The Weblog of
Kevin C. Murphy


Conjuring Political, Cinematic, Cultural, and Athletic Arcana since the End of the Last Century


"I like a man who grins when he fights."
- Winston Churchill


Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson

Remotely Queued
Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud
The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman
The Journey From Here, Bill Bradley


Requiem for a Dream (9.5/10)

Visions Past
Little Nicky (4.5/10)
Book of Shadows (3/10)

Visions to Come


Requiem for A Dream Soundtrack, Clint Mansell/Kronos Quartet

In the Mode, Roni Size/Reprazent

Girl, The Beatles
Flash's Theme, Queen
Love will tear us apart, Joy Division

11/20/00 - The Grinch makes mad bank. Well, that's a bit disappointing.

According to all the film sites, it's official. Willem Dafoe will play the Green Goblin to Tobey Maguire's Spiderman. Also cast is Freaks & Geeks alum James Franco as Harry Osborne.

It seems it only took Dr. Thompson three weeks to wander completely off-topic over at

The Pentium 4 is unleashed today, and already my current computer has self-esteem issues.

Slate delivers an interesting historical anecdote on Alexander Graham Bell and the death of James Garfield.

A veddy nice new look is unveiled over at the always engaging Caught in Between. Great job, Boycaught, and thanks for the cred.

Happy Blogday to What's On It For Me?, who also just passed the one-year threshold.

Caught Requiem for a Dream this weekend at the Cineplex Odeon Dupont, which is easily the worst theater I've ever encountered. Seats about 40, and the screen is the size of the display unit at Best Buy. But the lousy setting didn't detract much, if at all, from this unsettling picture. Allowing for the fact that this has been a terrible year for movies (the best one I've probably seen previously is Boiler Room, which would have been only an ok pic in any other season, [but here's hoping for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, O Brother, Where Art Thou, and Unbreakable]) Requiem for a Dream is far and away the best film I've seen this year.

Technically, Requiem is a masterpiece. Darren Aronofsky pulls out every visual effect and cinematic sleight of hand he previewed in Pi, and then some, to great effect. There are some truly unforgettable moments in this movie, although I must admit that -- very occasionally -- the technical razzmatazz does get in the way.

Storywise, though, I do have some serious issues with the movie. Other than Ellen Burstyn's lonely Brighton Beach widower, the characters are a mite thin. And, alas, in the brutal last act of the film ("Winter"), Requiem contracts an unfortunate - but not quite terminal - case of the P.T.A's (as in Paul Thomas Anderson's - symbolic overkill, contrived plotting for the sake of multicharacter climax, and dense, unrealistic characterizations; for those of you who would rise to the defense of Magnolia's muse, I have four words: "I'm silently judging you." Please.) Plus, I don't want give anything away, but given how Aronofsky layers it on in the harrowing, seamlessly edited climax, you get the sense that heroin addicts are such an unlucky bunch that they probably should be on the lookout for falling meteorites.

Yet, despite these substantial problems, Requiem is a powerful, enthralling film that invites comparison with such downer classics as A Clockwork Orange and Taxi Driver. Two days later, I'm still mulling it over in my head. I'm not sure if I completely enjoyed it, but I do know I must recommend it. And Ellen Burstyn is absolutely brilliant - if she doesn't get the Oscar for this performance, I'm going to stop watching the awards.

Then again, I probably should have stopped watching the Oscars years ago. It's become all too clear that the best way to sweep the Academy Awards is to make a period film (Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, English Patient, etc.) about a mentally disabled guy (Forrest Gump, Shine, As Good As It Gets, etc.) and either a prostitute (Mighty Aphrodite, L.A. Confidential, etc.) or a cross-dresser (Shakespeare in Love, Boys Don't Cry etc.), with a likable, aging, (preferably white) journeyman in a scenery-chewing supporting role (Affliction, Ed Wood, The Fugitive, and why Michael Caine was even nominated last year for Cider House Rules over Delroy Lindo is beyond me.) Unfortunately, if a great movie doesn't fit this particular time-tested mold (Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings), expect no love on Oscar night.

Also picked up Requiem's soundtrack, by Clint Mansell (formerly of Pop Will Eat Itself) and the Kronos Quartet. It's a very interesting, evocative blend of electronica and strings (a la Bjork's Homogenic). I don't know how it would stand on its own, but in the context of the film it's great, moody stuff.

