paulmurray.net
Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.

"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
- Art Buchwald

I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist

E-mail me: pmurray [at] despammed.com

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Sunday, March 28, 2004
Looking beyond the sound bite.
Not that I consider this to be thorough research ... but based upon tonight's 60 Minutes segment, Judge Charles Pickering has gotten a raw deal from Senate Democrats. Don't hold your breath expecting them to admit they're wrong, though. This is the "Gotcha!" game that our government has become, thanks to both Republicans and Democrats.



Saturday, March 27, 2004
Citizen Kubrick.
Ever wished you had the chance to rummage through what the late Stanley Kubrick left behind? (via MetaFilter)



Friday, March 26, 2004
Laws and sausage.
If you haven't heard about all the fishy things related to the Medicare bill that the Bush Administration desperately wanted to pass late last year, you should read this Web version of Thursday night's Nightline. It's a good summary of a story that includes:

  • threatening a government employee to make him withhold cost estimates from Congress
  • holding a scheduled 15-minute vote open for three hours so Republicans who had voted against the bill could be persuaded to change their votes
  • offering bribery and issuing threats against a retiring Michigan congressman who hoped to have his son succeed him



Thursday, March 25, 2004
Clarke's book in a nutshell.
Slate has a summary of Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies.



Two from Scientific American.
1. The truism that "We only use 10% of our brain" is completely wrong.
2. Maybe Freud was right: "new research provides evidence suggesting that not just wishes but all kinds of thoughts we bar from our minds while awake reappear when we sleep."
(via BoingBoing)



Nice try, guys.
Last night I read portions of yesterday's testimony by Richard Clarke to the commission investigating 9/11. I was going to write about my reactions, but they're awfully similar to this Fred Kaplan piece in Slate.



"I'm conducting slowly because I don't know the tempo."
Apparently conductor Eugene Ormandy was the Yogi Berra of classical music. (via MetaFilter)



Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Another one of those signs.
So I'm reading the entertainment section of the newspaper Sunday when I run across an ad for the stage production of The Graduate starring Kelly McGillis.

Kelly McGillis? As in Witness and Top Gun? That Kelly McGillis? She's playing Mrs. Robinson?

Well, it turns out that she's 45 years old now. How did that happen?

On a side note, Anne Bancroft was only 36 -- slightly less than six years older than Dustin Hoffman -- when she played the same part in the original movie. (Jessie Royce Landis was only 10 months older than Cary Grant when they made North by Northwest, yet she played his mother. But I digress.)



Spalding Gray and The Simpsons.
The NYT had an excerpt from Spalding Gray's last monologue, Life, Interrupted. Gray was still perfecting the show in early 2002, when this was recorded. It was about his horrific car crash in Ireland and long recovery, and this excerpt of the excerpt shows his talent for being sad and funny at the same time.

Kathie insisted that I have a TV. I got a single room because all the TV's were driving me crazy. Everyone now watches television. It's destroying the Irish gift of storytelling. Television is sucking up all the stories. Now there's American television. Judge Judy. Ricki Lake. And "Survivor" dubbed in Gaelic.

The only thing I was watching occasionally was Wimbledon tennis, but I couldn't stand seeing those perfect bodies in motion, lying there in bed. But I did have a TV and I did watch "The Simpsons." That's the only thing that gave me any spirit and hope.

So that day Kathie took me out in a wheelchair and that was a great outing. We went out with the boys. I had been in the hospital for two weeks. We were in a construction zone, with all these huge cranes around, and it was depressing as all get out. But for me it wasn't. To me, I saw the clouds at last, the horizon, the sky I had been looking out on an air shaft and a bird flew across. It was a hopeful moment.

We went back to the room and the pinnacle of pinnacles, it was just such a treat, such a surprise, that on comes the television and it's "The Simpsons." It's the show where Marge is yelling off-camera to Homer, who's in the bathtub, "Hey, Homer, listen, the Reynolds have just arrived with two extra tickets to see Spalding Gray." And he goes, "I don't want to see that."



Wireless phones are overhyped.
There are plenty of news stories about how people are dropping their land-based phone lines and going exclusively wireless. All I can say is, how? The theory is great ("You can always reach me because I always have the phone with me, no matter where I am!"), but it doesn't work that way in practice.

