Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What I have learned from the Bond books

As you all may have realized, my reading for the past couple of months has been almost exclusively Bond novels. I started with Casino Royale and recently finished with Octopussy/The Living Daylights. I’d read a little Fleming prior to this, but not enough to really get a good idea of what the book Bond was like. Now I know. As much as I wanted to create several posts on Bond: a list of every drink and meal he eats in the novels, a reading list of book titles mentioned throughout the series, a description of all the Bond women - I did not keep adequate notes. So this is a brief list of what I learned:

Bond relies less on gadgets and more on his wits and physical endurance. For the most part, I knew this going into the books – but I didn’t realize how much it changes the action. Throughout the entire series I can only name a handful of gadgets, usually very low tech: the attaché case (in From Russia with Love - mostly the same as the movie), steel toed shoes with knives hidden in the heels (mentioned in a couple of books, most prominently used in Goldfinger), hidden compartments on the Aston Martin (again, Goldfinger. But alas, no machine guns or other perks). And that’s basically it unless you want to include the Geiger counter in Dr. No.

Bond prefers single breasted suits, wears steel toed loafers and prefers an under the shoulder holster, first for his Berretta with a skeleton grip, then for his Walther PPK.

Bond usually needs at least a month of recuperation after each adventure to heal from the injuries he has sustained.

Bond has a scar on his cheek, a comma of hair on his forehead and cruel lips. He’s not particularly good looking, but does manage to strike a handsome figure and usually gets the girl (I said usually, not always).

Bond is a sympathetic womanizer. He tends to stick with one girl per book and he actually is very devoted to that girl. He is also something of a kissing bandit. Often, in the middle of danger, before he’s shagged the gal, he’ll abruptly kiss the girl full on the lips.

Bond gets his heart broken a few times.

The novels are much more in line with the hardboiled detective genre than the playboy spy genre of the movies.

Bond rarely drinks martinis. He’s a bourbon man. And he can drink a stiff bourbon and branch at virtually any time of the day. When I was reading the books, I tried to emulate his drinking habits, but I soon had to give that up. Bond can be drugged by the enemy for 3 straight days and left in a confined space, and when he comes to, the first thing he wants is a whisky and then a shower (Goldfinger). His drinking does vary, however. He’s had his share of vodka on ice, champagne and whatever the local specialty is. When in the Athens airport, he’ll drink ouzo. When in Japan, he’ll drink sake. So on and so forth.

Bond does not like to be dirty. He takes lots of showers. Four in one day in Live & Let Die. He also takes ice cold showers.

Bond does not have uppity tastes. While they are particular, they tend to be simple and often plebian.

As in the films, Bond loves to gamble. Because it is fiction, he usually wins. When it’s for queen and country…or for M, he will cheat. He’s the best card player in MI6.

MI6 maintains about 3000 employees and is a relatively small outfit.

There are two other double 0s.

Bond enjoys the low rumble of an older car. He drives older Bentleys that are painted dull gunmetal gray and have rough suspension. At first, it’s an early 30’s model, then an early 50’s model, then a customized job. All the other cars tend to be from the motor pool or rentals.

Bond does not like killing. Especially in cold blood. He frets about this all the time.

Bond is always thinking and calculating. If you have a gun on him, he’s gauging the distance between you and him and figuring out what tools are immediately available to disable you.

Bond also thinks more long term. When he’s up in the ski resort in OHMSS, he knows he will likely have to ski down the mountain in a hasty escape, so he starts exercising at night to get into condition to make the demanding run.

Bond has many friends that are outright outlaws or somehow between the law or otherwise amoral – this includes smugglers and crime bosses and his father-in-law.

Felix Leiter is one person.

Bond is very loyal to M. He fears, likes and respects him...and curses him on several occassions.

M likes Bond, though Bond is from a different generation. M does not care for Bond’s womanizing.

I thoroughly respect M's worldview, more than Bond's, thought Bond's worldview is similar. However, Bond is not quite a mature as M (see conversation with Mathis in Casino Royale about good guys and bad guys).

Bond’s friend in France is Mathis. His friend in the U.S. is Felix. His friend in Japan is Tanaka.

Mary Goodnight is not a hopeless idiot.

M in the book could very well be Bernard Lee (brilliant casting)

Jamaica is a central spot in Bond's world: Live & Let Die, Dr. No, Man With the Golden Gun all take place there. Also, the double murder in "A View to a Kill" from For Your Eyes Only takes place there.

Tracy is the ultimate Bond girl. Bond chose wisely to marry her.

Solitaire is the runner up.

Tiffany Case was a little neurotic for my tastes.

The Spy Who Loved Me, followed closely, would make an excellent film.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Suntory commericials

This is really a piece of art:

This one is funny. I have a feeling that if I was drinking this whisky, I'd expect a tatami floor and then sleep right there where I was drinking:

And this one because it has a young Mickey Rourke. Suntory was a Japanese marketing pioneer in exploiting western celebraties:

Who can forget Bill Murray?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

James Bond on Kissy Suzuki

from You Only Live Twice.

