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 22, 2003

September 22, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 38

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Face Control
  • Taiwan News
  • A Cambridge Study (NOT)
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 15 Board Games for Rappers


  • Dickie Roberts
  • Lost in Translation
  • Countdown


  • Dern, Reynolds and the Grobstein File

General News

Face Control

My mother could, famously, control her high school students with a single raised eyebrow. Alas, that is a recessive trait, and I did not inherit the ability to raise one eyebrow without raising the other, although I may be a carrier.

In the meantime, however, I am working on what my fellow teacher, Mrs. S., calls "the look." It's an "I mean business" scowl that will usually bring the class to attention.

I had hoped to leave my seating assignments in place until Oct. 1, but there was too much wrong with where students are sitting (what an art and science that turns out to be). So, despite my desire to leave people in place to help me learn their names, I am moving everyone around today. And this time, I am only printing a few copies of the seating chart, because I know there will be adjustments. Of course, requests for adjustment are like prayers. All of them are answered; some of them are answered "no."

Taiwan News

This from Marlow:

Here are some observations I've made on how Taiwan is different from the States.

There's a car commercial here that features Ghandi. Shot of a young Ghandi, shot of a black background with white writing (in Chinese) something to the effect of "one man can make a difference", shot of a car, shot of Indians being beaten down by a British guy on a horse, shot of the writing "One person can make a difference to many", close-up on the wheels, shot of Ghandi, shot of car, shot of Ghandi, shot of the car, a bunch of writing I'm not sure what it meant, shot of old Ghandi with his family and the dates of his life on the bottom, shot of the car as a whole driving through a silver tunnel, Nissan. Weird and a half. Maybe this will be the next generation of advertising in America too, but I just can't picture Ghandi selling a Ford.

A majority of the TV ads here seem to be for breast enhancement products (padded bras, fake breasts, etc.) or skin whitening products. Jianna asked her language exchange partners about the skin whitening products and was told that there is a saying in Chinese whose rough translation comes down to "one layer of white will conceal three layers of ugly." So there you have it. I don't actually feel that pale here, really more pink than anything else, and apparently Jianna is considered "black" here thanks to her time on the beaches of Hawaii, Peru and Belize before arriving.

Related to the white skin phenomenon, parasols (or normal umbrellas used when its not raining) are quite common here. I've been using one since the first week. Its great. If I could get away with using one in the states I totally would. No one seems to wear sunglasses or hats, unless they're riding their motor scooter, but men and women of all ages have their parasols. I've been teased by some other international kids about how "Taiwanese" I am with my umbrella, but I think it actually helps me blend in more than anything else.

There's a lot of white guys here with Asian fetishes. And a lot of the girls who are Asian but not from Taiwan are kind of sick of being hit on like the guy doing the coming on is god's gift to women, which some locals may or may not believe, but not no Asian-Americans or Asian-Costa Ricans believe. I have yet to see any white girls with Asian guys, at least not in a romantic sense.

I actually used Chinese to talk with someone the other day as our only common language. I was eating shaved ice at my favorite place near campus and a Japanese kid from my cooking class spotted me and came over to chat. It was pretty cool, we actually had a pretty standard getting to know you kind of chat: where are you from, how long are you staying here, how much Chinese have you studied, what do you think of our cooking class, have you bought an apron, etc. I don't think it actually lost much for having been done in Chinese.

In general I find Taiwan to be a very clean place, but there is an intersection on my way to school where there are a lot of small food stands and cafeteria style restaurants, and sometimes I get stuck at the intersection for a full minute and a half (long light) if I hit the light wrong, so I pass the time by watching a cockroach play in traffic. I think it may be the same one each time, although that seems unlikely. Its amusing at least until he darts back towards the side of the road I'm waiting on.

My last observation for this disjointed email is that cell phone culture is very different here. People have no shame about answering their cellphones anywhere anytime. Lots of people use them on the subways, and when we went to the play at the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial they were going off periodically, even if the play was outside that seemed a little odd to me. Jianna said a girl in her class actually answered her cellphone when it went off, that would never fly in the states, and today when we were at the museum a tour guide answered his phone mid-tour.

All right, that's really all for now, Marlow

A Cambridge Study (NOT)

There are 2,130 web sites (as of Sunday) that have posted this; allow me to be 2,131.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I found out about it when six people emailed it to me this week (thank you Dan Grobstein for being first). The Urban Legends Reference Pages find no such study. If you can find the study or authoritative debunking, let me know. You'll win a tip o' the PSACOT hat.

Political Notes

Craig Reynolds found a goodie:

Some of this seem especially hard-hitting, some a bit over the top. Do you know anything about the writer or the paper?

Posted on Thu, Sep. 11, 2003
The Philadelphia Daily News

I don't know the writer, but the paper is a well-respected one.

Craig also had some thoughts and some links on Wesley Clark:

I was pleased that Wesley Clark announced his candidacy. He has a great resume and will make a strong candidate. I think I will support him. He does need to articulate a domestic agenda very quickly.

But I was trying to look ahead: what are the gotchas of a Clark candidacy? This article from the Independent has some 'Dream candidate' Wesley Clark sets out for White House.

