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: March 1, 2004

March 1, 2004 Vol. 6, No. 9

Table of Contents:

General News

  • October Surprise
  • Groundhog Day Controversy
  • Political Notes

Computer Industry News

  • Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs


  • The Top 20 Lessons We've Learned in 10 Years of Doing This
  • Al Sharpton Joke


  • Greetings from Mooseport
  • Neal Vitale's DVD Quicktakes
  • Fog of War: Guest Commentary


  • Peggy Coquet on Spiritual Reviews, Marlow Finds MIT Video, Kevin Sullivan Waxes Philosophical, Dalton on the Environment, The Dan Grobstein File

General News

October Surprise

Osama Bin Forgotten. Remember him? I'm sure George Bush does. And a surprising number of my intelligent, well-informed friends agree with Madeline Albright:

Dec. 17, 2003:

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Fox News Channel analyst Morton Kondracke yesterday she suspects President Bush knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and is simply waiting for the most politically expedient moment to announce his capture.

It's called the October Surprise. Nixon did it when he had Kissinger announce that "Peace Is At Hand." Carter could have done it, if Reagan hadn't undercut his negotiations with the Iranians by promising them a better deal. And the sad thing is, the American people will believe Bush when he says he "just caught Osama," and will re-elect him--hell, they'll have a coronation, repeal the 22nd Amendment and hand the country to over him. I'll try not to let the national door hit me on the butt on my way out.

Note also that this same item was reported by Iranian newspaper last weekend. Can't trust 'em, you say? They had Iran/Contra right way before US Newspapers did.

Groundhog Day: Original Idea?

Daniel Dern highlighted a controversy in the sci-fi community regarding the provenance of the plot of Groundhog Day. The controversy was thoroughly aired at the Apothecary's Drawer Weblog in June 2001. I am not in any way convinced Danny Rubin borrowed any of his ideas from any of these sources. Sometimes, where there is smoke, there is not any fire.

Here's an excerpt:

June 28th 2001 An interesting article in The Author (Society of Authors house mag) Summer 2001 edition: Rights in Ideas: how not to sell a novel to Hollywood by Leon Arden. Arden describes in some detail how he sued - and lost - a case based on his claim that Columbia Pictures plagiarised his 1981 novel, The Devil's Trill (retitled One Fine Day) which they had read and rejected as a movie script. Arden's hero finds himself stuck in a time loop, he alone realising that he's repeating a single day over and over. He tries and fails to seduce the heroine, collects personal information about her to help him succeed, etc etc. You get the picture: sounds not a million miles from Groundhog Day.

Other links from the weblog:

Detroit News, December 12 1995 account mentions details of One Fine Day that differ radically in style from the light comedy of Groundhog Day.

SF Recollections by Richard Lupoff: Lupoff suggests that "a major theatrical film" (identifiable as Groundhog Day) plagiarised his work...a 1993 TV movie called 12:01... a "very loose" adaptation of a 1990 Oscar-nominated short film, 12:01 PM, based on a short story by Lupoff published in Fantasy And Science Fiction magazine in 1973.

Discussion at Fiction-L Archives - 'Replay': Second Chance or Infinite Recurrence Novels shows that the idea of time-loop is quite common in SF.

Presidential Prayer Team

Dan Grobstein found this. It's a little long, but apt. It is all over the Internet (and now it is here too), so much so that I cannot figure out who wrote it in the first place.

The Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to:

"Pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With any forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government."

I am told that this is true.

Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action.
So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage entirely on biblical principles:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines, in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If  the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe, and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously
offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

Political Notes

Rep. John Dingell notes that the White House, in an echo of Reagan's definition of ketchup as a vegetable, now defines McDonald's as a manufacturing job.

Dan Grobstein found a bunch of great quotes:

In the end, it is really simple. The thing to hold on to is that nobody who works for him and knows him well believes that George W. Bush is qualified to be the President of the United States.

From Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty. It was on March 6, 2001, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill concluded that George W. Bush was not qualified to be the President of the United States:

O'Neill was surprised at [Whitman's] memo's frankness. Whitman was laying down the gauntlet. Hers were fighting words, but certainly true. As Whitman noted, Bush had "credibility" issues. O'Neill thought about Gerald Ford. Was Ford smarter than Henry Kissinger and James Schlesinger--or for that matter him and Greenspan. All four regularly struggled, openly and fiercely, on various landscapes of public policy. And all could claim expertise that Ford couldn't match. Yet everyone, eventually, had deferred to Ford's judgment. Why? It wasn't just because he was the president, O'Neill thought. If only it could be that easy. It was respect born from a deeper constant. After Ford finally held forth, settling this issue or that, each man had the same thought: I like the way he thinks.

