PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 4 No. 16

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

April 30, 2001

High Anxiety

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.

Some Material in this column comes from anonymous incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Arial (Sans Serif) type font to distinguish it from the original material

Table of Contents:

General News:

  • High Anxiety
  • Jon Carroll: What's Wrong Around Here, And A Cat Column.

Computer Industry News:

  • Ludicrous copyright law.

Web Site of the Week:

  • Zeneration X.


  • The Top 15 Layoff Greeting Cards.
  • Funny Computer Graphics.
  • Crazy English.


  • The Tailor of Panama.
  • Now That's Good Writing.


  • This President.

General News

High Anxiety

Regular readers will have noted a certain drop-off in the truly personal (and original) portion of this column. There's nothing wrong, really--nothing that another weekend day in every week wouldn't fix, anyway.

For example, I'm writing this column on Saturday afternoon, when I should be clearing up a week of accumulated personal chores. Credit car slips need to be sorted, faxes need to be dispatched, e-mail needs to be sent and answered.

Instead of all that, I'm writing to you, the four score and 7 or so who read this each week.

Stuff continues to happen. Rae is off to the Junior Prom tonight, where she will first fence for an hour with Geoff, then change clothes and dance with him. Marlow is coming home for two weeks before she starts summer school at Columbia. Her computer caught a virus and got so sick it had to be replaced last week. In an effort to keep out of debtor's prison, we've started air-drying our clothes instead of using our dryer, which runs on [unregulated] natural gas. And since Vicki and I both work at home, in anticipation of 30 days of rolling blackouts this summer, we' re getting a generator installed. Ahead of the rush, I believe. Since my ISP will soon stop serving ISDN lines, I had a partial T1 installed (We're too far for DSL, cable is too slow and you can't see the satellites from my house because of the hill out back). That was expensive, time-consuming and painful.

Finally, and most important, I'm trying a bunch of new things in my battle of the bulge. I have not gained weight since I began the battle in earnest a two years ago September, but I have only lost about 10 pounds, which is not much to show for 18 months of extensive (and expensive) effort. Both my therapist and one of my three doctors think I may be eating because of anxiety. I'm trying some breathing exercises. Also, it turns out, I need to develop a better attitude about vegetables. Well duh. Oh, and it turns out I am way short of Zinc and B12, while suffering from a major surplus of antimony (and lead and mercury).

Just a word about antimony. This is what the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health service, says:

Exposure to antimony occurs in the workplace or from skin contact with soil at hazardous waste sites. Breathing high levels of antimony for a long time can irritate the eyes and lungs, and can cause problems with the lungs, heart, and stomach.

I wondered where the hell I could have gotten it, until I read this:

Antimony isn't used alone because it breaks easily, but when mixed into alloys, it is used in lead storage batteries, solder, sheet and pipe metal, bearings, castings, and pewter.

I wasted many, many hours of my youth inhaling the fumes form solder. Apparently, that's stuck with me over the years (metals accumulate in your body unless you do something to get them out). So I'll probably do something (expensive, time-consuming and painful) to get the lead out… and the antimony as well.

What's Wrong Around Here AND A Cat Column

I try to resist posting pointers to Jon Carroll columns every week, but the man (a quotidian columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle) is so good it is hard to resist. He wrote a philosophical two-parter this week. I wish I could reprint the whole thing. You need to go and read these.

A dream of sharing
I DO NOT believe in the American Dream. I am not always enamored of rugged individualists, and I think the myths surrounding them can be dangerous.
I do not necessarily believe in finding a need and filling it, any more than I believe that the spoils should always go to the victors. I do not believe in letting the best man win.
I think that metaphors based on conquest, metaphors that use "spoils" and "victors" and "win" as key words, are not often useful. I think that the word "need" should always be examined when it appears in conversation or in documents. I do not think that freedom is a goal to which other ideas must inevitably be sacrificed.
I believe in context. I believe in slowing down. I believe in paying attention. I resist attempts to demonize and to be demonized, although I am not always successful. I believe that we have better natures. I believe in that most abused and maligned of English words: sharing. ..

