Bond Month 3- Best Villains

Another day, another blog post. That’s just how it is during Bond month which, I need not remind you, I made up and which is not a real thing. Today, we’re counting down the best Bond villains in the franchise. You know the drill: top 5, main series only (sorry Max Largo and Woody Allen [look it up]), and this time a special rule. I have only allowed myself to choose one portrayal of arch-nemesis and head of SPECTRE Ernst Stavro Blofeld to include on this list. The character of Blofeld appears in (by my count) no fewer than four Bond movies in the role of the main antagonist, and always portrayed by a different actor. Therefore, I have only allowed myself to choose the best one of these performances for inclusion on this list. More about that later. For now, let’s get to the list.


5- Dr. No

Portrayed by Joseph Wiseman

There are few things harder than portraying a Bond villain. For one thing, you know you’ll never survive longer than two hours. For another, you usually are given some hideous physical deformity in order to more accurately convince the audience that you’re evil. Now, the trope of physical deformity denoting spiritual/psychological evil is an incredibly harmful one and one that we honestly don’t have enough time to go into right now, but I will say that on the outside, Julius No appears normal (almost). His metal hands which in the book are described as little more than rudimentary claws are portrayed in the movie as fully functional anatomically correct appendages, even imbuing their wearer with a type of super-strength. This is a welcome break from the usual Bond trope of bleeding eyes or having three nipples or being able to pull out the top half of your jaw (don’t worry, we’re coming to that one). Dr. No also originated another trait which all of the best Bond villains have, namely that he’s no pushover. Dr. No may be basically a rich nerd, but he is able to hold his own against James Bond. There’s nothing worse in a Bond movie than a villain who gets built up through the whole first act, only to immediately be bested by Bond. It’s not interesting. Dr. No is not that villain.

4- Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Portrayed by Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice

I told you he’d be here. If you’re not familiar with the overarching Bond universe, here is a brief primer: Bond’s main adversary for the majority of the early Bond movies is a private organization called SPECTRE. This organization is headed by one Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Until You Only Live Twice, Blofeld had been seen from the back, from the torso (replete with Persian cat) down, and his voice had been heard, but his face was a mystery. When it came to finally putting a face to that menacing name, Broccoli & Saltzman did an excellent job. Donald Pleasence with an imposing scar across his eye manages to live up to the imposing character which had been built over the past few years and films. The fact that Pleasence never again portrayed the shadowy megalomaniac is cinema’s loss. Again, we highlight the fact that this villain was actually menacing and his threat was genuine. If you’re unfamiliar, this film sees Bond investigating the mysterious disappearances of multiple manned satellite orbiting vehicles of both American and Soviet creation. He manages to track these disappearances to the head of SPECTRE who has been contracted by the heads of an unknown Asian government (speculated to be China) to provoke a nuclear war between America and the USSR. He has decided to achieve this goal by stealing each nation’s space vehicles and blaming the other country. That kind of vision doesn’t come along every day.

3- Francisco Scaramanga

Portrayed by Christopher Lee in The Man with the Golden Gun

Let’s briefly address the elephant in the room. Or perhaps I should say, the third nipple in the room. One of Scaramanga’s distinguishing characteristics (and I feel I should remind you that this is supposed to be the deadliest man in the world, needing only one bullet from his Golden Gun to kill his target) is that he has three nipples. No, really. Not only does this continue that cycle of physical deformity for evil characters, it also results in a bunch of old British men saying ‘nipple’ a lot. Also, there’s a part where Bond (Sean Connery) fakes a third nipple in order to impersonate Scaramanga. With that out of the way, let’s talk about what went right. Christopher Lee, I think it’s fair to say, owned this role. He is able to be so imposing and menacing while at the same time remaining reserved and seeming the perfect gentleman. Perhaps it’s because Lee had actual experience in the British secret service, or perhaps he was just that talented of an actor. Either way, if you haven’t seen this film it’s worth the watch for Lee’s performance alone. Also, fun trivia fact: Christopher Lee was actually related to Bond creator Ian Fleming.

