Last year I plugged POOLSIDE, a band with aspirations no greater than inspiring you to chill out and drink adult beverages next to a sterile body of water. The ocean, most likely. I definitely don’t see them advocating a stagnant pool or freshwater lake. This year, I’ve got another fantastic candidate for chill-the-fuck-out record of the year. I submit to you: VONDELPARK. Critics seem to call them dream pop, but that doesn’t really translate here. Vocals are whispy, synthy and minimal. Listen to this:
Record Store Day 2013 is upon us. Even if you aren’t participating in the vinyl resurgence, RSD offers more for music fans than just vinyl. Artists release vinyl, CD and sometimes even cassette tapes for the occasion. But you don’t even need to spend money to participate. Record Store Day isn’t about vinyl or digital; it’s about music lovers of all ages and flavors coming together to celebrate the independent music merchants. The stores I’ve visited during the last few Record Store Days become hangouts, just like they used to be. Many serve food and drink and encourage everyone to stay, chat about music and just enjoy the company of complete strangers as crazy (and often crazier) about music than you. On Saturday, April 20th (or Friday night even!), go forth, be one with the obsessive music lovers. I bet you’ll have a good conversation or two.
For those new to RSD, I’ll share a few of my tips for enjoying the festivities.
As I mentioned, artists release RECORD STORE DAY ONLY EXCLUSIVES to catalyze the merrymaking and commerce.
If you’re pining over a particular RECORD STORE DAY EXCLUSIVE, find a store opening at midnight.
Many of these RSD releases are quite-to-extremely limited. Some are regional only. A rare and/or popular release will sell fast. The only way to be sure is get your butt out to a participating record store on Friday evening and know what you want. Get there before midnight because there will be a line. Also, most people working a Record Store Day midnight event will be happy to point you in the direction of a particular disc. If you’re familiar with record store filing methods, a clerk’s assistance might prove invaluable.
Even if you don’t care about the exclusives (or your store doesn’t participate in selling exclusives), many stores have specials, sales and still participate in the festivities.
Stores that only carry used vinyl often offer sales or grab bag crates of random vinyl. I can almost guarantee that your favorite local record store will participate in some fashion. When in doubt, give ‘em a call. Or just use the day as a good reason to show up and browse the racks.
In case you were wondering, here’s my list of titles I’m interested in. And yes, I’ll be out Friday night to share the midnight madness.
This is just a quick sampling of the titles I’ll be looking for. I won’t get them all. I’ll get some that aren’t listed here… (because this list doesn’t even include regional stuff)… but this is my gameplan that will surely change when faced with the piles and piles of vinyl. I believe they call this freeballin’. And if they don’t, that’s a shame.
This is the eighth essay in a 24-part series about the James Bond cinemas co-created by Sundog Lit. I hope this will become an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction.
Of [In]human Bond[age] #8: Remaking Diamonds Are Forever
With the power of distance and hindsight, how easy is it to criticize George Lazenby for breaking his seven-picture James Bond contract because he didn’t believe 007 would translate to the progressive 1970s? Roger Moore needed a little snark and a hinged eyebrow to revitalize Bond in the 70s and stabilize the franchise going forward through 1989. Four actors and 17 films later, the James Bond brand is as strong as it’s been since Connery’s prime (and arguably stronger – Skyfall supplanted Thunderball as the highest grossing film in the series, including adjustment for inflation).
In 1971, however, Diamonds Are Forever, provided a lot of support for Lazenby’s decision to jump ship. When Lazenby broke his contract before the release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Saltzman and Broccoli were again tasked with casting James Bond. The list of actors approached or known to have been discussed for the role is as curious as it is overpopulated. Burt Reynolds had been EON’s original choice but was unavailable. At the time Reynolds was slightly more than a TV actor but less than a legitimate movie star, known for his role on the short-lived TV series Dan August, supporting roles on Gunsmoke and The F.B.I., and a collection of notable Westerns. He had yet to become the 1970’s pop-culture sex symbol. It’s hard to understand EON’s motivation for selecting Reynolds other than as an attempt to appeal to a broader American audience. Would Reynolds affect a British accent? Can you even imagine that? I have so many questions about the plan for the series should he have been cast. After failing to land Gator, Broccoli and Saltzman hired John Gavin, another American actor who had just played a Secret Service agent in the (undervalued) espionage flick OSS 117. He certainly looked the part, but after the box office disappointment of OHMSS, Universal Studios clearly wanted an actor of some notoriety to bring back the masses. Instead of rolling with Gavin, EON managed to woo Connery back to the tuxedo with a then unheard of sum of $1.25 million (plus 12.5% of the profits from the U.S. release), a figure that would prove, at the very least, to cripple Diamonds’ special effects budget. The film looks muddy and more like a low-budget 70’s drama than the vibrant cinemascope Connery Bonds of the 1960s. That’s not to say that look couldn’t have worked. It just didn’t work for the movie they made.
