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.
January 26, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 4
Table of Contents:
So I was standing in the kitchen with Vicki, my wife of 24 years, Monday night, telling her what a great week it was going to be. "We got Monday off, Friday is a minimum day, so we're out at noon and we have next Monday off for in-service training."
"Wow," she said. "Do you spend all your time looking forward to your time off? What's that say about your attitude towards your job? Are you enjoying it at all?"
She had raised one of the most fundamental questions of all, boiled down by the Buddhists, among others, as the maxim "enjoy the journey as well as the destination."
I managed that in child-rearing, after being told by everyone whose opinion I respected that I should never spend my time yearning for the next stage of childhood, but rather enjoying each stage for what it offered. I am sure someone, at some point, offered me the same advice about teaching. I know my mother, for example, tried to make it clear to me that every day in the classroom was not going to be joyful and fulfilling. Then she reminded me that every day as a journalist was not joyful and fulfilling. It is hard to remember that now, three years after I left that field. She gave me, and I have tried to internalize, the message that teaching is one of those delayed gratification deals that we middle-class people are supposed to excel at: do the hard work now, make the tough choices, eat your spinach, and you'll get your payoff later. I know this is true. The hard work I did in high school and college, the experiences I sacrificed as a young man, improved the quality of my entire life a hundred-fold.
But when I look back on my three decades as a journalist, I do strongly remember waking up every day looking forward to doing my job. At least, that's what I thought I was feeling. Maybe I was waking up every day looking forward to a job that seldom involved leaving the house, and involved interacting with other people mostly by telephone, and long hours before a computer screen writing. I enjoyed the journey. Was that because the destination (the byline) was so close in--making the journey so short? Is journalism, as I have always suspected, a field for people with arrested development who require instant (byline, story published) gratification? Is teaching a more mature profession?
As I noted here a few weeks ago, since I have to do something, and can't, at the moment, imagine doing anything else, what are my alternatives? Does that mean dragging myself through every day, pining for the weekend, until spring when I can start pining for the summer and dreading the fall? Is that a life?
Mistake me not. I don't hate what I am doing. Yes, some of my students are more troublesome than others, and some are simply inert. But in the vast middle, they are engaged, and looking to me every day to provide them infotainment--information delivered in an entertaining way. I do enjoy that energy, and I try to fulfill their needs. It is good work. It is important work. It is God's work. It needs to be done by people of intelligence and good will--in short, by people like me. Does it need to be done by me? That is the question I am struggling with. I think the answer is probably yes.
Which leads to the other question I am struggling with; how can I enjoy the journey as well as the destination? I remember last fall, when I came home every day complaining, and Vicki asked me to stop. I stopped, and then suddenly I didn't feel like complaining any more. The wish became parent of the behavior. By the same token, perhaps if I approach each day looking for the joy and not the drudgery, I can make the time I spend with my students more enjoyable for me--and perhaps for them as well. It may be as simple as "lightening up." As my colleague likes to say, "This isn't brain surgery, and you're unlikely to kill any of them no matter what you do." Or it may involve no change in teaching style at all, simply an internal attitude adjustment that then becomes reflected in my behavior.
Groundhog Day, The Movie
Tom Armstrong was nice enough to submit my Groundhog Day page to the Internet Movie Database, which now lists me among the off-site links for my favorite movie. I have several items in the works, as well as the annual reprint of my appreciation of the film, slated for next week's column.
On Sept. 30, 2002, I mentioned that there's good reason to believe Superman is Jewish. Harry Brod wrote the definitive (now no longer posted on a live site) article on the subject, Did You Know Superman is Jewish, for which someone whose screename is October8t h emailed me a link. Turns out, I had found the link on my own, but "Superman is Jewish" is a good theory, worth repeating. Thank you, October8th.
I find it fascinating. Despite my stereotypically Jewish last name, I'm a goyim from Oregon (my Jewish friends tell me the junior is a giveaway). I loved Superman as a boy, and was enthralled by the Jews and Jewish culture I ran into at MIT and while living in the East; my first fiance and second serious girlfriend were both Jewish. I like the way the Superman as Jew theory messes with the heads of people who never considered the possibility. Yet, once you look at it, as Brod, and Feiffer, and, probably at a subconscious level, Siegel and Shuster did, it's just so darn obvious. Maybe not as complicated as Brod makes out. The comic book authors I have met are not, as a rule, deeply complicated people. Fom a distance Stan Lee, for example, seems pretty straightforward. Superman as Jew is a good explanation of the character's attributes, according to Occam's razor, which requires that we accept the simplest explanation that explains all the facts.
We're thinking about getting a big-screen (42-inch) flat panel HDTV monitor. Neal Vitale was nice enough to point me at an informative New York Times article on the subject (you have to pay for it, but it is almost worth the cash). I'll let you know how this goes. Comcast cable now offers an HDTV signal for an extra $5 a month after you buy a $100 convertor.
