PS... A Column

on Things

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

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

January 28, 2002

A Touching Story of Fencing

I no longer have a day job, so every word of this is my opinion, and if you don't like it, lump it. This offer is NOT void in Wisconsin.

Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material

Family photos 1, 2, 3

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Touching Story of Fencing
  • My First Day Substituting
  • Selling Your Film Rights
  • Another Letter From London
  • On Turning 50
  • Connecting The Dots

Computer Industry News

  • The Reynolds Report
  • Beware of Activation
  • Outlook Email Extraction
  • Microsoft, Really

Web Site of the Week

  •, Airline Safety, Another Sociology Experiment


  • Ripping The Cover Off Top 5
  • The Top 15 Rejected Singer/Song Pairings for Gap Ads
  • Lord Of The Rings Song Parody


  • The Royal Tenebaums
  • Mulholland Drive Redux
  • Lantana


  • An All-Week Reading List

General News

A Touching Story of Fencing

Those of you who are paying attention will recall that I spent last weekend in South Bend, Indiana with my younger daughter Rae at a fencing tournament. Rather than trying to tell you what happened, let me give Rae the floor. She expresses herself eloquently, I feel:

Fencing in Indiana

Call me crazy, but I'm proud of finishing 108th out of 117 in the North American Cup for fencing in South Bend, Indiana. After losing my first direct elimination bout 15-4 and crying from frustration, it might seem I thought I failed.

Before January 18th I didn't understand why people got emotional about bouts, or why people had those fierce war cries after a carefully constructed touch or why people had anguished wails when they lost a touch. I now see the emotional weight some bouts carry.

George Platt, my fencing coach, once said that everyone needs something that's important to them that's not really important. Fencing is my significant diversion. It's one way I define myself. I want to excel in it .

I hate the word potential. Maybe instead of realizing my potential, I can channel my inner-champion.

There was so much nervous energy bottled up for my direct elimination bout. If I lost, I was out of the tournament. I knew what to do against the woman, but she read me like a book. She knew when I was trying to carry out my plan. She could tell the difference between my feints and my real attacks. I kept on trying, but alas, I was totally and utterly outfenced. Losing to a woman named Fortune burns because of the irony.

George told me not to be discouraged and said the way I was going to start winning national tournaments was by going to them. Between tears, I nodded and listened attentively. He told me to watch the other épée bouts and incorporate some of the moves I saw into my bouts. I watched and paid attention, so 106 girls better beware next year!

I tried my best, stayed focused, and during my pool bouts I won only one out of six 5-touch bouts. I'm used to winning most or all of my pool rounds from the local tournaments that consist of seven girls from the bay area. Usually I end up with a 2nd place medal.

This is insanely different from a national tournament that consists of 117 woman (most are over twenty) who've been fencing for a decade. I've been fencing competitively now for under a year, so I've got some catching up to do.

Each tournament I'm improving, steadily making my climb toward the top.

By the way, in the Duel in the Desert a few weeks ago, she ranked 22 of 47 in women's épée, 86 of 121 in open épée (men's and women's).

My First Day Substituting

Yet another test of your attention span. I am changing careers, from being a journalist to being a teacher. There are several exciting opportunities at the college level manifesting themselves to me, and I am in the process of obtaining a high school substitute credential, but in the meantime I am a fully qualified 30-day Substitute in the M.. School District. By the way, it isn't a credential that lasts 30 days, it's a credential that allows me to substitute up to 30 days for any given teacher in any given year. The limit is to prevent the district from using little-old uncredentialed me as a permanent replacement.

Anyway, Mr. E.L. teaches 8th grade English and Math at the Middle Middle School. He's also a union negotiator, so he knew he wasn't coming to work Tuesday. As a result, he spent all day Friday (Monday was a holiday) threatening his students with the dire loss of 40 points if they looked cross-eyed at the substitute. He then typed out a meticulously detailed and ultra-simple lesson plan that reduced the substitute to the status of babysitter, whose pedagogical role was to read out instructions which were also clearly written, twice, on the blackboard.

