Coming awake after his listless performance last night in the Denver debate, President Barack Obama said today in Wisconsin that conservative Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is willing to crackdown on Sesame Street before he’ll crackdown on Wall Street. The comments come after Romney said he would defund PBS, which airs Sesame Street.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama’s campaign promises a livelier approach than he took last night in his first debate with conservative Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. He won’t be above the fray and “presidential,” won’t just answer questions posed to him. Which was an actual strategy, amazingly. … Obama’s campaign raised a record $150 million in September. … Opponents of California’s Prop 30 revenue initiative unveiled a new TV ad today claiming that new revenues from temporary tax hikes on the rich and a quarter cent sales tax hike wouldn’t necessarily go to public education. Actually, the revenues will go specifically to an educational account. …
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … RECALLING TOTAL RECALL: SCHWARZENEGGER’S COMEBACK PROCEEDS WITH A BIG (NATURALLY) BOOK.
** BOND AT 50: DR. NO IS A TIME CAPSULE FROM THE EARLY MAD MEN ERA.
“The carrier wave is still established.”
– MI6 communications specialist in London reporting to his boss on the mysterious loss of contact with Station J Jamaica, despite use of the advanced technology known as radio, early in 1962′s Dr. No.
It’s 50 years since the first James Bond film, Dr. No, hit the theaters in Britain on October 5th. Fifty years since the James Bond film franchise began in earnest. An immediate hit in the UK, it took longer to catch on in the US, where it appeared in May 1963, rather un-ostentatiously released in theaters in Middle America before hitting the coasts. Movies often rolled out much more slowly in these days.
That’s only one of the ways in which Dr. No is a veritable cinematic time capsule from the Mad Men days of the early 1960s.
It wasn’t until the second Bond film, From Russia With Love — which received a big boost when President John F. Kennedy listed the Ian Fleming novel as one of his 10 favorite books of all-time — that the Bond film phenomenon got underway in earnest in the US and around the world. And it wasn’t until the third film, Goldfinger, that it became the blockbuster series that we know it as today.
But Dr. No is the film that started it all. Incidentally, you can see my articles related to the 50th anniversary of the franchise here in The Bond 50 Archive.
It’s often forgotten that that notorious womanizer James Bond (not nearly such a hound in his last three incarnations) had a girlfriend in the first two Bond films. Played by Eunice Gayson, who was also playing the baroness in the long-running London production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music at the time, the very first “Bond Girl,” Sylvia Trench, is the smart brunette playing baccarat across the table when we first meet Bond in the movies. Saying he admires her courage in betting, Bond asks her name; she gives it to him and notes: “I admire your luck, Mr. …?”
“Bond,” he replies, lighting his cigarette, “James Bond.”
Now there’s one of the more enduring catch phrases in cinema. He would be back.
It’s the first of a number of iconic moments in Dr. No, as we meet admiral-turned-spy chief M, executive secretary Moneypenny, CIA ally Felix Leiter, treacherous femme fatales, and technology-heavy plots as Bond demonstrates his expertise on many fronts, his savoir faire, his rather brutal charm, his penchant for quips, and his ruthlessly efficient nature.
While Bernard Lee, who’s only been surpassed by the essential Judi Dench as M, and Lois Maxwell as the yearning and ever bantering Moneypenny were to stick in their roles for a very long time, the actor playing Felix Leiter was not. But not because he wasn’t good.
Like Eunice Gayson, jettisoned after From Russia With Love with the producers deciding that Bond’s only romantic attachments in future should be fatal, Jack Lord would not stick in the series. Even though his character Felix Leiter decidedly would.
Lord is a strong and charismatic presence in Dr. No, and clearly an experienced actor. Which the actor playing Bond, a fellow named Sean Connery, known in some circles for a small role in another Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, was not.
Ian Fleming had reportedly preferred someone like David Niven for the role. Which Connery was not, and which just goes to show you that writers shouldn’t always be let loose around a film, even one based on their own work. Connery, a former Mr. Universe contestant, had the raw material for Bond: Rather cruel good looks, rakish charm, animal magnetism, and an assassin’s physicality, but lacked polish and experience. Director Terence Young embarked on a crash course to turn the unpolished Scotsman Connery into the English “gentleman agent” Bond had to be.
Connery learned how to dress and how to act as that gentleman agent called James Bond, just as generations of men have learned from watching Bond, beginning with Connery’s definitive incarnation.
