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 9, 2004

February 9, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 6

Table of Contents:

General News

  • To Be Or Not To Be... Sick
  • Presidential Follies
  • Journalism
  • News from Marlow
  • Political Notes
Computer Industry News
  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 20 Items on Janet Jackson's To-Do List


  • City of God
  • Barbarian Invasion
  • The Cooler
  • Along Came Polly


  • Peterman, Wolfe, Dan Grobstein File

General News

To Be Or Not To Be... Sick

Turns out there's another aspect of teaching--any year, not just your first year--that is highly controversial: whether to take a sick day if you can still stand up without falling over. There's a teacher at my school with 66 accumulated sick days. My best friend at school, a woman I've known for decades, toughs it out. If her voice is gone, she has a quiet day. I was hoping, by asking several teachers, to reach a consensus. There was no consensus. It is clear to me that leaving my class in the hands of a substitute for a day basically costs me a day. I was going to show the Thomas Jefferson movie anyway, and now my students have seen it and I haven't. Surely, I could have stood (or sat) in front of the class for six periods and toughed it out. But I'm coughing up brown phlegm, I'm exhausted, and I don't feel mentally clear. That' can't be good.

I'm not, as a rule, a whiner. In 30 years as a journalist, I missed less than a week of work because of illness. I missed two days in grade school, one week in high school, two days in college (I skipped a lot of classes, but not because I was ill).

In the end, I went with an approach that appeals to me, my BTSA advisor and my former-teacher mother: if you don't take the time off, the illness will only drag out. It may not be true, but that's the way I feel. In fact, I went to a homeopath, who gave me Echinacea, some acupuncture and a homeopathic remedy. I skipped band so I could go to bed at 9 Wednesday, and tried to run my classes for a day

Presidential Follies

It may seem odd to the small hand full of you who have been around since 1998, that I have yet to comment on this year's Democratic presidential field. After all, this column began as a way for me to blow off steam when the GOP was holding a lynching for President Clinton. And for those of you who can remember back to 2000, I certainly unloaded a few strong words on the successful GOP effort to steal the election and give us our first unelected president in more than a century (JQ Adams, R.B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison being our others).

I have avoided comment so far out of a sense of futility; the American people have shown, time and again, a perfect willingness to swallow whatever line of hooey Karl Rove chooses to feed them. I can take some solace from the fact, reported extensively during Tuesday's primaries, that the Democrats are more united than at any time in the last 40 years; 80% of them are boiling made and are willing to stand on their heads and spit wooden nickels to get rid of the "president." This level of anger hasn't been seen since... the Republicans in 2000.

Personally, I think Wesley Clark is the only candidate who has what it takes to win, but he's barely holding on. I doubt Kerry can win, I imagine Edwards might be able to win, and while I love Dean, his wife, and everything he stands for, the media elite targeted him for this year's assassination (they do this to one candidate almost every election cycle), so he's toast.

If Clark is still in the race when the California primary rolls around, I'll vote for him, because I think he could be the Democratic Eisenhower. I am certainly anxiously looking forward to see how Rove and the Republican spinmeisters will play the "president's" AWOL National Guard record against an honest American soldier, be it Clark or Kerry. But, hey, if they can assassinate Max Cleland's character in Georgia, I guess it's Willie Horton here we come.

I can only make three predictions about this fall's presidential campaign; first, the stench will fill our nostrils and turn our stomachs. Second, I can confidently predict that the GOP and its silver-spoon, country-club brigade of tax-dodging America haters will be throwing the mud (and worse) from beginning to end. Third, I can predict that between 49 percent and 51 percent of the American public will fall for it. That's the saddest prediction of all.


Award-winning journalist, USC professor, nice guy and personal friend Joe Saltzman was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. When I dropped him a line, he wrote back:

What I hate the most is the reporter who calls and interviews you until you give him the one quote he needs to finish his story -- with the angle his editor suggested. When I was a print reporter I let the story go wherever it took me. Now it seems reporters have a preconceived notion of what the story should be and work very hard to make sure they get that story. Any quote that doesn't fit their concept is ignored. Any quote -- even if it is just a piece of a entire thought -- that fits their concept is excerpted and used. Very annoying to be on the opposite end.

My response: "When I was in the magazine business, my editors used to write the headline first and we reported the story to fit. which is one of the reasons I am no longer in the magazine business... well, that, and being laid off :-) Alas, I do know what you mean by being misquoted in the paper. When I strung for Newsweek, we had a saying: "You'll always believe what you read in Newsweek until the first time it writes about something you know; then you'll never believe it again."