The next day he followed up with this:

Trying to make distinctions
THERE IS A real energy crisis, and there is a phony energy crisis. The people who created the phony energy crisis are using the real energy crisis to confuse you and to scare you. They are doing this so that you will spend more money. They are doing this so you will discount the statements of people who care about the environment.
They are doing this so you will move away from a conviction that collective stewardship of the Earth's resources is possible. They are not interested in the word "collective" or the word "stewardship." They are not even interested in the word "Earth," because that implies that the planet is a single system that will exist for a long time.
The people who created the phony energy crisis want you think no further than this summer. They want you to be frightened of your energy bill. They want you to blame the people who sought to regulate the energy companies and the utilities. The energy companies and the utilities created the phony crisis…

Then to close out the week, he writes another of his brilliant cat columns. This is how it begins.

A delicate problem in a small room
ARCHIE WAS DRINKING out of the toilet. Sensitive cat owner that I am, I quickly divined the meaning behind this alarming act. Someone had forgotten to fill his water dish.
I checked the water dish. It had plenty of water in it. I remembered that, indeed, I had filled it a mere eight hours before, at the same time I had put down the bowl of Friskies Ocean Fish Flavor, which I purchase at full price even though you'd think a cat-linked celebrity like me would get truckloads of the stuff for free. Of course, that would be unethical, but, like, who would know?
"Our cat is drinking water out of the toilet voluntarily," I said to Tracy.

His wife responds, in part:

Is the local news filled with feline deaths linked to unwise consumption of potty water? Do friends speak sadly of dear old Snowball or Gumbo who fell prey to a commode- related malady?"

It doesn't get any better than this. I doubt the Chronicle has the ability to be what it wants to be (a World Class Newspaper), especially as it now owned by the Hearst Corporation, which has never produced World Class Journalism anywhere, at any time. Entertaining journalism, always. Popular journalism, usually. Since the death of the founder, profitable journalism, always (or no journalism at all).

But the Chronicle has always been the home of world-class columnists. Most of the greats of the first generation are dead now: Caen, Hoppe, McCabe, Delaplane, even Count Marcos. For decades, the paper did nothing about a new generation. But gradually, over the last 20 years, a few new ones have appeared, and some are worthy successors. Different. Adair Lara is coming right along (be sure and check out her new book, Hold Me Close, Let Me Go : A Mother, a Daughter, and an Adolescence Survived), as are the women of the op-ed page (even the incurably self-satisfied ultra-conservative Debra Saunders). Rob Morse, the new Herb Caen will never, of course, actually be the new Herb Caen, and I never thought Scot Ostler was as bad as everyone else did.

But if you forced me to pick only one columnist whose work I could read every day while trapped on a dessert island, I would take Jon Carroll, the only post-modern absurdist/ minimalist/ moralist writing a daily newspaper column in America.

Computer Industry News

Ludicrous Copyright Law

My friend Craig Reynolds sent some links that should raise your blood pressure, if you care about free expression on the Internet:

More fallout from the ludicrous Digital Millennium Copyright Act. See Dan Gillmor's commentary, on this ZDNet story about attempts by SDMI to suppress the academic research of Princeton's Edward Felten and others.

Web Site of the Week

Zeneration X

Drew Kossoff runs this site about "tools, concepts and strategies for a better life." He used to do it on the side; now, I think, he's taking it up a notch and seeing if he can make a living at it. This from his email newsletter:

If you're ready to break free and jump start your life again, e-mail me for more info!

Drew's Personal Coaching Packages include:
- Personal Mentoring by Drew in person and/or by phone
- Unlimited e-mail communication
- Complete "Life Analysis" and "Life Map" Development
- Psychological Conditioning and Anchor Development

I know this man: he can do it!


The Top 15 Layoff Greeting Cards

We're No. 11! We're No. 11!

April 23, 2001


The second-largest greeting card company in the U.S., American Greetings Corporation, recently announced it will lay off 1,500 employees as part of a restructuring plan after a $127.7 million loss in its fourth quarter.

The Top 15 Layoff Greeting Cards

15> Roses are red, violets are blue.
Al Gore's out of work, and so are you.

14> Your writing was great!
Such a way with cards!
Now please leave quietly
Or we'll call the guards.

13> We all know that you're valuable,
You do so many things,
But we found someone for half your pay
With dreads and eyebrow rings.

