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: September 30, 2002

September 30, 2002 Vol. 4, No. 39

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Quiet Week
  • Is Superman Jewish?

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Columbia University Marching Band


  • A.A.A.D.D.
  • Why Did The Chicken?


  • Documentaries


  • A Reynolds Non-Tech Find, A Dern Correction, A Coquet Referral or two, Ross Snyder on the World's Greatest Archive, Grobstein on Gas (natural)

General News

A Quiet Week

A quiet week around here, I think I'll let others write the column this week. Coming next week: tales from the early days of surfing, and some excerpts from the excellent Tom Stoppard journalism play, Night and Day, now being revived in San Francisco.

Is Superman Jewish?

In last week's column, I wrote:

Apparently, there is similar speculation about Superman (created by Jerry Siegel (1914-1996) and Joe Shuster (1914-1992), two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland), including an essay on the topic in the book Superman at 50: The Persistence of A Legend, of which I don't have a copy, and in Harry Brod's Internet article, "Did You Know Superman is Jewish?", once located at (The site is down and Google doesn't have a cached copy. I couldn't find the article after a vigorous search; if you can find a working URL, let me know).

Richard Sleegers wrote to me and said:

You may find an archived copy at I was able to find it by searching for your URL and selecting the oldest saved version. (The newer ones redirect like the current web page does).

I often use for web sites that have gone to "bit heaven" (happens a lot with hosted sites like The only caveat is that the web site must be somewhat popular in that it has been previously listed at search engine sites to have been visible. Graphic heavy sites don't fare too well either since mostly text only is saved.

A great resource I sort of knew about, but hadn't tried. I'll try it the next time I can't find a page I am looking for. And now you and I can both read this otherwise-lost essay.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds cruises the net for you:

A sharply worded KPMG study (PDF 0.23MB) faults the media industry's focus on copyright piracy. KMPG's Ashley Steel says "What we don't see is a real questioning of business models" by Board of Director members. The study found that "media executives focus on encryption software and other technologies to thwart pirates, instead of looking for ways to beat the pirates to the consumer pocketbook." On one side of the debate we have KPMG, on the other: Miss Britney Spears.

AMD spars with The Age over TCPA: first Nathan Cochrane wrote Bit by bit, digital freedom disappears then AMD incorrectly claimed it was misquoted. But it does seem like AMD is a white hat here. Their position is that TCPA should not be mandatory.

Google News relaunched this week, see coverage by Google, Reuters and Dan Gillmor. (Of course if you use Google you probably know about this, and if you don't use Google you probably don't care about their headline service. So why am I writing this? And how do I make my voice do this?) Google has been ranking headlines for quite a while now, but they've revamped the page layout and added pictures. They stress the untouched by human hands nature of their news judgment: "This page was generated entirely by computer algorithms without human editors. No humans were harmed or even used in the creation of this page."

One of the arguments against legally mandated web filters, for example in public libraries, is that the gate-keeping function is left in the hands of corporations of dubious judgment. One libertarian site was startled to discover it was classified as "hate speech" within days of it launch by filter maker SurfControl. The EFF recently studied censorware and found it riddled with errors.

I recently sent mail to a professor and his Blowback email filter queried me to see if I was really a spambot. (I'm not.) I thought it and the related concept of a CAPTCHA were quite clever. Then I read this: Slaves to Our Machines.

Technobits: Daypop Top 40 is back online, hooray! --- Scientology / DMCA / Internet Archive: an open letter and a reply --- P2P news: Kazaa goes global and Berman Defends His Bill. --- a good article about User-Centered URL Design --- Greece Lifts Ban on Electronic Games --- so much for my third moon of Earth story --- Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments --- Scaryduck is the Best British Weblog of 2002 --- for some reason blogs were buzzing this week about a cool 1995 page on the checker-shadow illusion --- building big complex objects out of Legos is one thing, building a working Lego harpsichord is quite another! (Daniel Dern spotted this as well, and notes a non-working Lego harpsichord)

Web Site of the Week

Columbia University Marching Band

It was a big week for the lions, culminating here:

And the Band Misbehaved On . . .

New York Times
September 29, 2002
At Ivy League schools, scramble bands often cross the line. Just ask Columbia after its band joked about altar boys at a halftime show against Fordham.

FYI, St. John is a former senior writer for WIRED Magazine in its NYC offices and also worked for The New York Observer. It makes no difference, I just found all this out while looking for his e-mail ID so I could tell him the paper goofed the photo credit; Marlow (my daughter the band member, who does play an instrument, the Alto Sax) took the picture they printed with the story.

See also this coverage: NYPost, NY Daily News, NYTimes, Newsday, and the Catholic League.

If the Catholic League is really going to protest every pederast priest joke, they're looking at a King Canute and the sea situation.



Philip Gill sends me humor all the time. Sometimes I use it. This is one of those times.

They have finally found a diagnosis for my condition. Hooray!! Ihave recently been diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

This is how it goes. I decide to wash the car. I start toward the garage and notice the mail on the table. OK, I'm going to wash the car, but first I "m going to go through the mail. I lay the car keys down on the desk, discard the junk mail and I notice the trash can is full.

OK, I'll just put the bills on my desk and take the trash can out, but since I'm going to be near the mailbox anyway, I'll pay these few bills first. Now where is my check book? Oops, there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk.

Oh, there is the coke I was drinking. I'm going to look for those checks, but first I need to put my coke further away from the computer, oh maybe I'll pop it into the fridge to keep it cold for a while. I head for the kitchen and my flowers catch my eye they need some water.

I set the coke on the counter and, ooh oh! There are my glasses. . I was looking for them all morning. I'd better put then away first. I fill a container with water and head for the flower pots-----Aaaaaaagh! Someone left the TV remote in the kitchen. I'll never think to look in the kitchen tonight when I want to watch television so I'd better put it back in the family room where it belongs.