In other music news, I caught the freewheelin' Bob Dylan last night in the last show of his fall 2000 tour. An amazing show. The venue was a much smaller and more intimate affair than July's show at Merriweather Post, so being able to catch Bob's every grin and grimace definitely made for a better experience. And, perhaps as it was the last show of the tour, Dylan came ready to play. Watching him go off on the harmonica during "Tangled Up in Blue" was like witnessing History come alive. This was the show I'll be telling my grandkids about. The setlist this time around was:

Oh Babe, It Ain't No Lie (acoustic)
Mr. Tambourine Man (acoustic)
Desolation Row (acoustic)
One Too Many Mornings (acoustic)
Tangled Up In Blue (acoustic) (Bob on harp)
Searching For A Soldier's Grave (acoustic)
Country Pie
Blind Willie McTell
Seeing The Real You At Last
Tryin' To Get To Heaven
The Wicked Messenger (Bob on harp)
Cat's In The Well

Things Have Changed
Like A Rolling Stone
If Dogs Run Free (acoustic)
All Along The Watchtower
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (acoustic)
Highway 61 Revisited
Blowin' In The Wind (acoustic)

Rainy Day Women #12 & #35

So between Requiem and Dylan, it was a pretty heady weekend. I'm still grappling with the aftereffects of both this Monday morning.

11/17/00 - Does the President hate Nebraska?

The Kennedy-Nixon analogy has been made a lot lately, but I thought this was one of the better 1960 election endgame recaps I've seen floating around.

Gail Collins previews the Hollywood take on the Florida fiasco.

A 12-year old girl arrested yesterday for eating french fries on the Washington DC Metro may now be facing a school suspension. All I have to say is, Get a goddamned life. The DC Metro should be concerned with one thing - moving commuters to and from as quickly as possible. Whether or not people eat in and around the Metro should be of no consequence, and arresting and handcuffing a 12-year-old girl for such a ridiculous offense is only going to breed in her (and everyone else who hears about it) an utter contempt for the law. Just reading the sanctimonious, bureaucratic "We're just doing our job, ma'am" response from the Metrocops in this case makes me ill.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but both Boston and New York have subway systems that are faster and cheaper than DC's Metro, and both allow food and drink on the premises. DC should take a page from them. And why is the school even getting involved? They should be working to teach area children, not reprimanding them for innocuous off-hour offenses. This whole story verges on the grotesque.

Aspiring cannibals take note: The teaser for Ridley Scott's Hannibal is now online.

Many thanks to three of my faves - Cluttered, Kestrel's Nest, and Lake Effect - for their kind blogday words. Keep up the great work, fellas.

11/16/00 - Unfortunately, the impromptu high-level meeting held yesterday between the two contenders has done little to mitigate the divisiveness among their followers.

So yesterday, both Gore and Bush emerged from seclusion to cast their next moves in the PR chess match. As I'm sure you probably saw, first Gore came out for a statewide recount, then Dubya came out to shoot it down. The merits of their respective statements and proposals aside, I was dismayed to once again realize that we've been forced to choose between a guy who always sounds as if he's talking to third graders and a guy who always sounds as if he may have had to use family connections to get promoted out of third grade.

I guess my feeling at this point is still that hand recounts should either be done statewide or not at all. Obviously an old-school punchcard-reading machine is going to screw up all kinds of readily understandable votes. But I can also definitely see how party hacks on both sides might be inclined to shake out a few more chads here and there too. So, at this point I personally am pretty unsure of how to proceed, other than to say that I have almost completely lost interest in the goings-on in Florida.

Which brings me to the one thing I am sure of: This is far from a constitutional crisis, and I wish various media outlets and spin units would stop describing it as such. I work in the federal government, where (a) people spend much more time following politics than they do elsewhere in the nation and (b) many folks' jobs - mine included - are riding on the outcome. And even here it's hard to find anyone who's any more than slightly bothered, bored, and/or bemused about this whole electile dysfunction (forgot who coined this one, but it's a keeper.) So let's tone down the doomsday rhetoric on both sides and just figure this puppy out, eh?

Sigh. It looks like the Mir will be going down in February. So much for the best laid plans of James Cameron and Destination Mir. You'd think there'd be some appropriately kooky billionaire out there (a la John Hurt in Contact) who would come to its rescue.

Salon delves into the growing number of fan films on the web. Kudos to Lucasfilm (and shame on DC) for being tolerant of the burgeoning genre.

Salon also runs yet another idiotic piece by a scapegoating Nader hater. My feelings on this kind of tripe have already been well documented here, so I'll mention it only in passing. I should note, though, that this particular version of the same old song adds nothing new to the equation...I wonder why Salon even bothered running it. Perhaps it's only a placeholder for their virtually inevitable piece on the sexual and cultural significance of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and the semiotics of her lavender eyeshadow.

According to Douglas Adams and director Jay Roach, leading the casting choices of the perpetually stalled Hitchhiker's movie is Blackadder alum Hugh Laurie as Arthur Dent.

Rep. Connie Morella, Republican congresswoman of a highly Democratic district, considers going Gore should the opportunity arise.

Thanks for the vote of confidence yesterday, Mike. I appreciate it. Since I don't use Blogger here, though (only for the Cauldron), I can understand why I wouldn't be included on any political list therein.

