PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 3 No. 40

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

November 6, 2000

Welcome Newcomers!

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

  • Welcome Newcomers
  • "The Politicians"
  • Bush Bashing
  • AIDS In Africa: Worse Than You Think
  • Reason, Season and Lifetime

Computer Industry News

  • Top 10 Things Bill Said After Learning Microsoft Was Hacked

Web Site of the Week

  • Computers In Movies


  • 15 Pieces Of Advice For Our Daughters
  • Garden of Eden Joke


  • Bedazzled
  • Billy Elliot
  • Best In Show


  • What This Is, A Newscast Ends

General News

Just a very quick note: Steve Allen died this week. The man was a genius, one of my favorite comedians and television performers. He will be missed.

Welcome Newcomers

If your eye, like mine, is drawn to the counter at the bottom of the column, then you're a little baffled right now. In two years, this column had 6000 visits--about one every other week from the hundred or so of you who have been regular visitors (and actually, since my mother and my older daughter Marlow read it every week, those statistics are skewed). Suddenly, in a single week, the number has risen to over 13,000 visits. How could this happen?

Well, my old friend and colleague Fred Langa ran a URL in his LangaList newsletter of Nov. 2, pointing to my Oct. 9 reproduction of the Vint Cerf letter about Al Gore and the Internet. Fred's newsletter has 145,000 subscribers (compared to 95 for mine) and 400,000 pageviews or visits per month (compared to just under 300 for PSACOT), so the rush was on. Fred says this often happens to small sites he plugs. I say, thank you Fred. And thanks to the several dozen of you newcomers who subscribed to my weekly reminder. You'll find a lot of my personal life mixed in with political commentary, computer news, movie reviews and humor. I hope you enjoy coming here.

The Politicians

It has been a long time since I heard a political commercial or news item that really pushed my buttons, but it happened today. I was driving along and heard a cute, clever commercial in opposition to the California proposition that would change the 2/3 requirement for new school bonds to 55% (an effort to change the requirement to a simple majority failed in the spring). The commercial was also vile, misleading, untruthful and damaging to the polity. And super-majorities are inherently unfair, holding the nation captive to small, noisy minorities.

Meretricious crap is a generous characterization for the material emitted by the Howard Jarvis taxpayer organization. It began with Jarvis himself (now mercifully deceased) and his disastrous corporate stalking horse, Proposition 13. That measure, which rolled back and limited property taxes, marked the beginning of the end of California's educational and transportation infrastructure. This insane measure, passed during a period of inflationary hysteria in 1978, is now the third rail of California politics. You can't even talk about it. And God Forbid you should try to revise it and make it fairer, as does this year's proposition.

Despite the media's best efforts, most of Howard's sheep-like followers still don't believe the truth. Down-home Howard was a front man for corporate interests, whose property changes hands (and becomes subject to re-valuation) once or twice a century, and so is valued at a pittance compared to its actual market value. As a result, in 1978, business and homes each paid half of the property tax. But homes are sold on the average of every 7 years, so now, since most homes are valued at very near market prices, homeowners pay 2/3 of the property tax, corporations one-third and dropping.

Before we sold our former house, we paid $1,000 a year property tax. The identical house across the street, purchased in 1997, pays $4,000 a year. That's real fair huh?

And puhleeze don't whine to me about "retired people driven from their home by property taxes." First of all, it virtually never happened. Check the actual statistics, not the Jarvis lies and anecdotes. Secondly, even if it were a problem the solution would lie in property tax relief for the elderly, not a massive corporate welfare giveaway and universal taxation unfairness.

Jarvis aimed at the tiny "elderly property tax relief" problem, and ended up destroying California--and it wasn't an accident. The malign results of Proposition 13 are exactly what Jarvis and his backers hoped for.

Now, with that background sketched in, we get to the commercial. The offensive line in it is, "The politicians can repeal the limit without a vote of the people."

Golly, that kind of talk makes me angry. Who the heck do the Jarvis people think these politicians are? For that matter, who do the GOP and George Bush think politicians are? In the case of Bush and the Republicans, clearly they think Democrats are politicians and Republicans are something else--probably something nobler.