O'Neill knew that Whitman had never heard [George W. Bush] analyze a complex issue, parse opposing positions, and settle on a judicious path. In fact, no one--inside or outside the government, here or across the globe--had heard him do that.... And that, O'Neill decided, was what Whitman was getting at.... It was not just [George W. Bush's] credibility around the world. It was his credibility with his most senior officials.

Bush has no plans to back a constitutional amendment banning, say, marrying purely for citizenship, no-fault divorce, Las Vegas chapels, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, Married by America, Who Wants to Mary a Millionaire, or any of the multitude of other things which can cheapen or weaken the institution of marriage. Nor will Bush back constitutional amendments against adultery, fornication, witchcraft, working on Sunday, wearing garments made of interwoven linen and wool, letting women be uncovered, women having authority over men, or any of the multitude of other biblical laws which are no longer followed by the state. Also, I am willing to bet he has no plans to make an intellectual argument as to why gay marriage should be banned and how it fits in with the freedom-enhancing Constitution.

As Joe Klein said, "He said he was a war president, but apparently the war he wants to fight is a culture war"



It's not just that he got the job based partly on his family name. You could say the same thing about FDR, JFK, Bush Sr, and Al Gore, and it doesn't especially bother me about any of them. It's more that I just can't figure out how he managed to become a consensus party choice for president after a mere single term as governor of Texas.


More Calpundit


The Ziobrowski study notes that the politicians' timing of transactions is uncanny. Most stocks bought by senators had shown little movement before the purchase. But after the stock was bought, it outperformed the market by 28.6 per cent on average in the following calender year.

Returns on sell transactions are equally intriguing. Stocks sold by senators performed in line with the market the year following the sale.


A very true and disrespectful flash movie about the "president" was discovered by Richard Dalton. He also found this quote:

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
- Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)


It's not clear who dropped the ball or if this were just another theft of taxpayer funds (your money) from unskeptical public servants. Read A Secret Hunt Unravels in Afghanistan by Steve Coll in The Washington Post.


Is the government hiding the truth about the number of America's casuaties in Iraq?


Thank you Craig Reynolds

Very Scary Stuff About John Ashcroft

CNN: Profiling John Ashcroft

Soldier for the Truth
Exposing Bush's talking-points war
by Marc Cooper

Computer Industry News

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

The Big One -- Climate Change: the Bush administration ludicrously claims global warming does not exist, so it must have annoyed them to read the report from their respected Pentagon adviser, Andrew Marshall. Among his conclusions in the recently leaked report: global warming is a greater and more urgent threat to security than terrorism. In fact the Bush administration found the report so distasteful that they suppressed it for several months, despite its urgent call for immediate action. The report assumes vast climate change over the next two decades, leading to disruptions in supplies of food and water, breakdown of international order, and military conflicts, possibly leading to nuclear war. Like many web surfers, I came across the story this week at The Observer, but as Mother Jones points out, it was actually broken by Fortune two weeks earlier.

Forbes on RSS: when I presented a gentle introduction to RSS here last September I admitted to being unhip and behind the times. Now I know I am at least less unhip than Forbes. They ran their introduction to RSS article this week.

Technobits: Ken Starr on Microsoft: A stitch in crime --- RFID backlash ("Some companies naively thought that privacy would not be an issue for consumers.") --- Record Companies Cut Corners in Crusade Against File-Sharers --- EFF proposal: a flat fee for music sharing --- a scary look inside the Customer Support call center: We don't support that --- DoubleClick hopes online anonymity will fade --- --- don't trust Diebold? vote absentee! --- more on catapults --- Earth almost put on asteroid impact alert --- Grey Tuesday --- EyeToy: Groove.


The Top 20 Lessons We've Learned in 10 Years of Doing This

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the list, and I eked out a contribution at the bottom of the list. No. 20 is mine:

February 23, 2004

20> Cost of a PC: $1,000 Cost of an online account: $20/month Yearly earnings of a TopFive contributor: jack shit

19> The Pauly Shore Fan Club may be small, but it sure is scrappy.

18> Never go skinny-dipping immediately after writing your TopFive submissions. Not to avoid cramping; to comply with your neighbors' restraining order.

17> College admissions directors rarely appreciate the magnitude of scoring a TopFive hat trick.

16> Sleeping your way into the Hall of Fame is much more tolerable if you have narcolepsy.

15> Pat Sajak could kick that geek Alex Trebek's ass in a New York minute.

14> Bill Muse has the uncanny ability to reach across space and time, read your mind, and steal your #1 entry before you can think of it. Before you even know the topic, actually.

13> Al Gore was far funnier as a candidate than he ever would have been as president.

12> When yo'ure (out of) funny ideas, jamming a fork !into an electrical:outlet can activate the-brain's humor cortex; and punctuation center?