But it wasn’t just the look of the film that proved off-putting.
As I mentioned in my last essay about OHMSS, EON reacted strongly to the poor turnout for the more serious and by-the-novel Bond film. As a result, Diamonds doesn’t directly acknowledge that Bond’s wife had been murdered by Blofeld in the final scene of the prior film. There are no overt references until Roger Moore places flowers on her grave in For Your Eyes Only. One might argue that another timeline shift in the Bond franchise has taken place (as we must assume to have happened in OHMSS for Blofeld and Bond to have not known each other), but contextually there’s no reason to believe this. Diamonds acknowledges (as one does a vague acquaintance passing on the opposite side of the street, awkwardly and with uncertain effort) a kind of revenge narrative by having Bond aggressively pursue Blofeld in the opening scene, but Connery doesn’t dive into the chore with the burning, white-hot rage of a 1000 dying suns. In fact, he seems burdened by the effort to, as we assume, avenge his wife’s death. Once Bond believes he’s dispatched the villain, the movie detours into uncharacteristically bleak humor and stateside drudgery. Almost the entire movie set in depressing Las Vegas of the early 1970s. The old-time glamor and Sinatra-style class (and the mob) had vacated. The masses migrated to the strip wearing Mickey Mouse t-shirts and cut-off Jordache jeans.
Suffice to say, James Bond does not belong in Circus Circus.
Bond also deserved better than the gum-smacking, double-crossing Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) who might have been the spiritual precursor to Jamie Lee Curtis’ character in Trading Places (except JLC’s prostitute with a heard of gold had far more depth). In fact, both primary Bond girls, Tiffany Case and Plenty O’Toole (Lana Wood) are treated without the reverence the series had offered prior leading women. The contrast is most notable by direct comparison. Perhaps the best Bond girl of them all, Diana Rigg, had immediately preceded them. As insignificant as it may seem there is a difference between being the object of the gaze, in film theory, and being merely an object. There’s just so much wrong or off with this movie. Insipid tanker-bound finale, prosaic shell-game tape swap undoes mastermind/villain during insipid tanker-bound finale, Smokey and the Bandit-esque car crash madness, two-wheel car chase climax without thrill, milquetoast Felix Leiter, Blofeld dressed in drag, Charles Grey miscast as Blofeld, disinterested Sean Connery playing Sean Connery rather than Bond…
Without further focusing on Diamonds Are Forever’s many shortcomings (too much negatively is just a downer), I’ve decided it’s time to embrace the movie it could have been.
Step 1: Remove Bond and embrace the grimy, grey, darkly comic feel
Every time James Bond (or a Bond series’ trope) intervenes during these fleeting high-points, the collision of worlds derails a pretty decent B-movie. DAF isn’t a Bond movie. Quite frankly, it’s shocking that the EON production team read this Maibaum script, then gave the go-ahead and continued to make a Bond picture rather than handing this over to someone like John Frankenheimer. Because of Connery’s oppressive salary demands, the production looks and feels like a low budget film. Without Bond, gritty and low budget makes a lot more sense. Dr. No was filmed for a fraction of the cost and looks far better than Diamonds Are Forever.
Step 2: Simplify
First the large cuts. Minutiae later. Completely excise the climax of the film on the converted oil rig. It’s the stuff of parody. Bad guys exploding into the air as if on trampolines bad. Remove Blofeld’s harebrained scheme to launch a satellite into space equipped with a laser. His entire plan after all is just to blackmail the world. That’s it. Nothing specific exactly. Throw up the satellite, flaunt a big button that could shoot a laser at any specified target on the planet. I’m picturing a Staples button myself. The movie needs to be brought back down to earth. It needs to be about the diamonds. No clichéd super villain schemes. Just real everyday shit. Diamonds. Money. Greed. Power. The dirty 1970’s. Grainy film stock. Vegas.
