Thursday, June 08, 2006
SOME OF IT HILAROUS.
THE BOOK, I MEAN.
I had been informed that the James Bond novels From Russia With Love, Dr. No, and Goldfinger formed a high-quality trilogy, three consecutive adventures by Ian Fleming that transfixed readers in the late 1950s and created the buzz that made a film series inevitable.
Part of this may be true. From Russia With Love and Dr. No are certainly very good books, and the timing for the production of the films works out very well. (The first three films were Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. But note: Goldfinger was last.)
But Goldfinger – the novel – really isn't that great. Yes, I do love the first 150 pages or so. But the last part of it is ruined by some very lazy writing and some haphazard plotting. I read the first part quickly because I was on the edge of my seat. I read the last 100 pages quickly because I wanted it to be over.
The plot: Bond is in an airport, somewhere between Mexico and London, when he is recognized by a chap who witnessed his legendary bout with Le Chiffre at the baccarat tables, so well-described in Casino Royale. The chap asks Bond to help him out: he has been losing badly playing canasta with a fellow named Auric Goldfinger, and he suspects Goldfinger of cheating.
In a scene similar to the beginning of Moonraker, Bond figures out what is going on and embarrasses Goldfinger badly. Very nice.
Even better is the next major sequence. Bond finds out his next mission involves … Auric Goldfinger! (Again, just like Moonraker.) He will use his prior acquaintance with Goldfinger to get close to him and try to find out if there is anything to the suspicions that Goldfinger is a major smuggler. He meets Goldfinger at the Royal St Marks, a famous club with an impressive golf course. They play golf, and it is one of the best scenes in the Bond novels. The movie doesn't even begin to do justice to this scene. Goldfinger cheats, but Bond gets the better of him anyway. I really hate golf, but if I ever have to play golf, I will be able to get through the match by pretending Bond and Goldfinger are on the next green, or perhaps they are in the rough, looking for Goldfinger's ball.
Then, they drive around Europe for awhile, and the plot gets seriously dumb. Bond gets caught snooping around Goldfinger's factory in Switzerland (where the smuggling takes place), and Goldfinger inexplicably spares him to help him with paperwork in a scheme to plunder Fort Knox. Bond is supposed to be such a great secret agent, but he is pretty lame here, and Fleming is very lazy in much of the writing.
But you have to give Fleming credit with providing the reader with some very amusing racist nonsense. And, as an added bonus, we also find out that Bond is a homophobe with some very quaint notions about homosexuality.
First, here's Goldfinger on Koreans:
" ... it happens that I am a rich man, very rich man, and the richer the man the more he needs protection. The ordinary bodyguard or detective is usually a retired policeman. Such men are valueless Their reactions are slow, their methods old-fashioned, and they are open to bribery. Moreover, they have a respect for human life. That is no good if I wish to stay alive The Koreans have no such feelings. That is why the Japanese employed them as guards for their prison camps during the war. They are the cruelest, most ruthless people in the world. My own staff are hand-picked for these qualities. They have served me well. I have no complaints. Nor have they. They are well paid and well fed and housed. When they want women, street women are brought down from London, well remunerated for their services and sent back. The women are not much to look at, but they are white and that is all the Koreans ask – to submit the white race to the grossest indignities. There are sometimes accidents but -" the pale eyes gazed blankly down the table – "money is an effective winding-sheet."
"You like the aphorism? It is my own."
Somehow, this charming soliloquy didn’t make it into the film
Did you notice that he bragged about his "aphorism"?
What an asshole!
I might be willing to give Fleming a pass on this rant against the Koreans. He could just be trying to establish his antagonist Goldfinger as a total asshole.
But Fleming's history of "insensitive" comments is just a little too relentless.
And then he provides us with James Bond's observations on homosexuality:
Bond came to the conclusion that Tilly Masterson was one of those girls whose hormones had got mixed up. He knew the type well and thought they and their male counterparts were a direct consequence of giving votes to women and "sex equality." As a result of fifty years of emancipation, feminine qualities were dying out or being transferred to the males. Pansies of both sexes were everywhere, not yet completely homosexual, but confused, not knowing what they were. The result was a herd of unhappy, sexual misfits – barren and full of frustrations. He was sorry for them, but he had no time for them.
