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
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P.S. A Column On Things: September 2, 2002

September 2, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 35

Table of Contents:

General News

  • 16 Hours And What Do You Get
  • Alcohol Later In Life
  • KVAN on Memory Lane
  • Are Critics Journalists?

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Dalton: Planet Prostate, LaSusa: Super-hero Parodies


  • Amish Virus
  • Bullshit Bingo


  • S1M0NE Redux
  • Good Girl
  • One Hour Photo
  • Possession


  • Brancatelli on U.S. Air, KGW Transmitter, More on Barrett

General News

Mark your calendars: The Contra Costa Wind Symphony pops concert is scheduled for Sunday, October 27, 2:00 p.m., at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

16 Hours And What Do You Get

Rae has been having trouble with her computer. It shuts down every five or six hours for no apparent reason. It isn't the hardware, and it isn't the application software, so it has to be the operating system: Windows ME, which sucks, by the way. So, while Rae was in Oregon with my mother and Vicki was in LA with her mother, I set aside an 8-hour day to backup all her files and downgrade her system to Windows 98. The backup alone took 8 hours--she has many gigs of music files--and the downgrade took 8. It didn't work. The reinstall of ME took another 4 hours, and although it said it would reformat the C drive, it also reformatted D. So, I went to the CD-ROM backup. It was corrupt. I thought all was lost, and then I remembered reading in Fred Langa's excellent Langalist about recovering files from formatted disks. Lots of software that will do that, including a number of "try before you buy" packages. For 80 dollars, I recovered 75% of the lost files, which represented years of downloading on Rae's part. I learned a whole lot about ME, Win 98SE, the Sony Vaio, and the need to confirm backups. Still, I had rather hoped to see four movies this weekend, not spend 20 hours to get the computer back to, roughly, where it was when I started. Well, at least the registry is nice and clean (and well backed up).

In short: "computers. Feh."

Alcohol Later In Life

One of my mature correspondents sent me this. I am having the same problem with increasing age. Are you?

In any but tiny amounts, alcohol now seems to have become a poison to me. I can allow myself one martini a month, or a half bottle of wine. No more. I greatly enjoy that little. We had champagne cocktails -- about 4 ounces of good, French champagne with a generous dash of peach nectar, then with dinner a 6-ounce by-the- glass, glass of a decent California Zinfandel. That was it.

For one who used to down a half bottle of wine just about every evening, joyfully, that's a big change. I tested my limit, foolishly, in New York last winter. Went to a famous steakhouse for prime rib, had one of their monstrous martinis first, and an 8-ounce glass of wine with dinner. Paul, I staggered back to the hotel, was sick, and slept badly. No more! No more!

KVAN on Memory Lane

I submitted this to a KVAN alumni site, only to find the email ID on the site was defunct. I post it here so that some other web-crawling alumnus might find it, and me.

I was a DJ at KVAN during the summer of 1969, when I was 16. I was also the chief engineer for a month (I was a radio major at Benson, a KBPS staff member and had just earned my First Class Radiotelephone Operators Permit).

At the time, the station was located in a trailer next to the gun club, and the antenna was a wire stretched between two trees (our tower was being held by the dismantler who had never been paid). After a month of recording blatantly illegal transmitter readings, I resigned--thank goodness.

We had a sponsored "Inna gadda da Vida" show every Saturday morning (one of my shifts), and a "religion hour" on Sunday just before the live Rosary. I remember playing mostly cuts of Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain making snide remarks about religion. Every week. All summer.

My air name was Paul St. John, 8-12, Saturdays and Sundays. I also sold advertising (boy, was THAT ever difficult). I also did 8-12 Sunday nights on KLIQ as a talk show host, Gene Paul.

I think Adah Murphy (the owner's daughter) may have come on to me, but I was too young and innocent to understand what was going on, if you can believe that. The rumor at the time was that the FCC overlooked Mrs. Murphy's (the station owner) transgressions because of her personal relationship with the local FCC office head.

I never worked as a DJ again. I worked as an engineer at KGW-TV, WBZ-TV and WCRB, then went into trade journalism.

I'd have come to the reunion if I had known about it. Is Adah still alive? What's she doing? I assume Mrs. Murphy must have passed away some time ago.

That was one great summer.

Are Critics Journalists

In my last column, I had a throw-away line in my review of Simone:

Goodness, the Hollywood elite must really resent their dependence on publicity to depict reporters like this...

Richard Dalton asked:

Are critics "reporters?" Not according to my definition.

Now, technically, I didn't mean critics--although I do think critics are reporters. I was talking about entertainment reporters, the people who write feature stories about movies, studios and stars. That was the group depicted in the film. But that's just nit-picking pedantry, and Richard still raised a good point which he pursued further when I suggested "journalists" as an alternate term for critics.

