirrors, mixed with pieces of Americana and Greek pedestals with black and white photographs and oil paintings and live tropical plants and waterfalls. Very cool. They also have great ice cream. I had a frozen "hot" chocolate with peanut butter. Orgasmic. I also had Chicken a la garden of Allah which was delicious.
[We] took a cab over to the Frick. I really like the courtyard and the art collection in general. I had to write a paper about any piece, but it wasn't too difficult to just take some notes and buy some postcards.
I ended up buying a pair of stockings with seams, something I've wanted for years, although now I have to wear a shortish skirt to show them off or I will have bought them solely out of eccentricity.
We stopped at the Maison du Chocolat. The only branch in the states. I had the best hot chocolate of my life. I didn't realize hot chocolate could be that thick or that good. Oh my god, perhaps I'll take you guys there when you come. They sell nice expensive truffles there too.

A thoughtful question arrived from an anonymous correspondent. Because I enjoyed the way it was written, I have included the request for anonymity:

The following is sent pursuant to and in reliance on the representation that non-attributable content is accepted for PSACOT; further a worldwide non-exclusive non-royalty bearing license is hereby granted personally to Paul E. Schindler, Jr., ("PES") to use the ideas set forth below solely in PSACOT on the condition that the text must be retyped and can not and will not be block copied electronically into any communication said PES decides to make of the ideas set forth below and on the further condition that any use of the ideas set forth below must be solely without attribution of any type, kind, or description to the source:
With respect to the alleged anonymous registration of the allegedly new retail version of Office 2000 offered for sale by predatory monopolist Microsoft (see the relevant excerpt from the 2/14/2000 PSACOT), precisely how is predatory monopolist Microsoft going to communicate the necessary information (the information which enables the software to operate after the 51st launch) back to the anonymous user? In particular, but not to the exclusion of other manifest problems, how is the information going to be communicated back using snail mail?


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