[James Bond is preparing to infiltrate the mysterious Death Collector's castle, with its garden of death. He's been deposited at a nearby island which will be his base. He is staying at village of Japanese shell divers. He is staying with the young Kissy Suzuki and her aging parents]

The sweat began to pour down Bond’s face and chest into his bathing pants. Kissy undid the kerchief round her hair and leant forward and mopped at him gently. Bond smiled into her almond eyes and had his first close-up of her snub nose and petalled mouth. She wore no make-up and did not need to, for she had that rosy-tinted skin on a golden background – the colours of a golden peach – that is quite common in Japan. Her hair, released from the kerchief, was black with dark-brown high-lights. It was heavily waved, but with a soft fringe that ended an inch or so above the straight, fine eyebrows that showed no signs of having been plucked. Her teeth were even and showed no more prominently between the lips than with a European girl, so that she avoided the toothiness that is a weak point in the Japanese face. Her arms and legs were longer and less masculine than is usual with Japanese girls and, the day before, Bond had seen that her stomach was almost flat – a beautiful figure, equal to that of any of the star chorus girls he had seen in the cabarets of Tokyo. But her hands and feet were rough and scarred with work, and her finger-nails and toe-nails, although they were cut very short, were broken. Bond found this rather endearing. Ama means ‘sea-girl’ or ‘sea-man’, and Kissy wore the marks of competing with the creatures of the ocean with obvious indifference, and her skin, which might have suffered from constant contact with salt water, in fact glowed with a golden sheen of health and vitality. But it was the charm and directness of her eyes and smile as well as her complete naturalness – for instance, when she mopped at Bond’s face and chest – that endeared her so utterly to Bond. At that moment, he thought there would be nothing more wonderful than to spend the rest of his life rowing her out towards the horizon during the day and coming back with her to the small, clean house in the dusk.

He shrugged the whimsy aside. Only another two days to the full moon and he would have to get back to reality, to the dark, dirty life he had chosen for himself.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

James Bond gun barrel sequences, from various perspectives

First: a compilation of all the sequences together. I wish the quality was a little better, but it's fascinating nonetheless -

Second: How to make your own gun barrel sequence -

Third: A Pierce Brosnan gun barrel sequence to the Andy Griffith theme -

There's several variations on the last part, with different themes songs, but they start losing the charm around the fourth one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

007 in '007: Dr. No

After months of negotiations and legal work, I have managed to convince Ross at the Rued Morgue to let me submit the Dr. No installment of his 007 in '007 series. I hope it proves a worthy cadaver for his morgue.

Friday, July 06, 2007

James Bond's poetry lesson

[Tiger Tanaka has been grooming Bondo-san for a difficult mission.]

from You Only Live Twice

Meanwhile, Tiger and Bond sat in the first class dining-room and consumed ‘Hamlets’ – ham omelets – and saké. Tiger was in a lecturing mood. He was determined to correct Bond’s boorish ignorance of Japanese culture. ‘Bondo-san, I wonder if I will ever get you to appreciate the nuances of the Japanese tanka, or of the haiku, which are the classical forms of Japanese verse. Have you ever heard of Bashō, for instance?’

‘No,’ said Bond with polite interest. ‘Who’s he?’

‘Just so,’ said Tiger bitterly. ‘And yet you would think me grossly uneducated if I had never heard of Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe. And yet Bashō, who lived in the seventeenth century, is the equal of any of them.’

‘What did he write?’

‘He was an itinerant poet. He was particularly at home with the haiku, the verse of seventeen syllables.’ Tiger assumed a contemplative expression. He intonded:

‘In the bitter radish
that bites me, I feel
the autumn wind.
‘Does that not say anything to you? Or this:

‘The butterfly is perfuming
its wings, in the scent
of the orchid.
‘You do not grasp the beauty of that image?’

‘Rather elusive compared to Shakespeare.’

‘In the fisherman’s hut
mingled with dried shrimps
crickets are chirping.’
Tiger looked at him hopefully.

‘Can’t get the hang of that one,’ said Bond apologetically.

‘You do not catch the still-life quality of these verses? The flash of insight into humanity, into nature? Now, do me a favour, Bondo-san. Write a haiku for me yourself. I am sure you could get the hang of it. After all you must have had some education?’

Bond laughed. ‘Mostly in Latin and Greek. All about Caesar and Balbus and so on. Absolutely no help in ordering a cup of coffee in Rome or Athens after I’d left school. And things like trigonometry, which I’ve totally forgotten. But give me a pen and a piece of paper and I’ll have a bash, if you’ll forgive the bad joke.’ Tiger handed them over and Bond put his head in his hands. Finally, after much crossing out and rewriting he said, ‘Tiger, how’s this? It makes just as much sense as old Bashō and it’s much more pithy.’ He read out:

‘You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face.’
Tiger clapped his hands softly. He said with real delight, ‘But that is excellent, Bondo-san. Most sincere.’ He took the pen and paper and jotted some ideograms up the page. He shook his head. ‘No, it won’t do in Japanese. You have the wrong number of syllables. But it is a most honourable attempt.’ He looked keenly at Bond. ‘You were perhaps thinking of your mission?’