OK. Here's what the American Heritage Dictionary (granted, not the supreme authority)has to say:

1. The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.

2. Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.

3. The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.

4. Newspapers and magazines.

5. An academic course training students in journalism.

6. Written material of current interest or wide popular appeal.

I'm sure media criticism would meet one of those definitions. But since you claim a journalistic background, study the profession, and even teach others about it, maybe it would be useful to discuss.

Is criticism "journalism"? Is editorial writing? Is it autobiography? Is it more than just "reporting?"

Good questions. I don't know.

By the way, if you're not watching Breaking News and Deadline (all the episodes NBC chose never to air) on the BRAVO cable channel, you're missing some good journalism on television.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

Hollywood and the music industry have a pretty good run so far in their attempt to disembowel the public domain and consumer's rights under existing copyright law. Individual consumers have proved to be "soft targets" but now the media moguls have a more formidable opponent: "Verizon and other telecommunications giants have ordered their phalanx of lobbyists to oppose the entertainment industry's demands for new copyright laws." In this interview Sarah Deutsch, VP and Associate General Counsel at Verizon, has tough words for the copyright mafia.

Linux Today reports Venezuela's government shifts to open source software. Caracas announced that all software developed for its government must be licensed under the GPL. While well received in the open source community, there is some concern that specifically requiring GPL is too strict and rules out many important open source projects (e.g. Apache). SF Gate examines Bruce Perens' approach to Open-Source Government that he calls Sincere Choice, to contrast with Microsoft's so-called "Initiative for Software Choice".

Ziff Davis Media has reached a settlement regarding a security lapse that includes an admission that they violated New York's laws against deceptive business practices and false advertising. They also agreed to pay $500 to each consumer damaged by the error.

Sony announces its PlayStation2 network adaptor while in Europe price cuts for Xbox and PS2 are announced, bringing European prices in line with those in the US and Japan.

There is an amusing new stop-motion animation of a "car" race called Vroom, but an old curmudgeon like me would tend to see as a pale shadow of Mike Jittlov's 1977 classic The Wizard of Speed and Time (see also this and this).

Technobits: The Russian state security service FSB, and a US civil suit charge the FBI with illegal hacking --- The Financial Times reports that first Dell and now HP drops Microsoft Word for Corel WordPerfect --- The RIAA commissioned a study of the sales impact of music downloading, unsurprisingly it supports their position --- Conservative US Rep Bob Barr's primary loss seen is as a defeat for privacy advocates --- BusinessWeek gushes over Jaguar (Mac OS "X.2") --- Oops, an MIT grant proposal to the US Army violates a comic book's copyright --- Probing the Great Firewall of China.

Web Site of the Week

Dalton: Planet Prostate, LaSusa: Super-hero Parodies

Richard Dalton found a game at Planet Prostate and said:

As a prostate cancer survivor, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Tom LaSusa found some funny super-hero parody flash animation.


Amish Virus

You have just received the Amish Virus. Since we do not have electricity, nor computers, you are on the honor system. Please delete all of your files.

Thank thee.

Bullshit Bingo

Do you keep falling asleep in meetings and seminars? What about thoselong and boring conference calls? "Bullshit Bingo" is a way to change all of that. Before (or during) your next meeting, seminar, or conference call, prepare your "Bullshit Bingo" card by drawing a square (I find that 5" x 5 "is a good size) and dividing it into columns -- five across and five down. That will give you 25 1-inch blocks.

Write one of the following words/phrases in each block:

strategic fit
core competencies
best practice
bottom line
take that off-line

think outside the box
fast track
empower (or empowerment)
knowledge base

at the end of the day
touch base
client focus(ed)
game plan
out of the loop


Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout "BULLSHIT!"


S1M0NE Redux

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

After last week's review of Simone, Bob Nilsson checked in with an interesting note:

When the trailers for the movie first came out, I wondered if there might be a connection with Ray Kurzweil and his alter ego Ramona. For one thing, there is a slight resemblence between Kurzweil and Pacino and also a similarity in the names Ramona and Simone. The movie almost sounded like it might be an extension from Kurzweil's performance with Ramona at the TED conference last year. However, neither side made any reference to the other. That is, until Kurzweil wrote this review of the movie this evening. Like you, he enjoyed Pacino's performance, but he is very unhappy with the treatment of the technology as well as the vapid-style female character that captures acclaim in the movie. Or maybe Ray is just upset that he was not consulted for the movie.

Good Girl

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

Jennifer Aniston, with messy hair and no makeup? Now that's a horror movie. Seriously, and I do mean seriously, it turns out the girl can act. Who knew? She certainly hasn't ever had to act (to speak of) on her television show. But if she wants a career in moves, she can have one, and she can go either way--comedy or drama. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in another stunning performance for a person his age, and once again he is the youth love interest of an older woman--shades of Full Frontal.

