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: May 20, 2002

May 20, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 20

Table of Contents:

General News

  • We're A Little Late Folks
  • Cult of Personality
  • Briefly

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Dalton Finds Jazz, Again; Rae Finds A New Comic


  • The Top 15 Names for the Upcoming Rolling Stones Tour
  • The Top 16 Changes in Movies From the Clean Video Store
  • The Top 15 Signs You May Be Too Gullible


  • Star Wars
  • Digital Projection


  • None this week

General News

We're A Little Late Folks

Poker Friday night, Clark's Christmas party in May on Saturday, the Miramonte spring play on Sunday, and first thing you know, the column is late. Several of you made very interesting contributions which will appear in the column, albeit later than you expected. I apologize for the delay. I hope you can still find time to read a column that doesn't pop up in your box on Sunday night.

Cult of Personality

Frankly, it is all too reminiscent of the bird people who worshipped Arthur Dent (and built a gigantic statue of him throwing a teacup) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Mrs. S asked me if I'd like to stop by the journalism room to see what impact I had on the students during the day I substituted, especially on the "boys corner" (these are the people who thought it would be interesting to write about the problem of birds pooping on students).

There was a picture of me posted, with the word "My Hero" written on it. There was also a "Schindler's list of quotes," which listed several things I said while I was there, including "Question leads are cheesy" and "An anecdote is the best lead for a personality profile." They also quoted me as saying, "I'm just a victim of my hormones," but that doesn't really ring a bell. There are several other quotes there as well.

It was flattering and scary at the same time. I still think I want to be a high school journalism advisor. I think. But Mrs. S and I agreed that substitutes are the grandmothers of the teaching profession: we get the kids for a short while, spoil them rotten, then leave the results for the parents (teachers) to clean up.

I got two reactions to this. From my daughter Rae:

Dad, you grow up so fast. I'm proud of you sport!

And from my ex-teacher mother

It was a delight to read, especially since it made me remember the really good side of teaching! And don't let them kid you, substitutes can just as easily be the devil's spawn and if you look back to your school days, you'll remember that most of them were the dregs of humanity!! You got a good response from your students as a sub and you would get the same response from them if you were their regular teacher. They would know that you loved what you were doing and loved being with them and that's the secret to being successful and making a difference -- congrats and allow yourself to enjoy every minute of such positive feedback - you deserve it!


Dan Piraro's Bizarro daily comic panel, always good, outdid itself with this cartoon on child rearing.

Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle did yet another of his unbelievably good cat columns:

A dangerous time for cats
Jon Carroll
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, May 14, 2002

AMONG THE MOST dangerous enemies of the domestic cat is the human foot. The foot is neither agile nor intelligent. It often hits the ground unseen by its owner, the human brain.

I would have said less, but I ran out of time.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig checks in:

Professor Lawrence Lessig spoke at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and announced the launch of the nonprofit Creative Commons to foster creativity collaboration by providing "a free set of tools to enable creators to share aspects of their copyrighted works with the public."

The LA Times reported on the
humouse patent which covers a hypothetical creature possessing mixture of human and mouse genes. Designed to elicit a primal YUCK! reaction, the authors of the patent application are Stuart Newman and Jeremy Rifkin: two outspoken OPPONENTS of patents on human genes. The patent is designed to foster debate on the wisdom and ethics of patenting human parts. It is likely to be rejected, but that will raise the question: what about all those technically similar (if slightly less yucky) patents on humans genes that have been granted in the last ten years?

The Yahoo Privacy Storm That Wasnt the NY Times reports that despite the warranted outrage of privacy advocates, Yahoo!'s sleazy adoption of opt-out spamming seems to have been a rousing success for the company, with just a trickle of opt-outs and canceled accounts. See also the Slashdot discussion and if YOU Yahoo! be sure to visit the account settings page to opt-out of email and phone spam.

clueless dim-bulb of a corporation has filed suit to discourage deep-linking to its web site. The web has been around since 1991 and every elementary school student in the world understands how it works, but apparently not so corporate lawyers. Its comforting that in the end, companies that discourage direct links to their own content are merely choking off the connectivity that drives traffic to websites of their more enlightened competition. Just to cheese them off, there are a few more deep links to their rag: a, b and c.