News From Marlow
More details of Marlow's travels are here.
On my actual birthday I didn't actually do much besides tutor. G bought me a piece of chocolate cake and some tiramisu and we watched stupid movies together instead of doing homework.
On Monday I finally went to Ma La Huo Guo (spicy hot pot). I've been to Huo Guo before which is just hot pot, and it is fun because, as far as I can tell, its always all you can eat buffet style where you boil raw food in a big pot in the middle of your table. You make your own sauce with japanese and chinese ingredients. There are lunch size servings too actually come to think of it which aren't all you eat, but you get the idea. Its kind of like shabu shabu. But the Ma La part is what I've been wanting to try for some time but couldn't find people who wanted to do. We only got Xiao La (a little spicy) which is the second least spicy option. I guess it was a good amount of spicy but I would have preferred zhong or da (middle or big), but I didn't want to fight the group, so I just put some extra chili sauce in my own personalized sauce. You can get a whole pot spicy but we got ours half and half, so there was one side that was just regular boiling water. It was delicious. We had a lot of beef and mushrooms and some fish balls, and everything basically. O's aunt is really nice. O tutors her in English sometimes, and her English didn't sound half bad, but she was more comfortable in Chinese, so we spoke in Chinese for much of dinner, which was fun and good practice. I kept up just fine unless I got distracted and then I sometimes lost the conversation topic making it harder to jump back in.
A pool report from reporters covering President Bush. He wants ribs.
Craig Reynolds found two "real" state of the union reports:
George W Bush and the real state of the Union from the British newspaper the Independent
Cogent, albeit brief analysis of Iowa by my old buddy Phil Albinus (look for "The Doctor Won't See You Now."
Lies, Lies Lies:
Late last year, President Bush promised retirees that "if there's a Medicare reform bill signed by me, corporations have no intention to dump retirees [from their existing drug coverage]...What we're talking about is trust." The White House and its congressional allies backed up Bush's assertion by claiming the bill included a special tax subsidy to "encourage employers' to retain prescription-drug coverage" for their retirees' and not to cut them off. More Details
Richard Perle is a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and each and every one of its inhabitants and citizens and shockingly a member of the Defense Policy Board at the instigation of Don Rumsfeld, the man who gave WMD to Saddam Hussein. In An End To Evil by Perle and David Frum the suggestion is made that:
. . . when it is in our power and interest, we should toss dictators aside with no more compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he downs a hostage-taker."
See the complete book review ("A Confident Prescription For Foiling the Terrorists" by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, p. B9, Jan. 13, 2004) which concludes:
Such contradictions (pessimistic about a Palestinian state, Polyanna-ish about prospects for a democratic Iraq), combined with the volume's bullying tone and often specious reasoning, make for a strident, sophistical book, one unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn't already share the authors' super-hawkish views and self-righteous braggadacio.
Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart's article ("My Secret Talks With Libya, And Why They Went Nowhere," The Washington Post, page B5, Jan. 18, 2004) refutes the notion that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with Libya's recently announced decision to enter into an agreement with the United States. As Hart concluded about his account of his 1992 experience with the Libyans:
At the very least it calls into serious question the assertion that Libya changed direction as a result of our preemptive invasion of Iraq.
At the time of the recent agreement with Libya, sanctions and trade prohibitions were still in place with respect to American dealings with Libya. However, several days after the agreement was announced, The New York Times ("Oil Giants Look Anew At Libya," by Simon Romero, p. W1, Dec. 24, 2003) reported that the administration had authorized American oil companies to enter into discussions with the Libyans months ago:
Representatives of the three companies [Conoco Phillips, Amerada Hess, and Marathon] have been given permission by the United States government in recent months to negotiate with Libyan authorities and to try to renew their oil leases, which are set to expire in 2005."
In other words, Bush supported trade with an officially designated terrorist nation. Why did Bush support the oil companies' private negotiations with what was officially designated at the time as a terrorist government? Was this agreement about WMD or about oil? Cheney received about $150K from Halliburton in 2003 and expects to receive about another $150K from Halliburton in 2004. Was the Libyan agreement influenced by the possibility of making more oil service opportunities available for Halliburton in Libya?
Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs
Senate computers and GOP dirty tricks: due to what the Boston Globe called "a computer glitch", the US Senate Judiciary Committee's Republican staff has been reading notes and communications of the Democratic members. Shame on the Democrats (and their software technicians) for leaving the files unsecured. But for the Republicans, shame and investigations by the Sergeant-at-Arms with help from US Secret Service and forensic computer experts.
PhotoShop doesn't do bills: under pressure from banking groups, Adobe included some unverified black-box software toPhotoShop to detect images of currency. Of course it is not illegal to manipulate images of currency, and there are plenty of legitimate "non-infringing uses", but like well-meaning idiots who voted for the Patriot Act because they didn't want to appear soft on terrorism, Adobe caved so it didn't appear soft on counterfeiting. Turns out they weren't the only ones: Currency Detection Discovered in More Products. But of course, it is all for naught: Currency Detector Easy to Defeat. So counterfeiters are undeterred, while PhotoShop gets bigger and slower.