‘Perhaps,’ said Bond with indifference.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Manzinger Z and....Ms. Manzinger Z

A credit that was missing from the previous compilations. (I never realized Neil Diamond sang the theme song):

And then there's this gem (about a minute into the clip). Robots are people, too:

A more touching love story I can't recall.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tiger Tanaka on gaijin

From You Only Live Twice

[Tanaka, head of the Japanese secret service, is speaking to Bondo-san about gaijin, as a prelude to the impossible job he is fixing to ask Bondo-san to do.]

He [Tanaka] got out of his chair and sat down on the tatami and arranged himself in the lotus position. He was obviously more comfortable in this posture. He said, in a expository tone of voice, ‘Ever since the beginning of the era of Meiji, who you will know was the Emperor who fathered the modernization and Westernization of Japan from the beginning of his reign nearly a hundred years ago, there have from time to time been foreigners who have come to this country and settled here. They have for the most part been cranks and scholars, and the European-born American Lafcadio Hearn, who became a Japanese citizen, is a very typical example. In general, they have been tolerated, usually with some amusement. So, perhaps, would be a Japanese who bought a castle in the Highlands of Scotland, and who learned and spoke Gaelic with his neighbours and expressed unusual and often impertinent interest in Scottish folkways. If he went about his researches politely and peaceably, he would be dubbed an amiable eccentric. And so it has been with the Westerners who have settled and spent their lives in Japan, though occasionally, in time of war, as would no doubt be the case with our mythical Japanese in Scotland, they have been regarded as spies and suffered internment and hardship. Now, since occupation, there have been many such settlers, the great majority of whom, as you can imagine, have been American. The Oriental way of life is particularly attractive to the American who wishes to escape from a culture which, I am sure you will agree, has become, to say the least of it, more and more unattractive except to the lower grades of the human species to whom bad but plentiful food, shiny toys such as the automobile and the television, and the “quick buck”, often dishonestly earned, or earned in exchange for minimal labour or skills, are the summum bonum, if you will allow the sentimental echo from my Cambridge education.’

‘I will,’ said Bond. ‘But is this not a picture of the life that is being officially encouraged in your own country?’

Tiger Tanaka’s face darkened perceptibly. ‘For the time being,’ he said with distaste, ‘we are being subjected to what I can best describe as the “Scuola di Coca Cola”. Baseball, amusement arcades, hot dogs, hideously large bosoms, neon lighting – these are part of our payment for defeat – a denial of our ancestors, a denial of our gods. They are a despicable way of life’ – Tiger almost spat the words – ‘but fortunately they are also expendable and temporary. They have as much importance in the history of Japan as the life of a dragonfly.’ He paused. ‘But to return to my story. Our American residents are of a sympathetic type – on a low level of course. They enjoy the subservience, which I may say is only superficial, of our women. They enjoy the remaining strict patterns of our life – the symmetry, compared with the chaos that reigns in America. They enjoy our simplicity, with its underlying hint of deep meaning, as expressed for instance in the tea ceremony, flower arrangements, NO plays – none of which of course they understand. They also enjoy, because they have no ancestors and probably no family life worth speaking of, our veneration of the old and our worship of the past. For, in their impermanent world, they recognize these as permanent things just as, in their ignorant and childish way, they admire the fictions of the Wild West and other American myths that have become known to them, not through their education, of which they have none, but through television.’

‘This is tough stuff, Tiger. I’ve got a lot of American friends who don’t equate with what you’re saying. Presumably you’re talking about the lower level G.I.s – second generation Americans who are basically Irish or Germans or Czechs or Poles who probably out to be working in the fields or coalmines of their countries of origin instead of swaggering around a conquered country under the blessed coverlet of the Stars and Stripes with too much money to spend. I daresay they occasionally marry a Japanese girl and settle down here. But surely they pull up stumps pretty quickly. Our Tommies have done the same thing in Germany. But that’s quite a different thing from the Lafcadio Hearns of the world.’

Tiger Tanaka bowed almost to the ground. ‘Forgive me, Bondo-san. Of course you are right, and I have been diverted from my story down most unworthy paths….'

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Classic early 70s anime

Prepare to rock out in memory lane. My memory, anyway. With the exception of the second credit sequence, these were some of the main cartoon shows I watched as a navy brat in Japan. Combattler V was my favorite (cartoon and song). I believe the one with the face mask was also aired in California, circa '77-'78. These guys also formed the bulk of my pre-Star Wars toy collection.

And just as I was about to note the absence of my other fav: Raijin (Laijin?), here's another compilation that starts off with it: