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: December 1, 2003

December 1, 2003 Vol. 5, No. 47

Table of Contents:

General News

  • A Quiet Week
  • News from Marlow

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • Recycling An Old Joke
  • The Top 15 Possible Scandals Involving Prince Charles


  • Non-Review: The Cat In The Hat
  • Guest Review: In America
  • Shattered Glass
  • Thirteen
  • In The Cut
  • 21 Grams


  • Malchman, Speckert, Police Calendar, Easter Eggs on The Two Towers, the Dan Grobstein File

General News

A Quiet Week

After two weeks of professional development and a flurry of lesson planning for the week after Thanksgiving, I took off Tuesday night for Oregon for Thanksgiving with my parents. My brother left that night for his new life as a retiree in the Philippines. Vicki left Wednesday morning to spend Thanksgiving with Rae in the Boston area.

Things were very quiet in Portland. Dinner Wednesday at the Savory Tart on Fremont Street at 43rd--a very classy little American nouvelle place with six tables in a converted house, a friendly chef/owner and a great wine list. Thanksgiving dinner at Jubitz, America's classiest truck stop. Friday dinner was three kinds of shrimp at home after a few hours at Powell's, America's largest and finest used book store.

Other than that, it was just good (low-cal) food, good conversation, and lots of relaxing--in short, exactly what the doctor ordered for a teacher with a bad case of frazzled nerves and nervous tension.

News From Marlow

The Internet Cafe in Thailand has what Marlow charmingly calls a "craptastic" connection, but she managed to squeeze out this note:

I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that I went off into the Thai jungle yesterday, rode an elephant, bucked down a river on a bamboo raft, and had lunch with the Karan people (same tribe as the long necks, but different family branch) and came back alive. I saw the mountains of Burma from the front of my bamboo hut.

I'm in Qing Mai till we leave with only a brief stay in Bangkok between when our overnight train gets in and when our plane leaves.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Happy Thanksgiving!


Old Joke Recycled

The Top 5 List for Thanksgiving was 50 pieces of advice; No. 41 was mine (a variation on an old MIT joke):

41> Fold the napkins inside out and you can use them a second time.

The Top 15 Possible Scandals Involving Prince Charles

A tie for ninth beats a tie for nothing at all...

November 25, 2003


Weekly British tabloids, despite promising to tell all, are abiding by a ban on printing details of an "incident" Prince Charles said never took place. In one of the oddest scandals yet involving the House of Windsor, Charles has denied doing something -- without saying what it is -- and a court has banned papers from publishing the story.

15> Used the words "British" and "cuisine" in the same sentence.

14> Appears in a Paris Hilton video (the one in which he's in a compromising position with a male royal servant at the Paris Hilton).

13> Was caught corking his polo mallet.

12> Practices wearing his mother's lime green dress with matching handbag, hat and shoes for the day he'll officially be queen.

11> Has been hiding Saddam's WMDs behind his ears all this time.

10> Returned a rented Trans Am with a ding in the bumper, less than half a tank of gas and suspicious stains on the rear upholstery.

9> Illegally picked up pirated cable stations with his satellite-dish ears.

8> Document discovered at Roswell details how the elongated fingers were shortened, the oversized cranium was shrunk and the big, black eyes were narrowed, but nobody remembered to fix the ears.

7> Two words: naked cricket.

6> Because he once painted raunchy nudes of Camilla, he now wants to be referred to as "the Prince Formerly Known as Artist."

5> Caught humping the wax figure of Margaret Thatcher in Madame Tussaud's.

4> One night, after too many glasses of port, he was caught carousing in Piccadilly and asking young women if they'd like to see "Buckingham Phallus."

3> Had a romantic liaison with someone to which he was not in any way related.

2> He and his droogies indulged in a bit of the old "in/out" while wearing masky-waskies and listening to Ludwig Van.

and's Number 1 Possible Scandal Involving Prince Charles...

1> In a secret ceremony, he knighted beefeaters Timothy and Christopher, then demoted himself to rear admiral.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]
Selected from 91 submissions from 37 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Kristian Idol, Burbank, CA -- 1, RU list name (7th #1)
Danny Gallagher, Austin, TX -- 9, Honorable Mention name
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9


I have been struggling for years to find just the right way to express my feelings about films with excellent acting that aren't very good films--assuming you want a film to tell you a story and either enlighten or entertain you. As Neal Vitale puts it in his review of In America below:

The ... storyline fails to engage the viewer with the same level of intensity as does the acting.

Also, let me say, after seeing Thirteen, In The Cut and 21 Grams that I am really tired of on-screen depictions of oral sex, in either direction. There are some very buff guys and some women with perky breasts in Hollywood, but they need not feel a need to share these aspects of themselves with me. Really.


Non-Review: The Cat In The Hat

Haven't seen it. Don't intend to. This parody of the original book sums up my desire to see the film after reading the reviews.

Guest Review: In America

Neal Vitale writes:

Jim Sheridan's small body of work as director, writer, or producer includes powerful, moving, often wrenching films, such as My Left Foot, In The Name Of The Father, and Bloody Sunday. In America, Sheridan's autobiographical tale of his illegal immigration to America and struggles as an actor, is a well-intentioned effort that ultimately achieves little more than a series of compelling performances. Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine are superb as the young couple, and sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger as their two children nearly steal the film. But the rather fantastic storyline weaving grief over the recent loss of their third child, the redemptive influence of a mysterious dying neighbor (Djimon Hounsou), and the host of personal and social difficulties that greet the family in their life in America fails to engage the viewer with the same level of intensity as does the acting.

Shattered Glass

This film should be mandatory viewing for all journalism students in high school and college.

You may have heard of "police procedurals." That's the name for the television shows which show detective work step by step, in a simulation of the way it is actually done in real life by real police. Well, Shattered Glass is a "journalism procedural," and one of the best examples of this genre since All The President's Men. We see, step by step, how Stephen Glass was exposed as a serial faker in the pages of the New Republic magazine. Not only did he make up quotes, he made up supporting material and deliberately structure his deceptions to sneak them past the magazine's fact-checking procedure. As Nixon learned, it is one thing to lie, another to cover up your lie.

It has always been tempting to make up a quote to make a story "sing," the support the conclusion, to give an article a great "snapper." That, and plagiarism, are, in fact, the two mighty temptations of journalists everywhere. I am proud to say I never "piped" (made up) a quote in 30 years of professional journalism, and I advise against it, unless you want to suffer the fate of Stephen Glass.

Of course, when I say the "fate" of Stephen Glass, I don't mean writing a best seller and passing the bar exam. I'd love to be a fly on the all when he attempts to prove to the New York State Bar (or any other bar) that he's fit to be a lawyer. If he'd admitted to practice anywhere, that would be a whole new definition of "fit to practice" with which I wasn't previously familiar.

Rated PG-13 for language, sexual references and brief drug use.

Go if you're a journalist. Or if you care about ethics, or Washington, or truth. A solid issue movie, mildly entertaining.


This is the scariest film you could imagine for the father of daughters. Nikki Reed, who plays Evie, co-wrote it. Look for her on Oscar night--in terms of eccentricity, a teenage screenwriter is the next best thing to Woody Allen. Also expect a golden sexless visitor for Holly Hunter, who cries, screams and looks badly kempt on screen. This movie is a real antidote for people who are tired of the lack of depictions of working class America on screen. This is a family that is clearly one layoff and one serious illness from being on the street. It shows the rapid descent into hell of a 13-year-old girl who falls under the spell of a really bad influence. The previews make it look like she just goes nuts for no reason; the movie offers lots of reasons. None are sufficient for the level of insanity depicted, but at least there is some motivation offered.

Too much sex, too much talk of sex, too much simulation of sex. At least there isn't a lot of skin--that would have made a bad situation worse.

Rated R for drug use, self destructive violence, language and sexuality - all involving young teens.

A total bummer. Don't take the kids. The storyline fails to engage the viewer with the same level of intensity as does the acting.


In The Cut

The stench of red herring hangs heavy over this enterprise. But, I suppose a murder mystery wouldn't be very mysterious if some false leads weren't scattered along the way. Jane Campion, the director, has done much better work. So has Meg Ryan (whom I prefer in romantic comedies, with makeup and clothes in place). But, since Meg screams, cries, has sex, exposes her breasts and doesn't wear makeup, Oscar here she comes. And since Jane was on the other side of the camera, she'll be going for the gold as well. Heck, there's even some black and white flashbacks. Many reviewers chide New York City, as shown, with being a "New York that never was." I don't know about that. Apparently, much of it was filmed in Sydney, but I wouldn't know that if I hadn't looked it up.

This movie missed a good chance at insider fun by not saying of Meg's ex-boyfriend, "you know, he kind of looks like Kevin Bacon." (He isn't officially credited, but it's him).

Too much sex, oral and otherwise. Too many naked bodies.

Rated R for strong sexuality including explicit dialogue, nudity, graphic crime scenes and language.

Also a serious downer. Mildly entertaining. Don't even think about taking the kids. Meg, go ahead, play funny again.

21 Grams

Sean Penn is the emotional core, just like the reviewers said. But talk about a non-linear narrative! It's as if the film editor got mixed up in the editing room and decided to just assemble the thing randomly. Forward with flashbacks I understand. Backwards is clever. Pulp Fiction I liked. The oddball storytelling style here didn't confuse me, but it challenged me. Sometimes I like that in a film, sometimes I don't. This time I didn't, because it seemed confusing without being particularly clever.

Too much sex. Sean Penn naked? Please. I enjoyed Naomi Watts' nakedness more, but it was gratuitous as well.

I'd put Alejandro González Iñárritu up for best writer and best director, but I think his nonlinear story telling style is too wild for Hollywood. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion.

Rated R for language, sexuality, some violence and drug use.

A total, confusing bummer. If you're an Oscar nut, you'll need to see Penn's performance, but this film is strictly for the fanatical. Kids shouldn't be allowed on the same block as this film. The storyline --to the extent you can figure it out before the end--fails to engage the viewer with the same level of intensity as does the acting.


New State Seal, Malchman, Speckert, Police Calendar, Easter Eggs on The Two Towers, the Dan Grobstein File

I couldn't see where anyone else had posted the new Arnold-based California State Seal. If someone can find the creator and/or a website with permission to post this seal, I'll pull down my copy and point at it.

Another reason I didn't major in mathematics, as pointed out by fellow MIT grad Robert Malchman:

"I tripled the median age at the showing I was at." I don't think that's possible unless the gap between the 50% mark before and after you entered tripled. I think you tripled the mean age. And you an MIT grad!

Long-time friend, fellow MIT grad and Mac aficionado Glen Speckert passed on the link for Jerry Pournelle's rocky plunge into the world of Macintosh

The 2004 Police Officers Calendar is cute. Be sure to have your volume turned up when you click on it.

Easter eggs are little hidden parts of programs, usually entertaining. I did one once on a Winmag CDROM, only now I can't remember where I hid it.

Anyway, a friend reports there's one on a new DVD:

We saw the extended edition of THE TWO TOWERS Saturday night, at a friend's, he also cranked up the extended-edition DVD of Fellowship to show us the two MTV-related easter eggs.

If you haven't seen these yet, ya gotta! (Not worth buying the disks just for this, although it's close. But definitely worth borrowing them for, or making a visit to a friend who's got it.)

Warning: Don't be eating or drinking anything when you see them!

(To find where to find them, Google for LoTR "Easter Eggs")...

Or, to make your life simple, here's the first (and IMHO funniest) one:

To find this one, go into the Scene Selection menu on disc one, and head to the final page where you'll find the real Council of Elrond scene. Highlight that scene and press "down" to find an image of the Ring. Press enter ...

Dan Grobstein File:

Washington Post

  • Norman Ornstein bemoans the partisan decision to keep the vote open on the Medicare bill until enough arms could be twisted to pass it--allowing a 15-minute process to stretch to three hours. The GOP really is a group of wild radicals, tearing down our institutions.
  • Richard Cohen on the GOP ads claiming that criticism of Bush is treason:

And about the only way to find out what really happened is through the political process. This is especially the case because the Senate has gone from being the world's greatest deliberative body to the world's greatest rubber stamp. Naturally and predictably, the White House would like to avoid any accounting whatever and is likely to respond to criticism with demagogic appeals to patriotism. I hope it doesn't work. I love my country and I love the truth and I always thought the best thing about being an American is that you don't have to choose.

New York Times

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