Homosexuality is caused by women voting. Um, thank you, James. Why don't you go back to exposing canasta cheats and leave the psychology to people who aren’t homophobic misogynists?
Tilly Masterson dies later because she rejects Bond's efforts to save her when the shooting starts. Tilly ignores Bond and runs off to find Pussy Galore. (I’d rather be saved by Pussy Galore as well. But Pussy wasn't even around at the moment.) So the moral is: Lesbians are stupid. I think that's the moral.
At the end, Pussy rejects lesbianism and sleeps with Bond.
"They told me you only liked women."
She said, "I never met a man before." The toughness came back into her voice. "I come from the South. You know the definition of a virgin down there? Well, it's a girl who can run faster than her brother. In my case I couldn't run as fast as my uncle. I was twelve. That's not so good, James. You ought to be able to guess that."
I guess her uncle got so mad that women could vote that he raped Pussy Galore.
Another life ruined by the women's rights movement and "sexual equality"!
When will liberals learn?
Author's note: To be fair to Ian Fleming, he seems to have been against the criminalization of drug use. This is from the first chapter, as Bond reflects on an earlier exploit:
It was an orderly commerce of no concern to anyone outside Mexico. Then, far away in England, the Government, urged on by the United Nations' drive against drug smuggling, announced that heroin would be banned in Britain. There was alarm in Soho and also among respectable doctors who wanted to save their patients agony. Prohibition is the trigger of crime.
Go, Ian! Testify!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" yesterday, and it was pretty awesome. I decided I should see it early in its theatrical run. When I am faced with the Lie Machine so vital to conservative tactics, I will be prepared.
(This was very helpful when "Fahrenheit 9/11" came out. For example, I was prepared when Newsweek, that "liberal rag," refuted several things that, sadly for Newsweek, Michael Moore didn't say.)
The conservatives really hate Al Gore. I remember very well the "Al Gore, pathological liar" character that the conservatives made up and the "liberal media" perpetuated in the 2000 election campaign. It's funny. You'd think that if Al Gore was such a dangerous, serial liar, it wouldn't have been that difficult to come up with a REAL lie, something that Al Gore really said. Instead, the so-called "liberal media" contented itself with a barrage of distortions, half-truths and falsehoods that have been easily refuted by anyone who cares enough about America to do a little independent research. (Conservatives should try it some time. Maybe decent people wouldn't look at conservatives with such scorn and revulsion if conservatives weren't so stubbornly ill-informed.)
The "Al Gore, pathological liar" character has almost disappeared from current discourse. It was a very dishonest and transparent device from the get-go. Only the REALLY irredeemably pathetic conservative hacks, like Jonah Goldberg, are still trying to push this narrative. Goldberg, in a recent column, noted that Al Gore said he studied French in France the summer that he was 15. Yet Gore's biography states that he was working on the family farm that summer when he was 15. Obviously (in the mind of Goldberg and other tiny-brained conservatives), there is no way anybody could have done both in a single summer. So Al Gore must be a LIAR!
Maybe he was actually SIXTEEN when he went to France! LIAR!
Or maybe Goldberg is making it up. Or repeating a pre-recorded narrative carefully provided by the Repug Lie Machine. He's done it before. But it's not that big a deal. It's just what conservatives do when they don't have any genuine criticisms. He's just giving his alleged audience what it allegedly wants: The worst possible interpretation of every action of every "liberal." So it's hard to get mad at someone who is so pathetic that he has no other mission except to pander to a steadily-shrinking group of delusional, honesty-impaired conservatives.
(In Jonah's defense, he is not as lame as the guy who does "Mallard Fillmore," who, in addition to being a pathetic hack with no sense of humor, is also a bad artist.)
