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: June 2, 2003

June 2, 2003 Vol. 5, No.23

Table of Contents:

General News

  • No Job Yet
  • St. John Followup
  • Modesty Does Not Forbid
  • Political Thoughts

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Web Site of the Week

  • Internet Stats, Scarily Complex MIT Puzzle Page


  • The Top 14 Things Overheard at the Cannes Film Festival
  • The Top 16 Signs Your Dog Is No Longer Your Best Friend
  • The Top 15 Worst Names for Boats
  • The Top 16 Signs a Newspaper Reporter Isn't Being Completely Honest


  • The Italian Job


  • GOP "Accomplishments," Tom Lehrer, Deck of Weasels, Mucho Grobstein, Mucho Jayson Blair

General News

No Job Yet

Length warning. Again.

From a simple results-oriented perspective, it must be stated simply: my first job interview was a failure. I did not get the job. Those of you with long memories will recall that I didn't have a great feeling about the interview the second it was over. Here's an excerpt from that column:

There were a panel of three teachers and the principal. I will not violate the confidentiality of the process, but I will say I think I chatted along a bit too long with my answers. I hope to get this job, but if I have another interview, I vow to offer shorter answers. Let them ask questions. Don't filibuster. Gosh, though, I'd love to get the job. At least I wasn't nervous, stupid or stunned.

As it turns out, I was nervous. More on that in a minute.

Let's pause for a moment for this review of my rules when writing about events that involve people outside my family. When I write about incidents involving my family, I feel that a) they know I am going to write about them and b) I know what I can write and what I need to withhold. Generally, I know how they're going to react. Also, Vicki and Marlow never read this column, and Rae reads it only rarely. As Vicki notes, "I don't have to read it; I live it."

For the first few years of this column, I made the same assumption about outsiders.

Bad assumption.

Last fall, I nearly destroyed a very good and important professional relationship by writing about it in this column. I disguised the person's name and affiliation, but that wasn't enough. Don't go looking for the incident; it has disappeared. I wiped it out of the online version of the column. The thing is, I was quite comfortable quoting this person and describing the situation. I felt it reflected quite nicely on them, which is my usual criterion. Turns out that not everyone looks forward to living their life in a fishbowl as I do. This person read the column [I gave them my column URL] and said they felt I had violated a confidence; they felt they would have to be constrained in future conversations. The ability to post this person's interesting comments was outweighed by the potential loss of professional companionship. All I can say is, thank goodness for the Internet, where you can erase a posting and make it be both gone and inaccessible except to the VERY technically adept.

That decision, whether to blow a relationship for a good column, is faced commonly by personal columnists. It is much worse for those who toil in print, of course, because they make the decision and then must live with it, forever, in black and white. No takebacks in the newspaper business. Adair Lara (one of my all time favorite personal columnists) wrote about this now and then in conjunction with her tricky relationship with her daughter. Jon Carroll (my all-time favorite personal columnist) deals with it less often, although he recently replied to an e-mail question by noting that he mentions it all the time in the classes he teaches on how to write a personal column. I mean, it's not like I'm getting paid to do this (excepting, of course, for the substantial psychic rewards). For those of you who have forgotten or didn't know, I began this column because my last journalism job did not involve writing, and I missed my chance to type my guts out on a regular basis. Now that I am a teacher, I need this even more. It is true, apparently, that a writer has words bursting to get out and will feel bad if they can't share them.

Now then, back to the rules I apply when writing about others. Unless I have explicit permission to quote someone in this column by name, I usually don't. Some emails are clearly intended for use in the column; where there is any doubt, I ask for permission. Sometimes (hello Neal), I forget that I have been granted blanket permission. Sometimes, emails include an explicity prohibition (please don't use this in your column).

But it isn't enough to fuzz up a person's name and other identifying details. In cases where I am not comfortable even asking someone for permission to quote their words in the column, my policy (made doubly careful after last fall) is not to quote them at all. Which brings us to my job interview two weeks ago. I will not quote a single word spoken by the principal or the teachers on the panel; all comments about the experience will be based on my experience, since I was the one person in the room whose permission I am sure I have.

It now seems apparent that I bounced into that interview without preparation and was too enthusiastic, verbose, and, despite my "instant analysis" interpretation, too nervous. I talk too much when I'm nervous. It was, after all, as I should have realized, my first job interview since 1979.

Job hunting 101 says you do a practice interview, videotape it, and either critique it yourself or get someone to critique it. I was overconfident. After all, I reasoned, I had done a practice job interview during the outplacement course paid for by my former employer (18 months ago). I am a former talk show host, a communication professional with 30 years experience. I know my stuff. I am a naturally vivacious, loquacious, enthusiastic, outgoing, optimistic person. What more could you ask for?

As is now apparent, what you could ask for is peace, quiet, short answers that apply directly to the question, a lower state of energy and less obvious nervousness.

Am I doing something unfair by presenting a facade in a job interview that does not represent the real me? No, I am convinced, I am not (or rather, I will not be; it is too late to make a second first impression at the middle school at which I'll never be hired to work). A job interview is a performance. Just as no good actor would play a drama for laughs, and only the best actors play comedy straight, I need to turn in a context-appropriate performance. If I can't give the interview panel what they want, they're right in rejecting me as a potential teacher because I probably can't give the students what they need.

Once again, the point is, it is not about me, it is about them. First, about the interview panel. Then about the students. My performance, whether in the interview room or the classroom, needs to be context appropriate. Despite this preliminary setback, I still feel I have what it takes. I choose to view this first interview as a dry run. I'll bag the job next time.

St. John Followup

We attended a Sunday Service at St. John The Divine Episocpal Cathedral in NYC the Sunday before Marlow's graduation. Ross Snyder writes:

See here, sir -- the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine IS Anglican, as one would never have thought from your report, which sounded pure Roman. Shame!

Mea Culpa Ross. I see my mistake now. Here is what I wrote:

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.

Nowhere do the words "Episcopal" or "Anglican" appear. And since I am a baptized, confirmed and communicant Episcopalian (well, just barely communicant), it would have beehoved me to credit my fellow churchmen and women for this magnificent edifice. On the other hand, I didn't even mention the "smells and bells" aspects of the service in my report. I didn't/don't mean to leave a false impression, but goodness, I thought St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland was high church--it looks Presbyterian compared to St. John's!

For those of you who aren't Episcopal/Anglican, congregations may vary their services, in a range from low church--informal, with guitars--to high church--long, formal, and with lots of incense and bells or "smells and bells" as Father West used to put it.

Modesty Does Not Forbid

Joe Saltzman of the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture project at USC's Anneberg School, this week asked me to contribute to his online list of female journalists. This goes nicely with my (ahem) widely know pages on journalism movies and journalism quotes and journalism books.

Political Thoughts

The tax bill passed by the Congress in the week ending May 23, 2003, (generally known as the "Rob The Poor To Pay Bush's Campaign Contributors Act Of 2003") was discussed by Paul Krugman in The New York Times, page A27, May 27, 2003, in his column titled Stating The Obvious.

Krugman began by quoting the Financial Times of London which wrote: "The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." After observing that the coming financial train wreck is deliberately designed to enable the Republicans to stop social programs which have protected the people of the United States since the Great Depression, Krugman concluded that George W. Bush and the Republicans "aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?"

This column is particularly hot. I caught it on my own, and have received six emails about it. It strikes a real chord among the kind of people who know me/read my column.

I think I am going to have to start reading Krugman twice a week in the Times. He's the only columnist out there speaking truth to power right now, as opposed to getting his lips vapor locked to power's behind. Actually, Robert Reich (Clinton's labor secretary and author of the ironically named "I'll be Short") also speaks the truth to power, but he doesn't have Krugman's bully pulpit, as you'll see if you click to his web site.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Craig Reynolds surfs the net for you.

Reactions to those nosebleeds at SCO: a German court has ordered SCO to stop claiming that Linux is an illegal derivative of Unix. Linus Torvalds compares the spat to a Jerry Springer episode. Cringely on Windex: "the bizarre saga of SCO versus most of the rest of the computing world." Charles Cooper on Microsoft's new Linux gambit.

The knee-jerk lefties at the Competitive Enterprise Institute have joined the chorus of opposition to the state-level "Super DMCA" Bills, making a convincing case that cable and phone companies will be given extraordinary powers to intrude into your personal life.