Also, I love the message and the use of historical archetypes:

"...In echoes of wartime President Harry S. Truman, someone shouted to Clark, "Give 'em hell, General," as Clark was shaking hands with the crowd. He pumped his fist, smiled and replied, "We're going to give them the truth, and they'll think it's hell," which was Truman's oft-repeated response during the 1948 campaign..."

But I feel 100% certain that the "someone" who shouted from the crowd was working for the Clark Campaign. Call me a crazy cynic.

Clark enters race with military rhetoric, unconventional strategy

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

If Craig were doing a column this week, this item would have been in it:

Verisign came up with a sleazy plan to replace error messages with advertising, which broke lots of spam filters that depended on the error messages. The BIND folks came up with a software fix to the corporate hijinks: Wired News: ISC to Cut Off Site Finder.


The Top 15 Board Games for Rappers

No. 12 with no bullet at all.

September 15, 2003


Mattel recently held a "Break the Safe" competition to showcase the new board game that focuses on teamwork, communication and cooperation. Serving as emcee of the event was rapper/actor/avid board game fan, Ice-T.

15> Mouth T'rap

14> Hip-Hoperation

13> Notorious B.O.G.G.L.E

12> Nosecandyland

11> Trivial Police Pursuit

10> Shizzutes and Lizzadders

9> East Coast/West Coast Risk

8> Baby Got Backgammon

7> Scrabble, Extra Z Edition

6> Parcheesi My Neezy

5> Bitchionary

4> Horny Horny Hip-Hos

3> The Game of 25-to-Life

2> P. Diddlywinks

and's Number 1 Board Game for Rappers...

1> Hell No, I Ain't Sorry, Bee-Yotch

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 111 submissions from 40 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mark Niebuhr, Minneapolis, MN -- 1 (18th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 12


Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

This is one of those films that just confounds your expectations (well, at least my expectations). First of all, it features David Spade in a movie that isn't brain dead, and in which he has a few moments during which he acts, rather than mugging. Secondly, the trailer is worse than the movie. How often does that happen? And thirdly, it is sweet without being cloying, polite and nice without being stupid. Finally, Jon Lovitz is both funny and sentimental and, although he is once again limited to a cameo, at least you don't wince (by the end) while viewing his character. And Rob Reiner, the king of the amusing cameo, once more plays a funny version of himself. If he's really this cool in real life, he's one cool dude.

The story is simple. Deprived of his childhood because he was a television star, Dickie/David decides he has to experience childhood in order to land a part in Reiner's upcoming movie, "Mr. Blake's Back Yard." The movie within a movie (we never see or hear any of the dialog from it) is about a man who discovers that Heaven is in his own back yard (talk about high concept!). Dickie "rents" a family to treat him like a child, and then the [entirely predictable] fun begins. By the way, the Slip and Slide people ask you not to use a dry Slip and Slide or to coat one with Wesson oil.

99 minutes of PG-13 fun. Won't make you think. Won't make you puke. A nice little family film.

Lost in Translation

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Every bit as good as you've heard. A series of anecdotes, rather than a real story, although it begins when Bill Murray arrives in Tokyo and ends when he leaves. Sofia Coppola has written a brilliant and entertaining film, and Bill Murray has turned in the performance of his career as a washed-up actor making $2 million for doing a Suntory Whisky advertisement. I am really sorry the film is (appropriately) rated R for some sexual content, because it is beautiful and elegiac and would be a family treat with about five minutes cut from its 105 minute length. Any 1950s director could make a G-rated film out of this in a half day. Ah, artistic integrity.

It makes Tokyo look beautiful. Frankly, I thought it had been shot in 24-frame HD video, but checking the movie's website, I find it was shot on special low-light film. The look of the movie (the cinematography) is as amazing as the dialog and the acting. Scarlett Johansson, who has been in 17 movies (of which I have seen two--and I didn't notice her in either) has a career-making role as the lead actress. This is a meditation on travel, hotel life, Japan, and temporary friendships struck up on the road. It is funny, it is serious, it is entertaining. It is American film making at its finest. It is European in its look and feel, and you know I mean that as a compliment.

The Countdown

Some changes as a result of Lost in Translation:

Best Picture:
Seabiscuit, Lost in Translation

Best Animated Film:
Finding Nemo

Best Director:
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)

Best Actor:
Bill Murray (Lost in Translation)

In other categories, my favorite films so far this year are:

Indie Film:
Whale Rider, The Hard Word

Spellbound, Winged Migration, Lost in La Mancha, Gigantic

Narration by a dead person:

Bend it like Beckham

A Mighty Wind


Dern, Reynolds and the Grobstein File

Daniel Dern forwarded the link to a funny Lord of the Rings parody.

Craig Reynolds checks in:

The image is unusual enough, but read the translation of the inscription.

The Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times:


  • A remarkable article by the New York Times John Burns about the War in Iraq in Editor and Publisher concludes:

There is corruption in our business. We need to get back to basics. This war should be studied and talked about. In the run up to this war, to my mind, there was a gross abdication of responsibility. You have to be ready to listen to whispers.

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