I splash some water into the pots and onto the floor. I throw the remote onto the sofa and I head back down the hall trying to figure out what it was I was going to do?

End of Day! The car isn't washed, the bills are unpaid, the coke is sitting on the kitchen counter, the flowers are half watered. the check book has only one check in it and I can't seem to find my car keys!

When I try to figure out how come nothing got done today, I'm baffled because I KNOW I WAS BUSY ALL DAY LONG !!!!!! I realize this is a serious condition and I'll get help. BUT FIRST I think I'll check my e-mail.

Why Did The Chicken...

This is another.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

That's a very interesting question.

I invented the chicken. I invented the road. Therefore, the chicken crossing the road represented the application of these two different functions of government in a new, reinvented way designed to bring greater services to the American people.

The chicken's habitat on the original side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrialist greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.

To steal a job from a decent, hardworking American.

I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I'll bet someone out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with their crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax dollars, and when I say tax dollars, I'm talking about your money, money the government took from you to build roads for chickens to cross.

What business is it of yours why the chicken crossed the road? The chicken had every right to
cross the road, more right than you have, since the chicken never murdered or enslaved another
animal for its own pleasure.

If the chicken crossed the road on my property, I would be fully justified in blocking its exit until the local authorities could arrive to arrest it for trespassing. I am a private person and should not have to be subjected to the "innocent mistakes" of common chickens.

Because the chicken was gay! Isn't it obvious? Can't you people see the plain truth in front of your face? The chicken was going to the "other side." That's what "they" call it the "other side." Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And, if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like "the other side."

Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes! The chicken crossed the road, But why it crossed, I've not been told!

To die. In the rain. Alone.

I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

Isn't that interesting? In a few moments we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it overcame a serious case of molting and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

Imagine all the chickens crossing roads in peace.

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

It was a historical inevitability.

This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve
gas on it.

I may not agree with what the chicken did, but I will defend to the death its right to do it.

To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

You saw it cross the road with your own eyes! How many more chickens have to cross before you believe it?

The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

Did the chicken really cross the road or did the road move beneath the chicken?

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What do you mean by chicken? Could you define chicken please?

The road, you will see, represents the black man. The chicken crossed the "black man" in order to trample him and keep him down.

I missed one?



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

You want the facts on The Collector of Bedford Street? Go to the Internet Movie Database.

The First Annual Orinda Film Festival opened this weekend. I only saw one screening, of two documentaries on Friday night. Of course, I was also treated to the opening animation of the Orinda Theater neon lighting up, created by the Yanev brothers. Right that name down; these two recent Miramonte high school graduates will be a force to be reckoned with in the motion picture business, either individually or collectively.

Thoth won an Academy Award last year. It is one weird movie about one weird young man. See it if you can. Or better yet, go see him performing in Central Park. Check out his unbelievable website, S.K.

The Collector of Bedford Street is also eccentric. The story of a man with a room-temperature IQ (62 to be precise; we see him take his IQ test), who collects funds for charities, falls in love and is so well-liked by his neighbors they start a trust fund to insure his independence and well-being. A touching little film, made for Cinemax (most documentaries are made for TV these days).


A Reynolds Non-Tech Find, A Dern Correction, A Coquet Referral or two, Ross Snyder on the World's Greatest Archive, Grobstein on Gas (natural)

Craig Reynolds writes:

Paul, since you have made it clear you are no fan of President Bush, I thought you might enjoy this satire as much as I did:

War Cry: The Case for Regime Change

Two notes; Ted Rall is a smart, funny guy, and look quick because Yahoo pulls its news stories down after a week. Also, my daughter Marlow found this funny invitation along the same lines.

Daniel Dern offers this correction:

"Kafka famously said you should never show the audience a gun in the first act unless it was going to go off in the third act." Memory and intuition suggests Chekhov, not Kafka. Anton, not the Star Trek one.

Apropos of my Stella Awards comments, Peggy Coquet notes:

About the Stella Awards: Randy Cassingham ("This Is True," "Heroic Stories") has started the real Stella Awards. I subscribed after reading his first effort. He notes that distribution will be irregular. Heroic Stories is the only "good news" email list I can stand to read; while it's occasionally syrupy and sentimental, it's usually profoundly moving in a non-maudlin way. And This Is True is fun stuff indeed - lots of stupid criminal stories. All three lists are free, with subscription options, some paid advertising, and regular requests for support.

Although he can be annoying - kind of mocking and self-righteous - I like Randy Cassinghams' general approach to life, and his business model.

Also from Peggy:

From Scientific American, with a nifty chart. "Although average household income in real dollars rose by 41 percent from 1967 to 1997, those with low incomes--the two lowest groups on the chart--benefited little." There's also a Census Bureau article about increasing income inequality. Is it time to haul out my "Eat the Rich" bumper sticker?


Responding to my report of watching a film at the UCLA Film and Television archive, Ross Snyder writes:

Did I ever tell you about the greatest archive of sound and moving images anywhere on earth? It's in the Library of Congress. A new friend who is on staff there arranged for me to visit. They have clean, clear movies from 1896, originals or DVD transfers of every film ever made in the U.S. and many from foreign sources. That includes Todd-AO, CinemaScope, Cinerama and 1929 MGM "Grandeur" formats. They have machinery to play anything ever made, including clear repro from Edison cylinders. They also have cassettes of the entire proceedings in both houses of Congress every hour of every day since they started doing it.

Dan Grobstein offers this thought-provoking piece:

In Broad Daylight
New York Times
September 27, 2002
By Paul Krugman

We ignore California's artificial natural gas shortage experience at our peril.

Of course, around here where I live, that isn't exactly news.

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