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: February 2, 2004

February 2, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 5

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism
  • About Goy and Goyim
  • News from Marlow
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • None


  • Guest Review: Japanese Story
  • Guest Review: Monster
  • Guest Review: The Company
  • Pieces of April
  • Oscar: How'd I Do?


  • Jews and Comics, Missing Vowels, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Groundhog Day (The Movie) and Buddhism

Welcome to another perennial item. I run this one every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day, since the Bill Murray movie of the same name is my favorite movie of all times.

I went to a showing of Groundhog Day sponsored by the San Francisco Zen Center on Friday, Aug. 10, 2001, held in the Trustees' Auditorium of the Asian Art Museum in Golden Gate Park (relocating in October 2002 to the old SF Main library in the civic center).

I have so much to say about this exciting, exhilarating, eye-opening experience that it is now a subsite entitled Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me, which includes a description of that seminal showing, commentary, and links to other sites that deal with the connection. While noticing the connection between this movie and Buddhism is not particularly profound, it was news to me, and the nuances were explored in a particularly exciting fashion during the Zen Center presentation. My set of pages are rapidly gaining ground as the authoritative center for GHD/Buddhism commentary on the web.

Also present that August day was Tom Armstrong who wrote three very well-received articles on this movie which I have proudly made available again, after a long absence from the Internet: "The Ned Ryerson Conundrum", On the Trail of the Groundhog: Groundhog Day is a Great Buddhist Movie, as well as The Greatest Buddhist Movie Ever Made!!

In the meantime, exciting news about GHD writer Danny Rubin, who now has his own web page, which includes his bio, a list of his works in progress (exciting) and a list of his sold films (also exciting), which includes:

Variety July 11, 2001: Revolution Studios has picked up a pitch called "The Hanging Tale" from scribe Danny Rubin ("Groundhog Day") for low six figures to be produced with Jim Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment.

I won't of course, print the entire Variety article, but I did find a reference to it which adds another tantalizing detail:

The film, THE HANGING TALE, is described as being a PRINCESS BRIDE-esque tale about an Old West cowboy who spins yarns about his search for Spanish treasures before his scheduled public hanging.

The other film in the works:

Variety, July 19, 2001: Propaganda Films has optioned the romantic comedy spec "Martian Time" from "Groundhog Day" scribe Danny Rubin.

No word on release dates for these films; I'll keep looking for them. Go Danny!

Goy and Goyim

After mentioning last week that I had referred to myself in class as a goy, I ran across an interesting essay on the subject:

"Goyim" means "nations" (plural) in the original Hebrew and in Yiddish has come to mean "a non-Jew." Goy" means "nation" (singular) but is also used to refer to someone (singular) who is not Jewish (the usage has to do with a Biblical reference which (in context in the original language) refers to "other nations" that is, other than the nation of Israelites).

If a male non-Jewish Yiddish speaker wished to refer to himself in a linguistically correct manner using a cognate of "goy," the reference would be: "I am a goy". One could also theoretically properly say "I am one of the goyim." A politically correct Jew (of either sex) would not use the term in this context (to refer to a non-Jewish male) because through usage it has become somewhat derogatory. The appropriate phrase would be "He is not Jewish."

As Robert Malchman noted:

First of all, you're a "goy." "Goyim" is plural. Second, the "Jr." is a giveaway if you're Ashkenazi (which "Schindler" likely would be, but not always -- I have relatives named "Shindler" who are part Sephardic on their mothers' side). The Sephardim don't subscribe to the theory that the living lose part of their soul if you use their name for someone else. Third, Batman's creator [Bob Kane] was also Jewish.

News From Marlow

You heard about that exploding whale in Taiwan? Marlow says a) she was in Korea and b) it was as far away from her as Santa Barbara is from San Francisco. In short, she didn't see it. She has lots to say about Korea, some of which will be in next week's column.