2- Raoul Silva

Portrayed by Javier Bardem in Skyfall

Talk about menacing. From the moment Bardem enters our screen (in a beautifully shot minute long monologue delivered to camera), he is magnetic. He keeps you listening. And that’s the idea, this is a man who is so confident is his ability, he doesn’t need to bother with cheap tricks. Also he pulls his jaw out of his face at one point. If Casino Royale pulled Bond into the modern era, Skyfall made it seem like it had never been anywhere else and a large part of that is due to the menacing, mercurial, murderous ex-MI6 agent Raoul Silva. The one thing that really captivated me about this character upon first viewing was how he is at his core driven by nothing but hate. He so hates the organization which he views as having betrayed him that he is willing (and able, mind you) to blow up the MI6 buildings in the heart of London just to get one person’s attention. If you were to look into his eyes, past the façade of gentlemanliness, you would see nothing but hate. And that’s scary. If any one character can be credited with doing the most to revitalize the modern series of James Bond, I think it would have to be Raoul Silva as portrayed by Javier Bardem. Just watch this movie folks. You won’t be disappointed.


Honorable Mentions

Rosa Klebb, From Russia with Love

Mr. Big/Kananga, Live and Let Die

Le Chiffre, Casino Royale


1- Auric Goldfinger

Portrayed by Gert Fröbe in Goldfinger

Look, I tried to find a villain other than Goldfinger to put at the top of this list, I really did. The simple truth is, he’s the best. I think that while menacing will get you far, the best Bond villains, the really memorable ones, are the ones who possess an unimpeachable sense of style. And boy, does Goldfinger ever have style. He is so committed to his aesthetic that he doesn’t make a laser out of anything other than gold. Some might call that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but I call that commitment to a theme. Goldfinger manages to toe a very narrow line between camp 60’s over the top villainy and genuine evil, and he looks great while he does it. Where Dr. No is reserved and cautious, Goldfinger is brash and loud. He can afford to be. He has, frankly, a genius plan. I don’t really know what else to say, other than this: when it comes to Bond villains, this truly is the gold standard. I’m not sorry.


That’s it for this week! If you have been reading along, thank you so much. I know I often write filtered through a thick lens of sarcasm, but to be genuine, this blog is giving me an opportunity to write seriously and I’m really enjoying it. So thank you for reading, it really does mean a lot to me.

In other news, it’s 1 am and I have work tomorrow. This month is going to kill me, probably.

Tomorrow is going to be Best Opening Title Sequence. Unless I think of something else between then and now.

Bond Month 2- Best Themes

Welcome back. It’s still Bond month. A somewhat shorter one today, it’s the Top 5 Bond Theme Songs. As ever, this is totally subjective and based only on my own opinion, your mileage may vary.

Before we get into the list proper, I’d like to explain a couple of guidelines I used on this post. First, I only considered themes which include lyrics. Sorry On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, et al. The instrumental themes may get their own list post later in the month, depending on how desperate I become for material. Second, I tried to base my evaluation of these themes solely on the songs (music and lyric), and not the accompanying visual effects. Those will almost definitely get their own post later on. Clearly we’ve got some great stuff on the horizon. Third and finally, I am only considering songs from the main Eon Productions Bond series, so no 1967 Casino Royale and no Never Say Never Again. Alright, with all the preamble out of the way, let’s get to the list.


5- The Living Daylights

Written by Paul Waaktaar and performed by A-ha

It’s no secret that this is my personal favorite Bond film, and that may contribute slightly to this theme’s inclusion on this list, but hey, it’s my blog. Fun fact, this theme was performed by Norwegian pop group A-ha, making it the only Bond theme not performed by a British or American artist or group. This theme puts one in mind of the 80s, disco-pop, and things of that nature. As it turns out, this movie is set in the 80s so that is rather fitting.

That’s really all I have to say about this one. It’s era-appropriate and I like it. Let’s move on.

4- Thunderball

Written by Don Black and performed by Tom Jones

Despite the fact that the lyrics are largely meaningless, Tom Jones manages to make this song not just bearable, but downright enjoyable. Originally the theme for this movie was an entirely different song called “Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” and recorded by the great Shirley Bassey. But producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were worried that if a Bond theme didn’t have the title of the movie in it, audiences would, I don’t know, get confused or something so they scrapped that one and recorded this one. It ended up ok, because Tom Jones is basically the male equivalent of Shirley Bassey.