Foo fighters: this
Microsoft scheme to hold back Linux could be dismissed as the email ravings of a low level hothead, but THIS Microsoft ploy to block Sun seems to have more "scandal potential" since the email is from a high level hothead: Bill Gates. I also get a kick out of the idea that corporate officers of Microsoft were trading email laced with the term "foo" which was so emblematic of 1970s open source hacker culture.

Pre E3 news: (disclosure notice:
I work in the R&D group of SCEA, a.k.a Sony PlayStation) describes strategic shifts in the game console industry timed to coincide with next week's E3 trade show. PS2 price drops, Xbox price drops, they both battle for the Japanese market and position for networked game consoles.

The Boston Globe reports
At MIT, they can put words in our mouths about reprocessing video of a human speaker to make it appear they are saying different words. I'm looking forward to seeing the paper (PDF) presented at SIGGRAPH 2002 this summer. Conceptually similar work (tech report) was presented at SIGGRAPH 1999. Speaking of faces, see Why Is This Man Smiling?

I normally use
MapBlast! for its excellent LineDrive route maps. So I didn't realize that MapQuest now offers a choice between "street map" and "aerial photo". Here is the building where I work but please, no cruise missiles. The construction site to the northeast is now a completed office building.

More proof that some people have
for too much time, and Legos, on their hands.

From a coworker: "
3D graffiti with lights Click on the 'tags' at the bottom for more pictures. Requires Shockwave. Beautiful work."

Web Site of the Week

Dalton Finds Jazz, Again; Rae Finds A New Comic

My daughter Rae found another online comic she likes: Sluggy Freelance.

Richard Dalton, a jazz fan, wrote to me recently about the KJAZ web site which was down when I posted last week's column. It is back. He wrote:

KJAZ was a San Francisco Bay Area institution from 1959 (the year I moved to S.F.) to the mid-90's when it finally collapsed from financial exhaustion.


The Top 15 Names for the Upcoming Rolling Stones Tour

I'll never be able to write comedy for a living. I sweat over my entries and don't make the list. I toss off three entries in three minutes, and one makes the list at No. 3, while the other two were both runners up. Oh well, at least I'm not Stan Freberg, who says writing is easy: "All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until little beads of blood pop out on your forehead." Writing isn't hard for me. Maybe it should be harder. Anyway, here's my bronze medal effort.

May 16, 2002


The Rolling Stones recently announced that they're going back on the road again -- no doubt doing 40 in the fast lane with their turn signal stuck in the "on" position.

15> The "Time Ain't on Our Side" Tour

14> The "Shaky Fingers" Tour

13> The "Steel Wheelchairs" Tour

12> Geezerpalooza

11> The "Pleased to Meet You, I Forget My Name" Tour

10> The "It's All Right Now -- I Think It Was Gas" Tour

9> The "Keith Richards DeathWatch 2002" Tour

8> The "Gimme Seltzer" Tour

7> The "Beggar's Early-Bird-Special Banquet" Tour

6> Viagra presents the "Start Me Up" Tour

5> The "Angie-o-plasty" Tour

4> The "We Know, It's Oldies Rock & Roll... But We Milk It" Tour

3> The "We're Sure We Left Our Glasses in One of These Stadiums" Tour

2> The "Hey! You! Get Off of My Lawn!" Tour

and's Number 1 Name for the Upcoming Rolling Stones Tour...

1> The "Let It Bleed (Do Not Resuscitate)" Tour

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 128 submissions from 46 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Joe DiPietro, Brooklyn, NY -- 1 (4th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 3

The Top 16 Changes in Movies From the Clean Video Store

No. 15 and the only bullet is in my momentum towards the Hall of Fame

May 20, 2002


Some video stores edit the movies they rent, "cleaning them up" by removing scenes that they determine to be offensive. Here at TopFive, we were wondering just what sort of changes one might expect...