More details of Marlow's travels are here. This is about Chinese New Years:

When everyone was reassembled we went down to Xindian, the southernmost part of Taipei, along a river. I'd been down there with G, that's where we did the swan paddle boats. Although it was a bit cold, since it was a clear night it was a good place to see fireworks. They've supposedly cracked down on fireworks this year, making them illegal in Taipei. But there were still plenty. We got there around midnight. We walked over the extension bridge and saw plenty of professional caliber fireworks, but here in Taipei there is no official show like in America for new years, it's a free for all of privately bought fireworks, either set off over the river for the civicly responsible, or from rooftops for the more daring, less caring. We bought only one firework, it was the type that is a big crepe paper balloon with a bunch of wax boards at the bottom suspended in the middle with wires. You can write wishes or messages on the balloon, but we didn't have a pen, when you light the wax boards the hot air fills the balloon and it lifts off. We released ours a little too close to the bridge, and although the bridge didn't really have that much wood, there was still a slightly harrowing moment when it got caught up in one of the suspensions, but it fried itself, fire and all, without real incident. As the guest, I got to light the wax. There were people with sparklers and smaller fire works too, but given the impromptu nature of the event, the display was pretty impressive, though not at all coordinated. The whole place sounded and smelled like a war, but an old fashioned war, complete with incense (for a more pleasant smelling beheading). Actually the fireworks had started a couple days before, and are still going on. I think the only fireworks the government successfully banned are just the ones on a string that used to be put off at street level, I believe to scare away bad spirit's. When we'd had our fill my teacher and his wife dropped me off at home since the subway had stopped running.

Political Notes

Bob Nilsson checks in:

While this article in the Black Commentator goes a bit overboard on a media conspiracy theory, there is definitely danger in a handful of corporations owning all major media outlets. We are likely approaching a no-man's land between the consolidation of old, traditional news sources and the time when new Internet blog style news distribution gains widespread readership.

Read "The Halliburton Shuffle" by Bob Herbert in The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2004 (Halliburton "continues to benefit from the nation's largesse, while scouring the world for places to shelter as much of its American riches as possible.")

Brilliant electoral map analysis from the New York Times, comparing "giver" states to "taker states." The group that votes GOP might surprise you. Thank you, Dan Grobstein. Also from Dan: use Amazon to contribute to presidential candidates, and a profile of Judy Steinberg Dean from The Nation.

Thinking about emigrating to Canada, in case the presidential election in the fall goes badly (or is cancelled)? I know I'm at least looking into it.

From Wired via Richard Dalton: He calls himself MrLiberal, but "Master" might be a more appropriate title. At 15, Stephen Yellin is a widely read commentator on a popular left-wing political blog. So what if he's still in high school?

In the spirit of l'esprit d'escalier (things you realize later you wish you'd said in the first place) comes a response to last week's item about the tongue-tied pool reporters attempting to question President Bush at a cafe. At the time his sole interest was ordering ribs for himself and the press pool.

The appropriate response from the pool reporter (just before boarding the plane to Guantanamo) was:

1. The other day you said the economy was recovering, are you now telling the American people that you proposed too much in the way of tax cuts for your rich campaign contributors and not enough for working people like this woman behind the counter trying to get your order?

2. Speaking of people being overpaid, would you agree sir that you're being vastly overpaid in your only current official role, which is being the ex-Governor of Texas?

It's little wonder they can't find really important news.


Is Richard Perle being paid to raise money for terrorists? Perle is a member of the Department of Defense Policy Board and was chairman of the Board until one of his conflicts of interest which could aid an enemy of the United States as previously reported by PSACOT and other leading news organizations led to his resignation as Board chairman. According to "Charity Event May Have Terrorist Link" by Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post, p. A8, January 29, 2004:

"Pentagon advisor Richard N. Perle, a strong advocate of war against Iraq, spoke last weekend at a charity event that U.S. officials say may have had ties to an alleged terrorist group seeking to topple the Iranian government and backed by Saddam Hussein." According to The Post, Perle's appearance was arranged by the Premiere Speakers Bureau; Perle refused to say how much he was paid to speak. On Jan. 26, 2004, as part of a continuing investigation, the Treasury Department froze the assets of the event's prime organizer according to The Post.

