Monday, November 24, 2008


I speak to you today as a humbled man. A man who had experienced a crippling addiction and thought he'd beaten it. A man who took an unwarranted pride in his triumph over compulsion – a pride that, as pride so often does, came before a fall. I have had a relapse, and now I find myself questioning everything I thought I knew about my character. Yes, it's true – I spent the entire weekend watching old episodes of Star Trek.

Above: Who I thought I was

Above: Who I actually am

One caveat before I continue: Despite my shame over my crippling Star Trek addiction, I believe William Shatner to be the pinnacle of human evolution, and I make no apologies for that. When humanity, after untold millennia of striving, finally attains perfection, humanity will look something like this:

Above: Awesomeness

So all you Shatner haters out there can just step off. The Shat is the shit, and I will injure anyone who says otherwise. The dude is hysterically funny and deeply poignant in his current starring role on Boston Legal, and he has a great sense of humor about his own image. And of course, he gave one towering performance in which he perfectly summed up the hopeless, existential angst that is the lot of all mankind:

So hands off Shatner, bitches.

Still, I find my sudden relapse into Trekkiedom very troubling. It all started with my discovery of Fancast, a Web site that allows you to watch full television episodes on your computer. I was browsing their selection and seriously considering getting reacquainted with the excellent 80s private-eye series Spenser: For Hire when my eyes wandered on down the list and … what? All 79 episodes? In any order I want to watch them?!? Damn you, alphabet, for placing Spenser and Star Trek on the same list! Suddenly I found myself longing for the whimsy of "The Trouble With Tribbles". The heart-wrenching selflessness of Kirk's sacrifice in "City on the Edge of Forever". The thinly veiled homoeroticism of his struggle with the Gorn in "Arena".

Above: "I love you!" "It'll never work!"

I don't know what was more disturbing to me: The fact that I could remember, by looking at an episode title, the plot of said episode; or that I still knew what a Gorn was. Either way, I was fucked.

Above: This guy only appeared
in two episodes, and
I still
know who he is! I suck!

The proper thing to do at this juncture would have been to turn off my laptop, close it, take it down to the beach, and throw it into the sea to avoid temptation. Instead, I scrolled down to the pilot episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" … and hit play. Ten hours later, I remembered to eat something.

Above: "He's a douche, Jim."

I spent Sunday in pretty much the same way, and I'll probably do the same tonight. My friends are considering an intervention, but I think, with enough willpower and humility, I can beat this on my own. I've done it before, and as God is my witness, I'll do it again.

Of course, the new movie comes out next year.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Bonds, James Bonds

Well, the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, hit theaters over the weekend. While not as good as the excellent Casino Royale, it's still a perfectly serviceable Bond flick – and an excuse, as are all Bond flicks, to rate the various actors who have portrayed 007. Here's my list, starting with the best:

1. Bond, James Bond
Sean Connery and Daniel Craig (tie)

I know a lot of traditionalists would dearly love to crucify me for raising anybody up to the level of St. Sean, but I have my reasons. I’ll get to those below. First, let’s talk about something that isn’t controversial: Why Connery is such a kick-ass Bond.

Connery (Bond in Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Never Say Never Again [unofficial])

Connery automatically has points added for being the first guy to play Bond (excluding Barry Nelson in a 1954 TV version of Casino Royale). He also starred in the movies made before the franchise started getting stupid (Dr. No through Thunderball).

Above: Awesomeness

But the real reason Connery stands head and shoulders above Bonds Two through Five is the combination of suave sophistication and cold-bloodedness he brought to the character. Connery’s Bond was an original, and – with one notable exception – the subsequent Bond actors haven’t really been playing Bond; they’ve been playing Sean Connery playing Bond.

Greatest liability: Scottish accent made him comically mispronounce the word Pussy.

Greatest asset: But he still got a lot of it.