Well, from where I sit, there is a vote of the people--for our representatives. Politicians are good men and women who do the best they can under difficult circumstances, and who make substantially better law than California's nut-case driven proposition system.

This constant demonization of politicians in both parties, mostly by people of the right, is destroying our representative democracy. It is one thing to say your opponent is wrong, another to say she is evil.

The next time you hear someone refer to the politicians as a class of creatures that is less than human, stand up for the system. Speak out in their defense. And get mad when you hear political advertisements that exploit this unfortunate stereotype. They are us.

Bush Bashing

Many of my best links come from the preternaturally wide-awake and plugged in Craig Reynolds. This is another.

I enjoyed this Bush-bashing (followed a link from Gillmor's eJournal):

The Emperor's New Brain
George W. and the stupidity issue.
By Michael Kinsley

I enjoyed it too.

On a more serious note, a college classmate of mine has written this:

Were the educational gains in Texas a "Miracle" or a "Mirage?" Was Bush telling us the truth?
Steven T. Kirsch, Silicon Valley Philanthropist
ABSTRACT: The educational gains in Texas have been George W. Bush's only major accomplishment as governor. That is why they are the cornerstone of Bush's campaign and why education appears prominently at the top of his Internet home page. On closer examination, however, no credible evidence could be found to support such claims.

Check out the full text here.

Steve is a thoughtful guy who raises important questions you should consider before voting on Tuesday. In addition, like me, he worked for The Tech while an undergraduate at MIT, which means his journalism and writing credentials are impeccable.

This Just In. My anonymous correspondent has a few late words on Bush:

"Michael Kinsley in Slate raises the issue of what George W. Bush has in mind when Bush mentions Bush's alleged plan for the Middle East and then does not provide the details.

What George W. Bush has in mind for a Middle East plan is precisely the same thing one of his predecessors had in mind (the predecessor being the Republican nominee for President of the United States in 1968 whose name will not on my account appear in PSACOT which of course is intended for family reading) for resolving the undeclared war (and therefore unconstitutional and criminal war) in Vietnam.

The 1968 nominee alleged he had a plan to end the war but had to keep it secret because otherwise the North Vietnamese would know about the plan also. The 1968 Republican "plan" was principally to murder ("kill" right here might imply some justification) after January 20, 1969, about 29,000 members of the American military and untold numbers of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians. The other necessary parts of the plan were the maiming of countless Americans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, untold violations of the Geneva Convention for which no war crimes trials were held, the serious rending of the social fabric of the United States, and direct attacks on various parts of the Bill of Rights (starting with the First and Fourth Amendments).

Later, the Republicans involved admitted there never was a plan.

The advisors upon which Bush is relying are the same ones who managed and advised to leave Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 along with his weapons of mass destruction and means for acquiring more. Just enough was done to enable George W. Bush to collect from the Kuwaitis for his father's rescue of Kuwait. The collection was in the form of the Harken Energy deal (about which surprisingly little has been heard this campaign year). In broad strokes, after the Gulf War the Kuwaitis gave Harken Energy (in which George W. Bush had an interest) a concession on Kuwaiti oil. George W. would have to tell you himself the exact amount he pocketed (for some reason he typically does not mention the amount in his standard campagn speech), but according to the public accounts he walked away from the deal with a sum of dollars well into eight figures (that means in excess of Ten Million United States Dollars ($10,000,000). Naturally, estate tax does not enter into the picture because the Kuwaitis gave it direct to the son without requiring the father (President George Herbert Walker Bush) to put the money into his estate."

AIDS In Africa: Worse Than You Think

Richard Dalton sent along this bulletin, which is COPYRIGHT: 2000 Worldwatch Institute. I include the URL and the lead graf to give you a flavor:

Alert 2000-10
A missing generation - a population of orphans - a shortage of women
By Lester R. Brown
The HIV epidemic raging across Africa is a tragedy of epic proportions, one that is altering the region's demographic future. It is reducing life expectancy, raising mortality, lowering fertility, creating an excess of men over women, and leaving millions of orphans in its wake.