3- Live and Let Die

Written by Paul McCartney and performed by Paul McCartney and Wings

Here we have the first true rock and roll Bond theme, and it is excellent. One notable aspect of this song is the way in which it’s kind of two songs in one. First there’s the slow, poetic beginning. Then all of a sudden the tempo picks up, the drums and guitars come in, and you’re at a full-fledged rock concert. Then it turns reggae for a minute, before transitioning just as suddenly back to rock and roll, and from there back to a slow jam. Rinse and repeat. One other thing to know about Live and Let Die: I think it’s admirable how well it works at the end of the film, in addition to at the beginning. One thing I hate about certain Bond themes is that they work very well at the beginning of a movie for the extended title sequence, but at the end credits they either feel overdramatic or too simple. Not Live and Let Die: because it has so much genre-mixing, when you need a fast paced rock song for the end credits, there it is. In conclusion, I think Paul McCartney should live forever.

2- Skyfall

Written and performed by Adele

By far the most modern theme on this list, Skyfall manages to be at once a functional piece of exposition and a power ballad. The best Bond movie in nearly 50 years deserves the best Bond theme in nearly 50 years, and boy does it get it. Earlier in this list, I compared Tom Jones to Shirley Bassey. In truth, the more accurate comparison would be Adele and Shirley Bassey. This song also has something which is present in most successful Bond themes: it’s contagiously listenable. What I mean by that is this: this is a song which, like Live and Let Die, is able to be played on the radio as well as in the theater. And for a Bond film, that is huge. This song manages to walk the tightrope between exposition and pop song, and makes it look easy.

1- Goldfinger

Written by John Barry, Anthony Newely, and Leslie Bricusse and performed by Shirley Bassey

Did I mention that I love Shirley Bassey? So, yeah. Obviously. This song not only defined a film, it defined every film that would come after it. This, like Skyfall, also acts as functional exposition, but it’s so much more than that. Where Skyfall is prose, Goldfinger is poetry. And an aspect of that which I think is often overlooked is Bassey’s voice. She is able to convey simultaneously an urgency and a seduction which is, or will come to be, definitive of Bond. Also, her diction is so clear, you hardly have to try to understand what she’s saying. And even if you didn’t speak English, I think just hearing the sounds alone would get the message across. In conclusion, you should watch Goldfinger if you haven’t seen it before. Or even if you have, watch it again. It’s that good.


Tomorrow, look forward to the Top 5 Bond Villains list. Submit your predictions on the forums now! (There are no forums).

Follow me on twitter if you want, it’s mostly just this kind of thing: @patr2016.

Bond Month 1

Welcome to Bond Month! (Important sidenote, I have decided that March is Bond Month). The idea is that I’m going to post every day [I realize now that this is an absurdly overoptimistic goal, but hey] about something Bond related. I thought that today (and because I only have about half an hour to write and post this until it’s actually tomorrow and then I’ll have missed the first day of this thing) I would do something kinda simple: a list! I have ideas for at least two more lists and then I figure the rest can be a mix of movie reviews and actor reviews (I have a lot of opinions). Today’s list is: top 5 bond actors!

You may be asking, “but Pat you’ve never shown any special interest in the extended James Bond lore ever. Isn’t this a little odd?”. And the answer is twofold: one, how dare you claim to know me. I’ve never met you. Everyone in the world is a simulation except me. Two, yes you are right, simulation. Your algorithm which was designed to mimic the human brain has correctly identified an oddity. Congratulations. I feel like I get very into things for a while, and right now the thing that I’m super into is James Bond. I don’t know why, I’m just going with it as a conduit to hopefully form a more regular writing habit. The truth is, I haven’t been happy with anything I’ve written in god knows how long. I have an idea which seems good at the time and then before I’ve even reached the halfway point I delete the word document. Control-delete. Empty trash. Rinse and repeat. Maybe this will change that. Probably not. Well, I suppose that’s enough of a look behind the curtain, I can already feel the façade returning. I hope you’re ready for a fun filled blog post about James Bond.


Five- Pierce Brosnan

Look, I honestly was hesitant to even place Brosnan on this list, but then I watched The World is Not Enough. It’s pretty good. Not incredible, I mean come on one of the main characters is really named “Christmas Jones”. But it was entertaining, and included a Stockholm-syndrome double twist that fun and kept me guessing. So sue me, I enjoyed it. That’s really all I have to say about Brosnan, except this: one time in high school science class I had to watch a terrible movie about a volcano which starred Pierce Brosnan as a geologist I think. Anyway, the notable part of this movie was when the grandmother character decided to get out of a PERFECTLY SERVICEABLE boat and walk through some acid and literally burned her legs off. It was really funny but it wasn’t meant to be.