The two recent media inanities/insanities, the mediasphere decision to drive Dean from the presidential race because of his "I Have a Scream" speech, and the vast, mind-boggling overcoverage of Janet Jackson's undercoverage, simply reinforce something I've said for a long time: thank God I got out of general assignment journalism.

News From Marlow

More details of Marlow's travels are here.

I slipped on some ice on my trek up the mountain that is the obstacle between J's place and the Itaewon subway stop. An old woman was the only one who saw it though. I walked around Itaewon a little, it is very foreigner oriented. Lots of shopping, a huge Burger King and a bunch of bars. Lots of the US Army GIs hang out there since it is near the base. They're also the reason that one of the hills in the area is affectionately referred to as Hooker Hill. There were a lot more foreigners in Seoul than in Taipei, partially because of the army, but also I think just because there are more people in general. I saw a lot more black people than I've seen in any other Asian city so far. Eventually I found the subway and headed out to Gyeongbokguang (Palace). The subway is useful since It's such a huge city, but there are a million lines which it makes it a little confusing at times, and the names are hard to get familiar with in one week if you don't speak Korean, but when I started reading the Chinese signs as well it actually got a little easier. The subway wasn't as clean as here or in Hong Kong, but considering how vast it was, it would be really expensive to be dusting the ceilings every day I imagine. Anyway, I got to the palace and got the audio tour. Although there are some disadvantages to traveling alone, it was nice that I could do everything in Marlow time. I never had to worry about holding anyone up or rushing someone through something because I found it boring. I could linger some places and skip other places purely based on my own reaction. So I learned about the Palace, which was pretty and vast, but unfortunately, the end of every building description was normally a description of how it was burned or bombed either by the Japanese invasion, the Japanese occupation, or the Korean war, and then a description of who decided to rebuild it. So very little there was actually older than 50 years, except for one building which was slightly older than 100, but that's kind of like America old, not so impressive. I was going to go to the neighboring palace as well, but I was kind of disappointed by the lack of actual old stuff, and I thought I'd gotten the general idea from all the different parts of Gyeongbokguang anyway.


I had fun in Seoul, but it really isn't a very tourist friendly town per se. I'm glad J and M were so willing to include me in their social circle, it was fun meeting so many veteran ex-pats and hear their stories and situations, but it also made me feel really young. They also talk about children, marriage, appliances, designer furniture, who the best electrician is, shipping containers. Often the man was transferred there for work and the wife or girlfriend was along for the ride, with no real hope of finding a job in English in Seoul if they hadn't also gotten a transfer from their own work.

As for the actual Koreans, they were very prim and proper. I already talked about their confucian style hierarchy. I'd heard about it but it was something else to see it in action. Everyone really does eat Kimchi and drink soju all the time, those aren't stereotypes. Every spare street corner or rooftop has fermenting kimchi pots. Women don't smoke on the street. Everyone wears a sensible black winter coat. Maybe khaki colored if you're an especially smart dresser, or pink if you're a little girl. Everyone has sensible brown or black dress shoes. The men are wearing suIt's in the restaurants and bars. The women are wearing make-up and skirts never above the knee, though that may have been a winter time thing. Like being in Thailand it was hard not being able to speak to people in Chinese or read the signs, but in general I'm happy I decided to live in Taipei and not Seoul, having made my decision relatively uninformed. Taipei is a much more accessible and colorful city. They are both relatively young, and the food might have been a bit better in Seoul, but Taipei has more character I'd say.

Political Notes

Maybe the FBI really will arrest somebody someday for blowing a CIA agent's cover. Somebody who works for Dick Cheney or... Dick Cheney?

Is the Al Sharpton campaign a GOP dirty trick? Thank you, Richard Dalton.

Christine Bolzan's letter to the Boston Globe regarding CBS's choice to air the Superbowl halftime show but not MoveOn's anti-Bush-deficit spot. Thank you, Craig Reynolds.

Anthrax. We don't hear much about it anymore. The FBI is stymied and says it can't figure out who sent it to the Senate and the media. But there's more here than meets the eye. On Oct. 24, 2001, not long after 9/11, the Associated Press reported that Cipro (the anti-Anthrax antibiotic) was given to White House staff the day of the suicide attacks. Why? Cipro won't protect you against hijacked airliner crashes. The Bush Administration won't say why it felt an anthrax attack was on the way and is fighting in court to preserve its right to keep this information secret. Judicial Watch, a mostly right-wing Washington legal group, has sued to find out why the Cipro was given. No resolution yet to their case. Meanwhile, in the Nov. 28, 2003 issue of Science, starting on p. 1492 ($10 to see it online), this sober and scientific journal lays out a clear case that the government, or someone with access to government facilities, either ours or someone else's, sent the anthrax. Science doesn't say that, because it is in the business of presenting facts, not conclusions. Read the article Draw your own conclusions. And be afraid, be very afraid.

