PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

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

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS 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.

To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

P.S. A Column On Things: April 22, 2002

April 22, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 16

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Library Usage
  • Replacing Nathan Lane Redux
  • Confusion Central
  • Credential Update
  • Tiny Technical Change

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds Technobriefs
  • Film on Planes

Web Site of the Week

  • Dot-com Deaths, Airline Risks


  • The Truth About University
  • The Top 16 Bad Things About Dating a Monkey


  • Monster's Ball
  • Teddy Bears' Picnic


  • Neal and Dave Sims on Cabin Boy, Dan Rosenbaum on Obituaries and Teaching, Kimberly Drake Finds Mideast Thoughtfulness

General News

Library Usage

I spent more time in the Cal State Hayward library last week than I spent in the MIT libraries in four years as a undergraduate.

In fact, during my senior year, a freshman on the newspaper staff asked me, "Where's Barker Engineering Library."

"I think it's under the dome in Building 10," I said.

"You mean you don't know?" he asked.

"I know the locations of every 10 cent Coke machine on campus. I have the delivery pizza number memorized. I can find almost all my classes after the sixth week of the term. You want I should know where the libraries are?"

I literally never checked a book out, never used any of MIT's world-class libraries. So, I found Cal State Hayward impressive, in part, i suppose, because I'd never really used a college library before.

I'm working harder than I ever have in my life, and everyone tells me that education courses are gut courses. It makes me wonder what my life would have been like if I'd worked half this hard as an undergraduate. Shudder.

Replacing Nathan Lane Redux

Joe "Joey Broadway" Brancatelli provides followup on the issue of who should play the lead in The Producers.

You will recall a conversation on PSACOT last November speculating about Nathan Lane's replacement. You may also recall (okay, you won't...) that I suggested the producers of The Producers should do the smart thing and hire Brad Oskar. Oskar has been playing Franz Leibken (the "sweet" Nazi author of Springtime...) and had been Lane's understudy. He got raves from everyone as Leibken and everyone who saw him as Max Bialystock thought he was at least as good as Lane.

Well, of course, the producers of The Producers did not give Oskar the role when Lane left last month. They brought a very good British actor, Henry Goodman, to play the role. Goodman has been in previews since mid-March and was supposed to premier for critics on May 1.

Not to be. He got canned this morning. So who gets the role. The producers of The Producers have named Brad Oskar.

As with so many things, if they had just listened to me in the first place...

Confusion Central

This is the last of the historic dispatches I am reprinting; they were originally written by my friend, financial journalist Larry King, when he worked at a magazine publishing company.

I am trying to find out about sending messages, but apparently the particulars are closely held secrets. The computer guardians seem to feel that if the information got into the wrong hands -- by which they apparently mean anyone who might actually use it -- hundreds of employees would immediately abandon all pretense of useful work and hurl themselves into a veritable orgy of inter-publication messaging, no doubt soon to be followed by an actual orgy as heretofore taboo connections are established and consummated, with all the usual breakdown in order and hierarchy attendant upon unbridled sensual activity.

The thinking is akin to that which once led the purchasing department to announce it would no longer procure Postit pads and distribute them freely, because employees were using them too much. In other words, if too many people show a marked tendency to make use of a product or service, don't provide it.

Presumably, there is a corollary rule, to the effect that products or services which no one can find a use for should be made widely available. The latter rule may account for the proliferation of plastic vertical files in our offices, which at one time were stacked so high and had consequently become so unstable as to constitute a danger to the unwary pedestrian.

Now that I think about it, some version of the latter rule might also explain the relentless succession of company picnics, as no evident benefit attaches to the practice of forcing hundreds of people who can barely abide one another's presence on their best day to commingle and consume bad food ineptly prepared, standing up, outside.

Credential Update

I don't get much sympathy from Marlow at Columbia or even Rae in high school, but eight hours a week of class and 150 or so pages of reading is more work than I've done in 30 years. Believe me, 50-60 hours of adult work is nothing compared to class time with mid-terms and finals coming up. Journals and books to read and review.

Anyway, this project, this effort to obtain a teaching credential, is, of course, consuming both my mind and my life, so I end up talking about it a fair bit. On Tuesday, I was talking about it in the faculty lounge at Middle Middle School. I am still so raw that I giggle every time I open a teacher's edition with all the answers written in it. And I smile every time I enter a teachers' lounge, as I look around for the smoke. When I was in grade school (Portland, Oregon had a K-8/9-12 system when I was a student), the lounge was literally a smoke filled room. Smoke billowed out in curls when you opened the door. Now, there aren't even any teachers huddled under the eaves smoking.