They rate this R, for sexuality, some language and drug content. They also described it as a comedy. I will never understand how Hollywood does this things; their disconnect from reality in this regard is nearly as deep as it is when it comes to accounting.

I don't want to spoil the movie for you, but the tone is consistently gloomy and it has an unhappy ending. How much of a comedy is that? It's a drama with some comic relief, but it is about as much a comedy as One-Hour Photo.

The film is OK, if you're in a mood to be depressed by the nature of life or the consequences of the choices we make. It is not exactly thought provoking, not exactly entertaining, which is why, I guess, it is doing so-so business. It is, I think, well-acted, and if you like to see all the Oscar nominees before Oscar time, go see this, because Ms. Anniston has a date with the golden eunuch. Jake Gyllenhaal may even have two dates.

One-Hour Photo

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

If Alfred Hitchcock were still alive, he'd be making One Hour Photo. Director/Writer Mark Romanek, who has no credits to speak of, has hit a home run his first time at bat. And Robin Williams, who, as you know, has dabbled with drama from time to time, gives the most chilling performance of his career as Seymour Parrish, the guy at the photo lab who becomes obsessed with the "perfect" family whose pictures he has been developing for a decade. Actually, Williams makes the Hitchcock comparison even more piquant, as it was Hitchcock who helped light comedy expert Jimmy Stewart make his transition into drama in the 1950s.

What brings Hitchcock to mind is that this is the scariest, creepiest film you're going to see this year, and it only has about 90 seconds of gratuitous sex and violence in it. Enough for an R rating, but really, this is a thinking person's horror film. In fact, if you don't think, you won't be horrified. All the scariness is implied, off-screen and suggested. I'll tell you one thing, you'll think again about going digital with your personal photography, if you haven't already. And don't think the gimmick of photo lab people snatching a few copies of your snaps is far-fetched. Feature stories about photo labs which accompanied the release of this film suggest this is actually a quite common practice.

A bleached blonde and deracinated Robin Williams is, I assure you, the most unsettling thing you're going to see onscreen this year. The film is an almost total downer, so maybe Robin won't be waltzing with Oscar, but he deserves to at least be asked to dance.

As with Good Girl, don't see it if you're in a great mood. But if you're a cineast with an appreciation for good cinematography (the "coloring" of some scenes in mind-boggling), good writing and subtlety in your nasty movies, this is the film for you. It might even be a date flick, if you want to leave the movie wrapped around each other. Or, if you want to do a Hamlet on someone you suspect of infidelity... this one, like Fatal Attraction might smoke them out.


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

I did go to one truly enjoyable and entertaining film this week, and that was Possession, adapted by David Henry "M Butterfly" Hwang from the A.S. Byatt novel. Neil LaBute directed, and Gwyneth Paltrow steals yet another movie in the lead role. Gads, that woman is a good actress. Too thin for my taste, but excellent.

If, like me, you spend the whole movie staring at the male Victorian poet and wondering where you've seen him: everywhere. Lots of British country house films, and most recently Gosford Park which was, of course, a British country house film.

This one is a romance. Two 21st century academics unravel the tale of the illicit love affair between two Victorian poets (shades of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia). No dual roles here, just parallel construction and some breathtaking editing to put the two couples in the same places a century apart.

If you like romance, literary allusions, love, a leisurely plot and lots of British countryside, this is the movie for you. It is sweet, tender, romantic, pleasant, and (at 102 minutes) refreshingly not too long. This is a date movie. Rated PG-13 for sexuality and some thematic elements; no one under 18 could stay awake for it, and frankly, I wouldn't take anyone single, or even much of anyone under 30. A film about grownups for grownups.



Brancatelli on U.S. Air, KGW Transmitter, More On Barrett

Check out Joe Brancatelli's sad commentary on U.S Air's suicidal decision to make tickets worthless in the event you miss a plane. Daniel Dern found disturbing auctions to know about, but not to bid in.

I was an engineer at KGW-TV during my senior summer of high school and my freshman summer of college. I wanted to work at the radio station. I actually pronounced the letter "double-you" as "dubba u." But I also didn't "hit" it hard enough. My friend and Benson classmate Bruce Murdock told me to say think "My Pay Check" as I said "K-G-W." Anyway, there's a great website devoted to KGW's transmitter site, an abandoned lakebed now being made, once more, into wetlands.

Tom Barrett has just been endorsed for Governor in the Wisconsin Dmocratic primary by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in its Sunday, September 1, 2002, issue. The Journal is probably the paper with the largest circulation in the state.

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