PS... A Column
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.
May 26, 2003 Vol. 5, No.22
Table of Contents:
Not A Quiet Week in Lake Woebegone
Length Warning This entry is long, long, long.
Now, secondly, an apology. To those of you in NYC I did not see: I am sorry. Mostly, I saw my family. That's the kind of five days it was. Again, my apologies.
Last week, Marlow graduated from Columbia College, the largest school at Columbia University in the City of New York, (formerly King's College, founded in 1754). Here are a few of the highlights.
Vicki, Rae and I flew out Saturday on American (in business class--took a lot of miles to upgrade. Definitely worth it). We wanted to come on Sunday, but that would have cost $3,000 each, round trip, compared to $300 each roundtrip for staying over a Saturday night. Well duh.
We landed about 5:30. It took 90 minutes to get from JFK to Manhattan. That seems to be the new standard. In the old days, you could make the trip in 40 minutes sometimes. Don't count on it anymore.
The Empire Hotel at 63rd and Broadway, our home away from home, offers discounts to Columbia parents we soon won't be eligible for (although they don't really check J ).
We ate at the Agean, a Greek restaurant on Amsterdam, then considered seeing a movie at the Lincoln Plaza cinemas across the street. Alas, we had missed the start time of L'Auberge Espagnole by 15 minutes. Instead, we went to bed.
Vicki and I walked in Central Park for an hour Sunday morning, then came back and got dressed for a quick breakfast before taking the subway up to 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway. There, we met Marlow and went to the 11 a.m. service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the New World. It is six blocks from Columbia, and serves as the seat of the New York Diocese. The choral communion service at 11 takes two hours, we left after an hour, just as they began to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Lunch was at the Caffe Swish, a newish Asian fusion place across from Columbia on Broadway. The food was good, albeit a little precious.
After some debate, we decided to see a little art play, Life Times Three (Life X 3). Since it was complicated and thought-provoking, I decided to deal with it in detail below.
We met up with the rest of our commencement party, my sister-in-law Pam and her daughter Kimberly, as well as the girls' godmother Sue. Sue was there when both girls were born, and has known Vicki longer than I have.
Pamela took us to Pastis, at West Little 12th Street and Ninth Avenue in the meat packing district, way down south in Manhattan. It was near Markt, a Belgian place to which she'd taken us on a previous visit. It was so loud my ears rang for a long time after I walked out, but the food was good. Marlow showed me how to do text messaging on my cellphone, something I had never done before.
When I told my friend Richard Dalton, via e-mail, of my new skill, using a few common text messaging abbreviations, he wrote back, "That's what the world needs--even less precise communication. More noise; less signal.
Marlow also let Rae play with the digital cat on her new cellphone. Marlow signed up with T-Mobile because they sell GSM-capable cellphones that can be Euro-ready with the swapping of a chip. Rae named it Digicat Cyber.com III, Trip. Trip gets healthier when you take him to the vet, smarter when he reads, and less hungry when you feed him. What did we do before cellphones?
Afterwards we retire to the bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, over by Grand Central, where Pamela was staying. After a few drinks Rae went to stay with Marlow in her 19th floor room at East Campus in the Columbia University Marching Band suite. Vicki and I checked into a "parents can stay during graduation" room with two twin beds in Carman, the dorm next to the new Lerner student center. Carman is air-conditioned. 'Nuff said.
At 5 a.m. Monday morning, a large diesel truck parked on 114th street, nine stories below our window. It proceeded to leave its engine idling for 90 minutes. Now that's hard to sleep through. We got up, then went back to sleep, finally taking our morning walk through Riverside Park at about 10. What a beautiful park. All hills and dales and trees and vegetation, and, of course, the platoons of too-big dogs New Yorkers insist on owning (and running off leash). Shady and pleasant, but, regrettably, separated from the Hudson by six lanes of West Side Highway above 96th.