So, the teachers were dining in the lounge and I struck up a conversation with one of them about the four teaching philosophies (perennialism, essentialism, progressivism and existentialism--don't worry, you won't be tested on this later). He lit up and said, "Wow, we had a chapter on that too, but they used different names." In the middle of the afternoon, a student arrives with two textbooks that have been marked. Sure enough, while the teaching philosophies described could quite easily be mapped to the four I was given, they had different names in each book. I read the sections, then returned the books. "I think it's neat that you have your teaching textbooks here at school," I said to Erik. "That's the first time I've opened them since I graduated," he said.

Friday, fortunately, I had no substituting work and could catch up on my reading and writing. Friday night at dinner, Vicki was finally forced to say, "let's talk about someone besides you, Paul." So we did. But of course here, it really is all about me.

Tiny Technical Change

The technically astute among you, or those who came from bookmarks, will notice that I have temporarily dropped the "" URL and that this page is now index.shtml rather than index.html. But if you're the kind of person who would notice such things, chances are you're the kind of person who would know what they mean.

OK, for the handful of you who are in the first group but not the second, it means my Internet Service Provider has activated server-side inserts on my web site, relieving me of the responsibility of dragging around all the code to create the top of my column every week, or the counter at the bottom, I need only include a single line of code:

<!--#include file ="header.html" -->

and it all gets copied into your browser (included) by my server at moment the page is served (hence, server-side includes). Should I ever choose to change the material at the top or bottom, I change one little file and the information gets changed in all my columns (well, all of them as from today) at once! It also enables a number of other fancy capabilities I'll never use.

Hmmm. Well, it seemed more epochal when I was setting it up and testing it than it does now that I'm writing about it.

Anyway, eventually server-side includes will spread to my movie, book and quote pages as well.

LAST CHANCE! Mark Your Calendars: Paul In Concert THIS WEEKEND

Mark your calendars and don't miss this event. If you don't live around here, fly in for it. The music will be great and the second tenor saxophone will be... well, modesty forbids. I won't be announcing; there won't be an announcer.

Contra Costa Wind Symphony
Gala 20th Anniversary Concert
Saturday, April 27th, 2002 8 p.m.

Hofmann Theatre
Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts
Walnut Creek, California.

Tickets are now available. Call the Regional Center Box Office at
(925) 943-SHOW

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

He'll be back, I feel sure.

Film on Planes

This from technology maven Daniel Dern:

The current (May 2002) issue of Popular Photography has an article regarding the dangers of film -- unexposed and possibly exposed going through airline inspection.

I'll have to reread the piece, but at minimum, I think it said that we should avoid packing film into checked bags, as these may be subject to higher-level X-raying.

Worse, asking for hand inspection of film/cameras might be taken amiss by inspectors. Sigh.

It sounds like leaving the camera film-less and trying to have the film hand inspected is the best bet.

And being sure to minimize the #/trips a given roll goes on. Possibly buying film after arriving?

Web Site of the Week

Dot-com Deaths, Airline Risks

Bob Nilsson recommends these sites, to which I would only add the most famous such site, the one with the dirty name.

A couple of sites have colorfully documented the demise of the dotcom. Ghostsites has an alphabetical listing of defunct companies with jpegs of their final home pages. Upside also provides the lists by year with a summary and the final statement from their management. But perhaps even more interesting is a site advertised at Ghostsites called "The Wayback Machine". These folks seem to have preserved all versions of every web site ever posted. It is fascinating to see how various sites evolved before they disappeared altogether.

And speaking of crashes, calculates for you the odds of your safe arrival for any given airline route. My former co-workers discovered it during our traveling days. It also contains hints for the nervous traveler, such as, "Try and avoid sitting directly underneath any TV monitors as heavy turbulence could bring these crashing down. On you."


The Truth About University

Clearly written somewhere in the British Empire.

Uni is a bunch of rooms where you sit for 2,000 hours or so and try to memorise things. The 2,000 hours are spread out over four years. You spend the rest of the time sleeping, partying, and trying to get dates.

Basically, you learn two kinds of things in uni:

1. Things you will need to know in later life (two hours). 2. Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours).

The latter are the things you learn in classes whose names end in -iology, -osophy, -istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is you memorise these things, then write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to forget them, you become a Professor and have to stay in uni for the rest of your life.

After you've been in uni for a year or so, you're supposed to choose a major, which is the subject you intend to memorise and forget the most things about. Here is a very important piece of advice: Be sure to choose a major that does not involve Known Facts and Right Answers. This means you must not major in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, or geology because these subjects involve actual facts.

If, for example, you major in mathematics, you're going to wander into class one day and the Professor will say: "Define the cosine integer of the quadrant of a rhomboid binary axis, and extrapolate your result to five significant vertices." If you don't come up with exactly the answer the Professor has in mind, you fail.