Spam, spam, spam, spam: the U.S. Congress seems poised to act against spam while California State Senator Debra Bowen's "get tough on spam" bill SB 12 has already been introduced (see also). While Microsoft can't decide if spam is good or bad. Then there are the unintended consequences of anti-spam measures, from the mundane to the truly frightening.

I saw the headline Listen Up: Songs Now 79 Cents and thought I was seeing a vibrant marketplace in action driving prices down to meet value (perhaps down to the 18 cent level mentioned here previously). But sadly, no, just music industry cluelessness: " will lower the price to download songs...20 cents to 79 cents...customers also pay a $10 a month subscription fee..." So its a good deal for those who buy more than 50 CDs every month. For the rest of us, not so much.

A polar bear encounters a 2001-like black monolith while AP's 70 word caption contains two misspellings ("Artic research" indeed!) and a tortured lead sentence.

Technobits: Microsoft to pay AOL $750M from using its monopoly to crush Netscape, is this the end of the browser wars? Nah! --- Microsoft Loses City of Munich Deal to Linux and The Munich Revolution --- DeCSS was created so people could watch legal DVDs on their computers, Calif AG Bill Lockyer calls it a "burglary tool". --- PageRank is Dead --- more than just another pretty face? --- Prospecting for Gold Among the Photo Blogs (speaking of which) --- StrangeBanana's autogenerated web page style (click on Reload a few times).

Web Site of the Week

Internet Stats, Scarily Complex MIT Puzzle Page

Richard Dalton writes:

Don't know if this has been mentioned before, but this is one of the biggest collections of useful and bizarre [Internet] statistics I've seen.

If you think this Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle is difficult, try this puzzle page, apparently written by someone in the MIT community. Once again, Daniel Dern has found a page created by someone who belongs in the vast pantheon of "people with too much time on their hands."

Much more useful was another page Daniel found, a Lorem Ipsum generator. If you are in the graphic arts of typesetting business, this is for you.


The Top 14 Things Overheard at the Cannes Film Festival

Ah, it's good to be King (for the 14th time)...

May 27, 2003

14> "Wow! 'The Matrix: Reloaded' was great! What did you think, Saddam?"

13> "Hey, who's the Girl Scout with Roman Polanski?"

12> "I laughed. I cried. I started handing out free deodorant."

11> "Amazing! It was nearly Sandlerian!"

10> "But monsieur, Tom Green is surely the greatest comic genius since Jerry Lewis!"

9> "Get the 'Jaws of Life.' Someone's got his lips vapor-locked to Scorsese's ass again."

8> "Monsieur Stallone! More ice water, maintenant!"

7> "I swear, if zey make us sit through another Keanu Reeves movie, we're taking back ze Statue of Liberty."

6> "No Milk Duds or Raisinets? You call this a film festival?!?"

5> "Every year these Americans show up, and this town reeks of soap and shampoo for a month afterwards."

4> "I surrender -- to the charm of this film!"

3> "I'm afraid your visits to the concession counter are affecting the tides, Monsieur Ebert."

2> "I presented myself the Palme d'Rouge last night!"

and's Number 1 Thing Overheard at the Cannes Film Festival...

1> "Yes, your breasts are quite impressive -- but it's usually the women who go topless here, Mr. Goodman."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]

Selected from 86 submissions from 34 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 1 (14th #1)

The Top 16 Signs Your Dog Is No Longer Your Best Friend

Not only am I on a roll (at No. 14), I am tied with the smartest game show host in television, Mr. Pat Sajak! Great minds do think alike.

May 28, 2003

16> You find him taking notes as he rereads "Cujo" for the umpteenth time.

15> You originally threw a stick, but he comes back carrying a restraining order.

14> He refuses to give any more self-licking lessons.

13> Your best kitchen knife disappeared and someone has signed up for a correspondence course in neutering.

12> Those "Invisible Fence" guys are measuring your bedroom.

11> Last night he kept hitting on all the hotties even though it was his turn to be the wingman.

10> Hid your cane and now constantly leads you into lampposts and heavy traffic.

9> Bites you if you don't finish his belly rubs with a "happy ending."

8> Refuses to play with the ugly dog in the park while you hit on her cute owner -- unless you pay him. In cash.