Craig (Bond in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace)

The notable exception mentioned above, of course, is Daniel Craig. His is the first Bond, as far as I can see, who owes nothing to Connery’s performance. If anything, Craig’s Bond owes more to Ian Fleming’s literary spy. Fleming liked to describe Bond as “a blunt instrument” wielded by a dispassionate government agency. His Bond was an unrepentant killer – and of the various Bonds, only Craig has embodied that aspect of the character.

Above: One cold bastard

Raymond Chandler’s seminal private eye Philip Marlowe once described a particular gangster as someone who would “beat my teeth in and then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.” That’s Craig’s Bond in a nutshell – a blue-collar thug, only slightly camouflaged by a veneer of sophistication, whose antisocial impulses have been legitimized by his work. Forget shooting the villain, straightening his tie and delivering a droll one-liner – this Bond is a desperate savage, beating people to death with his bare hands and then drinking a tumbler of Scotch to quell his trembling. And yet Craig gives Bond more than that; in his hands, 007 has a legitimate emotional core. Previous Bonds, including (sorry, folks) Sean Connery, have basically been cartoons of suave virility. Craig’s Bond is a terribly wounded man, a disappointed romantic who operates from a core of corrupted idealism and deep-seated self-loathing. In that, his 007 is a true original.

And it doesn’t hurt that he kicks major ass.

Greatest liability: Tiny hooded eyes.

Greatest asset: Those eyes radiate an utter lack of concern about whether you, he or anyone else lives or dies.

2. Bond, Same Bond
George Lazenby (Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)

I know what you’re thinking, punk. You’re thinking, “Why would this fucktard put a one-shot like Lazenby right below Sean Connery and Daniel Craig?” Two things. First, I resent being called a fucktard, and I demand you take it back right away. Second, George Lazenby may have been a one-shot, but he made his one shot count, in what is perhaps the finest Bond picture of them all. While Lazenby’s principal contribution to the series was to try to be as much like Sean Connery as possible, he did something else, too: he gave Bond a heart.

Above: Sensitivity

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was really the last faithful adaptation of a Fleming novel until Casino Royale. Both the book and movie give Bond an emotional depth that had not been seen previously – nor would it be seen again until, you guessed it, Casino Royale. Lazenby had the considerable acting challenge of making an unrepentant cocksman fall believably in love – not in lust, but in actual love – and you know what, folks? He pulled it off. Of course, it probably helped that the script required him to fall in love with Diana Rigg. For those aren’t familiar with her work in this film or television’s The Avengers, Diana Rigg is the finest Bond Girl ever. This is not an opinion. It is cold, solid fact, and I will brook no dissent.

Above: Diana Rigg.
Seriously, Diana fucking

At any rate, Lazenby not only has to fall in love with Rigg (not hard), he has to save her from the villain (harder), propose (even harder for a playa), marry her (really hard), and get widowed (FUCK!) – all in the course of one movie. That’s a hell of an emotional arc, and Lazenby, despite his Connery-clone performance, pulls it off with great aplomb.

Greatest liability: He’s not Sean Connery.

Greatest asset: He gets to nail Emma Peel.

3. Bond, Tame Bond
Pierce Brosnan (Bond in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day)

In the world of Bond-dom, there are magnetic, earthy Bonds like Connery, brutal Bonds like Craig, vulnerable Bonds like Lazenby, and … um … protein-based Bonds like Brosnan.

Don’t get me wrong. Brosnan did a fine job and made some … well, okay, two decent 007 flicks; Goldeneye, his Bond premiere, was an entertaining action romp, and The World is Not Enough actually approaches classic Bond status, Denise Richards notwithstanding. It’s just that Brosnan – so engaging in his other work – is, as Bond, just sort of … there. I mean, he has a lot going for him: He’s smooth. He’s suave. He actually looks like what you get when you call Central Casting and say, “Send me down a guy who looks like James Bond.”

Above: I'm adequate!