12> Your poems were sublime!
Your work left us gaspin'!
But the prez wants to build
A new condo in Aspen!

11> Roses are red, violets are blue.
I wouldn't get sick, if I were you:
You've lost your job, and your insurance, too.

10> Get Re-employed Soon!

9> We realize that on this solemn day,
A part of our company goes with you.
We strongly suggest that you put it back.
Signed, the guys in Security.

8> Don't think of it as getting older.
Think of it as dying penniless after a meal of Alpo on toast.

7> You are invited to a layoff!
Date: Today
From: Management
For: Restructuring
Bring: Your belongings

6> During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that you had your feet on the desk and your lazy ass was playing Minesweeper.

5> At writing cute poems, you were the bomb,
But now we suggest:

4> We hope this friendly greeting card
Will ease your post-job tension,
At least until you find that we
Have pissed away your pension.

3> In order to replace your work,
We'll have to count on Tom.
We're sure that he can handle

2> Your work was really wonderful,
But we have to boost our stock.
We're really sad to see you go --
Please don't rampage with your Glock.

and's Number 1 Layoff Greeting Card...

1> You've been a great employee,
So diligent and true.
But there is no "i" in "our team,"
And now there is no "u."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 128 submissions from 54 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are:
John Mozena, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI -- 1, 2
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 11
Chris White, Los Angeles, CA -- List owner/editor

Funny Computer Graphics

I have printed most of these here before, but if you'd like to see what features your hardware and software really need, click to see a page of pictures discovered by Phil Gill.

Crazy English

Although this is often reposted and forwarded without credit, it was written by Richard Lederer, and comes from the forward to his book Crazy English, copyright © 1989 by Simon and Schuster.

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
And while no one knows what is in a hot dog, you can be pretty sure it isn't canine.
English muffins were not invented in England nor French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?


The Tailor of Panama

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

John Le Carré helped adapt this from his novel of the same name, which it is now my intention to read. Fascinating casting, as many have noticed, allowing Pierce Brosnan to have fun with his James Bond image by playing the anti-bond, an MI6 agent exiled to Panama as punishment for messing up his previous assignment (by sleeping with the mistress of the foreign minister). Geoffrey Rush turns in another outstanding performance, this time as a Le Carré standard-issue mousy liar and con man in over his head. The movie would have us believe that Jamie Lee Curtis married this man because he made her laugh. Maybe, but the amount of effort the movie makes to explain why a woman this beautiful and sexy would be married to a man this odd and mousy reflects the moviemakers' legitimate concern that we're all sitting there in the dark wondering.

Alas, this is really unsuitable for young teens because of several sex scenes that are, to my eye, entirely and totally gratuitous, but kind of raunchy for a mainstream film. This kind of thing makes me madder and madder as I get older. A cut of about 90 second would make this film a PG-13, even with the sexual innuendo, which would be sufficient to establish what kind of person Brosnan's character is. I hate to sound like an old fart, but in matters of sex on the screen, I really am coming to believe less is more.

I missed the first 15 minutes, but you can quite readily deduce what happens, and it doesn't really detract from the rest of the film. At 109 minutes, it's a little long, but not obscenely long.

I found myself laughing out loud and slapping my knee a dozen times during the film. It is highly entertaining adult fare with clever writing and top-notch acting, albeit a plot stretched thin. Strongly recommended.

Now That's Good Writing

Daniel Dern sent me this comment, apparently written by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, whom I don't know, but now respect for his good taste.

Roger Ebert, reviewing Freddy Got Fingered, a movie that is evidently reducing critics everywhere to a kind of gibbering stupor:

This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

It's nice to see the language put to such vigorous use.



This President

This from the UPI alumni message wire:

Notice how the Bush spokesmen refer to their boss over and over again as "THIS president" (sandwiched in among repetitions of "at the end of the day")? Their standard line is something like, We aren't going to say anything bad about that rotten, low-life, immoral administration that preceded us, but "THIS president" is all baseball and apple pie.
I suppose the flacks are entitled, but many of the Washington newsmen I hear have picked up the mantra and read echo and re-echo the "THIS president" on the talk shows and in their columns. How "THIS president's" spinmeisters must be snickering.

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