Four- Roger Moore

This one’s simple. Roger Moore Bond movies are either incredible or the actual worst things ever. Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun are both excellent, although I suspect a large part of the latter’s success has to do with the fact that the late Christopher Lee stars as the eponymous Man with the Golden Gun. His character also has three nipples. I know that sounds like I’ve made that up as a joke, but I have not. Then you’ve got the other end of the spectrum: Moonraker, despite having probably the best Bond poster in history, is an objectively terrible movie. So is A View to a Kill, and so is For Your Eyes Only. Octopussy is fun, but it has the notable drawback of being the only Bond title that I think it would be illegal for me to say in public. Sorry Roger, you certainly tried to be the best, and you almost were.

Three- Daniel Craig

Admittedly, these last three were all really close. Like, if I had some sort of objective rating system (which I don’t), they would be within a point of each other. But, order must be maintained. So Daniel, the current Bond, gets #3. Of the four movies Craig has starred in (go fuck yourself grammar nerds), two are pretty mediocre, and two are quite possibly the greatest Bond movies ever made. In case you were wondering, Casino Royale and Skyfall are the excellent ones. Quantum of Solace holds the dubious honor of being the worst Bond title of all time (what does it even mean? I don’t know). Spectre was just… fine. I think if It had come somewhere else in the series (give it to Dalton maybe, or Moore), this one would have performed better. It just happened to directly follow the best Bond movie in twenty years. Bad luck.

Two- Sean Connery

Cue gasps from the audience. Let me explain. Did Sean Connery define the role of Bond, imbuing it with the trademark wit and sex drive that carry through to this very day? Yes. But also, was there any alternative? I mean, as the first (and in his mind, only) actor to portray Bond, didn’t Connery necessarily create the role? And sure, Goldfinger is the best Bond movie that was ever made (exhaustive list coming later this month), but Thunderball was kinda meh. You Only Live Twice was WAY too long. Diamonds are Forever was… good, I guess. In conclusion, Connery was great but not as great as…

One- Timothy Dalton

Oh Timothy Dalton. Is there anything he can’t do? Yes, be bad at acting. It’s no secret that I love Timothy Dalton, but I think that his scant two outings as Bond would hold up under a more unbiased examination. Let’s go through these movies. First up, The Living Daylights. This movie sees Bond at the heart of a complex web of double and triple crosses between the Soviets, the British, and the Americans. It’s full of mystery, drama, and intrigue, and it keeps you on your toes trying to remember who’s playing for whom. At the heart of the conflict are some diamonds, but that doesn’t actually matter all that much. What matters is that Dalton proves that he can play Bond as calm cool and collected as Connery, but where’s the fun in that? He takes Bond to emotional places that would simply have been unreachable by other actors playing the part. This is top notch Bond. Then we have License to Kill, the Bond movie where Dalton shows us that Bond can be dark, but he also shows us the human toll that that attitude takes on a man. He at once deifies and humanizes the Bond character, and makes us realize that this could never be real, one man could never be this death-defying. At some point, death has to catch up and when it does, it won’t be pretty.

Honorable mention- George Lazenby

You tried.


Join me tomorrow (probably), when we’ll be reviewing “The Living Daylights”. Or maybe doing something else. I’m not quite sure how to structure this yet.

Suspiria

Have you ever had the kind of dream where after you wake up, you can’t remember for a few minutes if those events really took place? As the fog of sleep retreats, you reassure yourself that the things which you have witnessed couldn’t be real. After all, you remind yourself as the sunlight chases away the shadows of night, there’s no such thing as witches.

Right?

Last night I was lucky enough to see an early premiere of the 2018 remake of Suspiria by Luca Guadagnino, and it felt like a three hour long waking nightmare. I went in with high hopes, having heard that the soundtrack was composed entirely by Thom Yorke of Radiohead and of course that Tilda Swinton stars in a double-role as the ominous dance teacher Madame Blanc and the elderly German psychiatrist-turned-detective Doctor Josef Klemperer. I am happy to report that this movie exceeded all of my expectations.

In remaking this movie, Guadagnino has turned a run-of-the-mill Italian horror film from the 70’s into an expression of anxiety about the nature of the world. And yet, fundamentally, this film is also an expression of hope that, although it may not seem like it at first, cooler heads will prevail. All will, inevitably, be well. It is just a question of how many heads need to explode before we get there.