But Brosnan, who is absolutely brilliant in post-Bond fare like The Matador and Seraphim Falls, falls victim to the 007 trap: playing the part as so smooth that Bond ceases to resemble an actual human. He did a sustained Cary Grant impression in Goldeneye, and by the time Die Another Day rolled around, he was doing a startlingly good impression of I Honestly Don’t Give A Fuck As Long As The Check Clears.

On a side note, the Brosnan Bond pictures gave us Dame Judi Dench as M. Some purists may prefer the original M, Bernard Lee. They are, without exception, asshats. Judi Dench rocks, and I will physically assault anyone who claims otherwise.

Greatest liability: The fucking invisible car.

Greatest asset: Judi Dench kicks major ass.

4. Bond, Game Bond
Timothy Dalton (Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill)

Timothy Dalton has the advantage of being, as indicated by the heading, very game to try a different direction with Bond. He was trying to get Bond back to basics after the debacle that was the Roger Moore Period (or, as it is known among Bondophiles, the Time of Darkness), and for the first two-thirds of The Living Daylights, he was succeeding admirably. In fact, if not for the utter godawful stupidity of License to Kill … Wait. You know what? That movie is so bad that it actually needs a new word to describe its badness. So I’m going to make one up. Craptaculatude. Okay, where was I? Ah, yes: In fact, if not for the utter godawful craptaculatude of License to Kill, I’d probably rank Dalton above Brosnan. As it was, License to Kill nearly killed the whole franchise; since 1962, there has been a new Bond film every one to three years ... except after License to Kill, a movie so bad it took an astonishing six years for the public to recover to the point that it could accept Goldeneye. And that's a shame, because the movie also killed a pretty damn good Bond.

Above: Wasted potential

Dalton’s Bond was a refreshing return to the earthy cold-bloodedness of Connery, a blast of cool air after the shit-furnace of stupid contrivance that characterized the Moore years. He was a serious, all-business Bond who didn’t have time for fucking around with witty banter. Had he not been sabotaged by the festival of dipshitiosity that was License to Kill, he probably would have had two or three more Bond pics in him. As it stands, Timothy Dalton’s Bond is basically a wistful exercise in “what might have been.”

Greatest liability: License to Kill is like watching a 96-minute assisted suicide.

Greatest asset: Kick-ass A-Ha theme for The Living Daylights.

5. Bond, Lame Bond
Roger Moore (Bond in Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View to a Kill)

To those who believe Roger Moore was the best Bond (and they are out there), let me say: Fuck you. No, seriously. Fuck you.

With a staggering seven films to his Bond résumé, Moore, unfortunately, holds the record for most 007 outings – unless Connery’s unofficial and unfortunate Never Say Never Again is counted, in which case they’re tied. Never Say Never Again was an off-brand Bond, basically a remake of Thunderball by a different studio, and it sucked pretty hard. Still, I’m going to count it just so Moore won’t have the edge on St. Sean.

Yes, Moore has seven Bond films to his credit. Of those seven, one (For Your Eyes Only) is actually a superior spy film, but fully three (Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, A View to a Kill) feature theme songs that are far better than the movies themselves. The remaining three just suck all around.

Above: Fuck you, man. Just fuck you.

Moore’s Bond suffered from lousy, jokey scripts that favored bad puns and stupid slapstick over action. In previous years, other films had tried to imitate the Bond pictures. Now Bond consciously aped other films. Moore’s films featured chases between Bond and a lowbrow Southern sheriff, an obvious nod to the CB-and-trucker craze epitomized by movies like Smokey and the Bandit. After the success of Star Wars, Ian Fleming’s novel about nuclear missiles, Moonraker, was retooled into an idiot space opera. The franchise missed no opportunity to degrade itself. Case in point: The Man with the Golden Gun (widely considered to be the worst Bond film ever), in which an admittedly incredible stunt – a car jump featuring a midair corkscrew twist – is accompanied by a slide-whistle sound effect! A fucking slide-whistle!