This movie needs to be stocked with assholes. Charismatic assholes, but assholes nonetheless. In the wake of Blofeld-type crazy, the movie would still need a shadowy puppet master pulling the strings, manipulating the characters with ease. The overhaul I’m suggesting might sound drastic but much of Diamonds’ existing structure can remain.
Step 3: Roll back the casting.
Bring back Burt. This movie was meant for Burt Reynolds, pre-playboy mode. Burt Reynolds, overdressed, in a tux sleazing around Circus Circus with low-life gangsters and carnival games. Good. Sean Connery as James Bond, so erroneously out of place it pains the actor playing the role. Bad. So. So. Bad.
While I consider Jill St. John as Tiffany Case one of the worst Bond girls in the series history, Jill St. John actually has serviceable comedic timing (semi-related note: maybe you recall that she appears in the “Yada Yada” episode of Seinfeld) but she’s terribly miscast. The role of Tiffany Case clearly wasn’t meant for an actress that excelled as a sexpot in lightweight, fluffernutter comedies. Tiffany Case requires a brazen and ineffable self-confidence. Let’s return to another name tossed about in the casting process of DAF: Faye Dunaway. Not only had Dunaway been on the short list for Diamonds but also for the role of Domino in Thunderball. She wasn’t cast in Thunderball and turned down the role here. But if there was a young woman acting in the 1970’s with bigger brass balls beyond her years than Faye Dunaway, I can’t think of an example right now.
And now considering Blofeld’s replacement. Charles Gray doesn’t say 1970’s puppetmaster to me. He also never wowed me as Blofeld. Good actor, but he doesn’t necessarily command a room. Consider for a moment, Edmond O’Brien.
He worked with Frankenheimer later, in 1974, so let’s just bump that up a few years. The Wild Bunch was two years prior and, man, does he have screen presence. Also, as a boy, he learned performance magic from neighbor Harry Houdini. Gotta have the beard. What a way to connect the evil logic of this operation to Las Vegas. A former magician, now out of work, but still living in Vegas running a small time criminal operation. He knows how the town works from the inside. He was there when it was great and now plans to turn it to rubble with a false diamond heist scheme, pitting criminals against each other. Goddamn, this movie writes itself. It’s broad and wildly implausible… but still, somehow, leagues more realistic than anything Blofeld ever conceived.
Step 4: Accentuate the few positives
With the Bond gloss removed, Diamonds would be free to focus on the elements that worked. Most notably the henchman: Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. They are useful, silver-tongued comic relief (and not the Jaws in Moonraker kind either). Bruce Glover and Putter Smith are vicious sociopaths in Diamonds. They’re serial killers with employment. It would be wise to town down the in-your-face homosexuality, however. More subtext is required. And of course they’re dispatched with far too little effort by Bond at the very end of the film. These two should pose a continued and serious threat to Burt Reynolds’ operation. But the ongoing question would remain: who are they and who do they work for?
Two “action” set pieces can remain as well. The moon rover chase. Connecting the dots to a moon rover chase might be more difficult than it’s worth, however. While Bond being chased on the moon rover is comical, Burt Reynolds has proven he’s a master of vehicular-based comedy, which is why we can also leave in the car chase through the strip and the accompanying 1000 car pileup. This is a Burt Reynolds gig. Not a James Bond gag. That said, if we can’t work the moon rover into the narrative, I’d be okay with that. Remember? We’re simplifying.
Bond’s first stop in Vegas is the crematorium. Rather than merely wasting the bit on one scene, make the funeral home and crematorium the front for the diamond smuggling operation owned by the mysterious villain played by Edmond O’Brien. Once you find a way to logically incorporate a funeral business into a black comedy you best make sure it becomes a primary point of interest. Some of the in-humor with James Bond/Sean Connery would be lost here, but it’s a small price to pay to eliminate all the gags that fall flat.
Step 5: Fill in the blanks
Flesh out Tiffany Case. Add a few more brilliant cast members to give the supporting cast some bite. The only real difficulty will be in reworking the finale so that the new parts fall in with the old. Easy, you know, because writing a screenplay is just paint-by-numbers anyway.