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs Ongoing eVote debacle: Paul Krugman writes about the sorry state of electronic voting technology under the headline Democracy at Risk. At the request of the state of Maryland, a group of white-hat hackers were able to compromise mock election results by exploiting a variety of security holes in Diebold voting machines, resulting in what a University of Maryland professor characterized as "a grade of F." Maybe it is just a coincidence, or maybe it is the wisdom of the marketplace, but Diebold's electronic voting machine division suffered a drop in sales this year.

Technobits: "copyright" for databases? --- response to The Digital Imprimatur: See You on the Darknet --- Just Say 'No' to Record Labels --- Kazaa's man-bites-dog suit of big media companies moves forward in the courts, similarly: DVD-Jon to sue Norwegian government after acquittal --- rural Cambodia online --- Wikipedia Shows Power of Cooperation --- wireless cable TV --- "happy" ending --- Google Releases Orkut Social Networking Service --- more on Google bombing.




Guest Review: Monster

Charlize Theron physically becomes prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins's Monster. In a face- and body-distorting effort that recalls Robert DeNiro's transformation into Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, Theron is riveting. It is difficult not to look at her, though the film is often painful and discomforting to watch. She is bloated and unkempt, and moves in an overly-masculine, swaggering style, struggling at times with her prosthetic facial make-up. She is all blotchy skin and dark roots, chain smoking and drinking, on both the receiving and the inflicting ends of a series of heinous acts. While Jenkins and Theron inject flashes of conscience, caring, and decency into the Wuornos character, the overall portrayal is of a hair-trigger psychotic. Christina Ricci plays Wuornos's friend and lover Shelby Wall, an outcast desperately seeking affection wherever she can find it. It's nice to see long-lost Bruce Dern in a small role, as Wuornos's only male friend and protector. But Monster is all about Charlize Theron - her unflinchingly performance is devastating.

--Neal Vitale

Guest Review: Japanese Story

This film chronicles the relationship that develops between an Australian geologist (Toni Colette) and a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) as she is forced into touring him around vast unpopulated stretches of the outback to view mining sites. Japanese Story is nicely shot and moves along well on a wafer-thin story, tracking the pair as they evolve unexpectedly from testy distaste for each other, through calamities and intimacy, to ultimate tragedy. But it is Collette - an underrated but consistently strong actor since her early days in the excellent 1995 release, Muriel's Wedding - who carries the film with an excellent performance that takes her character from stolid, non-nonsense independence to tenderness, vulnerability, and despair.

--Neal Vitale

Guest Review: The Company

I review this last week; here's Neal's more erudite take (bottom line: we agreed you should see it):

Robert Altman's nearly half-century of film directing has included its share of successes (Nashville - on my all-time Top 10, The Player, M*A*S*H, Gosford Park) and failures (Dr. T & The Women, Short Cuts, Popeye, Pret-A-Porter). But, throughout, Altman has been brilliant at capturing ensemble performances - often using non-traditional and lesser-known actors - and weaving multiple plotlines into a compelling narrative. He was also ahead of his time in using music to both drive and complement the story. In his latest, The Company, Altman presents a near-documentary of several months for The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Again, the film reflects his penchant for multiple angles - we see the troupe in front of an audience, watch it practice and rehearse, and see an individual performer (Neve Campbell) interact with her family and attempt to have a personal life outside dance. There is relatively little plot; instead, we see several ballets being developed, refined, and ultimately presented live - these works are beautiful, both visually and aurally. The film's soundtrack is lovely, featuring multiple renditions of "My Funny Valentine," a revival of Twin Peaks chanteuse Julee Cruise, Yo Yo Ma, and idiosyncratic pop icon Van Dyke Parks. Malcolm McDowell is perfect in a nicely-modulated turn as artistic director of the troupe; his performance reminds you of how he has been relegated to dreadful roles for much of the last two decades. But the seemingly effortless manner in which Altman's ties all of this together and keeps your attention solidly on the screen for nearly two hours is a tribute to his talents. The Company is well worth seeing.