And unlike Dalton, a serious Bond trapped in a sub-par movie, Moore aided and abetted the degradation. His read of the character was that Bond was more a lover than a fighter. His Bond was a guy who would much rather sit around sipping Cognac and making boner jokes than, I don’t know, actually go out and save the damn world. You always got the impression that Moore’s 007 felt that spying was an unwelcome interruption from his actual job, which was apparently being a douchebag of the first water.

Greatest liability: He was not smothered at birth.

Greatest asset: Now too old to ever, ever make another Bond film.

So there you have it. I realize that anyone who ranks the various Bonds is bound to generate controversy among 007 aficionados, and I welcome dissenting opinions. Except about Roger Moore. What a douche.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This is wonderful.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Whole World is Watching

“Those bastards! Those goddamn bastards! I wanna kill every fucking last one of ‘em!”

David Dellinger was having a Vietnam flashback, which was odd considering David Dellinger was a peace activist who never served in Vietnam. The real Dellinger, that is. In the seemingly cursed community theater production of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial to which I had unfortunately attached myself, however, Dellinger was being portrayed by an ultra-right-wing Vietnam vet known only as “the Sergeant Major.” Although he had gamely put his politics aside to portray a man he had openly loathed during the 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven, the Sergeant Major’s ire had been aroused by the sight of a North Vietnamese Liberation Front flag draped across the defense table. His timing was bad; our first performance was in half an hour.

Now the Sergeant Major was pacing the theater’s parking lot in high dudgeon. “Goddamn it! Do you know what those motherfuckers did to us? Goddamn it! Why don’t you burn that thing? Goddamn it! Those fucking hippies were just communist sympathizers!” he growled. After a pause, he added, “Goddamn it!”

Occasionally, the Sergeant Major got in the way of our hippy protestor and they had to do a shuffle-step dance around each other. Kate, the director, had wanted ten or fifteen hippies to picket the theater before performances. We got one, a fourteen-year-old kid who was at least game. Dressed in a tie-died vest and a wig that made him look more like the lead singer of a Whitesnake tribute band than a war protestor, he marched up and down the sidewalk chanting, “The whole world is watching! Free the Chicago Seven! The whole world is watching!”

The Sergeant Major, meanwhile, was still swearing copiously about the Vietnamese flag. “The flag was in the script, Sergeant Major,” I protested. “You’ve known about this since the beginning of rehearsals.”

“I thought it was just going to be a little paper flag!” he said. “Goddamn it!” He continued pacing, pausing occasionally at the front steps to give the handrail a violent shake while screaming incoherently.

“Bobby Seal’s not coming,” said a voice behind me. I turned and saw Kate, perhaps at an even higher level of dudgeon than the Sergeant Major.

“What?” I said.

“He’s got a funeral in Miami. He can’t make it.”

“Jesus, how many people connected to him are gonna die?”

“The real question is, why is he just now calling about it?” Kate said.

“What are we going to do?”

“I’ll read the part.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“What other choice do we have?” Kate took a deep breath and went back inside.

I foresaw problems. The historical Bobby Seal had been a thirtyish Black Panther at the time of the trial. Kate was a fifty-year-old, redheaded white woman. I groaned inwardly at the thought of delivering my lines as defense attorney William Kunstler that night. “Your Honor, he is a free, independent black man!” In my mind, the audience laughed and laughed. In the parking lot, the Sergeant Major yelled “Goddamn it!” at a seventy-year-old woman walking a Chihuahua. Her eyes widened and she shuffled past the theater as rapidly as she was able. The Sergeant Major stepped into the sidewalk and glared at her retreating form, thrusting his arms skyward and shrieking, “Goddamn Cong!”