It was noon before we finished the walk and breakfast and changed clothes to meet the girls. Vicki, Marlow and Rae took off for Macy's while I worked on checking out and backing up Marlow's computer--she hadn't backed it up for some time. I realized I needed more 2GB Jaz drives if I was to save all the files she wanted--about 6 GB in total. Not available at CompUSA, or at DataSource, but down the street at Chips and Tech. Thank you Chips and Tech.
Meanwhile, the females had enjoyed lunch and a couple of hours of shopping at Macy's, where they found a blue denim dress for Rae to wear to graduation.
Back down to the bottom of the island for dinner with Sue at Umberto's Clam House (Joey Gallo was gunned down at this restaurant when it was at its previous location). Good Italian food. I had the ravioli stuffed with lobster. Then we went to the Lincoln Plaza Cinema to catch the art house movie we'd missed the night before, a fluffy little French number called L'Auberge Espagnole (reviewed below). Vicki retires; I find out it takes about two hours to back up 6 GB, even at SCSI2 speed.
Vicki and I manage to rise bright and early Tuesday, despite a horn-honking jerk down on 114th street. We walk in Riverside Park again, and meet Rae, Sue, Pam and Kim on the south lawn at 10 for class day. Official commencement is Wednesday, for the whole university, but they just ask each graduate to stand--no names are read. Tuesday, class day, is for Columbia College (among other colleges). Everyone gets to walk up to the stage, receive a class pin, and have their name read. Marlow decided long ago to do class day and skip commencement. Although the weather report predicted partly cloudy on Tuesday, the day dawned bright and clear. Very bright and very clear. There is no shade on the South Lawn. Not on either side where the families sit, or in the middle where CC '03 is sitting. It is murder in the direct sun, even though the temperature is only about 70, there is a light breeze and the infamous East Coast humidity decides to take a mid-may breather. We later discovered that the day would be partly cloudy--blisteringly sunny in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon.
Also joining us for class day was a friend and former colleague of mine (and sometime contributor to this column--as recently as last week) named Tom LaSusa. Tom and his wife have hosted Marlow for dinner several times; he got to know her back in high school, when she regularly visited the CMP offices. Tom brought white roses.
I repeat my question, what did we do before cellphones? Marlow called us twice from the academic procession, once while she was still hidden from view behind Butler Library and again as she was actually walking. I'd have thought she would have been prevented from calling, but she said supervision was quite lax. Once the speakers began talking, we communicated via text messages. One she wrote was "HOT. VERY HOT." In fact, her face got sunburned, as did one leg.
The keynote speaker was former Clinton aide and press spokesman George Stephanopolous, an '83 Columbia graduate who left just as the first women were admitted. Yes, it's been 20 years since the last of the Ivy League schools went co-ed. Yes, Barnard still exists across the street. George gave a very competent, workmanlike speech, although, amazingly for a TV person, he didn't work the microphone very well and we had trouble hearing chunks of it, except when we got up and stood in the shadow of a nearby building to keep ourselves from heat prostration. [That brought back memories-my grandmother Gert became faint from the heat of MIT's indoors, May 30 graduation in 1974 and had to be taken outside by my mother, causing both of them to miss the moment of my graduation).
Dean Quigley spoke and was, by turns moving, clever and funny. He dropped lots of student names. These people would be what we called "grease" at MIT--student leaders and media types known by name to administrators. I was grease.
The dean's best story was that undergraduates often told him what to do. When he said no, they assumed he misunderstood and repeated their request in simpler terms.
He quoted Molly Bloom, from James Joyce's' Ulysses: "Yes, yes, I say yes." Kimberly was moved. Marlow was surprised--Columbia speakers usually quote someone from the mandatory core (Western Civ) curriculum.
It quickly became clear that the students were being called in no particular order. Not boy-girl, or down from the top, up from the bottom but randomly (except when five Johns graduated in a row). Turns out Columbia has given up on alphabetical lines. You line up as you show up, and they call your name in that order. Marlow text messaged me the names of the two boys in front of her, but they went by so fast (an average of three seconds per name). I was unable to finish dialing and connecting with my mother before Marlow's name went by; I had planned to hold up my cellphone and share the moment with her. I called her anyway. We both cried.