Bond[age] #7: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Pleads the 4th
This is the seventh essay in a 23-part series about the James Bond cinemas co-produced by Sundog Lit. I encourage everyone to venture over to Sundog to read other essays, comment and join in what we hope to be an extended conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction. The entire collection of essays, live tweet digests and other Bond nonsense is housed on the #Bond_age_ tumblr at 007hertzrumble.tumblr.com.
Of [In]human Bond[age] #7: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Pleads the 4th
I originally embarked on this voyage to watch and discuss all 23 James Bond movies because I wanted to look more closely at the temporality of the Bond adventures. A theme inspired by a moment in Skyfall when Daniel Craig retrieves the Aston Martin DB5 from storage, a car with which his Bond has had no prior relationship. Having had six different actors play the role with eleven different directors behind the camera, how did the series adjust from one actor to the next? Natural shifts in style and substance brought upon by external market influences and cinematic trends? How did filmmaking decisions attempt to explain the continuity from film to film? Or, conversely, did the filmmakers try to explain it at all?
Part 1: Unveiling the First New Bond
After Sean Connery quit the role of James Bond, Saltzman and Broccoli offered the role to then 22-year-old Timothy Dalton. Dalton declined, considering himself too young for the role. Lazenby meanwhile had moved to London in 1963, the year Dr. No was released. He became a used car salesman and then a male model before landing a commercial spot. In the Bond documentary Everything or Nothing, Lazenby said “I had nothing on my mind, night and day, except getting that job.” He purchased a Savile Row suit and a Rolex identical to James Bond’s and got his hair cut by Connery’s barber. Some stories suggest Lazenby met Cubby Broccoli at the barbershop and Broccoli liked the cut of his jib. Others suggest he snuck past the EON Productions secretary and once through the door introduced himself by saying “I heard you’re looking for James Bond.” Either way he willed himself into contention and survived the four-month Bond search. The picture below shows the five finalists for the role. (Don’t you just feel damn sorry for the other four gentlemen? Also, how did they get that far??)
Broccoli and Saltzman were often slaves to public opinion, or at the very least, their perception of public opinion, often overcompensating to relative success or failure. Connery had been such a success in the Bond role that they intended to repeat that success by casting another relative unknown, a move they would certainly regret, both due to Lazenby’s off-screen personality and lackluster box office return. They never needed to express their regret publicly; Lazenby abandoned his seven-picture deal before the release of the film (he felt that the Bond series was a dinosaur that couldn’t survive the progressive 1970’s). The further course-correction undertaken after the relative “failure” of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, however, speaks volumes.
I’d circled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on my calendar because this would be the first film in which I could really focus on how the series shifted from one actor to the next (and back again, but that’s a chat for next week). Before watching the film for the first time in twenty years I did a little research about how Lazenby had been marketed. At the end of his tenure, Connery had been synonymous with Bond. The posters for You Only Live Twice put the phrase “Sean Connery is Bond” as large as the title itself. Advance posters for OHMSS, on the other hand,completely obscured Bond’s face in a portrait surrounded by eight bikini-clad women. (When in doubt, go back to the staples: guns and girls.)
The primary theatrical poster returns to the Bond basics. It boasts “FAR UP! FAR OUT! FAR MORE! James Bond 007 is back!” (See poster above.) A tuxedo-clad Lazenby postures with a gun on skis. Diana Rigg’s cleavage on full display (also on skis). Telly Savalas fires upward at him from a bobsled (spoiler!). Helicopters. Explosions. Skiers with assault rifles. The style of the poster itself is standard hyperbolic artwork (exceptionally so considering Secret Service is a return to a more character- and narrative-driven Bond film) consistent with the last Connery posters for the spectacle films You Only Live Twice and Thunderball. Lazenby’s name appears small and at the bottom alongside Rigg and Savalas. Rigg would have been the biggest star in the film because of her role as Emma Peel on the Avengers. Other than the foreign film roles Lazenby had lied about on his resume, his only prior acting experience had been a Big Fry Chocolate commercial. On these new posters, as opposed to the You Only Live Twice Connery poster, the James Bond character is the only attraction, just as it was on the first Dr. No posters where Sean Connery’s name is barely visible and the movie is billed as “Ian Fleming’s Dr. No.”