I didn’t even want to be here. I had long had forebodings about this play, starting when we had to reduce the Chicago Seven to the Chicago Four after three hippies just quit showing up at rehearsals. My paranoia deepened when Kate’s dog and Bobby Seal’s wife had both died on the same day that our Tom Hayden’s grandfather had been hospitalized for a four-and-a-half hour Viagra erection. At the time, I had decided to ignore these portents, since the events could not possibly have been linked, and although Kate’s dog and Bobby Seal’s wife remained dead, Tom Hayden’s grandpa’s erection had eventually subsided.

But I could no longer kid myself. Our David Dellinger was currently back in Saigon and our Bobby Seal was now being portrayed by a white woman. I tried to take cheer from the fact that Shelley, a woman with whom I had been cautiously flirting over the past several weeks, had called earlier to say she wanted to meet me after the play to give me my “birthday present.” The prospect of a final payoff to our cautious mating dance should have brightened my outlook considerably; she was coming over to my place, a beach house with a view of the Atlantic sure to seal any romantic deal. Instead, the thought of post-performance nookie merely brought me back around to our doomed play. Like Tom Hayden’s grandpa’s penis, I knew the entire production was destined to collapse.


The first act was a disaster, of course. The witnesses didn’t come out on cue, the lights didn’t come up on time, and the judge, inexplicably, delivered several lines that were not, technically, his. Technically, they were the hippies’ lines. While a simple mistake like saying a hippy’s “Yes” or “No” might have gone unnoticed, it was hard to countenance the judge suddenly yelling, “May the record show that the prosecutor is a Nazi!” And I didn’t think the Chicago Four were coming across as sympathetic to the predominantly Republican audience. That problem was compounded when the U.S. Marshals forgot they were supposed to assault the hippies, so, after an awkward pause, the hippies began assaulting the U.S. Marshals. The act ended with all participants covered in shame and one of the marshals covered in contusions and at least two mild puncture wounds.

During intermission I stood outside the building, by a side door where actors tended to congregate to escape the cramped backstage. “This is absolute bullshit,” I growled.

“I know,” one of the prosecuting attorneys said.

The other prosecutor tried to be cheerful. It was a heartbreaking attempt, like watching a mother try to tell her son that there’s a doggy heaven. “Well, we’ve only got one more act to go,” she said. “Things could be worse.”

It was at this point that the side door by which I stood opened suddenly and forcefully into my face. I flew backward, caromed off the wall and slid to the ground, half-dazed. I looked up and saw the judge staring down at me with an expression of guilty horror.

“My God, are you all right?” he asked.

“Grraoooruuggh…” I replied.


“I said I’m fine.” I staggered to my feet, fighting off a wave of nausea. “How much time do we have?”

“Two minutes.”

The kindest thing that can be said about the second act is that the theater did not actually burn down during it. Two twenty-something hipster douches in the audience, who whispered and text-messaged throughout the act, exacerbated our problems onstage. As the lights finally went down, I knew a little piece of me had died that night.

I changed out of costume in a hurry, eager to slip out of the theater before the audience could spot me and the recriminations could begin. On my way out, I saw the one of the hipster text-message douches talking to our assistant prosecutor.

“I usually have to look hard to find a way to make fun of your plays,” the hipster douche said. “But this time it’s really easy!”

“I am really furious right now, and I’m looking for someone to punch,” I growled at him as I walked past. “Don’t give me an excuse to make it you.”

The hipster douche’s eyes widened and he staggered back a step. After the fashion of his people, he was about five-six and weighed maybe a buck-ten, so perhaps my threat was mean-spirited. Well, perhaps I didn’t give a fuck.

My mood slowly lifted as I drove home. The worst was over, and at least Shelley would be over tonight. As I pulled into the driveway, I gave her a call to let her know the play was over. Her voicemail picked up, so I left a message and went inside to await her arrival.

A few minutes later I got a text. “This is Shelley’s husband,” it read. “U need 2 back off.”

Shelley’s husband, I thought. Well, that’s information I could have used before now. I went to the refrigerator and got a beer and went out to my porch. I pulled the tab and toasted the empty Atlantic.

“The whole world is watching,” I said.