Reason, Season and Lifetime

Richard Dalton is one of the smartest people I know. He sent this along as well:

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on.
When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. Thank you for being a part of my life
When you receive this e-mail just recite the following prayer. That's all you have to do. There is nothing attached. This is the power of prayer at work. Just forward it on if you feel like it.
[I'm not as much in agreement with the prayer as the analysis, but I didn't think it was fair to run the one without the other]
May today there be peace within you. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let His presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, and to bask in the sun. It is there for each and every one of you. Life is fun. Otherwise you're not living. Be Joyful!!!

Computer Industry News

Top 10 Things Bill Said After Learning Microsoft Was Hacked

Glen Speckert found this.

Web Site of the Week

Computers In Movies

When I was a kid, of course, the computer cliché in movies was the flashing light, the whirring tape drive or the spinning card sorter. All were once parts of real computers, but these forms of visual shorthand persisted long after they became uncommon in real life. The explanation is simple: a) the studios owned mainframe computers with lights, tapes and cards and could film them for free and b) lights, tape and cards moved and could be photographed, something you can't do with bits. Since the birth of the PC, filmmakers have struggled with a new visual shorthand. Did you ever think you'd see so many people typing, and so many screen shots? Also, if you counted your PCs from movie appearances, you'd think Macintosh had an 80% market share instead of a 20% market share. This, of course is because a) Apple cooperates with the studios and b) Macs look better than PCs.

Which brings me to this week's site, suggested by my mother:

This Site belongs to the English department. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "With essays, images and a sound gallery of audio clips from films such as 2001:A Space Odyssey - and Demon Seed, cyberspace is an interactive exploration of the history of computers in the movies.

Mom also suggested: - A preview site, hoping to be among the first to break sneak peeks of movies, music and games.


15 Pieces of Advice For Our Daughters

1. Don't imagine you can change a man - unless he's in diapers.
2. What to do if your boyfriend walks-out? Shut the door.
3. If they put a man on the moon - they should be able to put them all up there.
4. Never let your man's mind wander - it's too little to be out alone.
5. Go for younger men. You might as well - they never mature anyway.
6. Men are all the same - they just have different faces so you can tell them apart.
7. Definition of a bachelor; a man who has missed the opportunity to make some woman miserable.
8. Women don't make fools of men - most of them are the do-it-yourself types.
9. Best way to get a man to do something, is to suggest they are too old for it.
10. Love is blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener.
11. If you want a committed man, look in a mental hospital.
12. The children of Israel wandered around the desert for 40 years. Even in biblical times, men wouldn't ask for directions.
13. If he asks what sort of books you're interested in, tell him checkbooks.
14. Remember a sense of humor does not mean that you tell him jokes, it means that you laugh at his.
15. Sadly, all men are created equal.

Garden of Eden Joke

From Phil Proctor's excellent Planet Proctor column, which appears monthly in Funny Times, among other places.

Billy Bowles sends me the joke about a Brit, a Frenchman and a Russian viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden.
"Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit, "They must be British."
"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees, "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."
"No clothes, no shelter," the Russian points out, "They have only an apple to eat, and they're being told this is paradise. Clearly, they are Russian."



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

I loved the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore original; I mean, who can beat Dudley Moore saying, "I, Stanley Moon, hereinafter and in the hereafter to be known as `The Damned' - " The damned?" Brendan Fraser gets the same line and does OK with it. But I knew Peter Cook, and I loved Peter Cook and Elizabeth Hurley is no Peter Cook.

This raises one of the eternal recurring problems of the middle-aged, movie-minded critic; whether the review of the remake should include a lot or a little about the original After all, besides me and a few other fuddy-duddies, almost no one seeing the remake saw the original.

So let's review this new Bedazzled on its own merits. It is a mildly amusing little film, which, at 93 minutes, is just the right length for a comedy. It has some clever situations and some amusing lines, and is rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, language and some drug content. Yet, in much the same way as Rocky and Bullwinkle, I came to the theater ready to fall in love with the film, and didn't, and I can't quite explain why. Funny, words are my business.

I saw all that talent on the screen, and laughed at the genuinely funny moments, and felt a tiny twinge at the touching moments, but somehow it didn't all hang together. I mean, we're not talking total incomprehensible chaos at the end, just a feeling that the enterprise never quite gels, never quite engages.