With all that going on, the series probably didn’t need a second lead who was already a polished product, albeit of the American variety, in Jack Lord’s CIA officer Felix Leiter. Leiter continued, but with much more drab figures playing the role — recast in every film until Jeffrey Wright’s Leiter of the last two pictures — figures who were usually no competition whatsoever for the shining light of Bond. And Jack Lord? He went on to become his own sort of iconic figure in a little show called Hawaii Five-O.
“Book ‘em, Danno.”
One iconic element that did not get booked in 1962 was John Barry’s distinctively lush and jazzy musical scoring.
It’s composer Monty Norman’s tune we hear in the instantly iconic James Bond theme — recycled, as it happens from an earlier song sung by Indian characters called “Good Sign Bad Sign” — but it’s John Barry’s arrangement and orchestration that rockets forth. Norman’s calypso-heavy score, with familiar sounding suspense and action music, is serviceable enough in Dr. No. But it isn’t till Barry replaces him as the Bond film composer in From Russia With Love that the full-on spy jazz we associate with Bond really comes to the fore. But in Dr. No we do have the Barry-inflected theme, replete with Vic Flick’s twangy, driving guitar.
Dr. No was filmed and released in 1962. Beginning in London and mostly set in and around Jamaica, the film coincides with Jamaica’s year of independence. But, with Bond coordinating out of the British colonial governor’s mansion, we see the late stages of the British Empire.
In Dr. No, Jamaica, where Fleming maintained a home called GoldenEye — which would later become the title of one of the best Bonds, the 1995 film in which the series is rebooted with Brosnan as a post-Cold War Bond — is still a colonial place. Black people are still second class citizens, useful helpers like the superstitious Quarrel or henchmen like the ill-fated chauffeur who collects Bond at Kingston’s airport.
There is no dazzlingly confident Usain Bolt sort of figure. The Jamaica of Dr. No is decades away from being the global capital of sprinting, affirmed again two months ago at, fittingly enough, the London Olympics.
The late British imperial phase depicted in Dr. No speaks to the real genesis of Bond. Fleming, a committed Tory imperialist and something of a snob, had a good war, as the saying goes, departing World War II as former assistant to the head of British naval intelligence, an originator of daring special ops missions, having been made a full commander in the Royal Navy at age 25. That’s a rank few of us would achieve at that age; making lieutenant would be more like it.
But as Fleming dealt with a decidedly more drab post-war life in journalism, he also dealt with a more downbeat reality for his country. Britain had won the war but was losing the Empire. The old saying that “The sun never sets on the British Empire” was already untrue and was growing falser by the moment. …
Conservative Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, not atypically getting carried away by a good debate last night, today envisioned his 2013 Inaugural Ceremony.
** NEW SURVEY: UNEMPLOYMENT SHOWS SLIGHT DIP FROM AUGUST. A new Gallup Poll survey has modestly good news on the economy.
The unemployment rate, measured without seasonal adjustment, was down in September slightly from August, from 8.1% to 7.9%.
Underemployment is down much more sharply over the period, more than half a point.
The 7.9% unadjusted rate is the lowest Gallup has recorded since it began collecting employment data in January 2010. It is also significantly lower than the 8.6% rate measured in September 2011.
Underemployment, as measured without seasonal adjustment, was 16.5% in September — also the lowest rate Gallup has recorded since it started collecting unemployment data in 2010. The September reading reflects more than a half-point drop since the end of August, and a nearly two-point improvement from the 18.3% measured in September 2011. …
Despite the slight decline in unemployment in September, unadjusted U.S. unemployment has remained relatively stagnant since May, and has shown little variation from May’s 8.0% unadjusted rate. Greater change will be needed before unemployed and underemployed Americans begin to feel relief, which is likely reflected in their diminished levels of hope. Stagnant unemployment rates may be leading to feelings that there will not be an improvement in the near future.
Conservative Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney got the best of a rather listless President Barack Obama in last night’s debate in Denver, though a number of his statements were factually challenged, if not well challenged by Obama or the even more listless moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … RECALLING TOTAL RECALL: SCHWARZENEGGER’S COMEBACK PROCEEDS WITH A BIG (NATURALLY) BOOK and BOND 50: DR. NO IS A TIME CAPSULE OF THE MAD MEN ERA.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Washington, DC.
At 9:05 AM Pacific, Obama delivered remarks at a campaign event at Sloan’s Lake Park in Denver, Colorado.
At 10:35 AM Pacific, Obama departs Denver, Colorado on Air Force One en route Madison, Wisconsin.
At 12:35 PM Pacific, Obama arrives Madison, Wisconsin.
At 1:40 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
At 3:05 PM Pacific, Obama departs Madison, Wisconsin on Air Force One en route Joint Base Andrews.
At 4:55 PM Pacific, Obama arrives Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One.