In short, a perfect situation for a first-day sub. The substitute the district had lined up was needed elsewhere to handle a PE class (PE substitutes are hard to find), so at 6:30 am Tuesday, I got the call; be at Middle Middle by 8:05 am. I arrived five minutes early. First period was prep. Luckily, Vicki had warned me to bring lots of reading material. Thus, I wasn't terminally bored as I watched students work on problems, watched them fill out dittos, and, for the last two periods, watched them read their novels, while enforcing the rule that only one student could leave the classroom at a time.

And while I was there, the district technology coordinator asked me to teach the teachers about Word and Office, a class I will conduct next week. A chance to teach adults!

I have already learned that the way to insure a steady stream of substituting work (at the princely sum of $85 a day, pre-tax, and right off the top of my unemployment), is to get teachers to "ask for him by name." Fortunately, I have some friends around the district.

Selling Your Film Rights

I just heard from Keith Colquhoun, who has written a wonderful essay on selling film rights. It is a must-read for journalists, potential journalists, and those who appreciate the light humor of British understatement (right Larry?). Here's the introduction:

You may remember that we exchanged friendly words last year about your journalism site and my novel Goebbels & Gladys. I am glad to see that you are going strong and with lots of interesting stuff. It occurred to me that you might be interested to read a piece I have just had published in the Author, the magazine of the Society of Authors, to which most British writers belong. Kind regards and belated wishes for a good new year.

Another Letter From London

I am always tickled to hear from Larry King, an American ex-patriate in London:

Have I told you I've moved? Or as we say here, moved house?

Grape Street is a dark, narrow, Dickensian lane on the border of Soho, Covent Garden, and Bloomsbury. It's about three blocks from the British Museum, within walking distance of most of the West End theaters, and a stone's throw from Charing Cross Road and its bookstores.

The flat itself has two bedrooms, an extra half a bathroom, closets that a New Yorker would kill for, and a kitchen you can actually eat in. The rent will consume my unborn grandchildren's inheritance, but to hell with the entirely hypothetical little buggers. I could walk to work, assuming I step smartly, and if the worthless Bolsheviks clinging like leeches to the payroll of London Underground carry out their threat to stage a series of strikes in the near future, that's exactly what I'll be doing.

I know I keep promising to write more, and I keep intending to, but life is complex, along with the Hobbesian nasty, brutish, short, poor, and solitary.

On Turning 50

I'll dust this off again when I turn 50 in September, but for now it was too good not to mention.

Pull quote with story:

At 49, you are the oldest of the young.
At 50 you are the youngest of the old.

San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, January 24, 2002
Mozart was dead when he was my age
Adair Lara

I'VE BEEN READING a pocketbook called "The Book of Ages," where you look up your age and see what other people have accomplished by then. It's the kind of book that makes you want to lie down with a warm towel over your face.

... AS FOR ME, being 50 makes me feel as if I have 10 minutes left to do everything. My line of children's books based on my 21-month-old friend Julian.

I haven't tried sculpturing yet, since the one time I got myself to a class, I was seven months pregnant and couldn't stand to sit on the stools they gave us. I want to restore old dressers and paint pictures on them. When I was 5 they said I'd be an artist, and what if they were right? I have a 2-foot-high stack of notes for my writing book, "Turning Your Worst Moments Into Money"; am halfway through another memoir; am supposed to be getting in condition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with the above-referenced twin; and also I intend to learn Spanish, and right ow all I can say is "Yo hablo espanol," which isn't even true.

I haven't seen China yet, or Russia, or even Texas. And the books I haven't read! I don't think I can say I read "Moby-Dick" if I read it at 14. And Proust -- that's still ahead of me. And I want to videotape Divisadero Street before it changes too much. And hanging out! Bill and I have been so lucky in our friendships, and yet cursed, because we know about 20 people we want to see regularly, whose lives and habits of mind interest us, who are funny and bright and the sun is out and let's all go hiking and then stop somewhere for dinner.

I am much too busy to be 50. Sorry, get somebody else.

LET'S RETURN TO the depressing little tome in front of us. At 50, Ford had invented the assembly line, Darwin had written "The Origin of Species," Frank Sinatra had married Mia Farrow....

At 50 Pavlov was just a guy with too many dogs in his backyard, and Ronald Reagan an out-of-work actor. Samuel Morse had virtually given up on the invention he called the telegraph. It all lay ahead of them.

Where did they find the time?