--Neal Vitale

Pieces of April

Pieces of April is a lovely little independent movie, shot in digital, featuring some fantastic performances, including one by Patricia Clarkson, who missed out on best supporting actress at the Golden Globes and will probably miss again at Oscar time. My countdown list doesn't go as far down as supporting actor or actress, so I won't be adding her, but I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers. This is a well-written, well-acted ensemble piece that will scare the daylights out of any parent. I know it scared me. Kudos to Oliver Platt and Katie Holmes, who carries the film in the title role of April. She's done a smattering of small TV (Dawson's Creek) and film roles. This could be a breakthrough for her.

Oscar: How'd I do?

Here were my best picture picks: Seabiscuit, Lost in Translation, Mystic River, Something's Gotta Give, Cold Mountain. The academy stiffed Something and Cold Mountain, and gave a nod to Master and Commander, which I haven't seen, as well as Lord of the Rings, which I saw and enjoyed but don't consider Best Picture material. I could argue about Cold Mountain, but apparently the members of the Academy, in light of the fact that Western Union no longer delivers telegrams, decided to send Miramax a message by not nominating the film.

I got three of the five best actor picks. My list: Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men), Sean Penn (21 Grams), Jack Nicholson (Something's Gotta Give), Jude Law (Cold Mountain). Of course, I knew Penn couldn't be nominated twice. Johnny Depp got a nod for Pirates of the Carribean, as well as Ben Kingsely for House of Sand and Fog, neither of which I saw. Depp must have massively transcended his material in Pirates, but I don't find that hard to believe, considering his performance in Once Upon A Time In Mexico, when he did exactly that as a renegade CIA agent. What can I say about Cage and Nicholson? They deserved nods and didn't get them.

I only got one Best Actress right, Diane Keaton for Something's Gotta Give. I'm rooting for Keisha Castle-Hughes from Whale Rider, on my list of best Indie films of the year.

The Academy and I agree on two of the five best director nominees, Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Clint Eastwood (Mystic River). I can't believe Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings), Fernando Meirelles (Cidade de Deus) and Peter Weir (Master and Commander) are serious candidates. Especially Fernando.

I admit my best screenwriting favorites were odd because they didn't match my best movie favorites, but still, I don't the Academy should have stiffed all of them: Nikki Reed (Thirteen), Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give), Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain).

There are three nominees for Best Animated Film, but if Nemo doesn't win, there is something seriously wrong with the Universe.

A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow, intended as a joke, is actually a very clever song from Mighty Wind, and I hope it wins, as this was my favorite mockumentary this year. The Academy's snub of Station Agent is unconscionable.


Jews and Comics, Missing Vowels, Dan Grobstein File

How the Jews Created The Comic Book Industry, the Golden Age and the Silver Age.

From Peggy Coquet via Slate:

Shopping for that perfect cammera? A new bycicle? Perhaps some antiks? You're in luck: according to the NYT, there are a plethora of products on eBay that you can pick up on the cheap, assuming you're not much for the old spell check. An underground community has begun to troll the site looking for items that, thanks to a missing vowel or two, elude the notice of most potential bidders. One man bought a box of gers--that's gears to you and me--for $2, only to sell them, using the correct spelling, for $200. Pretty good money for an a.

Dan Grobstein File

  • More passive aggressive humor from those wacky Canadians: a Fox Network-type solution to selecting a new Iraqi government, from the Toronto Star.

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