But even after fans were lured back by the Bond name and whiz-bang marketing, they still had to be convinced that Lazenby could be the face of the franchise. The series had reached a critical point. How would the filmmakers approach On Her Majesty’s Secret Service knowing they not only had to make a great movie, but also set the table for Bond’s future with an actor not named Sean Connery?
The Formula Adopts a Variable
Self-awareness has been an expected and almost necessary part of the modern Bond formula. As I suggested in my introductory essay to the series, Skyfall is remarkable because it succeeds at being both a quality movie and at hauling the requisite Bond baggage from the 22-prior films (whether it is a great Bond movie is up for debate). Fans love to be rewarded for their loyalty with knowing winks. In order for the movie to succeed on its own merit, however, those knowing winks cannot interrupt or detract from the narrative itself lest they seem cloying or pandering. Director Sam Mendes included dozens of sly references to past Bond films in Skyfall but only one called attention to itself as nothing more than a nod to the past – that DB5 resurrection (apparently from carbon storage due to its pristine condition).
What screenwriter Richard Maibaum and director Peter R. Hunt depict in the pre-credit sequence of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service lays bare their concept for the series A.C. (after Connery). After Bond rescues a girl from the surf and fights off two would-be assailants, the girl drives away without a word leaving Bond stranded on the beach. Lazenby as James Bond then turns toward the camera and says, “This never happened to the other fellow.”
On one hand, the line is an easy joke, a quick one-liner in the wake of violence – a Bond series staple. On the other, the line is a profound statement of awareness. James Bond talked through the camera to the audience. He’s saying I know that you know I’m not Sean Connery and I want you to know that I know you know I’m not Sean Connery. It’s a brilliant filmmaking decision, one of the most daring in the entire 007 series. That said, as a cinematic tool, it wasn’t a new concept. The popular contemporary films Alfie (1966) and best picture-winner Tom Jones (1963) would have already established this filmmaking trick in the public consciousness, albeit in the comedy genre. Breaking the fourth wall has a long history in comedy, going back to Groucho Marx who regularly used asides and fourth wall tricks in the Marx Bros. comedies of the 1930s. While the Bond films use humor to palletize violence and sex, they cannot themselves be considered comedic. The moment is brief, but bold, and lingers for only a second before the film cuts to the traditional silhouettes of the Bond title sequence, which is, in itself, a montage of scenes from old Bond films without the appearance of James Bond himself.
Many fans take offense to this moment. They complain that it’s not a “Bond moment.” But I’m going to call this suggestion into question. It is absolutely a Bond moment. Because from this moment forward, Bond, to varying degrees, is linked to the self-referential awareness of itself as a series of films depicting events in the career of one 00-agent. If you, as the viewer, accept George Lazenby and Sean Connery as the same character then you are also a willing conspirator. The Roger Moore films stray temporarily from acknowledging the past before incorporating a number of references to the Sean Connery films (and a brief mention of his dead wife) in The Spy Who Loved Me. Like EON’s rebellion against the serious Bond film, against a James Bond with feelings, against James Bond movies too close to the source material, the temporary absence of self-awareness is also a knee-jerk reaction to the relative failure of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and an attempt to fully reboot the series. The modern James Bonds (Brosnan and Craig), however, bathe in self-awareness and in the tropes of Bond’s past. Audiences, for better or worse, crave this two-way communication. Do a simple Google search for “Skyfall Bond references” to find dozens of fan-made lists chronicling the self-referential moments contained within the film.
Furthermore, consider the scene in OHMSS that takes place when Bond resigns his post. As 007 cleans out his desk, he removes a number of items from his desk drawer, mementos of sorts: Honey Rider’s knife from Dr. No, the watch from From Russia With Love and the underwater breather from Thunderball. Even the janitor in the MI-6 offices is whistling the Goldfinger theme. Of course, these items aren’t mementos for James Bond – they belong to the audience (because Bond would consider such things frivolous). They’re tchotchkes we’ve collected and catalogued along our cinema travelogue. It’s an assault of references that are all again planted to remind everyone watching that George Lazenby isn’t Sean Connery, but he is James Bond. (He’s same character and he remembers the same things you do! Really. Honestly. We promise. Look. Here’s the stuff that belonged to the Sean Connery Bond that you, I mean, he, kept as souvenirs from his prior exploits!)