16> Deep Throat -- The film repeatedly jumps to a scene of Mary Poppins pulling umbrellas in and out of her carpet bag while "A Spoonful of Sugar" plays in the background.

15> Star Wars II: The Empire Strikes Back -- Vader stops just before cutting off Luke's hand, then the two walk away from the camera as Vader says, "Luke, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

14> The Exorcist -- Demonic Linda Blair taunts poor Father Karras by saying, "Your mother missed mass once in Heaven!"

13> Deliverance -- Backwoods rednecks force Ned Beatty to sit in a corner wearing a dunce cap.

12> The Last Temptation of Christ -- The Lord must decide whether to eat the remaining donut.

11> Titanic -- Jack does a marvelous sketch of a bowl of fruit.

10> Sixth Sense -- Gary Coleman spliced over Haley Joel Osment, saying over and over, "Whachu talkin' 'bout, Bruce Willis? I don't see no dead people!"

9> Boogie Nights -- Strategically inserted stripes change the story into one in which a foot-long snake has bitten Mark Wahlberg and refuses to let go.

8> Psycho -- In the shower scene, Tony Perkins scrubs Janet Leigh with a loofah sponge, and only in areas she can't reach herself.

7> 9 1/2 Weeks -- Now just 9 1/2 minutes.

6> Swordfish -- Much-hyped shot of Halle Berry's breasts replaced by less-hyped shot of John Travolta's flabby man-boobs.

5> Basic Instinct -- Michael Douglas interviews an actual beaver as the chief suspect.

4> When Harry Met Sally -- Audio track during fake orgasm scene replaced by Ethel Merman singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses."

3> Silence of the Lambs -- Hannibal the Vegan sneers, "I once ate a nice soy-protein burger with organic fava beans and a delicious wheatgrass smoothie!"

2> The Crying Game -- Stephen Rea freaks out when he discovers his girlfriend has an outie.

and's Number 1 Change in a Movie From the Clean Video Store...

1> American Pie -- "This one time, at bible camp..."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 105 submissions from 41 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Wade Kwon, Birmingham, AL -- 1 (22nd #1 / Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 15

The Top 15 Signs You May Be Too Gullible

I'm No. 13 here

May 13, 2002


If you read our recent Amazing-but-True Facts list and have been trying to figure out if a cat can really sound like Barry White, we've got another list for you...

The Top 15 Signs You May Be Too Gullible

15> QVC just made you their "Customer of the Decade."

14> Your Circuit City sales flyers arrive addressed to "Mr. Extended Warranty."

13> President Clinton said he did NOT have sexual relations with that woman. And you, for one, believe him.

12> Although you actually do own the Brooklyn Bridge, someone managed to talk you into buying the *other* one.

11> You're still hoping Rob and Fab are planning a comeback.

10> Not only do you subscribe to 150 different magazines, you're the proud owner of a "Welcome, Ed McMahon!" door mat.

9> You commonly refer to George W. Bush as "President."

8> You credit your fresh juice regimen as the reason Anna Nicole finds an 85-year-old like yourself attractive.

7> "Is this where I get Detroit Lions season tickets?"

6> It's May of 2002, and you're still eating beans from your Y2K stockpile.

5> You felt pretty good about yourself when you only paid $100 for that $250 cookie recipe.

4> "Dude! 'Attack of the Clones' is *so* much better!"

3> You once traded a 1938 Joe DiMaggio rookie card for a 1997 Topps "Mo Vaughn eating a plate of ribs" card.

2> The $13,000 you paid to help that Nigerian transfer $30,000,000 into the States was going to pay for this week's Amway order.

and's Number 1 Sign You May Be Too Gullible...

1> Your dad still has your nose.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2002 by Chris White ]
Selected from 105 submissions from 40 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Fran Fruit, Winnetka, IL -- 1 (11th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 13


Star Wars II: Attack Of The Clone

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

It was worth seeing. It was better than Phantom Menace, and even better than The Empire Strikes Back although not quite as good as A New Beginning.