And of course, when Gerry and Lilo Leeds were 50, their publishing company, CMP, was already a year old, and on its way to being worth a billion dollars.

Connecting The Dots

As reported here two weeks ago, there is reason to believe the FBI was waved off an Al Qaeda investigation last year because of Unocal's pipeline interests in Afghanistan. Here's a thought-provoking question: what other pipeline company, closely tied to the administration, has been in the news recently for alleged behavior not in the national interest? I have no proof such a company was involved, but if you do, please forward it.


Don't Miss My Travel Tech 101 column.

Computer Industry News

The Reynolds Report

From Craig Reynolds:

A firewire keychain that holds up to 1 gbyte of data:

This is an interesting gadget, pricing not yet announced.

Maybe AOL can do for Linux what it did for Netscape?

AOL in Negotiations to Buy Red Hat

CD creator Philips blasts labels over protected discs

Philips moves to put 'poison' label on protected audio CDs


Beware of Activation

I get the LangaLetter, so I'd seen this myself, but it took Daniel Dern's kick in the pants before I realized I should share it with you. Here's what Fred says:

My current InformationWeek.Com column--- about how XP can lock you out from your own data, turning your PC into a nearly-useless paperweight --- has generated a load of reader comment, both pro and con. It seems to be another Rorschach-test kind of thing, where each of us interprets the data according to our own experiences: If you've had no trouble with WPA, it's easy to assume no one else has had trouble, and vice versa.

And activation can indeed go smoothly; for many, it is a truly trivial matter. But it doesn't always go smoothly, and when it doesn't, the consequences can be severe--- to the point of totally locking you out of your own system, unable to access, copy, backup or otherwise get to your own data!

Outlook Email Extraction

At last, some original work in this section! Well, I mean, at least it's a discovery I made myself. One of the readers of my Travel Tech column rose to the challenge of finding a program that allows you to manipulate the DBX files in which Outlook Express stores email messages. Here are two programs (I'm buying Xtend myself):



Microsoft, Really

These notes were written by David Breneman, who notes they represent his opinion, not that of his employer, who I am not naming.

My opposition to Microsoft isn't a knee-jerk reaction to big business. I have a degree in economics and I believe that capitalism is the greatest motor of human progress the world has seen. However, Microsoft is something unique. They honestly don't give a damn about their customers. They seem to use customers as pawns in a game aimed at killing their competitors. Most companies succeed by providing a better product at a better price. Microsoft succeeds through assassination. The result is that they are a force for inertia in the computer industry. They hold back, rather than promote, innovation and progress. It's really pretty spooky. I really believe that the only reason they survive is because they sell to a lot of idiots who believe there is no alternative, and that creates a sort of "it's popular because it's popular" snowball effect in the under-informed market.

Web Site of the Week

Dan Rosenbaum mentioned that his mohel (a person who performs ritual circumcisions) had a web site, I wrote that it seemed odd, and he wrote back:

It's actually a great site. The guy's so busy -- he may be the city's (New York City) only full-time mohel -- that he puts vast amounts of information on the site, so he can just refer people there. Stuff like: when is the bris likely to be (more complicated than it sounds), what do we need to do before the birth (nothing -- call me after the kid is here), what supplies will be need, what's the ritual justification. It's quite complete and useful. If I were still doing NetGuide, it would surely get a high rating.

Richard Dalton checks in with two sites: is potentially useful to business travellers--or to paranoids, at least.

This one isn't as personally involving [as the sociology experiment site Richard found last week], but the links could keep you busy for a month or two.


Ripping The Cover Off Top 5

Well, no, really just showing you how the process of editing humor works. I scored a double on one of the top five lists this week, and I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at the process. Here are my three submissions. Note which two made it, and how one of them was improved via editing:

Tina Turner--Stand By Your Man
Dolly Parton--Just A Little Bit
Madonna--Give It Away

The Top 15 Rejected Singer/Song Pairings for Gap Ads

January 24, 2002


For a couple of months now, The Gap has been running a series of ads featuring various artists doing their own versions of Supertramp's "Give a Little Bit." Here are a few artist/song combinations which we thought might make interesting Gap ads...