So many emotions. Joy, pleasure, pride, fear, anticipation, an overwhelming sensation of time swirling by, sudden intimations of Marlow's children's graduation, by which time I hope to be 80, at least.
We adjourned for lunch at Carmine's, down on Broadway at 90th; since there were no cabs, we took the Broadway Local, 1 train to 86th and walk up. We ate family style; food was competently prepared, ultra-cheap and voluminous. Tom LaSusa and I discussed the Council of Nicea, which not only write the eponymous creed, but established Christ's divinity more than a millennium after the fact). We also discussed what ever happened to Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of my youth. I love Tom. Toasts were raised, of course, to the graduate, as they had been raised to the graduate-to-be for days before.
That night, Sue, Pam, Kimberly and my family, along with Marlow's friend Mike saw Thoroughly Modern Millie, an entertaining trifle of a musical at the Marquis Theater in the Marriott Marquis Hotel. We had fourth-row seats on the left. Afterwards to Joe Allen's restaurant for late dinner. I had the meatloaf. The prices were supremely reasonable, the food plain but well-prepared.
Vicki and I skipped our walk Wednesday morning. We were tired. It was raining.
Yes, it rained on commencement day. As there is no indoor venue at Columbia large enough to hold the crowds, the administration made good its "rain or shine" promise and held the ceremony on the South Lawn as the gods wept. Vicki and I walked through the sodden umbrella-sprouting crowd to East Campus, picked up the girls and took a cab to a museum called The Cloisters in Ft. Tyrone Park, located in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan up around 200th. The Rockefellers built it in 1938. It looks medieval despite its relatively new provenance. It is a branch of the Met and contains a fantastic medieval art collection.
Rae wanted to eat at the Carnegie Deli, so we took the A train down. Boy, they aren't kidding when they call it an Express. It stopped at 125th, then not again until 59th and 9th, four shorts and a long from Carnegie at 55th and 7th. I have eaten there several times; they still serve sandwiches large enough for 3 or 4 people for $12.
Rae also wanted to see the Empire State Building observation deck, but a rain-caused lack of cabs (and the almost-certain lack of view) scrubbed that plan. Also, Rae's Woody Allen sandwich made her sick The Tel Aviv car service met us at 3 for the 90-minute ride to JFK. After trivial curbside check-in, an hour at the Admirals club and brief security formalities, we took American (business class) home to San Francisco. I'll bet the cats missed us.
Thoughts on Graduation
Harrison Klein wrote:
Here's something by Garrison Keillor I thought would be appropriate on your double graduation. It was in the email PHC sends out each week to its mailing list so it's authentic (sad that one has to include that these days).
A Graduation Speech
I would love to point you to the full text, but I can't find it on the Internet anywhere. Can you? If so, let me know and I'll insert the link here. I don't feel I can post the full text because of copyright and intellectual property considerations.
I wrote last week, "Not surprisingly, the departure of the last child from the house frequently breaks up a marriage and always stresses it."
Richard Dalton responded:
You have had an unusually close relationship with Marlow and Rae. I think that's partly because you're a conscientious parent and partly because you had a job that allowed you to spend a large amount of time with them when they were younger.
When Linda and I graduated our last fledgling from high school, it took us two weeks to move from Marin to San Francisco. We weren't stressed. We joyfully began a four-year fantasy of "living in the City," something we wouldn't have considered until the nest was empty.
We love our kids and value the time we now have to pursue lots of interests we couldn't before because of the time requirements and "stress" related to raising four children.
As your mother said, you can now enjoy the successes they achieve as adults, including the possibility of them becoming parents. Grandchildren can be the greatest guilty pleasures in the world.
As long as they're at least 10 years away...