The same is true of chemistry: If you write in your exam book that carbon and hydrogen combine to form oak, your Professor will fail you. He wants you to come up with the same answer he and all the other chemists have agreed on. Scientists are extremely snooty about this.

So you should major in subjects like English, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology - subjects in which nobody really understands what anybody else is talking about, and which involve virtually no actual facts. I attended classes in all these subjects, so I'll give you a quick overview of each:

ENGLISH: This involves writing essays about long books you have read little snippets of just before class. Here is a tip on how to get good grades on your English papers: Never say anything about a book that anybody with any common sense would say. For example, suppose you are studying Moby Dick. Anybody with any common sense would say Moby Dick is a big white whale, since the characters in the book refer to it as a big white whale roughly 11,000 times. So in your paper, you say Moby Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland. Your Professor, who is sick to death of reading essays and never liked Moby Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.

PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.

PSYCHOLOGY: This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists are obsessed with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is now a Doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about rats, you should major in psychology.

SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses, and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious observations into scientific-sounding code. If you plan to major in sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write: "Methodological observation of the sociometrical behaviour tendencies of prematurated isolates indicates that a causal relationship exists between groundward tropism and lachrimatory behavior forms." If you can keep this up for 50 or 60 pages, you will get a large government grant.

The Top 16 Bad Things About Dating a Monkey

April 18, 2002

16> Always "accidentally" getting his prehensile tail up your skirt.

15> Even when he's glad to see you, it's still just a banana in his pocket.

14> His idea of role-play sex? You dress up like the Empire State Building and he climbs you and swats model airplanes.

13> Relieves himself in the middle of dinner -- without bothering to leave the table.

12> Music during sex can be nice, but the organ grinder's smirk is giving you the creeps.

11> Meeting the parents.

10> Impossible to tell during lovemaking whether that sound is an "ook" of assent or an "ook" that means "Get your hands off me, you damned dirty human!"

9> "I don't know, you want to just come over and groom me or something?"

8> Ending up a surprise guest on an "I'm Cheating on My Human Lover!" episode of Springer.

7> Never offers to pick up the check, even though she's the one with the high-paying job at the drug-testing lab.

6> She meets you at the door naked, screeching and sucking on a banana -- and you still don't score, you loser!!

5> Can't go to the mall without him freaking out when he sees Banana Republic.

4> The look you get when you ask the Victoria's Secret sales clerk if they have a sexy teddy with a tail hole.

3> Hairy armpits? That's just the tip of the iceberg, my friend.

2> His court-mandated attendance at "Poo-Flingers Anonymous" is really cutting into your "together" time.

and's Number 1 Bad Thing About Dating a Monkey...

1> Thirty seconds into his romantic serenade and those friggin' cymbals are already giving you a headache.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 95 submissions from 34 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Kevin Freels, Walnut Creek, CA -- 1 (17th #1/Hall of Famer)
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 11
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13


Monster's Ball

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

OK, now I've seen it, and now I know: Halle Berry did deserve to win the Oscar for best actress. She gives a standout performance in the film as the widow of a man executed for murder who falls in love with a man she doesn't know was one of her husband's executioners. Her performance is sensitive and nuanced. She does a good job with the accent. She's no Meryl Streep, but she's believable. If you hadn't just heard her at the Oscars, you might believe she really talks like that.

It's a pretty raw film, however, featuring vomiting and completely amoral paid sex in the first five minutes.

Once you're past the shocking opening, the movie is a parable of The South in our times; from the racist father (Peter Boyle) to the tolerant son (Billy Bob Thornton), to the third generation, a young man named Sonny who befriends two black children from next door. Billy Bob is so racism free he ends up being Berry's very sensitive lover--in contrast to his father, who, like many white southern men, appears to have had occasional quick sex with black women. It seems a little implausible, and the affair moves along a little quickly for my taste, but at least it has fits and starts that make it seem moderately realistics.

Speaking of moderately realistic, did we need so much explicit sex in this film? I don't think so. But according to IMDB, the director not only wanted this amount of sex, he wanted more: the original cut of the film was rated NC-17, so they cut out sex until they could get an R rating. The NC-17 version was show at the Berlin Film Festival and released to theaters in Canada; look for an "Uncut" DVD version in a few months.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Serious adult films were fine before explicit sex became mandatory in serious adult films, and they will be again after the backlash forces it to be gone. I mean, short of a gynecological training film, or pure porno, there's not much further mainstream films can go with this. How about implications, closed doors, murmured references, awaking together the next morning? Heck, how about rockets launching and fireworks going off? Most adults know how the mechanics of sex work, Hollywood; we don't need to see it played out, every time.