If you are unfamiliar, Suspiria is the tale of a small town girl from Ohio who travels to Berlin in the 70’s to live and work at a renowned dance studio run by a variety of interesting women and headed up by the reclusive Mother Markos. The head choreographer Madame Blanc, played by Tilda Swinton, quickly notices Susie’s instinctual talent and begins preparing her for something bigger. Meanwhile, Dr. Klemperer, concerned following the disappearance of his patient Patricia who had also been a student at Mother Markos’ academy, begins to investigate the goings on at the insular school.

Because this is a spoiler free review, and because the movie doesn’t go to wide release until tomorrow, that’s as much of a plot summary as I am willing to give. However, I am going to discuss some of the themes of this movie (again, without going into too much detail), because at nearly three hours long, there’s a lot to unpack here.

One thing with which this movie is concerned is the power of love, and the different ways in which it can be exploited by those who wish to cause harm. Though this movie certainly puts love through its paces, I think again that its ultimate message is hopeful. Love can be abused, it says, but that in no way means that the solution is to stop loving. Rather, we must persevere and be brave with our love, so that we can use it to guide us through those harrowing trials which surely await us. The redemptive power of love is the one that wins out, not that perverse distorted abuse which may pass for love in the eyes of one who wishes to do harm.

Another clear theme which Guadagnino explores in this movie is the idea of art as magic. In the universe of this movie, and indeed in the universe in which most artists (myself included) would like to live, the energy and power generated by an expression of art (say, an animalistic dance) is equivalent to a certain magical power and can be used in occult rituals. Put another way, an artist’s work can have a measurable, noticeable impact on the physical world. Sure, the witches in Suspiria use their art mostly to dismember and kill people, but it stands to reason that the opposite could be true as well. I think this is as much of a utopia as anyone who creates will ever see. I know, 1970’s Berlin? A utopia? Well, bear with me here. If I may so bold as to presume I know the thoughts of every person in the world for a second. I would suggest that all anyone really wants is to know that their actions, be they positive or negative, have a measurable impact on the world. All anyone wants is to know that they can make a difference. And this is precisely what these witches offer the girls who study in the Mother Markos Dance Academy: a chance to shape the world. And again, though this film surely puts this hypothesis through its paces, the positive force eventually, inevitably, wins out.

The single aspect of this movie that, in my opinion, set the tone was the score by Thom Yorke. It’s available on iTunes and I highly suggest you give it a listen if you’re on the fence about seeing this movie, because it manages to evoke a sense of dread mixed with curiosity. You are afraid, but you want, need, to know more. This is exactly how I felt throughout the entirety of this movie. If you don’t want to shell out the 15.99 to apple, and honestly who can blame you, I recommend listening to Burn the Witch by Radiohead. Its rhythmic ambiance together with Yorke’s slightly incomprehensible vocals seem to evoke a similar feeling.

All in all, this film is a masterpiece. Containing especially great performances from Dakota Johnson and Chloë Grace Moritz, as well as the aforementioned double-role by the incomparable Tilda Swinton and a small appearance by Jessica Harper who starred as Susie in the original 1977 film, Luca Guadagnino has managed to create a horror film which somehow combines the tenderness and love he portrayed in films like Call Me By Your Name with a sense of intense dread.

I give this film 9.5/10 dancing witches.

Politics

Before I get into the main purpose of this post, a quick update on the story that was promised and is still coming. That was the update, actually. I’m working on it. Expect part one on this upcoming Sunday 7/8/18, with one part each week for like four weeks and then a week break, which serves a dual purpose. From your perspective, it lets you catch up with the past few weeks, reread, etc and also lets any new readers catch up. From my perspective, it lets me write the next part. So, that’s the plan. As for the results of the poll, with 100% of the vote, the winner is an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. So look forward to that. And special thanks to the one person who voted in the poll, I do it all for you.


Hegel once wrote “World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are empty pages in her”. I think it is a truth universally acknowledged that the times we currently live in are not altogether happy ones. This blog post will utilize an American perspective on American politics, but before I get to that, I want to take a brief world tour and show that, as ever, the world is bigger than America.

