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: November 10, 2003

November 10, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 45

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Sore muscles, Four Day Weekend
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Ashcroft Humor


  • Master and Commander
  • Love, Actually
  • Scary Movie 3
  • Matrix Revolutions Redux


  • Whack-A-Pol, Tom Lehrer Lives!, Groundhog Day, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Sore muscles, Four Day Weekend

My back is so sore I'm afraid it's going to spasm at any minute. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I'd done to injure it so badly, until several of my fellow teachers pointed out it was probably as much psychological (stress) as physical. That hadn't occurred to me.

I've gotten a few notes asking me to write more about teaching. Apparently, I'm pretty popular with the students. When I went with Vicki to the Matrix at 7pm Friday, the theater was filled with my students. Except for one wise guy who called me "Paul," most of them smiled, waved and said, "Hi Mr. Schindler." I take that as a compliment.

But in general, I'm not sure how to take my "popularity." This isn't a popularity contest. I don't mind being liked--I prefer it to the opposite--but I think the jury is still out on the important part of my job--am I helping the students learn? In part my popularity may be due to the fact that I massively overdid the extra credit first quarter. As a result, my students earned far more A+ grades than makes any sense. We'll see how things look at the semester.

I am more relaxed now, and in my district, this is a four-day weekend; we don't have to go back to school until Wednesday. Which means a three-day week, a regular week, then a week off for Thanksgiving, back for three weeks, then two weeks off for Christmas. This is one of my favorite times of the year. I need the time away, for sure.

I am still suffering from the fact that the costs of teaching are all short-term and the benefits are all long term. Given the perfectly natural human tendency to overvalue the immediate and undervalue the future, it is hard for me to keep all this in perspective.

If I could just get a good night's sleep and get my back to stop hurting...

News From Marlow

On Tuesday after calligraphy I was going to go get lunch with O but instead he and his friends wanted to go to KTV (karaoke) so I went with them. We went to a "Party World" right near Sogo (the biggest most popular department store here, Japanese owned). Party World was a lot more plush than Holiday. There were fancy chandeliers in the lobby and big comfy couches. The place looked like it must have been a converted hotel, though I suppose they all have that look with the private rooms with their own bathrooms and all. But this place was really nice. No all you can eat buffet this time, but we did get lunch for 39 NT which is slightly over a dollar. We stayed for two hours and also got some of the best nai cha (milk tea) I've had in Taipei and some pretty good dumplings. O, N and G all grew up with Chinese at home and listened to popular Chinese music even while growing up in Texas and Oregon. M is just at a high level so she's able to read well, and probably they get a fair amount of spill over music in Indonesia from China/Taiwan, but anyway, this time everyone was actually singing in Chinese. There were a couple of songs in English, but it was fun going with a group who could actually do KTV as it was meant to be done, and read the directions on the remote and talk to the waitstaff about special deals, like super cheap lunch. O finally burned me a copy of a CD of Chinese music (David Tao) so I'm going to try and get it together to be able to sing my own song in Chinese next time we go. N was especially awesome, she did a couple of Chinese raps that actually sounded really good. O even did one song in Taiwanese.

On Wednesday night I went and saw the Matrix with G and L at Warner Village. It was pretty good. I liked it better than the second one. Mainly I just liked that I was in the hemisphere that got to see it first, so I felt extra cool going the first day.

Political Notes

This from Richard Dalton. I'm signing up. I hope you do too.

Columnist Ellen Goodman wrote recently that she was badly disappointed when she wasn't included on the National Rifle Association's official blacklist.

Now she (and you) can redress this by checking out

Signing will register you as opposing the NTA's positions that (1) the ban on assualt rifles should expire, and; (2) that gun manufacturers should be exempted from consumer lawsuits, making them the only industry where consumers could not sue about dangerous and/or defective products.

Besides, how often do you get a chance to join up with a diverse group like the YMCA, Mel Brooks, the National Education Association, the St. Louis Cardinals, Jack Nicholson, the League of Women Voters, Britney Spears, Mary Tyler Moore and the AARP (all included on the NRA's original blacklist)?

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

I fooled Craig by doing the column a day early because of the four-day weekend. I am sure Technobriefs will be back next week.


Ashcroft Humor

US Attorney General John Ashcroft was visiting an elementary school. After 15 minutes of speaking he says, "I will now answer any questions you have."

Bobby stands up and says: 'I have four questions':
1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Just then the bell goes off and the kids rushed out to play. Upon returning, Mr. Ashcroft said: "I am sorry we were interrupted. I will answer any questions you have." A little girl called Julie stands up and says: 'I have six questions':

1. How did Bush win the election with fewer votes than Gore?
2. Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?
3. Why are you using the American Patriot Act to limit civil liberties?
4. Where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
5. Why did the bell ring twenty minutes early?
6. Where is Bobby?