7> Buries your car keys in the back yard -- along with your car.

6> You fill his dish with Kibbles 'n Bits; he fills your shoes with Piddles 'n Shits.

5> No longer chases off Jehovah's Witnesses; in fact, now he drags them home from other neighborhoods.

4> He chewed your leg off before humping it last time.

3> These days he only gives you the initials of the people he wants you to kill.

2> The only thing he'll fetch is the toaster, and only while you're bathing.

and's Number 1 Sign Your Dog Is No Longer Your Best Friend...

1> Throws your son Timmy into the well.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 141 submissions from 54 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Peter Bauer, Rochester, NY -- 1 (26th #1/Hall of Famer)
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 14
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 14

The Top 15 Worst Names for Boats

I came in third, but I ran more credits than usual to show my position relative to my humor writing colleague Mr. Sajak.

May 29, 2003

15> Hazelwood's Party Pad

14> The Gerald Fitzedmund

13> The Absolutely, Positively, Iron-Clad-Guarantee, Zero-Possibility-Of-Error Unsinkable Just-Made-the-Final-Payment

12> The

11> Osama bin Sailin'!

10> U.S.S. Shirley Shirley bo birley banana fana fo firley me mi mo mirley... SHIRLEY!

9> The Compensator

8> Jenna, the Girl I Dated in High School Who Gave Me Herpes and Cheated on Me With My Dad's Best Friend

7> The Havana Ferry


5> Carrie Ingillegalimigrantsanddrugsininternationalwaters

4> H.M.S. Chum Bucket

3> Ignore This Distress Call

2> James Cameron's Wet Dream

and's Number 1 Worst Name for a Boat...

1> The #13 Unsinkable Kennedy 666

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]

Selected from 149 submissions from 54 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brandon Muller, Las Vegas, NV -- 1, 12 (3rd #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 3
Bill Muse, Seattle, WA -- 4, 15 (Hall of Famer)
Pat Sajak, Los Angeles, CA -- 4, Topic
Allen Lindsey, Cincinnati, OH -- 4
Whit Watson, West Hartford, CT -- 4

The Top 16 Signs a Newspaper Reporter Isn't Being Completely Honest

To quote Weird Al Yankovic: I need to stop drop and roll because I'm on fire. At No. 10:

May 30, 2003


A reporter for the New York Times was fired recently for fabricating stories, plagiarizing stories, etc.

"But Chris," you ask, "How can I know if a reporter is telling the truth?" I'm sooooo glad you asked....

16> His "Crime Beat" report reads exactly like last week's episode of "CSI."

15> Has a framed picture of Geraldo Rivera on his desk.

14> All interviews she turns in are accompanied by a nonchalant "He's still alive, right?"

13> "Dateline: Atlantis...."

12> Starts every story with "I never thought it could happen to me, but there I was alone in my dorm...."

11> She backs up every claim with a confident "Sources close to my imagination say...."

10> List of corrections has recently become larger than the sports section.

9> His latest headline: "President's New Tax Plan Benefits Hotties Willing to Sleep With This Reporter."

8> Her last two stories were about Bill Clinton joining a seminary and George W. Bush joining Mensa.

7> Repeated use of the phrase "so to speak" has the editor constantly chugging Pepto Bismol.

6> "And then the thief charged $20,000 to your credit card? How horrible! What's the number on your new card?"

5> His expense account only lists hallucinogens.

4> The most recent exclusive was "An Undercover Look at the Aryan Brotherhood," by Lionel Washington.

3> His in-depth piece on industrial pollution includes quotes from environmental expert Heywood Jablowme.

2> All of his stories take place in made-up places like "Idaho" and "Wyoming."

and's Number 1 Sign a Newspaper Reporter Isn't Being Completely Honest...

1> Article on tax breaks for the movie industry quotes "several high-profile Republicans in Hollywood."

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 119 submissions from 42 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Brad Osberg, Calgary, Canada -- 1, 16 (12th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 10


The Italian Job

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

Sometimes, you read someone else's review, and its perfect, and you wonder why you should struggle to write your own when your ideas have already been expressed to perfection. From

Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post begins his review by writing that the movie has no ideas, no insights, no content and no real performances.