From Richard Dalton:

This is one of the best sales pitches for an organization that I've seen. Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream uses Oreo cookies to explain the federal budget and how stupid it really is. In the process he gives you ample reason to consider joining the 300,000 True Majority members.

Let me add this is a truly effective presentation; I'd love to see John Kerry do a commercial with Ben that looks just like this flash movie. Also from Richard, the Pew Research Center Year-End Report:

A Year of Contention at Home and Abroad
In 2003, Americans found themselves increasingly at odds with each other - and the rest of the world. The title of our major survey of the nation's political landscape captured the public mood: "Evenly Divided and Increasingly Polarized."

Computer Industry News

By Craig Reynolds:

Pixar unbound: Pixar is now blessedly free of its long-standing entanglements with Disney. The further from clueless Eisner the better. If the current trends continue, everyone else associated with Disney will quit in protest over one or the other of Eisner's lame-brained moves. There has been a lot of coverage of what it all means for Jobs or Eisner or both: Hollywood Mogul Plays by Technology's Rules, Pixar, Disney Trade Barbs Over Failed Partnership, Clash of titans at Pixar, Disney, Jobs for Disney.

Microsoft, from the asinine to the incredulous: normally when I pick on Microsoft it is about the wacky annoying things they do, like undermining the free market by illegally using their monopoly power to subvert competition, or simply coming up with amazingly stupid file names (as blogged by my friend Andrew Glassner (writer and graphics guru)). But it is another matter entirely when they contribute to political repression in China. Amnesty International "...believes Microsoft is in violation of a new United Nations Human Rights code for multinationals which says businesses should 'seek to ensure that the goods and services they provide will not be used to abuse human rights'..."

Geeky graphical goodies: you might have noticed that on February 3, 2004 Google's logo became quite frilly and self-similar, in celebration of the birthday of Gaston Julia, namesake of the Julia Set. Clicking on the logo linked to a Google image search for "Julia fractals" near the top of that search were images from Paul Bourke's page on Quaternion Julia Fractals causing his server to (metaphorically) burst into flames. I first saw these lovely abstract shapes -- looking a bit like goo spun at high speeds -- in Alan Norton's 1989 SIGGRAPH paper "Julia Sets in the Quaternions." Its fun to see them (and Gaston Julia) get their day in the sun, even if at the expense of Bourke's excellent web site. While we are on the subject, I wanted to point out the BuddahBrot page which shows a striking variation on the standard visualizations of the Mandelbrot Set. To round out this tour of geeky graphical goodies, take a look at Electric Sheep by Scott Draves, starting perhaps with this narrated tour [in QuickTime].

Technobits: from Boing, Boing: Protect your investment: buy open consumers should vote for end-user value, against proprietary DRM --- cool interactive Search Engine Relationship Chart --- "...Booble will have legs as long as Google keeps writing to us..."


The Top 20 Items on Janet Jackson's To-Do List

I made the list. Barely, at No. 19, but I made it.

February 6, 2004
20> Ask doctor about that funky growth on my right nipple.
19> Volunteer to atone by singing the national anthem at the World Series.
18> Have Saturday night's quickie Vegas marriage to Britney annulled.
17> Buy something nice for Ms. Lefty so she won't feel ignored.
16> Trim pubes for the Grammys.
15> Cancel that DNA test -- I'm *definitely* a Jackson.
14> Try a new approach for charming my way into a White House photo-op.
13> Apologize to Paris Hilton for stealing her Web traffic.
12> Have cotter pin installed in nipple to keep jewelry from falling off.
11> Teach Dennis Kucinich how to get some much-needed national attention ASAP.
10> Suggest to Michael's lawyers that they try using the term "libido malfunction" in court.
9> Monday, 9 a.m. -- mandatory meeting in Ashcroft's office.
8> Lend Super Bowl outfit to Martha Stewart for upcoming attempt at a mistrial.
7> Blame the CIA, then appoint an independent commission to look into the matter and report back to me after the election.
6> Sue the pants off of Justin Timberlake -- preferably on MTV during sweeps week.
5> Rip open the other window and dangle both babies.
4> Stage an open-mouthed kiss with Michael on the Grammys to revive our careers.
3> Book a flight to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. At least *there* you get beads.
2> Prepare "wardrobe malfunction" for tonight's date with Ashton Kutcher.
and's Number 1 Item on Janet Jackson's To-Do List...
1> Kick that idiot Timberlake's ass; try to get "Free Michael!" tattoo removed from left breast.