11> You can make fun of Clinton getting a hummer, but you can't make fun of Bush for [REST OF ITEM DETAINED INDEFINITELY AT GUANTANAMO IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY].

10> Spraying your e-mail submissions with Obsession dramatically increases your chances for a list spot.

9> Making no money by spending all our time doing this turned out to be a damned good way to avoid losing a bundle on tech stocks.

8> Stopping at five is hard, except when it comes to lighting farts.

7> With contributors from Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, France, the UK and all across the U.S., TopFive has discovered the one true international language: boner jokes.

6> The small fork goes on the lef-- no wait, the right... oh crap!

5> We would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!

4> Lists including a reference to Girl Scout Scientologists for gun control inspire very creative suggestions of self-love from our open-minded readers.

3> Febreze is a godsend, since Chris White smells like bad guacamole.

2> Write online submissions *first*; masturbate to online images *second*, as it saps your energy.

and's Number 1 Lesson We've Learned in 10 Years of Doing This...

1> The money, fame, drugs and groupies are only temporary rewards -- what's really important is serving as role models for America's children.
[ The Top 5 List ]
[ Copyright 2004 by Chris White ]
Selected from 112 submissions from 39 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Ed Smith, Chattanooga, TN -- 1 (25th #1/Hall of Famer)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 20

Al Sharpton Joke

Al Sharpton is visiting a primary school and he visits one of the classes.  They are in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings.

The teacher asks the Rev. Sharpton if he would like to lead the discussion of the word "tragedy."
So the illustrious leader asks the class for an example of a  "tragedy."

One little boy stands up and offers: "If my best friend, who lives on a  farm, is  playing in the field and a runaway tractor comes along and knocks him dead, that would be a tragedy."

"No," says the Great Al Sharpton," that would be an accident."

A little girl raises her hand: "If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy."

"I'm afraid not," explains the exalted spiritual leader. "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room goes silent. No other children volunteer. Rev. Sharpton searches the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?"

Finally at the back of the room a small boy raises his hand.

In a quiet voice he says: "If a plane carrying the Rev. Sharpton were struck by a missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaims Sharpton, "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be tragedy?"

"Well," says the boy, "because it sure as hell wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either." 


Greetings from Mooseport

A silly trifle, ridiculous in every way, featuring TV's least lovable comedian, Ray Romano, this mildly amusing comedy features Gene Hackman in a comic term that cements his reputation as a great and flexible actor.

Neal Vitale's DVD Quicktakes

It's been raining in LA, so it's a good time to catch up on recent videos.


As good the second time around as the first. Another viewing gives you the chance to focus on the elegant details of the film - beautiful production design and cinematography, masterful Depression-era costuming, and William H. Macy's perfect turn as track announcer Tick Tock McGlaughlin. Director Gary Ross' discussion of his approach to shooting Seabiscuit is one of the rare "special features" that illuminates the film. Worth adding to your collection.

28 Days Later

The premise of this Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave) is intriguing - an incurable virus is inadvertently released on the world by overzealous activists freeing lab test animals, and 28 Days Later tracks a few survivors in the time after the majority of the United Kingdom has died or fled. But that's as good as it gets. There are a few haunting scenes of urban desolation and destruction, but the film never moves past a pedestrian post-holocaust sci-fi flick. The "special features," though, again come through here - two filmed and one storyboarded alternate endings give you more to ponder as to what could have been.

Finding Nemo

Laugh if you will, but this remains my personal choice for this year's "Best Picture" over all the live action films. Like two of its recent animated predecessors, Shrek and Toy Story II, Finding Nemo has it all - great humor, drama, storytelling, character development, art direction, and on and on. Definitely not just for the kids - not to be missed.


A Twin Peaks-esque story of the displacement of a small Montana town in the mid-1950s to allow a dam to be built. Beautifully filmed in a gorgeous, painterly style, cast with an interesting assortment of actors that includes James Woods, Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah, and E.R.'s Anthony Edwards - but unwatchable. I made it to the twenty minute mark or so and had to shut it off.

Swimming Pool

Loved it. Charlotte Rampling is brilliant as Sarah Morton, the seemingly bitter, desiccated author of crime novels. Her performance is all about control and nuance, wordlessly communicating volumes through body movements, facial expressions, and gestures. Ludivine Sagnier is Julie, the free-spirited daughter of Morton's publisher; the two wind up sharing his house in the Luberon. Sagnier is Rampling's polar opposite, never having an impulse or craving she is unwilling to follow, brazen and uninhibited. The dynamic between the two drives this sexy, mysterious film toward an unexpected conclusion. A must-see.

