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

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011
How it really happened.
When Raiders of the Lost Ark was first released, I had several people rave about it to me. Virtually all of them said, "I don't want to spoil it for you, but there's this one scene ..." Whereupon they would invariably describe the famous scene in the marketplace where Indy fights off several sword-wielding locals, eventually confronting a huge bad guy wielding a huge sword. Exhausted, Indy sighs, pulls his revolver and shoots the guy. It was a huge crowd-pleaser.

The story has always been told that Harrison Ford was ill that day and feeling exhausted, inspiring him to improvise his reaction. Not quite, according to a new book by Vic Armstrong, Ford's stuntman on that film and many others. Everybody was miserable in Tunisia, and looking forward to getting out -- including director Steven Spielberg, who was also determined to finish on schedule to redeem his reputation after 1941.
Originally there was an elaborate fight sequence planned and a stunt team went up to the coast for two weeks working it out. [... Stunt coordinator] Peter Diamond ... showed Steven the fight routine. Big Terry Richards played the Arab and he swished his sword about and then the fight carried on through the whole of the Casbah.

Steven watched and said, “Look, I’m going to shoot whatever I can until three o’clock because then I’m getting out of here.” Peter Diamond was dumbstruck: “You can’t do that, it’s gonna take four days to film this fight. It’s a huge fight and the guys have been rehearsing it for weeks.’ Steven said, ‘I’ve got a plane coming at three, I’m out of here, I’ve got enough, I don’t need any more here.’ [First Assistant Director David] Tomblin butted in, ‘For Christ’s sake Steven, you’ve got to do this.’ But Steven was standing firm, “No, I’m out at three.” Tomblin said, “Well, it’s stupid doing this whole routine, you might as well just shoot the guy with a gun.” “Don’t be facetious Dave.” Then Steven paused. “I’ll tell you what, let’s try that. Yes, let’s try just shooting him.” And the rest is history.
This looks like it will be a fun, easy book to read. (via

12/17/2011 Update: In interviews conducted this year, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford both stick to the familiar version of this scene, that Ford wasn't feeling well and thought that yet another sword fight was a bit much. When compared to Vic Armstrong's story, the two versions appear quite contradictory. Someone's memory isn't right. Unless somebody goes and digs up the logs that must have been kept during shooting -- assuming they still exist -- we may never know for sure who's right.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Random facts.
Another collection of unrelated facts that I've stumbled across in my recent reading:
  • "Nearly 900 feet long and 15 stories tall, the 67-year-old [U.S.S.] Iowa is one of the biggest and most powerful battleships ever built. It also is the only Navy vessel with a bathtub — a feature installed for Roosevelt when he was shuttled to the Middle East to meet with Churchill and Stalin at the Teheran Conference in 1943." (L.A. Times)
  • "In recent years, according to Disney research, the average [Orlando] Magic Kingdom visitor has had time for only nine rides — out of more than 40 — because of lengthy waits and crowded walkways and restaurants. In the last few months, however, the [one-year-old Disney Operational Command Center] operations center has managed to make enough nips and tucks to lift that average to 10." (NY Times)
  • "Television is a vast wasteland. The mighty words came down like a thunderbolt 50 years ago, from Newton N. Minow, then President Kennedy’s impishly eloquent chair of the Federal Communications Commission. In a May 9, 1961, speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, Minow singled out “The Fred Astaire Show” and “The Twilight Zone” for praise, but condemned most TV as a tiresome march of “game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” ... Minow’s speech had “ruined television,” declared Sherwood Schwartz, the TV producer, who promptly created a formula sitcom with totally unbelievable characters called “Gilligan’s Island.” In an inside joke that Minow came to relish, Schwartz named the show’s doomed ship after him." (NY Times)
  • "William H. Parker, L.A.’s greatest and most controversial police chief ...  arrived in 1922 from Deadwood, South Dakota, an ambitious 17-year-old. He became a patrolman in the LAPD. Coldly cerebral (Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, a onetime LAPD officer and Parker speechwriter, reputedly based Mr. Spock on his former boss), intolerant of fools and famously incorruptible, Parker persevered—and rose. (L.A. Noir book excerpt in LA Times Magazine)


Wait what?
So Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and likely Socialist Party candidate to be President of France, is accused of sexually attacking a maid in his New York hotel room. This case raises a lot of big issues that can (and are, especially in France) being debated. I have a smaller question to raise:

The Socialist Party candidate-to-be lives in a $4 million house in (or near) Washington, D.C., and stays in $3000-a-night hotel rooms?

Title stolen from a regular segment on Norm MacDonald's weekly show.

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