Life X 3 On Broadway
As mentioned above, we saw Life x 3 at the Sunday matinee performance. It was written by Yasmina Reza, who also wrote Art. The stars are an astrophysicist and his wife (Henry: John Turturro and Helen Hunt). Their unexpected guests are Hubert (Brent Spiner), a more successful colleague of Henry's, and Inez (Linda Emond), his eternally resentful wife.
This play is based on an idea that has been near and dear to me for many years: if you're fundamentally sad, nothing can cheer you, if you're fundamentally happy, nothing can bring you down for long. That is, your nature, not the events in the world around you, determines whether you are mostly happy or mostly unhappy.
The clever conceit of this play is that it shows you the same 30 minutes played out in three slightly different ways. At first, you think you might be looking at the events from different perspectives, but by five minutes into the first replay, you discover that there is no further literary cleverness; it is just the same evening played out three times with slight variations on the theme. I suppose if classical composers can do it, playwrights can do it.
Clive Barnes of the New York Post (I can still remember when he wielded the power of the New York Times) says of the play, "Reza gives us three variations on that theme. Each could have happened, and one probably did. The trouble is, you don't really care which."
One imagines that much more could have been done with this fundamentally clever idea.
I found a number of thoughtful reviews and excerpts at the fascinating site Complete review.com, including these quotes from Time's European edition.
Reza says the play is about "the infinitely large and the infinitely small" and whether our actions - be they over child rearing or the "flattening of halos" (Henri's cosmic specialty) - count for anything. "I wanted to show that whatever posture you take, it doesn't matter," says the 41-year-old playwright, who lives in Paris. "It's really an argument in favor of catastrophe. At least when things go badly, you feel alive."
Dan Grobstein summed up the current reality quite well this week, I thought:
I've been thinking that the Republicans are deregulating society:
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.
321 v DMCA: last week there was a hearing in the DMCA-based lawsuit by Hollywood against 321 Studios who sells DVD backup software. 321's president said: "This case will define the balance between the legitimate interests of copyright holders and the equally legitimate rights of consumers." On one hand Judge Ilston was "substantially persuaded that the software violates the DMCA" but wondered "If the DCMA stops people circumventing all copy protection, what will happen in the future when copyright on a movie expires, but the discs are still protected?" No problem, Hollywood will just destroy the evidence of their copyright abuse.
Follow ups: Last week I mentioned that SCO was trying to get bought out by annoying everyone who uses Linux, this week they found the perfect suitor for their Unix IP. The SCO stock price tripled in the last two weeks. This unholy alliance might be worrisome but luckily Microsoft is not a convicted monopolist, nor would they use their vast power to improperly manipulate the market. OK, I guess I am worried. Also last week I referred to speculation that Google might remove blogs' contribution to Page Rank. This suggestion was ridiculed in The Blog Clog Myth, well written analysis from The Guardian.
Columbia post-mortems: had NASA understood before reentry that Columbia was damaged, could they have pulled an "Apollo 13" and improvised a solution? Another worrisome question: should they have known about the problem before reentry?: Missed Signals In Columbia Tragedy.
Technobits: the EFF asks how can public knowledge be a protected trade secret? --- lawsuit over GPL violation? --- why should the US drug czar spend taxpayer's money to meddle in local elections? --- Microdoc News: Dynamics of a Blogosphere Story --- Harvard study wrestles with Gator --- book scanning robots --- uphill water --- baby air traffic controller --- looking homeward from Mars.
The Top 15 Changes if the "Matrix" Films Were Cast With Other Actors
As my Freshman advisor used to remind me, someone's got to be in the bottom third of the class. Here, I come in at No. 10:
May 23, 2003
15> "Is meesa really The One?"
14> Bob Vila as the Keymaker slows down the action with constant demos.
13> With Tom Green in the role of Neo, audience members find themselves rooting for the Smiths.
12> "... and starring Paul Rodriguez as 'The Juan.'"
11> After Neo gets chased to the outside window ledge of a skyscraper, the voice of Ashton Kutcher comes over his cell phone: "You've been *so* punk'd, bro'!"