American Splendor

A truly original film which deftly integrates comic-book illustrations, a traditional biography, and its real-life subjects, comic-book writer Harvey Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner. The acting is terrific - Paul Giamatti as Pekar and Hope Davis as Brabner are both sensational, and their array of oddball sidekicks are well portrayed. But American Splendor is an immensely quirky work about a not very appealing or nice person - Pekar is cranky and disheveled, obsessional, and mean-spirited. If you know and love the comic American Splendor, or simply enjoy vivid representations of strange individuals, this is a film for you.

Capturing The Friedmans

Andrew Jarecki's film is a documentary of a middle-class Jewish family that is blown apart by the arrest and conviction of the father and one son on charges of molestation, pedophilia, and child pornography. It is a gripping work that holds the viewer fascinated as evidence on the case is presented, explained, and, in many cases, rebuffed. In parallel we watch home movies and interviews that present the family's internal conflicts and issues in an unvarnished and unsympathetic light. The film makes you try to evaluate the criminal evidence - which comes through clearly as inconclusive - in the context of all the inherent warts, neuroses, and problems of the individual family members. While often difficult to watch, Capturing The Friedmans is thought-provoking and remains with you for quite a while.

Anger Management

A silly movie that gives it two main protagonists - Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson - ample room to mug, crack jokes, and carry on with their usual shtick. There is plenty of low-brow humor, especially a continuing litany of penis-size jokes. The main redeeming element of the film, though, is a spate of wonderful cameos. Three in particular are almost worth the price of a rental - Heather Graham as a weight-obsessed bar pick-up, Woody Harrelson as a Yankee Stadium security guard/Germanic cross-dressing homosexual, and John C. Reilly as a repressed monk who ends up with a saffron-robe wedgie.

--Neal Vitale

Fog of War: Guest Commentary

Bob Nilsson wasn't exactly reviewing the film per se, but since I mentioned the film this week, he had these interesting comments.

It was interesting to read that you were recently at the Waltham movie theater and would have preferred to see The Fog of War. I was there with my family this past weekend seeing that movie.

It was to fulfill a history assignment for my son Eric, a junior at Weston High School. Earlier, his biology teacher had required the class members to rent the movie Gattaca.

My wife noticed that our kids were the only audience members under 40. In spite of the old saying, I personally think the movie shows that hindsight is far from 20-20. McNamara notes that he nearly came to blows with a Vietnamese scholar in 1995 when he proposed that the Vietnamese could have gotten everything they wanted without the devastating loss of life had they followed a different strategy. The revelation from Castro that not only were nuclear weapons already in place at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Castro had called upon the Soviets to use them was new to me.

Unlike in Vernon Florida and Gates of Heaven, two favorites of mine, Errol Morris not only speaks, but his voice can be heard in the film.


Peggy Coquet on Spiritual Reviews, Marlow Finds MIT Video, Kevin Sullivan Waxes Philosophical, Dalton on the Environment, The Dan Grobstein File

Peggy Coquet offers this tip:

You might enjoy this guy's reviews. Check out his review of "The Passion ..." which includes this: "... Gibson has indeed ushered out this chapter of history in a blaze of... gory."

And don't miss his chakra rating system ... <g>

If I still had web site of the week, this would be one. It comes from my daughter Marlow. It is great.

From my friend Charlie, currently at MIT getting his PhD in artificial intelligence. It was MIT related and you have a better connection than I do so I thought you might get something more out of it. Enjoy.

My lab has an 'Olympics' every January, and I just found the link to the movie-making contest results... (My team won the overall competition i'm proud to say ;))

Although the propaganda is good, My favorite movie.

Kevin Sullivan had some thoughts about last week's column:

It's notable that Rae found the movie, The Graduate, contemporary with the play, Rosencrantz (etc), which both came out in 1967. However the movie of Rosencrantz, didn't appear until 1990. I still enjoyed her insight.

"Even though I have been demoted to bit player in her life,..." echoes of Rosencrantz (etc.)?!

What do you think of this idea? Swallowing anger, is an anti-diet. It increases the appetite for other calories. If we can lose the anger, the desire for other calories would decrease as well?

I think Kevin is on to something with his aphorism about swallowing anger.

Also, a quotation form Kevin:

My favorite Thoreau quote -- " man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone." It's interesting that in our Puritan ethic we describe as work the act of letting something go.

Richard Dalton forwards statistics from WorldWatch about golf versus... well, everything else. they call it a matter of scale, and they put such listings in every issue of their magazine World Watch. For example:

Amount of water it would take, per day, to support 4.7 billion people at the UN daily minimum: 2.5 billion gallons

Amount of water used, per day, to irrigate the world's golf courses: 2.5 billion gallons

Dan Grobstein File:

New York Times

When it comes to the Bushes' willingness to stir up base instincts of the base, it is as it was.

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