[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 90 submissions from 38 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Mark Schmidt, Paris, France -- 1 (20th #1/Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 19


City of God

An unremitting violence-filled bloodbath. Oh, it has good amateur acting, and clever camera angles and a lot of directorly touches. But four Academy Awards nominations, including best director and best adapted screenplay? And raves from all the big papers and reviewers? Puh-leeze. I went to see it so you don't have to. On the one hand, it is nice to see a movie once in a while that isn't about upper middle class white people and their petty problems. But this just wasn't entertaining, or uplifting, or important. It just roughs you up for no good reason.

Barbarian Invasions

On the other hand, this 99-minute French-Canadian wonder, rated R for language, sexual dialogue and drug content (and there's a lot of drug content) lives up to its tagline ("A provocative new comedy about sex, friendship, and all other things that invade our lives.") and its plot summary:

Having a difficult time accepting the reality of death and feeling regretful of his past, a man dying of cancer tries to find peace in his last moments. His estranged son, ex-wife, ex-lovers and old friends will all come to him to share his last breath.

It doesn't make socialized medicine look very good, but it does make everyone who acts in it look terrific. It is entertaining, engaging, funny, tragic, serious and comic by turns. It makes you think, laugh and cry. It deserves the best foreign picture Oscar for sure, and might win best screenplay, although that is, as always, a tough competition.

Go see it.

The Cooler

Just when you thought Alec Baldwin was going to turn into Harrison Ford, he decides to take a sharp right turn and do character roles. He does a serious one in this film, and a comic one in the fourth film I saw this week, Along Came Polly.

Now, the Cooler definitely belongs to the leads, William H. Macy (brilliant as usual) and Maria Bello (whom I dimly remember from Coyote Ugly, a terrible film), who play a couple of losers at the bottom of the Las Vegas food chain. But Baldwin steals almost every scene he is in, as the living icon of Old Las Vegas, struggling to survive.

This is a fantasy about good guys finishing first, and since I like that story line, I liked this film. It's a cute little 101 minute indie film, rated R for strong sexuality, violence, language and some drug use. No big, slick, Hollywood values, just an interesting story told in an interesting way.

Along Came Polly

No one has to worry about an Oscar campaign for this fluffy Hollywood product--except maybe for the non-existent Oscar for good sense and good judgment, awarded to comedies that only run 90 minutes (hooray!) Ben Stiller is a man whose continued employment still amazes me (must be family connections). Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, is showing some real talent and, alone among the Friends cast, may have a movie career ahead of her, in both comedy and drama. And Philip Seymour Hoffman, the comic relief in this comedy, had best be on guard, elst he be declared a national treasure. The man is an acting genius, and assays a one-hit wonder child start at mid-life in the movies' most hysterical scenes.

Don't walk across the street, but if the movie you want to see is sold out, you could do worse than while away an hour and half with this film.


Peterman, Wolfe, Dan Grobstein File

Kent Peterman notes: Vegetable Rights- Take Action Now! and Why aren't Vegans bothered by tearing the flesh off of oranges and bananas, or ripping the leaves from innocent lettuce?

Don't miss Marjorie Wolfe's Valentine's Day column. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants...

The Dan Grobstein File

  • From Reuters: Howard Dean, a physician and a Democratic presidential candidate, on Monday dismissed as "silly" a government inquiry into whether indecency rules were broken during the broadcast of the Super Bowl halftime show when pop diva Janet Jackson's bodice was ripped to expose her right breast.

Paul Schindler's comment: My feeling: like the New York Daily News, I think Janet Jackson's silver nipple shield demonstration was a "Tempest in a C-Cup." I also think Howard Dean's Iowa concession was not his "I have a scream speech," but a small incident, vastly, vastly overplayed. Which, like Muskie's crying in 1972 (which was actually melted snow on his cheeks, by the way), took on a life of its own and killed a candidacy. Damn the media.

  • The Toronto Star thinks American has caught on to Bush's frantic spin.
  • Brad DeLong, a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy, has written a telling critique of Bush deficit projections for the Center for American Progress.

New York Times

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