We will begin in the United Kingdom. As you may know, there was a vote on that fair isle in June of 2016 in which, by an incredibly narrow margin, England (and therefore the entire United Kingdom) voted to leave the European Union. I don’t want to spend this whole post re-litigating Brexit, but to put it briefly: although England (and Wales, which hardly warrants a mention) voted Leave, the other two countries which make up the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to remain. But as is so often the case, England’s vote is the one that mattered. So as of the writing of this blog post, the UK is hurtling towards a hard exit date of 29 March 2019 with very little plan. Also, let’s face it: Theresa May is not great.

Moving on before I get too off track, let’s look at Germany. The German federal elections of last year were, to put it simply, disastrous from the perspective of the party of longtime Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. For one thing, her party won a measly 33% of the vote, with big wins going to the relatively new Alternative for Germany party which is essentially Germany’s response to the French National Front and far right extremist parties like it across Europe. Just to give you a taste of AfD’s platform, they are against gay marriage and gay adoption, they want to reintroduce conscription in Germany, and they are ‘climate change skeptics’. On top of that, Merkel’s CDU party is unlikely to be able to form another coalition government with the other dominant party, the SPD, and thus be unable to govern at all.

That’s all by way of proving that these are indeed not happy times. But now I’d like to turn to America, and spend some time discussing how our party system could be on the verge of a monumental change. My suggestion is based on two presuppositions: first, the Republican Party is dead, or will be very soon. And two, the Democratic Party is no longer a progressive party. Let’s take those one at a time.

First, the Republican Party is dead. I think if this current national embarrassment of a President has proven anything, it’s that the current Republican elite are more far right than center right. From barely-hidden white supremacy to nationalism that even Hitler would think was a bit extreme, this party is an exercise in extremism. Importantly however, I don’t think the problem is Trump. I mean, yeah, one problem is Trump. But another, bigger problem is that this party, which still laughably proclaims itself one of the two major American political parties, has been like this for, by my estimate, nearly 40 years now. Thirty seven years to be exact. And to save you the googling, that’s when Reagan was first elected President. That’s right, it’s time to talk about Reagan.

Political scientists often speak of the ‘Reagan Revolution’, but I think the term ‘Reagan Revelation’ might be more appropriate. This is because the true damage of the Reagan presidency was, in this wholly unqualified observer’s opinion, a certain celebration of populism. Reagan turned politics into a game of ‘who can appeal the strongest to the emotions?’. And sure, sometimes these are good emotions, like hope and joy and laughter, but all too often these emotions are hard for politicians to get enough political energy out of, so they move to the short-but-powerful emotions: anger, hate, fear. Think of these emotions as newspaper which has been lit. It burns easily, but for how long? This shift is what has allowed such extremism in the modern Republican party.

But the Democratic party is not blameless in this situation. This brings us to my second assertion: that the Democratic party is no longer a progressive party. I often find it helps to think of political parties in America as ‘The Progressive One’ and ‘The Old People One’. This is because, as I see it, a political party’s specific platform can only last about one generation. As a generation ages, it becomes as a whole more conservative. Therefore if young people join a political party when they are young, they will join and shape the more liberal, progressive of the parties available to them. As they age these people tend not to switch parties, instead electing to change the party platform to be more in line with their needs and desires. This is one of the many reasons that a two party system is a terrible idea.

In this specific case, it is the turn of the Republican party to attract all the young progressives and the Democratic party to become the more conservative one for a generation. But this time, something is different. As mentioned previously, the Republican party is tearing itself apart (thanks in part to Reagan and the populist politics he helped to popularize), and so the Republican party no longer is a viable political actor. It can’t be taken seriously. In effect what has happened is America has reduced its political party system yet again from two parties to one. This is bad. But don’t worry, I have a solution.

In my view, a new progressive party must form. Be it an existing one (the Socialist Party of America which has existed for 45 years) or a new one (some sort of Progressive Party, or even take a hint from England and form a Labor Party of America), this new party must be uncompromisingly radical and liberal.


If you’ve read this far, thank you. Here’s a video of a bunch of foreign people telling jokes in their native languages on a British talk show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0iaciZNojY.

