The Weblog of
Kevin C. Murphy


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


"On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time."
- George Orwell


The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman

Remotely Queued
The Journey From Here, Bill Bradley Endymion, Dan Simmons
The Rise of Endymion, Dan Simmons
Fear and Loathing in America, Hunter S. Thompson


All the Pretty Horses (7/10)

Visions Past
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (8.5/10)
Proof of Life (5/10)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (10/10)

Visions to Come
Shadow of the Vampire
Thirteen Days


Mama's Gun, Erykah Badu

The W, Wu-Tang Clan

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, Bob Dylan
Hide Your Love Away, The Beatles
In a Little While, U2


Crisis on Infinite Earths

12/30/00 -

Hello again. I hope everyone had a happy holidays and is looking forward to a grand new year. And, boy, it feels good to be back. Zen and the Art of Updating your Weblog, etc. etc. Since we were negligent about sending out an Xmas card/e-mail this season, Elaine and I put together this little nugget above to send out today. As you can see, Berkeley's had some recent adventures on the outer rim of Jupiter (be sure to check out the animation.) My God, it's full of bones...

So the past week has been quite relaxing, especially if you have no issues about spending 24 hours in a rental car. I personally didn't mind all that much, since it gave me a chance to finally clean out the reading cache. Saw my folks and Elaine's folks and Elaine's grandfolks on a circuitous road trip to Orlando and back. In the meantime, we caught a number of movies (including the excellent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and - yesterday - I turned twenty-six. Hope I'm ready for all the strange new aches and pains that'll accompany the wrong side of 25. Thanks to Brennan, by the way, for the birthday wishes.

So, since the year (century, millennium, etc.) ends tomorrow, perhaps it's time for a quick 2000 in Review before the usual linkage...

2000 Highlights: Getting Berkeley, Attaining rudimentary guitar proficiency, writing for the FCC, seeing Dylan twice.

2000 Lowlights: Bradley faltering, Bush-Gore ad nauseum, scraping up my nose, Elian ad nauseum.

Top 15 Films of the Year: (NOTE: This list includes only films I saw, not ones in limited release (Traffic, Shadow of the Vampire), films I wanted to see but somehow missed (Chicken Run), or movies I just haven't seen yet (Croupier, Dancer in the Dark.)

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Amazing film. Nothing bad to say about it. Go now.
2. Requiem for a Dream: Powerful, dazzling, and a technical masterpiece, despite the flawed ending. Gets stuck in your head like bits of food get stuck in your teeth.
3. Boiler Room: Big drop-off here between this one and the first two. Nevertheless, surprisingly good, not the least because of the charismatic Vin Diesel, Glengarry Glen Affleck, and the great Wall Street scene.
4. Wonder Boys: Perfectly captured the rhythms of campus life. The Dylan song didn't hurt either.
5. High Fidelity: An excellent adaptation of a great book, even if I preferred the Elvis Costello britrock emphasis of Hornby's tome to the indie Subpop scene of the movie.
6. O Brother, Where Art Thou?: To be honest, I wanted to like it more. Nevertheless, this amusing Coen paean to American folk and Faulknerian absurdity holds its own this year.
7. Unbreakable: A little slower than I would have liked, and it had no second act, but this languid, contemplative film spoke to the comic fan in me.
8. Meet the Parents: Again, surprisingly good. I expected schlock, and got a genuinely funny fall film.
9. Gladiator, X-Men, The Perfect Storm: The three best films in a lousy summer crop. I suppose I enjoyed all of them, but they each were missing that certain something (what the French call "I do not know what") that would make them really fun or memorable. Ho-hum.
10. Almost Famous: Perhaps it was a victim of high expectations. Nevertheless, this Cameron Crowe movie, while admirably executed, was just a little too pat for my taste.
11. The Virgin Suicides: Very well-done adaptation of the Jeffrey Eugenides book. Unfortunately, the book doesn't translate very well.
12. Cast Away: If it had just been Tom Hanks on the island, it would have been much higher on the list. But the denouement is way too long and overdone and it basically cripples the film.
13. Nurse Betty: Well-acted, well-directed, well-executed, and I love the cast. But, for some reason, it left me cold. I'm not normally the squeamish sort, but I think the bloody scalping of Aaron Eckhart jarred too much from the comedic tone of the rest of the movie.
14. Center Stage: Hey, my sister was in it.
15. Pitch Black: A sci-fi B-movie, to be sure. But in the year of Mission to Mars and Red Planet, this riff on Aliens seemed a welcome respite.

AND THE WINNER IS... (of the movies I've seen)

Best Actor: Michael Douglas, Wonder Boys
Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
Best Supporting Actor: Wilson the Volleyball, Cast Away
Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

All in all, I must admit, 2000 was a rather lousy year for me, personally and pop culturally. But, hope springs eternal, so here's looking for 2001, the year of the Fellowship!