(NOTE: The Jonah Goldberg column appeared in that "liberal rag" The Los Angeles Times on May 25, 2006. It was titled "Same Old Al," but it should have been more accurately titled "Same Old Jonah.")
For more on the "Al Gore, pathological liar" narrative, check out The Daily Howler here, here, here, and here.
The new narrative I have seen in several different forms. It hasn't really coalesced yet, basically because it's based on total bullshit, and the conservatives and their "liberal media" thralls are trying out several variations, testing to see what will sway the public. I have seen Al Gore described as a fear monger (for trying to scare everybody with the Big Bad Wolf of global warming), an overly-ambitious hack who just wants to be president (unlike all the devoted Republicans presently jockeying for the highest office by exploiting wedge issues like flag-burning, illegal immigration and gay marriage), and a weak and indecisive figure who paid too much attention to his consultants in 2000.
I really like Al Gore. I've always liked Al Gore, and the unwarranted and false attacks on Gore in 2000 were a major factor in turning me against the Republicans forever. Until the Republicans apologize for this kind of divisive shit and stop doing it, I will never vote Republican again, nor can I have any respect for anyone who supports the party of lies and smears.
I didn't vote for Gore in 2000. I voted for Nader. Gore's campaign was so uninspired, so business-as-usual, so bloodless that I just decided to go with the "Democrats are almost as bad as Republicans" narrative, and I voted for Nader. (I don't regret it a bit.)
It's nice to see Al Gore back. He has learned a lot since 2000. (One of the big differences between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats (some of them) can learn.) In "An Inconvenient Truth," he makes the case for global warming, caused by human activity, in a manner that is very persuasive, and should be considered seriously by decent, honorable, reasonable people. (For a typical refutation of "An Inconvenient Truth," see this piece on Salon, another media outlet frequently called the "liberal media" by lying conservatives. Also, see this refutation of the refutation at Media Matters, a watchdog organization accused of lying by people who are unable to provide examples.)
(UPDATE: See comments below for another attack on Al Gore, this one written by Tom Harris, utilizing talking points developed and approved by more shills from the big oil companies. I have provided several links that expose the dishonest and divisive silliness of these hacks.)
I am not going to go over the film scene by scene. Gore is funny and informative. The professional Gore-haters will hate it (largely without seeing it) but they really hate "liberals" and they really love their opinions pre-packaged by the White House Talking Points Dept. and they don't care enough to detect obvious falsehoods about people they are told not to like, so ... fuck them.
One of the things that struck me about the film was Al's accent. He has a hint of Tennessee twang. You can't cultivate a subtle accent like that. Unlike George W. Bush's phony accent, Gore's is real. Progressive Texans have told me that Bush's "Texas" accent is as phony as the ranch. (You know, the ranch in Crawford where the main crop seems to be brush.) He talks like an idiot because he is so out-of-touch with regular people that he thinks they talk like idiots. (And, yes, it's true, a lot of people who voted for him are idiots. It's a damn shame that the Repugs won in 2004 by only stealing a few million votes. They should have had to steal a lot more than that!)
It is a fucking tragedy that we got stuck with George W. Bush when we could have had Al Gore. The Republican leadership had no qualms about lying and lying and lying some more about Albert Gore. The future will be no different as the flip-flopping, opportunistic Repugs will disavow George W. Bush to start creating a new narrative of "John McCain, maverick and outsider" or "George Allen, man of the people" or "Jeb Bush, the smart one" or "Condi Rice, who stood up to Iraq and Iran." These new narratives, refined and promulgated by the "liberal media," will be supplemented with vicious and false attacks on any successful Democrat. And, lazy conservative dimwits will continue to believe dozens of transparent lies at the same time they repeat the "liberal media" mantra.
I want to vote for Al Gore for president. Hopefully, "An Inconvenient Truth" will just be the first step in the road to the White House for a man who already won it. It would be nice to have an articulate, intelligent, sincere president in the White House instead of yet another dishonest puppet creation of the Republican Lie Machine.
No Republicans were hurt in the making of this essay.