The Inspiration Project

I’ve been getting kind of fed up with the negativity on social media (and in a larger sense, the Internet) of late (and in a larger sense, always), and so I’m going to be starting a new project on the ol’ website Namely, I’m going to be writing up people/places/things that inspire me or that I like, and sprinkling them into the regularly scheduled “posts that have a vague sense of sarcasm about them” that anyone who reads this blog (if anyone is out there) has no doubt become accustomed to. The first will probably be either Ben Franklin or John Steinbeck (they won’t all be people, and they certainly won’t all be straight white men). Expect it later today/tonight. Maybe. I’m not great at deadlines, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

Decisions, Decisions

Time for some audience participation.

Would you prefer to see:

A: a sci-fi story set on a spaceship.

B: a murder mystery ala Agatha Christie

or

C: other

To respond to this poll, simply email your decision to responserecorder at gmail.com. If you choose ‘c’, please elaborate. The choice with the most votes in one week (11:59 pm EST 6/30/18) will be presented on this website in serialized format, one post every week for four weeks, then one week off to let people catch up.

I’m very excited to do this, so please share with anyone you know in order to get lots of responses to the poll. I don’t make any money off this website, I just like writing.

Also you can follow me on twitter if you want: @patr2016.

Chocolate Custard

Yesterday for Mother’s Day my brothers and I made dinner for my mom. I was in charge of dessert, and I made a nice chocolate custard. I’m putting the recipe here for two reasons: one, I wanted to share it in case anyone else wants to try it, and two , so that I don’t forget it. Ok.

You will need:

1/2 cup milk

two egg yolks

4 tbsp sugar

6 oz semisweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli) [don’t use unsweeted]

4 tbsp butter, softened

Procedure:

First, add milk and sugar to small pot. Heat until milk is steaming and sugar is dissolved. Then, slowly pour into bowl with egg yolks in. Don’t go too fast or the eggs will scramble and that’s not what you want.  Once all milk is added to eggs, pour back into the pot and heat while whisking constantly for about two minutes. At this point, the mixture should be a lot thicker. Then, remove from heat. Add in chopped up chocolate and the butter. Mix until smooth.

You can refrigerate or serve hot, it doesn’t matter.

This recipe is enough for four small servings or two regular size servings. Plan accordingly.

On Books, and Classics

For the past few days, I’ve been re-reading (or rather, listening to) “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and it got me thinking about so-called classic books. But let me first say, this is not going to be a hate post about TKAM. I think it’s a fantastic book, and this revisit, my first in what must be four years, has all but confirmed my suspicion that this book is a classic for a reason. With that said, I’d like to examine the idea of a classic book. What makes a book classic? But before I do that, I just have to write this so it’s out of my head:

F U C K   A U N T  A L E X A N D R I A.

In fact, I kind of want to write a separate post about TKAM, so be on the lookout for that. Or don’t. You don’t exist, so it doesn’t much matter.
Oh, and just in case someone sees this later, I write that because I don’t expect anyone to read this not because I’ incredibly solipsistic.

OK, classic books.

Let’s tackle this one question at a time: What makes a book classic? An oft-propagated theory in this regard is that classic books are defined simply by age. The older the book, the more classic. In order to test this theory, I’ll perform an experiment through the medium of text. Which of these books, dear nonexistent reader, do you think is more of a classic: The Code of Hammurabi or the Old Testament of the Bible? Common knowledge would tell you that it’s the Bible, one of the most important and influential books in Western civilization. However, according to this test, it would be the ancient law code of the king of Mesopotamia Hammurabi. I think I’ll probably leave that argument there and move on to the next possibility.

Perhaps, if not the age of the book, then its length, width, difficulty in reading, or some other physical attribute is the decider of quality. If any of those were the case, then one would expect that something like the phone book would be the most famous book in the history of man. As it happens, it is not. Far from it, in fact. Well, then let’s move on.

OK, so here’s what I believe (prepare for thesis statement): it is my belief that a book is a classic if and because it answers, or attempts to answer, a question which is inherent in the nature of humanity. Let me give some examples of the type of question I mean.

“What is the nature of justice?”

“Why are some people evil and others good? That is, asking after human nature.”

“What is the meaning of life?”

“Why are some people prejudiced/xenophobic?”

“What is truth?”

“Does God exist?”

… and so on.

Harper Lee’s 1960 M A S T E R P I E C E “To Kill a Mockingbird” addresses and attempts to answer at least two or three of these questions. However, I think the most important statement made by Harper Lee is this: please don’t be condescending to kids, they’re a lot smarter than they are often given credit for.

But before I get into that, I’ll make a separate post all about this book.

That’s all for this one.