Flawed Internet voting plan: here is theUC Berkeley press release and the final report. Press coverage: Risks Seen in Pentagon's Internet Voting Plan, Pentagon online voting blasted, Federal remote voting system called flawed.
World War II aerial reconnaissance photos: last weekendpress reports heralded the release online of a archive of 5 million World War II era RAF aerial reconnaissance photos at Evidenceincamera. The server was immediately and permanently swamped by the resulting web traffic, and now the site serves just a single page indicating that they will be back later.
EyeToy joy: as I mentioned herelast November, Dr. Rick Marks, my colleague at Sony PlayStation R&D has been having great success with his video-as-input research project which has turned into a hot-selling commercial product: EyeToy. Rick spoke about its evolution last week at Stanford (abstract, video) and there was a very nice profile in the LA Times: EyeToy Springs From One Man's Vision (requires registration, which LA Times makes much too intrusive, and then they spam you. I registered using fictitious information and a disposable email address from jetable.org).
Technobits: from NYT:As Consumers Revolt, a Rush to Block Pop-Up Online Ads, I haven't seen a pop-up since I started using Mozilla 1.0 in June 2002 --- frozen helium as supersolid --- CNN's story about Mike Rowe Soft
---website mixmaster: the look of one website, the content of another (for example here is PSACOT ala WIRED).
Maybe John Lassiter has spoiled me - I'm not sure I can any longer love non-Pixar animation (especially after seeing the trailer for their upcoming November release,The Incredibles). Sure, this is a clever, passably enjoyable, quite short film. Gary Baseman's drawing is fresh and distinctive, though pop art aficionados have seen it - as with contemporaries like Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring - widely displayed for years. Nathan Lane leads a group of vocal contributors (including Kelsey Grammer, Jerry Stiller, Paul Reubens, Wallace Shawn, and Megan Mullally) with an expansive performance that mixes in a healthy dose of musical theatre. The humor perhaps works better for the parents in the audience, though it does elicit a few good chuckles from the kids. But, as with the recent The Triplets of Bellevile, much of the film's charm and appeal is gone before the credits roll. Despite some effusive critical praise to the contrary, Teacher's Pet is not the latest animated classic to be delivered by Disney - that honor I expect will wait for the next Pixar picture.
Neal has already said it better in his guest review. I will only add that, despite its 2 1/2 hour running time, it doesn't seem so long. The film is first rate. Now that I have seen it, I will add it to my "top films of the year" list, as well as "nominating" some of the performers. First class entertainment if you have the time. Beautiful, well-written and well acted. Certainly doesn't make war look very appealing.
If you really love ballet, and especially if you've never seen the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, as Vicki and I had not, you'll enjoy this film, which is 70% ballet footage with a flimsy 30% wrapper of story featuring Neve Campbell and Malcolm McDowell in restrained performances. It's a Robert Altman film, which means it looks like a documentary, all shaky and handheld and bad audio and bad lighting and loose story telling that doesn't go much of anywhere. But it makes you feel like you have some insight into the inner lives of ballet dancers, so if you like that form of entertainment, you'll love this film. Rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language, some nudity and sexual content. 112 minutes.
Best Animated Film:
Best Supporting Actor:
In other categories, my favorite films so far this year are:
Narration by a dead person:
The Year's Nine Best Films
Why nine? Because I didn't see ten films I thought were that good. In alphabetical order (because I simply can't order them), here are the Nine Best Films of 2003.
Captain Kangaroo Dies, Ann Miller Obit, CBS Censors MoveOn, Dern/Fox on Churchill's Parrot, Dan Grobstein File
Tim Gartner spotted some great writing last Friday; the lead to an obit of Ann Miller:
Ann Miller, the long-legged tap-dancer with the lacquered raven hair and Nefertiti eye makeup whose athleticism made her a staple of big-screen musicals in the 1940's and 50's, died on Thursday at a Los Angeles hospital. She was believed to be about 80.
Kent Peterman passes this on:
The networks have been refusing to run "controversial" political ads (that is, ads they don't like, from anyone except the Democrats and Republicans) for years. Chance are we can't change their mind, but everyone in America should see this powerful and compelling advertisement.
Daniel Dern onpasses Bobbi Fox's note that Winston Churchill's parrot lives. No kidding!
Dan Grobstein File:
Big liberal rally in Berkeley, Calif.
Which government officials missed the State of the Union on purpose?\
"(T)ry this on for size instead: "My window cleaner told your gardener a year ago that you had a loose window in your backyard. You didn't do anything about it, so we figured it was OK to sneak in and take your stuff.""
New York Times
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