At 5:10 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Last night was a poor night for the president.
He seemed rather listless and slow in his debate with Mitt Romney, and not especially engaged.
Romney, in contrast, was crisp and assured, at least in relative terms, and clearly got the best of the encounter.
Obama did not seem well-prepared and, worse, seemed to forget some of the most successful messages of his campaign.
The campaign line this morning is that Obama answered the questions he was asked, so did not even mention “the 47%,” Bain, Romney’s still mysterious wealth, his flip flops on health care reform, and so on.
Why would he dutifully answer only what he was asked, especially from such a stiff of a moderator as PBS anchor Jim Lehrer.
I don’t watch much in the way of American TV news programs any more, since I need information when I take the time to watch a news program, but I never watched Lehrer’s PBS show. It was always a snorer.
That said, debates, notwithstanding all the hype they get from media types trying to make what they are doing sound more important, very seldom have a significant impact in a contest between two well-known candidates.
One of the rare occasions when that was not the case was the first debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, a smash hit for JFK and something of a disaster for Nixon, who looked terrible.
Nothing like that occurred last night.
Meanwhile, demonstrations continued today in Tehran, where big demonstrations hit yesterday, as Iran’s currency collapsed nearly 50% in the past 10 days. Iran’s economy is under big pressure from international sanctions against the regime’s nuclear program.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to cooperate with a House investigation, led by California Congressman Darrell Issa, into the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Top State Department officials will testify next week.
Intriguingly, I’m still not seeing CIA Director David Petraeus mentioned in the coverage on this.
CIA had a large contingent in Benghazi. Presumably the Agency had an interest in having its officers and assets protected. The CIA presence there is now very sharply diminished, a critical node in the intelligence net going mostly dark.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
In another new ad for the Proposition 30 revenue initiative, Governor Jerry Brown talks about what is needed to keep the California Dream.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events.
His Proposition 30 revenue initiative campaign began its television advertising campaign yesterday, with a suite of five TV ads variously in play around the state as the campaign unfolds.
Charles Munger, Jr. yesterday gave a whopping $10 million to the shadowy Small Business Action Committee, the background of which I discussed in the “Jerry Brown: Gearing Up A Campaign At Last?” article linked below.
He had already given another $5.9 million a few days earlier on top of $4.1 million previously in September.
That means that Munger, the physicist brother of heiress Molly Munger (who is spending multi-millions on her rival tax hike measure), son of Warren Buffett’s billionaire business partner, has given an astounding $20 million had already given $4.1 billion to the SBAC, which only raised about $60,000 in the first half of the year. Munger directed that nearly all of his first tranche, as we must call these moves that dwarf traditional political contributions, go to promote the Proposition 32 initiative to block funding for public employee union political committees.
But the SBAC is also part of the No on 30 committee.
This situation continues to intrigue. Munger has been known as a political reformer since he began his activism just eight years ago as a volunteer in then moderate Republican Steve Poizner’s state Assembly campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Trying to play a major role in an attempt to defeat an initiative to avoid further budget cuts in order to keep taxes from going up on people like himself would be a risky departure.
Prop 30 leads in all public polls by between 15 and 28 points, and has a big warchest to spend in its support.
** OBAMA PASSES THROUGH THE MINEFIELD OF U.N. WEEK (BUT SETS UP A POTENTIAL EXPLOSION NEXT YEAR). … From my September 28th essay.
** IS POST-PARTISANSHIP PASSE? SCHWARZENEGGER AND COMPANY (AND BILL CLINTON) SAY NO. … From my September 26th column.
** DETHRONED: MAD MEN‘S DOWN SEASON OPENED THE DOOR FOR A SUPERLATIVE HOMELAND. … From my September 24th column.
** JERRY BROWN: GEARING UP A CAMPAIGN AT LAST? … From my September 22nd feature.
** HOW ROMNEY SHOULD HAVE ATTACKED OBAMA: ANATOMY OF A GEOPOLITICAL CRISIS. … From my September 19th essay.
** CONSIDERING THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. … From my September 15th essay.
** WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SINCE 9/11? … From my September 11th essay.
** PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE ELEPHANT: THE CONVENTIONS AND THE CLIMATE. … From my September 8th essay.
** WHILE ONE CLINTON WOWS AT THE OBAMARAMA, ANOTHER PIVOTS TO THE LONG GAME. … From my September 6th essay.
** SO WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED WITH CLINT EASTWOOD? (AND THE PERILS OF ARGUING WITH IMAGINARY OBAMAS). … From my September 4th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $91 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $57 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $23 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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