15> Paula Poundstone -- "Sweet Child of Mine"

14> Tina Turner -- "Stand by Your Man"

13> Jerry Lee Lewis -- "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

12> Courtney Love -- "Like a Virgin"

11> Marilyn Manson -- "Sharp Dressed Man"

10> Milli Vanilli -- "Too Legit to Quit"

9> P. Diddy -- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"

8> Bob Hope -- "My Heart Will Go On"

7> Lil' Kim -- "White Wedding"

6> George Michael -- "Beat It"

5> Traveling Wilburys -- "Another One Bites the Dust"

4> Tommy Lee -- "My Ding-a-Ling"

3> Dolly Parton -- "It's a Small World"

2> Michael Jackson -- "Eyes Without a Face"

and's Number 1 Rejected Singer/Song Pairing for a Gap Ad...

1> Mariah Carey -- "I Wanna Be Sedated"

The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 175 submissions from 62 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mark Niebuhr, Minneapolis, MN -- 1 (13th #1)
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- 2, 5 (Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 3, 14

Lord Of The Rings Song Parody

Daniel Dern forwards this (rearranged for non geeks)

"Words: Marc Glasser a.k.a. Beyond the Fringefan and Donna Camp"

To the Captain Spaulding song from the Marx Bros movie "Animal Crackers":

Hooray for Bilbo Baggins
The Middle Earth Explorer
I just got back from Mordor
Hooray hooray hooray

I went to Sauron's castle
But there I did not linger
I lost my little finger
Hooray hooray hooray"

Chattanooga Choo-Choo

In 1999 and again in 2000, I have mentioned my memory of a New York Times Magazine collection of Chattanooga Choo-Choo jokes. Each time, I receive e-mail from other people who remember it as well. Each time, I ask my friend at The Times to check the archives. This time, I thought I was being clever, asking him to look for the one punchline I was sure was there:

"Pardon me goy, is that the chatty guru's new pew?"

Didn't work. He still can't find it. And he prefers doo-dah jokes anyway. But at least this time I found a page of Choo-Choo jokes on the Internet. Here's the page, and some examples:

The Train of Bad Puns

Pardon me, boy, is this the shoddy gnu's bamboo shoot?"

'Pardon me, boy, this is the chap who knew to choose you." [I think this one was on the NY Times page as well]

"Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?"


The Royal Tenenbaums

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

To quote a line I believe was used about The Simpsons, here is a family that puts the fun in dysfunctional. This is the performance of Gene Hackman's career, which, when you think of how long he's been in movies, is really saying something. His Royal Tenenbaum is brilliant, simply brilliant. In the spring, he should be dancing with a little gold man. Ben Stiller demonstrates that he may, actually, be able to act. Luke Wilson is better than you would expect, and Owen Wilson, who co-wrote the film with director Wes "Rushmore" Anderson, is a better writer and a better actor than his previous work would indicate. Gwyneth Paltrow shows, once again, that the really beautiful, if deliberately made ugly, can deliver a nuanced performance. And as for Danny Glover and Angelica Houston, well, I'm just glad they're still working.

The column is already too long this week, so, once again, the movie review gets short shrift. Its a funny, odd, quirky film. With this movie and Rushmore, 32-year-old Wes Anderson shows promise of being the Woody Allen of the 21st century. If only he could turn out films a little more frequently.

From IMDB:

Tagline: Family isn't a word, it's a sentence.

Plot Outline: An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness.

Rated R for some language, sexuality/nudity and drug content.

Take your mature high school students and your adult friends to see this oddball effort. At least it's funny.

Mulholland Drive

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

Last column, I said:

There was something about this film's cinematography that was just a little off. I think it was shot in 24-frame Progressive Video. Excellent quality--I can hardly wait to see Star Wars II. It appears a lot of the usual tricks to make the digital video look like film (how long will we have to do this?). I could not find an explicit statement of how the movie was shot, but its presence in the newsbriefs on (a site devoted to digital video) indicates I was correct in my suspicion.

Dan Rosenbaum wrote to me

Don't think it was shot in DV. Here's the tech spec page for the movie on IMDB. Note the negative format and cinematographic process.

Score another point for IMDB. I didn't even realize that page existed. Well, if it wasn't DV, it looked like DV, which makes me think Lynch is going the opposite way from the directors who try to soften DV to make it look like film; he's trying to harden film to make it look like DV.