Part 2: Precocious Timelines
Not only does OHMSS introduce self-awareness into the Bond formula but the sixth Bond film also poses the first temporal anomaly in the series that suggests we cannot consider the Bond series to be linear. In You Only Live Twice Bond finally squares off against Ernst Stavro Blofeld face to face in what the Fleming books considered the climax of the Blofeld plot. Bond goes undercover as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray. Blofeld intends to lay claim to the title “Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp” – Bleuchamp being the French form of the Blofeld family name. Had Bond actually met Blofeld previously this undercover scheme would not have been possible. Had they met before they also wouldn’t have required a scene of formal introductions in OHMSS.
If the Bond franchise existed only on-screen, this kind of anomaly would be inexplicable. What we have, however, is a series that existed first on the page and was then translated to the screen in an order determined by budgetary constraints and perceived marketability. The curious thing about this is that the filmmakers in charge of OHMSS (Richard Maibaum and Peter Hunt being the most influential creative contributors) chose, on this one particular occasion to create a Bond movie that remained very true to the source material. So true, in fact, that they even chose not to alter the pre-existing on-screen relationship between Bond and Blofeld.
If I were prone to wild conjecture (perhaps just this once) I’d suggest that as the editor of the first three Bond films and second unit director for the subsequent two, Hunt had formed a few strong opinions about the direction the franchise should take. And he was determined to follow through when he was finally offered the directorial job on OHMSS, his directorial debut. That said, whatever his reasoning, it can’t be discounted. It boils down to this. Blofeld didn’t know Bond, and therefore, OHMSS must, logically, take place before You Only Live Twice in the Bond chronology.
Return for a second to the drawer Bond empties out in his office. He removed trinkets from Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball and the janitor whistles the theme from Goldfinger, but the movie recalls nothing from You Only Live Twice. This omission is either a convenient oversight or a deliberate choice. I suggest the latter, albeit with one caveat. In the opening credit sequence that I mentioned earlier – the one containing clips from the prior Bond movies flowing through an hourglass – contains fleeting moments from You Only Live Twice. I excuse this because the clips are played entirely for the viewer and likely weren’t a choice made by Maibaum or Hunt, but rather from above, from EON Productions and Saltzman and Broccoli. Since the typical opening sequence contains silhouettes of naked women writhing to a suggestive theme song (something that doesn’t really happen on screen), it shouldn’t be difficult to write this off as something outside and unrelated to the Bond spacetime.
When he turned to the camera and uttered that one little phrase at the beginning of his sixth adventure, James Bond turned the franchise upside down. No matter your opinion of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as a standalone film, it must be conceded that the film serves as a fascinating turning point in the series. Not only is it the first time the Bond role changes hands, but it is also a distinct departure in tone, style and substance from the movies that immediately preceded it. That many fans now consider it to be an upper-echelon Bond entry (meanwhile others wildly disagree) makes for a fascinating discussion about the value of hindsight and OHMSS’ lingering repercussions, both as a result of its perceived box office failure and the introduction of self awareness, a brand new variable to the tried and true formula. A strong case could be made that Daniel Craig’s Bond films have become a spiritual successor to Lazenby’s only outing. Consider the serious tone, the more personal look at the emotion and motivation behind 007’s actions. Also, lest we forget that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service introduced the tchotchkes that Bond must now carry around with him and scatter throughout his missions for our viewing edification. You can be quite sure that the contents of Daniel Craig’s Bond baggage fills far more than just a tiny little desk drawer.
Call it what you will. Lo-fi 80′s R&B. Bedroom glitch soul. Perhaps. Whatever it is, this entire record is electric and should get moved to the front of any of your “to-listen playlists.” The video’s pretty damn cool too. This record has that Poolside feel to it, the kind of fun, soulful record that just won’t give up its hold of the turntable.
We recently renegotiated our relationship with our living room furniture. Mostly we just moved a bookcase, but it looks like a drastic change. The bookcase was essentially a room divider and swapping it from one side of the room to the other flipped everything on its head. This move also had the effect of making more of my books visible. Two books in particular now stand out in the room that had previously been obscured by the other bookcase.