10> RuPaul as Trinity -- I mean, if you're going to go with virtual reality, why not go all the way?
9> Bill Gates as the Core Program keeps having to reboot.
8> "So do you want to take the red pill?" "WHY, SOITENLY! Nyuk-nyuk-nuyk!"
7> Robin Williams insists on coming up with 100 separate personalities for his 100 Agent Smiths.
6> Popcorn and candy sales plummet in movie theatres after audiences see Anna Nicole Smith packed into a tight leather costume.
5> Even Neo can't fight off thousands of attacking Baldwin brothers.
4> Confused about the red pill/blue pill thing, Robert Downey Jr. swallows a handful of each.
3> t.A.T.u. + leather S&M garb = millions of fanboys spasming in their seats.
2> While he shares Keanu's black leather and inability to act, Henry Winkler brings a whole 'nother vibe to the role of Neo.
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Change if the "Matrix" Films Were Cast With Other Actors...
1> As Morpheus, Jackie Mason convinces Neo to forgo both the blue and red pills and try the veal.
[ The Top 5 Listwww.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 79 submissions from 30 contributors. Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mike Levy, Los Angeles, CA -- 1 (2nd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
This cute little cinematic confection proposes that the European Union will come together in a sort of pudding of international cultures. It is about a French Man who leaves his girlfriend to live in Barcelona and work on his Spanish. He also works his zipper, and it seems to be in good shape indeed, as he beds the wife of a perfectly innocent French neurosurgeon who befriends him, using techniques he learns from his lesbian housemate. He also has German, Danish, Spanish and Italian housemates, as well as a lusty British girl named Wendy and her loutish brother. There is happiness, sadness, and enough betrayal to float a boat.
It's a sexy trifle, with some moderately offensive stereotyping as well as some competent acting. Not worth a special trip, but better than most anything most Americans are making. Don't take any younguns; the sex, while not too explicit, is, well, sexy. I wouldn't want to explain it to any child below about 17.
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Daniel Dern wrote:
Although I'm as old as, or, I think, slightly older than Paul (turned 51 back in March), and definitely older than Tom LaSusa, since I was a DC reader during my youth, (Seemy first comic column in SFrevu.com) catching the start of The Flash, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, the Justice League, Showcase, The Brave and the Bold, Ray Palmer/The Atom... and only became familiar with Marvel starting in the summer of 70, plowing through serious back-issue piles in a friend's basement, but was around to catch the "new generation" of X-Men with Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, I sympathize with both of youze.
I'm currently reading Grant Morrison's exquisitely good (though not necessarily for sub-teenagers) NEW X-MEN. (See recommendations inmy final comic column in SFrevu.com.)
My SO -- not a comic reader -- and I went to see X2 over the weekend. (We'd recently re-seen X1 at a "pre-X2" night at a friend's.) It was good. I liked it better than X1, also better overall than Daredevil (although DD -- and Spider-Man -- each had several scenes I would re-watch many times). More even, better balanced, more superheroing.
Yes, several plot holes big enough to drive a Blackbird X-jet through, and some sloppiness, like (SPOILER) how did Wolverine & crew drive away unbothered from Chez Xavier when it was until serious attack? And everyone seemed to forget about the main group of escaped schoolkids.
But I liked it. I can agree with Tom that there's some set-up for X3, whether X1-3 are viewed as a "trilogy" or simply a bunch of movies in a row. (Can you say, "Dark Phoenix"?)
I went, I enjoyed it, I went home. I'll see Hulk, I supposed. I'll go see League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I'd like another good Superman movie, ditto a good Batman movie. I'd love to see Green Lantern. Fantastic Four. And Niven/Pournelle's Mote In God's Eye.