Yet he liked it. I did too. There is no growth, no real hugs, just a first-class villain by Ed Norton, the strangest and most under-appreciated actor in Hollywood, and a bland turn by those famously bland actors Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. Seth Green plays... well, Seth Green (and yes, Shawn Fanning really does play himself in the funniest three-second cameo in motion picture history). Yet somehow, with a few camera tricks, good special effects and some great pyrotechnics, director F. Gary Gray and writer Donna Powers have created 104 minutes of sheer entertainment. The mini-Cooper car chase is every bit as good as advertised. I haven't seen the original so I can't compare it. This movie doesn't make you think. It won't stick with you 10 minutes after you leave the theater. Nothing to discuss. Nothing to ponder. Just entertaining.


GOP "Accomplishments," Tom Lehrer, Deck of Weasels, Mucho Grobstein, Mucho Jayson Blair

Apropos of last week's list of GOP accomplishments provided by Dan Grobstein, Ross Snyder writes:

I forwarded your list of Republican accomplishments to my oldest-
friend-in-this-world, a retired Air Force colonel now, and no Republican.
He wants to add:

Promulgating wars that have no purpose unless the ultimate goal is world rule.

Richard Dalton wrote to thank me for the Tom Lehrer link in last week's column, on behalf of his wife Linda, a Lehrer fan. That caused me to run out and look for Lehrer links; The Onion conducted the best recent (May 2000)Tom Lehrer interview I've seen. Richard also found a very sad story in the Telegraph of London entitled [Iraqi] Villagers suffer radiation sickness after looting nuclear power plants.

Peggy Coquet found a Deck of Weasels, in which a pro-Bush web site (claiming, of course that it's a "parody") lists a number of artists, musicians, writers, and former president Carter as traitors"

Both the probush website and the 'Deck of Weasels' use the legal disclaimer that they are satirical, though the website reads: "Parody. Not to be taken seriously. These "traitors" are not legal "traitors" of the United States. Though we wish they were."

I nominate these people for one of Joe Martin's "Unclear on the concept" awards, but then the right has always been a little dim on the Bill of Rights.

Dan Grobstein was the first person to point out Warren Buffet's savage critique of Bushnomics, Dividend Voodoo in the Washington Post, but he sent me a copy from a newsletter and I couldn't find the original online. Thank you Craig Reynolds for the URL. Please note that Buffett, like William H. Gates II (Bill's dad) has the guts most Democratic politicians lack, and is willing to tell the truth about the class warfare initiated by our "president."

Dan also found this Mona Lisa Smile-changing site, as well as two New York Times stories: For Partisan Gain, Republicans Decide Rules Were Meant to Be Broken, and Surprise Jumps in Credit Rates Bring Scrutiny. In the Toronto Globe and Mail (Dan gets around) he found White House insider cleans up Bush's image on film, a story you don't want to miss. A bumper sticker vendor he found notes that Howard Dean is the leading Democratic candidate, based on bumper sticker sales.

You may not share my interest in "inside baseball" about Journalism. If you don't, skip the rest of the column. First, some links from John Hawkinson, the ombudsman of my college paper, The Tech:

I think that Jim Romanesko's web column is particularly of interest. The organization is a little weird, but two sections are really lively

The letters column contains messages (presumably email) from reporters, including Times reporters Alex Berenson and Jennifer Steinhauer on how their perception of standard practice for handling stringers differs from Bragg's.

The memos column contains copies of internal email messages from many newspapers, including the Times, both about Bragg and Blair. It's truly fascinating reading. Pay attention to the 5/22 entry on the Allan Siegal committee formed by the Times to look into Times newsroom practices (Yes, Virginia Keith, they're looking into hiring and apprenticeship programs, too)

Jack Shafer, in MSN Slate's "press box" Media criticism column, produces a good summary as well. He manages to well integrate comments on official Times policies and statements from the Catherine J. Mathis, Times spokeswoman; and he also interviews Yoder, the stringer-in-question.

Also, my summary also omitted that Columbia Journalism Review broke the news of the suspension last Friday.

Jon Carroll, the world's greatest newspaper columnist, also weighed in with two columns on the subject: The Ghost Of Jayson Will Return and How Bad Was Jayson Blair.

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