My cell phone just notified me that I had voicemail, which had been left less than five minutes earlier. But I had my phone on the entire time, and it never rang. So I have to call to retrieve the message, then call the person back. In this case, the person has gone to bed. So this revolutionary communication device was actually less useful in this situation than a land line.

People marvel at how we put up with crap from computers that we would never tolerate from an automobile or appliance. The same is true for cell phones. They're busy adding cameras to phones instead of making the underlying technology more reliable.

In case you're wondering, I have Sprint PCS. But I've talked with people who have other carriers, and they experience the same thing.



Believe Richard Clarke.
The Bush Administration has made an all-out push to discredit Richard Clarke, and their attempts are illogical and contradictory. (Rice says they were doing what Clarke recommended, while Cheney says Clarke was "out of the loop." Huh?) But Slate's Fred Kaplan makes a good case Why Dick Clarke is Telling the Truth.



Sunday, March 21, 2004
"I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism."
The 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke confirms Paul O'Neill's claim that the Bush Administration wanted to target Iraq from the outset. He describes so many damning examples that I don't want to excerpt any. Read the whole article. His book comes out tomorrow.

For another, broader look, read this Time article from August 2002.



Thursday, March 18, 2004
Who are your neighbors supporting?
I've just spent the better part of an hour finding out which presidential candidates my neighbors (broadly speaking) are supporting financially. Try it yourself! This site and Open Secrets (which includes Congress) are very interesting if you follow politics. (via Dan Gillmor)



Monday, March 15, 2004
The terror of dihydrogen monoxide.
A paralegal doing research for the city of Aliso Viejo, CA discovered one or more websites (such as these) warning of the perils of dihydrogen monoxide ("a colorless, odorless compound" ... it "is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment"). As a result, the City Council was about to ban styrofoam cups because dihydogen monoxide was used in their production. Fortunately, someone figured out what they were talking about: H20 (water).

Next thing you know, someone will be deny being a homo sapiens.

Yes, if I was in high school now, my friends and I probably would have made one of those scary-looking pages. Perhaps it's a good thing we didn't have the Web in 1981.



Sunday, March 14, 2004
Getting the details right.
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a discussion thread by military veterans about movies and TV programs getting details wrong. They appear quite frustrated about it. Note that there are some spoilers contained within. (via Flutterby)



What hath Victor Gruen wrought?
Malcolm Gladwell's latest article for The New Yorker is about a Viennese immigrant who invented the shopping mall. Gladwell got a tour of one of Alfred Taubman's malls from Taubman himself, who explains many of those design details that the average person never stops to contemplate ("Why, for instance, are so many malls, like Short Hills, two stories?"). (via Anil Dash)

I've just discovered Gladwell -- so I'm late -- and I'm enjoying his work.



Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Expected but unhappy news.
The body of Spalding Gray was found in the East River on Sunday, almost two months after he disappeared.

I had a bad feeling about how this would turn out when I first learned of it and that he had attempted suicide before. Subsequent articles and writings by his friends only strengthened that feeling. Eight hours ago I heard it confirmed on the radio while driving home from work.

I met Spalding Gray once, although "met" is an exaggeration. Helen and I went to see him perform twice in Ann Arbor, when he was doing Gray's Anatomy and It's a Slippery Slope. After the latter, we were sitting talking in the theatre, waiting for the crowd to leave, when we noticed a few audience members hanging around down front. Was he going to come back out? We headed down front and waited, and sure enough he did. He appeared exhausted and I hated imposing, so I decided to skip any attempt at conversation. I think Helen said something about enjoying the show. And yes, we got our programs autographed. I'm not sure where mine is, but I still have it somewhere.

Anyway, I've spent a lot of the past eight hours thinking about him. I've had no profound thoughts worth recording, really, but I feel compelled to note this here somehow. His family and friends have lost somone dear to them, and we his fans have too in a sense, since he shared so much of his life with us. (NYT: "In his 1980 show 'Point Judith,' Mr. Gray spoke a line that may well have summed up his life and career. 'It's very hard for me,' he said, 'not to tell everybody everything.'") As with any death, we can only hope that he found some sort of peace, and do our best to look out for one another to avoid endings such as this one.




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