When the ball drops on 2000, look carefully - it might just be the Mir.

I already thought Salon writer Charles Taylor was a chump anyway for his egregious Nader-hatin'. But picking Mission to Mars as your #2 of the year? His critic's license ought to be suspended for 60 days or something.

How Hunter Thompson managed to end up at ESPN. (Via Lake Effect.)

The Star Wars New Year's Hamster Dance. Threepio appears to be the master of the conga line.

12/22/00 - Grad school apps have been sent, and now it's time to find new employ. But first, there's this little thing called the holidays, and since Elaine, Berkeley, and I won't be around any computers for a few days, Ghost on the Machine is now officially on holiday hiatus. I expect I'll be posting again on the flip side of Christmas, perhaps on my birthday (Dec. 29.)

But, in any case, Happy Holidays to everyone out there, remember the partial eclipse on Christmas Day, and be sure to enjoy the real turn of the millennium (without the crowds!)

Until then, take care of yourselves.

12/21/00 - Ewan MacGregor talks Episode 2: "It's a much better script than the first one. Not that, that wouldn't be hard." And, speaking of Obi-Wan himself, the newest Episode II select looks to have him putting the 360 flip move on Jango Fett.

Mike Kinsley ruminates on the subject of Florida and wonders,"Can reasonable people differ?"

The Golden Globe nominees are announced, with Traffic leading the pack. I have great hope for the next three weeks in film.

Since I've unearthed it anyway to send off with my grad school applications, I've gone ahead and posted my undergraduate thesis on this site. It concerns one Senator William Borah (R-ID, 1865-1940), one of the midwestern progressives of the New Deal era, and how his nuanced strand of civic (small-r) republican political philosophy didn't survive past his death in 1940. (The paper was heavily informed by the works of democratic theorist Michael Sandel and historian Alan Brinkley.) Copyright KcM 1997 and all that good stuff.

The Rings preview stuff is coming fast and furious now, as evidenced by today's excellent pic of Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins, with the one ring. As with the hobbits yesterday, he looks perfect!

After a half-century of writing, Baltimore Sun columnist Jack Germond calls it quits (although he'll still appear on TV.) Says he on leaving his post, "I'm sick of column-writing...I'm sick of goddamn politicians, to tell you the truth. I really found this campaign odious. I couldn't get up for it. The quality of the candidates and the campaign, I just found the whole thing second-rate. I didn't know how to explain to my granddaughter that I was spending my dotage writing about Al Gore and George W. Bush."

Will David Lynch be returning to Twin Peaks? Man, I hope so...I have always wondered what came of Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak) in Lynch's creepy and underrated Fire Walk With Me.

Bush resigns! Oh wait...never mind.

The New Republic offers a very nice in-depth profile of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

12/20/00 - In Episode VI of Harry Knowles' travels in and around Peter Jackson's Middle Earth (Trailer Jan. 12), he relates that the nine actors in the Fellowship - Ian McKellen included - are getting commemorative Fellowship tattoos to signify their bond. That's a great sign for these films. I mean, do you think Samwise Sean Astin has a commemorative Goonies tattoo? I don't think so.

E-com-con, makers of the Octium chip, have hired Suzanne Modeski as their new Senior VP of Technical Relations. This no doubt means trouble for the Lone Gunmen.

If the Dems were planning to band together against the incoming Dubya administration, they're not off to a very good start.

Ah, entrepreneurship. Faster than you can say ka-ching!, Chad jewelry is now available. And Florida residents get 15% off "if they can fill out the order form correctly."

With regards to Mike's eloquent and concise take on the Bush v. Gore decision and Lefty reactions to it (mine included), I can see his point (although I have to note in passing that it's a bit strange to be called out for partisanship by a guy who uses the word "Democrite" in almost every post.) It's probably unfair (although often quite fun) to say that the majority opinion was operating out of sheer partisanship and the minority from principle. If anything, both sides strayed widely from their normally-held convictions (state v. federal, activist v. restraint, etc.) in their opinions.

I'm not a lawyer, although I do occasionally play one on this weblog. And entering into any discussion of the law with as sharp a legal practitioner as Mike is basically equivalent to my walking into a saloon with a water pistol. That being said, I've been in this town long enough to know that these legal decisions weren't made in a vacuum. Obviously, Clarence Thomas is wrong - the nine judges' political leanings if not predetermined, than at least heavily influenced their questioning and their ultimate decision. It is ridiculously naive to think that Justice Thomas's wife and Scalia's son and O'Connor's election night remark and Breyer's close friendship with Gore had no effect on this ruling. As Will Saletan notes here, this type of bias is inevitable, ubiquitous, and not necessarily immoral.

My problem with the Supreme Court justices in this instance is not so much that they held these biases or even that these biases may have affected the final outcome. It is that they introduced these biases into the situation in the first place, by thrusting themselves into the center of a state case at the behest of Dubya's legal minions. As Justice Kennedy kept saying, "What's the Federal issue here?" Mike has a great point when he notes that the equal protection clause cited in the 7-2 opinion may actually allow for all kinds of proactive (and now obviously necessary) voting reform in the future.