So, not a total waste of time. And if that damns Bedazzled with faint praise, so be it.

Billy Elliot

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

Billy Elliot, on the other hand, is an absolute triumph of the filmmaker's art.

IMDB's plot summary is: " A talented young boy (Billy Elliot) becomes torn between his unexpected love of dance and the disintegration of his family."

It's a tad long at 110 minutes, but it isn't obscenely long, and it rarely drags. Jamie Bell, who plays Billy, is absolutely mesmerizing, not because he's such a great dancer (although he's OK), but because he does young, innocent and enthusiastic with… well, youth, innocence and enthusiasm. I mean, as much as you can show those things in a film rated R for language. These are all working-class Irish folk, and the screen is blue with F words delivered in the cutest accents (which take about 15 minutes to get used to, so don't worry).

This film is so British it makes your teeth ache (it was produced by (take a deep breath) Arts Council of England, British Broadcasting Corporation, Studio Canal, Tiger Aspect, WT2 and Working Title Films--all British except the French Studio Canal.

The director, Stephen Daldry, is a theater producer, who made one short film. Billy Elliot is his feature debut; ditto with Lee Hall the screenwriter.

I saw this film with my younger daughter Rae and we were blown away. It engages you from the very first moment of its funny-clever opening montage to the last moment of its freeze-frame finale. There is never a false note in this rags to riches story of a working class boy who finds ballet (which all the characters pronounce "belly") more appealing than boxing.

My two favorite lines: Billy's middle-aged female teacher says, "I've been thinking of the Royal Ballet," to which he responds, "Aren't you a little old miss?"

The other funny line comes when Billy and his father are on the bus to London, "What's it like then, London," he asks his dad, "Don't know. Never Been." "Why not" "Well, there's no coal mines there now, are there?"

Two thumbs up, five stars, OK for kids whose ears won't fall off at blue language. There's also some suggestive lines, and a tiny bit of blood during a demonstration, but its really OK on sex and violence, and, I have to say, for profanity, this profanity is about as inoffensive as it can get.

Best In Show

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

If you liked Spinal Tap, or Waiting for Guffman, you're going to love this movie. Christopher Guest writes, directs, and plays Harlan Pepper in the film; Eugene Levy co-wrote the screenplay and appears as the hilariously cuckolded Gerry Fleck who literally has two left feet. The film is a zippy 89 minutes and rated PG-13 for language and sex-related material.

It is a mockumentary, like Spinal Tap, and like that epochally funny movie, the script is really a set of suggestions for a group of talented comedic actors to riff around; they know where each scene has to go, but it is up to them to take it there.

It is a very specialized taste, this kind of film, but if you like the genre, you'll love this effort. I found myself rolling in the aisle for much of it. I admit there were several scenes so excruciatingly embarrassing I was tempted to leave the theater (I call this I-Love-Lucy syndrome, because it also happens to me during some scenes of that classic sitcom).

There are at least a dozen secondary characters who will send you racing for the Internet Movie Database (I have conveniently already looked up the film for you above) as you say, "Wasn't he the NBC executive on Seinfeld?" and "Who was that really." He was, and the above the line actors, besides Guest and Levy, include Fred Willard in one of his best roles ever. Also in the case are Parker Posey (the Queen of the Indies) Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O'Hara and Michael McKean in his 73rd great role since he launched his career as Lenny on Laverne and Shirley 25 years ago. (Squiggy's career has certainly been less distinguished).


What This Is, A Newscast Ends

The term I was looking for last week was eJournal, which I got from Craig Reynolds. That's what this is.

Dan Grobstein sent in this story from the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Drops Old-Fashioned Newscast
Three days before the start of a critical television ratings period, CBS and news anchor Carol Marin agreed Monday to pull the plug on Marin's ratings-challenged 10 p.m. newscast on CBS-Ch. 2.

A little back story: Marin resigned from her previous Chicago TV Job when, briefly, it appeared she'd have to share a newscast with Jerry Springer doing nightly commentary. The then-news director at Channel 2 hired her to produce a real old-fashioned serious newscast, instead of fluff, fill, and "if it bleeds, it leads." The people of Chicago voted with their feet--and now Marin is out of a job. So is the former news director. But at least their principals are intact.

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