Bob Nilson also checked in on the subject:

Regarding whether Mullholland Drive was shot in 24 frame progressive digital video... my guess is no. I saw an on-location picture of the crew that included a very traditional looking camera. Also, an interview with cinematographer Peter Deming seemed to indicate he shot with traditional film. He later worked with digital on a commercial produced by Lynch (for Sony).


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

Lantana is an Australian bush, a weed that infests the suburbs and sprouts toy-coloured flowers.
Urban Cinefile

That quote was in case you were wondering where the title of this Australian/German co-production came from. You see the bush, but no one eve says its name out loud, so Americans are kind of lost.

This is so not a Hollywood film. In fact it is anti-Hollywood and very cleverly so, despite the distracting presence of aging but still drop-dead gorgeous American actress Barbara Hershey, entering her fourth decade and second century as an actress and looking good.

Hats off to writer Andrew Bovell, who also wrote the play upon which the movie is based; for setting up a dozen Hollywood clichés, where you think you know what is happening, then having not a single one of them resolved in the expected way. Ray Lawrence's direction is dazzling.

Rated R for language and sexuality. Don't take the kids. They'd be bored by all the plot and characterization anyway. It's a murder mystery. You will not, I guarantee you, get to the solution before the people in the movie do.


An All-Week Reading List

Last week, I said you should walk out of Mulholland Drive as soon as you saw the first breast. One of my readers wrote in:

Hmmm...see the breasts and leave. My recap of the Golden Globes was slightly similar: when the non-name boobs started winning (over veterans such as Maggie Smith), it was time to turn the show off.

Also, I ran an item suggesting that the man portrayed in Beautiful Mind was gay. Apparently, there is some controversy about that. As Bob Nillson noted:

Regarding "A Beautiful Mind", my understanding is that the subject is bisexual, not gay.

Bob also had some remarks on my favorite film:

Groundhog Day recently aired here (I think it was on TNT, so it probably aired across the country). The movie's Buddhist connection led the kids to realize that there are other Buddist connections in the entertainment world. They suggested perhaps the Mario World games arose from the east due to their religious background there. Is it a coincidence that the Nintendo game requires one to succeed with near perfection on one level before gaining access to the next level? After a short time in a new level, one is engulfed by a feeling of hopelessness. Failing a level results in death; but that "death" is followed by rebirth as you are granted another attempt at success.

Step by step Mario improves his lot. Mastery of each level requires more than simple survival - that is, you cannot succeed by just racing to an exit. Usually, you must save other people and solve mystical puzzles. Through his stuggle, Mario generates good karma and purifies himself. Watching the kids while they play, it is apparent from their glazed look that they are just the vessel, as a Buddist might say. On the other hand, perhaps the movie Groundhog Day could be the basis for a great a new videogame.

Rich Levin suggests this Washington Post Enron story:

The Enron Story That Waited To Be Told (Washington Post)
By Howard Kurtz
Page C01, Jan 18, 2002

Bethany McLean, a 31-year-old Fortune magazine reporter with an impossibly soft voice, decided to take a hard look at Enron last January.

The Houston energy company didn't like her questions. The CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, called her unethical and hung up on her. The chairman, Kenneth Lay, called Fortune's managing editor to complain. The chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, flew to New York to tell McLean and her editors that Enron was in great shape.

A great Enron story, and a great media story.

Dan Grobstein sent several Washington Post stories as well:

I'm not sure that W has grown as much as Raspberry says, but he has a point about the disappearance of Al Gore.

Edith Ann Grows Up
By William Raspberry

Until quite recently, President Bush reminded me of Lily Tomlin's almost-6-year-old "Edith Ann." He didn't seem a bad kid, only an out-of-his-depth kid, legs dangling from the oversized chair of the presidency, trying earnestly to sound like an adult.


Just the latest scandal that gives me constant indigestion. Paul Krugman in the New York Times has had a few good columns lately about robbing the poor to give to the rich.

All Enron Cards on the Table
By Henry A. Waxman

Talk cards with any good poker player and the discussion will soon turn to "tells": the unintended signals other players give that reveal whether they hold good hands or bad.

Spreading It Around
January 25, 2002
Conservatives are slinging Enron muck at liberals, hoping that some of it will stick.

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