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
This movie isn't quite as offensive as it could have been. It consists of 90 minutes of God (Morgan Freeman) handing over his powers to a mortal (Jim Carrey). Carrey uses the power of god primarily for his own petty ends. As a result, the film is, it is, at the very least, disappointing. It could have been philosophical, or it could have made a point. Instead, it provides an hour and a half platform for classic Jim Carrey schtick. I still find his schtick funny. If you do too, see the film. If you're tired of Jim being Jim, skip it. Morgan Freeman is his usual excellent self, inspired and inspiring in his role as God. Director Tom Shadyac helmed two Carrey films that were actually funny, Ace Ventura (meaningless drivel), and Liar Liar (which at pretended to be about something--good parenting).
Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some crude humor. We get a good look at Carrey's butt, but he doesn't talk out of it.
Doesn't stink and is sometimes amusing and entertaining, a little. Plus, at just over 90 minutes, it isn't too long.
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Michael Douglas is no Peter Falk, but Albert Brooks is probably every bit as funny as Alan Arkin in this not-quite-a-remake of the substantially funnier 1979 film of the same name. The plot's sure the same: father of the groom turns out to be a spy who turns the life of the father of the bride inside out. I found the first movie screamingly, hysterically funny. Watching this film makes me want to see the original again. But I can't get enough of Albert Brooks, one of the most underutilized and underappreciated actors working in films today. Some people call him whiny; I call him brilliant. I rarely laugh out loud at American movies. I laughed out loud at this one.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive humor, language, some drug references and action violence. And, best of all, just 95 minutes long. It doesn't try to be about anything but entertainment, nor would it need to be. Not a blockbuster, but solidly amusing--and a better film than Bruce.
Dan, Richard, Craig, Peggy and Kevin
Dan Grobstein found a New York Times article that hit close to home:
Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It
"My close friends are used to having their lives plundered," he said.
I have had blog problems. For example, I felt I had to remove entries from my blog at the request of a colleague who felt her confidentiality had been violated. I have inadvertently offended people. I now edit myself more carefully. Adair Lara addressed this problem several times during her tenure as a personal columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle. Interestingly enough, Jon Carroll seldom addresses it in print, although it does come up in the writing classes he teachers.
Dan's other finds in the New York Times this week include a charming memoir of Nora Ephron's stint as a Kennedy White House intern (true, not a joke), the threatened takeover of America's taste in books and music by the conservative buyers at Wal-Mart, the farce that is national educational policy, and Frank Rich on Tupac's Revenge on Bill Bennett.
Also from The Times, a missing time capsule in my hometown of Portland, Ore. Don't time capsules ALWAYS go missing? No one ever thinks to mark the exact location, as far as I can tell. Either that, or water gets in and everything rots.
In USA Today Dan found a story that says party control matters when it comes to state budget deficits (in interesting and unexpected ways--split government keeps them down, one party government--of either party raises them--there's that arrogance thing). At the Planetary Society, he found a picture of Earth as it looks from Mars.
This is the stuff of nightmares, says Richard Dalton of a story in Wired, adding, "You thought the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program was scary?" He also found an article based on BBC research indicating that there's less than meets the eye to the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch.
The New York Times steals from the Washington Post, the New York Post steals from... wait for it... The National Enquirer.
Craig Reynolds found Dan Gillmor in the San Jose Mercury: A new brand of journalism is taking root in South Korea, about bottom-up, people power, web-based journalism.
I am humbled by a quotation forwarded by Peggy Coquet:
Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.
Her comment was:
I hope you can manage to help a few of them become permanent question marks! How sad to think they would be so terminally finished as a period ...
Me too, Peggy, me too.
Kevin Sullivan found this (I think it's been in my column recently, but I'm too lazy to look it up):
If you're a fan of Tom Lehrer, check outMike Stanfill's Flash animation of "The Elements". If you're not, check it out and see what you've been missing.
To obtain a reminder when I post my weekly electronic column,
Page forwarding code courtesy of:
FavIcon (displayed in browser address box) courtesy of:
Blog-rolling (My Friends' Weblogs):
Jim Forbes' Forbes on Tech
Scot Finnie's Scot's Newsletter
Karen Kenworthy's Power Tools
Dave Methvin's PC Pitstop
You are visitor number
since Oct. 16, 1998.