Yes, I did go to a nearly sold-out midnight show at a suburban multiplex. I was wiped out the next day, but it is a pleasure to see the film with real fans.

It makes me sorry that Lucas has decided not to follow through on his one-time suggestion that he would do episodes 7, 8 and 9 as well. We'll get the back-story, but we won't, it seems find out what happened to the gang, at least not from Lucas.

Those of you who have been paying attention have heard that the film was shot digitally. I have seen other digital films; this is the first one that is completely indistinguishable from a "wet" film. There is only one scene in the entire film with digital artifacts--the background seemed mottled when Anakin and Padmé were on a picnic. This could, of course, just as easily been a lousy print artifact.

I understand Lucas achieved this "looks just like film" effect by, in essence, degrading the digital product until it contained a sufficient number of film artifact visual clues to fool us. If so, that is sad, but will be required for a while, just as the first cars needed buggy whip holders.

Amid all the blather written about this film, the best two paragraphs appeared at the end of the review by the frequently insightful Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle (Lucas' hometown newspaper):

Yet this won't matter to the faithful, who will receive Attack of the Clones as though it were a fifth Gospel, not a fifth Star Wars movie. The surprise, or rather the disappointment, is that once again Lucas seems to have made a movie for that audience. Unlike the first "Star Wars," made for a general audience in search of a good time, Attack of the Clones is pitched to a cult audience sure to catch every reference, follow every story convolution and receive every eccentric character as a jewel formed by the mind of God.

Lucas knows his fans are un-boreable, un-annoyable and inexhaustible. For an artist, that's more a curse than a blessing.

Digital Projection

Digital projection of motion pictures is in the news again with the release of Star Wars II, since Lucas shot and edited the film entirely in a digital format. When he began work, he had hoped to limit exhibition to digital theaters, but had he followed through, the movie would be on about 75 screens in 50 cities instead of some 3,161 screens. That number, by the way, is 450 fewer than Spider-Man because Lucas won't let the movie be shown in just any old ill-equipped theater.

He's right about digital projection, but, alas, there is a chicken and egg dilemmas; the $100,000 cost of a digital projector falls on the exhibitor, while the multi-million dollar savings, over time, accrue to the distributor. Hmm. Maybe the distributors should buy the projectors for the exhibitors? Well duh. But the movie industry is almost as stupid as the TV industry, so it hasn't happened yet and won't happen any time soon.

I have commented on digital projection here before; I saw Monsters Inc. at the AMC 1000 cinema on San Francisco's Van Ness Theater Row, and commented on the format's obvious advantages. That same theater is showing Star Wars II, but with the exception of the 12:45 a.m. show, has been sold out since it opened. I will see it in digital this week and report back to you. At least I don't still live in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, where those desiring to see the film projected digitally have to take a three-hour drive to Seattle.

I believe the arguments over digital film projection are as specious as those over music CDs, and in exactly the same way.

It is true that a record, being an analog record of an analog phenomenon, is a more precise representation of sound than a CD. A perfect record, in perfect condition, played on a perfect turntable through a perfect sound system will produce an excellent listening experience. All things being average, the experience is sub-par. And most people, most of the time, don't hear records played on turntables with a granite base and a rosewood pickup arm. For 99.9% of the people, 99.9% of the time, a CD provides better sound, longer, than an LP.

It is also true that a clean 35 mm (or better yet, 70 mm) print of a film, properly struck and properly projected is a more accurate depiction of what happened in front of the camera than a digital projection. No one outside of a studio screening room ever sees a movie like that. That's one big reason why movie critics criticize digital projection. They actually see pristine prints projected by competent projectionists. The rest of us see badly handled, scratched, spliced prints projected by minimum wage high-school dropouts. Once again, the perfect is the enemy of the good. For 99.9% of the people, 99.9% of the time, a digitally projected movie will be a more satisfying experience than one projected from film. Period. End of discussion. No jitter, no scratches, no dirt, no splices: just the movie. Having experienced that once, I can barely tell you how odd it seems.


None this week

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