Knicks drop one to the Clippers, of all teams. Bleah.

11/15/00 - Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do? Three of the four LAPD officers charged go down for corruption (conspiracy) in the first criminal trial after the Rampart scandal.

The 2000 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, given to the "the year's literary novel with the worst, most redundant or embarrassing description of the sexual act," comes down to the wire. (Last year's award went to A.A. Gill.) Haven't read any of the candidates, but right now I'd say my money's on the sheep.

Owl monkeys control a robotic arm with their minds. Very interesting...this might also explain why Dumbmonkey has gone on hiatus.

Historian Alan Brinkley offers his thoughts on the Florida fracas.

Will L.A. Confidential's Guy Pearce choose to enter the (remake of) The Time Machine?

The Village Voice to the rescue: Nat Hentoff rails against Democratic Nader haters, as does this Cynthia Cotts election post-mortem.

The New Zealand Post (and the folks at IGN Filmforce) capture this striking shot of a fallen Nazgul at the Battle of Pelennor Fields. And to think Fellowship is still a year away...

As the Florida fiasco rages on, cooler heads in both parties have started rooting for the opposition. Many Republicans believe it might be in the party's longer-term interest to lose the presidential election on the assumption that the party in control of the White House could lose a substantial number of seats in the House and Senate in 2002. Yer darn skippy. As I've said for weeks in this space, Al Gore capturing the White House is almost assuredly not in the best interest of Democrats or Progressives. In fact, it may end up setting us back a decade or more.

Harry's got a pretty fun college speaking engagement summary by the inimitable Bruce Campbell (best known as Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy) up today.

A day after Patrick Ewing helped beat the Knicks 96-75 in Seattle, famed New York center Willis Reed deems Pat the greatest Knick ever. And, over in the Post, Bill Russell weighs in on Ewing's legacy.

The Game is this weekend, but Elaine and I won't be making it up to Cambridge this year. For one, I'm going to see Dylan again this Sunday for the final show on his 2000 tour. It'll probably be basically the same setlist as the last time around, but that's fine with me.

11/15/99 - Hello all. After reaching a relatively decent stopping point in my homepage expansion about two weeks ago, I began exploring other personal web pages around the net (Barbelith [now Plasticbag] , Megnut, and Saturn, for example) and was dismayed to discover that most of them had me over a barrel in terms of form and content. To be honest, there's not much I can do about the form: hopefully, the simple/retro/I know only the most basic of basic html look will never go out of style. As for the content, I've decided to take a cue from these admittedly superior sites and begin my own online journal here. Hope you enjoy it....

Yep, the weblog portion of Ghost in the Machine is one year old today. And, I must say, it's been grand. Back in February, when Sally was still doing her Best New Weblog category, she ranked Ghost eighth (of eight) with the following caveat: [It's a] decent if uninspiring weblog that could either rise to mid-level prominence or sink into oblivion. Well, mid-level prominence it is. Woo-hoo!

Speaking of Bloat, the stat junkie in me is a bit disappointed that, in terms of readership, this blog's shining fifteen minutes was the whole blogger cabal episode back in March (which, let's face it, will always be a good way to drive up the stats.) But, if I was still in this game for the hits, I would have quit months ago. So, thanks for all who've dropped by these past twelve months, and shared with me, among other things, the flame-out of Bill Bradley, the permanent scarring of my nose, the introduction of Berkeley, the Nader run, and various and sundry progressive rants, fanboy film speculations, and Knickerbocker rooting. I look forward to regaling y'all with further adventures and rank commentary in the years to come.

11/14/00 - Hey, my site doesn't look too afflicted with Netscape 6. Dodged a bullet there.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. muses on previous close contests and electoral college reform. Definitely an interesting take.

Am I Hot or Not junkies take note: Am I President or Not? (Via Metafilter.)


As if the Florida fiasco wasn't enough bad PR, the US is now also defending the death penalty in the World Court. When I was younger, I used to be ambivalent about the issue, and leaning for capital punishment. As I get older, though, I find myself more and more against it, and particularly in its current application. At any rate, hopefully the US lawyers will shy away from making any Gore-like pro-deterrence proclamations.

Start spreading the news...Bill Clinton as Gotham's mayor?

The appeal for electoral sanity grows ever louder. And so a statewide hand count might be where we're headed. Makes sense to me.

Tonight, the game many thought would never happen: Patrick Ewing faces the Knicks. At least this one's not in the Garden.

In yet another sign of trouble approaching, the Harlem Globetrotters lose.

Synth-pop pioneers Depeche Mode ready their new album for a May 2001 release, and they're talking it up as the next Black Celebration. (If the "Blasphemous Rumors" reference yesterday didn't expose me last post, I was always a big DM fan back in the day.)

Will a Martian rock sample infect the Earth with plague? An international committee (ICAMSR) frets.

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