Obviously, don't go to see this with your kids, and I'd observe the R rating: no one under 17. Even at that, make sure they're comfortable with explicit sex before you let them go.

Teddy Bears' Picnic

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

Let my sad story be a warning to others. Harry Shearer told us several times on his weekly radio program, Le Show, about his movie Teddy Bears' Picnic. He said, "Just because a small, independent film is playing one weekend doesn't mean it will be playing the next weekend." I frittered away my time on frivolities like work and school. Then, Friday night, I had some free time and called Moviephone and punched in T-E-D. "We don't have that film in our database," barked Mr. Movie. I ran to the newspaper. It was true! I, one of the handful of people lucky enough to live near San Francisco, one of the handful of cities in which Teddy Bear's Picnic opened, had dallied a day too long, and it had closed.

Of course, the San Francisco Chronicle's mixed review didn't help, I'm sure.

Harry Shearer wrote me back when I told him this story:

Yeah, sure, and you'll rush right down and buy it. Okay, there probably will be a DVD, but I don't know when.


Neal and Dave Sims on Cabin Boy, Dan Rosenbaum on Obituaries and Teaching, Kimberly Drake Finds Mideast Thoughtfulness

Two weeks ago, I called Cabin Boy the worst film ever made.. Tom LaSusa set me straight last week. Neal piled on this week:

1) The "gobsmacked" discussion should at least reference the word's British origins. Given that fact, I find it's use in the US a little affected.

2) There's no way Cabin Boy could be the worst movie ever made, not while Tom Green is alive.

3) Nice idea, but I'm not flying in to see you play saxaphone.

Since Neal lives in LA, that's understandable. He is right about gobsmacked being British, wrong about it being affected, in my humble opinion. Why, if gobsmacked is affected, then most of my vocabulary is... wait, never mind.

Dave Sims commented on Cabin Boy as well:

I have to agree with Tom LaSusa ... as bad as Cabin Boy was, it did deliver a few essential, memorable lines. For years, I've used:

"Thank you for that...whatever that was"

whenever I didn't know what else to say. How can I ever repay Chris Elliott for that gift?

Dan Rosenbaum sent me a really great obituary for an ex-UPI reporter, that began:

GRAHAM MASON, the journalist who has died aged 59, was in the 1980s the drunkest man in the Coach and Horses, the pub in Soho where, in the half century after the Second World War, a tragicomedy was played out nightly by its regulars.

His claim to a title in bibulous misbehaviour was staked against stiff competition from Jeffrey Bernard and a dedicated cast of less celebrated but formidable drinkers. Mason was a fearsome sight at his most drunkenly irascible. Seated at the bar, his thin shanks wrapped around the legs of a high stool, he would swivel his reptilian stare round behind him to any unfortunate stranger attempting to be served, and snap: "Who the f-- are you?" Sometimes this prompted a reaction, and on one occasion a powerful blow to the head sent Mason flying, with his stool, across the carpet. Painfully clawing himself upright, he set the stool in its place, reseated himself and, twisting his head round again, growled: "Don't you ever do that again."

I wrote to Dan: "If I knew I was going to get an obit this good, I wouldn't even mind dying at age 59."

I liked his response:

In all too many cases, a colorful obit is the detritus of a difficult life. Hell of a price to pay for one story that you won't get to see.

On balance, you're coming out ahead.

Dan also found a good cartoon on the subject of substituting in middle school.

Kimberly Drake found thoughtful commentary on the middle east.

To obtain a reminder when I post my weekly electronic column,
or to offer feedback, advice, praise, or criticism, email me. (pes-at-sign-schindler-dot-org)

New versions of my column are hosted here at Typepad.

Old versions of my column are hosted here at


Paul Schindler Home Page PS...ACOT BACK ISSUE archives
Journalism Movies Journalism Quotes
You COULD Pay For This Column Journalism Books
Archival Larry King: Letters From Europe
Current Larry King: Letters From Lesser Great Britain
Kevin Sullivan on Teaching
My Prarie Home Companion Script Groundhog Day: Best Film Ever
Women in Journalism Movies Larry King: British Journalists
Edwin Diamond: An Appreciation Tales of Teaching

Page forwarding code courtesy of:
BNB: HTML, free CGI Scripts, graphics, tutorials and more- for free!

FavIcon (displayed in browser address box) courtesy of:
Richard Sleegers

Blog-rolling (My Friends' Weblogs):

Jim Forbes' Forbes on Tech

Scot Finnie's Scot's Newsletter

Phil Albinus Blog

Dan Rosebaum's Blog

Mike Elgan's Blog

Fred Langa's Blog

Karen Kenworthy's Power Tools

Dave Methvin's PC Pitstop

You are visitor number

since Oct. 16, 1998.