Master and Commander

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Once more, I defer to Neal Vitale:

Saw this film. As someone else said coming out of the screening, "it didn't stink up the place." Perfectly serviceable, well-made war film, though lacking some of the identification with the cause that elevated films like Dances with Wolves or possibly Braveheart. A little long (130 minutes) with not enough time, despite the length, spent developing the characters other than Captain Aubrey and why they are in the middle of several oceans fighting the French. At least a couple of very improbable scenes, such as a doctor performing surgery on himself, using a mirror. I liked Russell Crowe in his role, but have nothing to compare it to, having not read any Patrick O'Brien. Also nice seeing the Galapagos (literally the same beaches I have walked!). I predict a good, not spectacular, opening, and disappointing overall box office.

Love, Actually

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Hugh Grant as prime minister of Great Britain, he of the perma-toussled hair, gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "willing suspension of disbelief," surpassed later in this film when Billy Bob Thornton shows up as President of the United States. The unbelievability factor is then topped again when Grant tells off Thornton in public at a news conference. A real wet dream for Richard Curtis, the writer/director, no doubt, and amusing and cute and precocious, like the entire film.

Set in London during the five weeks before Christmas, this is a slice of life film with a few too many story lines thrown in--enough to make it feel confusing and choppy, not just episodic. It was laugh out loud funny and clever, with just enough pathos thrown it to keep the whole confection from flying off into space. As a friend who saw it with me noted, it was even refreshingly and casually multi-racial, in the way that many British productions are these days.

It's a romantic comedy that bears absolutely no relationship to any reality anyone here--or in England--would recognize, leavened with a few moments of seriousness that leave you scratching your head as you walk out. Not thinking, not changed, not challenged, just scratching your head. A bit long at 128 minutes, but with so many stories to tell I guess that's not a big surprise.

Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language. A rousing entertainment for adults. Don't take the kids. Even teenagers are not a likely audience for this. I doubt they'd find it funny enough or sexy enough to hold their attention.

Scary Movie 3

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

I don't know what's worse, admitting I laughed out loud at this film, or admitting I've seen all the movies it's making fun of--mostly Signs, 8 Mile and The Ring, with bits of The Matrix thrown in for good measure. It was a big box office hit over the weekend, but I was the only one at the 7pm showing on Tuesday at the Rheem Theater--in fact, since no one came before me, they started the film just for me, even though I was 10 minutes late. It was kind of cool watching it alone in a 300-seat theater. For one thing, when I laughed, I got to really laugh, way out loud.

What can I tell you? I love Airplane and all the Naked Gun films (heck, I even liked the TV show) and all the other Milwaukie-school Zucker-Abrams-Zucker films written by Pat Proft and starring Leslie Nielsen. I don't think David Zucker has been as funny since he broke up with his brother Jerry (maybe like Lennon and McCartney, they needed each other as writing partners to keep from going to extremes).

I love parodies, I like stupid slapstick, I like schtick. There were very few moments in this film when it wasn't either doing a joke or setting one up. Sure, some of them were stupid. Several weren't funny. Several went on too long. But you have to throw a lot of... stuff... at the wall to make sure a lot of it sticks. And, as with the other Zucker films, if you don't like a joke, wait a minute. The humor is crude, rude and hilarious.

Nielsen and George Carlin both had cute, but not overdone cameos (and Nielsen got to do a wonderful homage to Airplane).

At 84 minutes, it was the perfect length for a comedy. Rated PG-13 for pervasive crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and drug references. I wouldn't take anyone much below 16 or 17 to see this.

The Matrix Revolutions Redux

You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database

Saw it with Vicki. Basically, I agree with Neal Vitale, whose review appeared in last week's column: clunker. As Vicki said, "It's all happening so fast you can't figure out what's going on. Luckily, I don't care."


Whack-A-Pol, Tom Lehrer Lives!, Groundhog Day, Dan Grobstein File

Peggy Coquet was among the first to notice Slate's excellent Whack A Pol.

Tom Lehrer, the greatest American humorist since Mark Twain, grants one of his rare interviews to the Sydney Morning Herald. Yes, he is still alive and living in Santa Cruz. No, he's not coming back. Thanks, Daniel Dern!

In The New Yorker dated Nov. 10, 2003, on p. 48, Charles Murray, the neoconservative author of Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 is asked which artistic accomplishments after 1950 might make one of his top 20 lists:

"The movie Groundhog Day," he immediately offered. "It is a brilliant moral fable, offering an Aristotelian view of the world."

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

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