But, particularly for a court that has prided itself on returning judicial restraint and states' rights to pre-Civil War levels of interpretation, why did they even get involved in the first place? In terms of the Court's supposed bedrock principles, I think the decision to enter the fray represents a total 180. And Occam's Razor suggests to me that the majority's reasoning had more to do with personal politics than the law. When Justice Thomas or anyone else tells me that their own feelings had absolutely, positively nothing to do with the outcome, my B.S. detector goes off the charts.

Stars consider flocking to Black Hawk Down, including Woody Harrelson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Gary Sinise. (Tom Sizemore and Josh Hartnett are already in.) For the love of Pete, Bruckheimer, don't screw this one up.

Toni Kukoc? Why on earth are the lowly Knicks so eagerly on track to becoming the budget Bulls?

Took a half-day off and have been running errands all morning, from taking Berkeley to the vet to getting a grad school recommendation from my old office. Just got into the j-o-b at 2pm and there's nobody around. Gotta love that holiday-new administration synergy.

12/19/00 - The infamous ballot-moving truck gets sold for 60 grand. Which, by the way, is much, much less than what all that free advertising will be worth to Ryder.

Bush and Gore meet for fifteen minutes, and amazingly the veep got through the entire session without winding up and kicking his former opponent square in the shin. Betcha he thought about it, though.

Meanwhile, the post-election recount begins, and - thanks to the returns in conservative Lake County (or "Bush Country," as it were) - Dubya's lead is down to only 24 votes. Hmmm...the Prez-elect better send the Gang of Five some really nice Christmas cards...

Ralph Nader responds to his many critics in the Democratic party and among the press (at the urging of the Village Voice.) The Times and Tom Friedman, in particular, get severe scoldings.

Also in the Voice, noted Lefty writer and Nader voter Nat Hentoff surprisingly sides with Scalia and the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore. Definitely some food for thought, although I am still inclined to see the final outcome as an ultimately political decision (as does Dr. Mike, via Lake Effect.)

Nader isn't alone in bashing the Times today: Salon ponders the latent sexism of Condi Rice's NYT profile. After all, did anyone mention Colin Powell's suit size?

Sorry, boys and girls. Saddam Hussein has your PS2's and, no, he's not using them to play FIFA 2001. Well, ok, he might be.

VH1's Behind the Photo-Op - Bush: "[Through clenched teeth] By the way, Bill, Dad says Hi." Clinton: "[While smiling] Don't worry, Junior, you'll be joining us at the Old Presidents' Home sooner than you think."

R.I.P. Kirsty MacColl 1959-2000, who tragically died in a boating accident yesterday. The daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl, Kirsty was probably best known for her un-PC Christmas duet with Shane MacGowan: the Pogues' "Fairytale in New York." "I kept 'em with me, babe, I put them with my own...can't make it all alone, I built my dreams around you."

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. offers a prescription for electoral reform, the national bonus plan. Well, I definitely prefer it to abolishing the system altogether.

According to Variety and Corona, Jet Li is out and Michelle Yeoh may be in for the two Matrix sequels. That is, if she decides not to opt for Indiana Jones 4 next year. (The last sounds like fanboy speculation to me, but there you have it.)

The Voice reviews Fear and Loathing in America, Book 2 of the assorted letters and writings of Hunter S. Thompson. Definitely one for the top of my Christmas list.

A little more than a week after moving the Leaky Cauldron off Geocities and onto B.K. DeLong's BrainStream site, and he gets us mentioned at IGN Filmforce, not to mention quite a few other Potter sites. Great job, B.K.!

France puts a hit out on American DVD's. Yeah, that'll work. As one French paper put it, "It is vain to think...that we can put up regulatory Maginot lines to cut up an increasingly global market."

Low-Power FM gets ganked by Congress, despite the vociferous support of Senator John McCain. Apparently, the money of broadcasters spoke louder to the Republicans than the pleas of churches and religious organizations. Typical.

Gore gets nominated for the presidency of Harvard, but it's not looking good for him. "He doesn't have the academic and intellectual standing," said one of the decision-makers. Of course, neither does Dubya, but it didn't stop him.

In other Gore post-mortem news, Salon examines the rift between the veep and the African-American community. "While Bush regularly surrounded himself with black and Hispanic children, insiders say Gore consultants purposefully kept blacks out of the frame, arguing that swing voters needed to see Gore on stages and tarmacs with "real people" instead." Tell me again why I should be sorry this guy lost?

Of course, Dubya has his own problems, including attempting in vain to figure out the high-tech sector. Says this column, "Technology, for better or worse, tops the list of subjects our president-elect does not understand. But, hey, don't mess with Texas.

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