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I can’t exactly put my finger on why these two books are linked, other than their newfound visibility in the room, but it seems like there’s something portentous there. There has to be right?
One is about a brave, new “World” and one seeks to explain nearly everything in this old, damn world. One has the word “world” in the title and the other has a big ass picture of the world. We’re told that there are no such things as simple coincidence and so I must infer meaning in the supposed coincidence. I’m more than willing to conjecture wildly, as I think I’ve established in prior posts on this damned bl-g. So, let’s do that.
I’ve reached a point in my adulthood that the things to which I clung to as a young man are fading. I’m not even speaking here of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a chronic virus that can never truly be escaped. Every time we long for a measure of our youth, of the way things used to be, that’s nostalgia chipping away at your heart with a tiny, but painful, rock hammer. I’m thinking again about identity. (Yes, again.) I’m thinking about the way we face the world, the ways in which we divide our personalities to conquer the days and weeks and months that slip the cracks in our trembling hands.
I’ve got James Bond on the mind lately, if you hadn’t noticed (#Bond_age_ project going in full swing now) and so the imagery from the title-sequence from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sticks in my head as I discuss the passing of “time.”
Of course, if you’ve seen OHMSS lately you’ll recall the final line from the film, uttered by James Bond (George Lazenby) as he watches he newly wedded wife die in his arms, murdered by Blofeld’s assassins. “There’s no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world.”
If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a profoundly moving scene in the context of a Bond film. James Bond. He who supposedly has no personal feelings but love for queen and country, mourns. Lazenby is not an actor per say (he’d only done one chocolate commercial prior to this fleeing gig as Bond) but the way he plays this role — happy accident or not — speaks to how we mourn the inevitable passage of our own time and our own worlds. With distance. Bond is out of body here, removed from the horror he’s experiencing. The repetition of the time motif in OHMSS sets this James Bond movie apart from all the rest and thus, perhaps, makes this moment that much more powerful.
Does it speak to me because there’s a timelessness to James Bond? A timelessness that this scene interrupts? 50 years after Dr. No, James Bond is still jumping motorcycles onto trains. At the same time isn’t that why many of us are fans of 007? Interminable youth? Yet, here we are in OHMSS taking that notion and just stomping all over it.In terms of Bond, OHMSS should have represented a “brave, new world.” The first new Bond. A new, more personal direction in the series. But audiences did not warm to new Bond. They didn’t take to the more somber, personal tone of the film.
Isn’t that natural? To avoid our reality? I’m getting a little glum here. And I apologize. But I’m spewing notes and ideas culled from the intersection of James Bond, Bill Bryson and Aldous Huxley. Something weird was bound to happen. The producers of the Bond series of films immediately abandoned the James Bond burdened by feelings and retreated to pure escapism. They brought back Sean Connery (at GREAT expense) and ventured forward, undaunted by the brave, frightening new world of the 1970′s. Audiences agreed. They flocked back to Bond, making Diamonds Are Forever (a certifiable stinker of a motion picture) a great success compared to the lackluster return from the much better OHMSS.
So, with all that said, I’m looking at these things in front of me and I’m noticing a change in myself. For the first time in many years. I’ve always feared the moment that I took stock of my life and said, “Well, that’s what it is.” But just recently I looked around and said that very same thing. House. Wife. Two kids. But I wasn’t afraid of recognizing limbo. I wasn’t afraid, not right now anyway. Because I’m looking at everything and I’m thinking “I have all the time in the world” with equal measure James Bond-inspired melancholy and hope.
Are you ready for the deus ex machina wrap up of this mindless ramble? Here goes.
I’m looking forward, but not with pervasive fear. And now that I’ve come to terms with where I am in this world. I indeed see the potential of the time I have, the “brave, new world” at my fingertips. Nothing will ever be the same, but, at the time time, my short history of nearly everything suggests that I don’t necessarily want it to be. I’ve struggled with mental health and doubt and misplaced anxiety. I want not to do that again. I want to embrace time. Because as James Bond has taught us, the time we have left is all the time in our world. I might slip back into depression, succumb to my fears and anxieties tomorrow. I never really know. But I never did. I just know that I’d always prefer to watch On Her Majesty’s Secret Service rather than Diamonds Are Forever. And that, clearly, means something.