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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 08/13/21 -- Vol. 40, No. 7, Whole Number 2184
Table of Contents
Bond Songs (Part 2) (THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
(It may seem that I have been writing a lot about the James Bond films. The reason for this is that I actually have been writing a lot about the films. I had one such discussion going and it sprouted another such discussion.)
Here we are continuing the discussion of the lyrics to the title songs from the James Bond films. Well, I am anyway.
The title song for THUNDERBALL may have been the best Bond ditty up to that point. Just about every line describes Largo, the villain. The only bad line is the one working in the title. "He strikes like Thunderball." Who or what is Thunderball and how does Thunderball strike? Are we talking about something nuclear?
Really I am picturing a dark storm cloud punctuated with bolts of lightning on its surface. But the story for the film is thin and is driven by coincidences, more than with most Bond films.
After this high point we fall to YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The lyric goes:
I don't think that is about anything in the film. I would interpret the song for you but frankly, I cannot figure out what it is talking about. There seems to be sort of an Australian aborigine philosophy there that you live half your life in the Dreamtime. Then suddenly an invader from the Dreamtime shows up in the wrong world and that is love. There is some concept that love is both dangerous and expensive, but it is worth it because it has your name on it. Besides you have to take one dream from the Dreamtime and make it real in our world because there is just the real world and the Dreamtime. I don't know what I'm talking about.You only live twice or so it seems, One life for yourself and one for your dreams. You drift through the years and life seems tame, Till one dream appears and love is its name.
And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on, Don't think of the danger or the stranger is gone.
This dream is for you, so pay the price. Make one dream come true, you only live twice.
ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE had no main title song, but it did have a rather nice love song "We Have All The Time In The World" that almost entirely makes sense in the context of the film. Of course this lyric pictures a life that will get boring:
It sounds like they will get bored with each other all too soon.We have all the time in the world, Just for love, Nothing more, nothing less, Only love.
Now DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER has a song that restores some of the earlier nuttiness.
This song is about some woman who gets odd tactile pleasure I can hardly imagine from fingering diamonds. I would not like to think about it. I hope after one of these sessions she at least had the grace to have brought some Windex to give the gemstones a quick once-over. How sharp are the edges of a cut diamond?Diamonds are forever, They are all I need to please me, They can stimulate and tease me, They won't leave in the night, I've no fear that they might desert me.
Diamonds are forever, Hold one up and then caress it, Touch it, stroke it and undress it, I can see ev'ry part, Nothing hides in the heart to hurt me.
I don't need love, For what good will love do me? Diamonds never lie to me, For when love's gone, They'll lustre on.
Diamonds are forever, Sparkling round my little finger. Unlike men, the diamonds linger; Men are mere mortals who Are not worth going to your grave for.
I don't need love, For what good will love do me? Diamonds never lie to me, For when love's gone, They'll lustre on.
Diamonds are forever, forever, forever. Diamonds are forever, forever, forever. Forever and ever.
Now the claim has been made that there is a male chauvinist taint to the Bond films. Here clearly is a feminist song if I ever heard one. Never mind the fact that the singer seems to have deep psychological problems and in addition is doing things with diamonds that not only seem rather kinky, they are bound to reduce the value of the stones on the open market. Also her attitude will probably ruin her social life as well as the luster on the diamonds. These are images best not dwelled on.
That was the last time that Sean Connery would play James Bond for Eon Productions. He did repeat the role in the remake of THUNDERBALL for another set of filmmakers, but that does not really count. I am getting into the swing so I will talk about the next few next week. [-mrl]
THE CITY WE BECAME by N. K. Jemisin (copyright 2020, Orbit, 16 hours and 12 minutes, ASIN: B083Z2HWBB, narrated by Robin Miles) (audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):
THE CITY WE BECAME is the angriest book I have ever read or listened to.
N. K. Jemisin's latest novel is her first since the triple Hugo-award-winning "Broken Earth" trilogy completed a few years ago. It's a prequel of sorts to a previous short story, "The City Born Great". THE CITY WE BECAME is a terrific story, but in my opinion the story is almost lost in the amount of anger that spills out on to the page (or the ears, if you listened to it like I did).
The premise that cities essentially become alive, and are represented by human avatars. Cities go through birthing pains, if you will, as the people that are chosen to be the avatars by the cities essentially don't know what hit them. There is a whole multiversal, inter-dimensional thing going on with regard to cities coming alive, an idea that I like very much. Since this is the first book in a series called, appropriately enough, the "Great Cities" trilogy, I'm sure we'll not only get tales of more "Great Cities", but we'll get more background on how the whole thing works.
This book, however, centers on New York City, arguably one of the greatest cities on the planet, although not the first to awaken as an entity. A city has powers, manifested within the city's avatar. In the case of NYC, the city has six avatars, one for each borough and one for the entire city itself. In and of itself, the awakening of a city is not necessarily an interesting story, although as we the readers are introduced to the process here it is a captivating tale. So, as with any good tale, there must be conflict, and so there is.
It seems that the process of cities coming alive has been occurring for thousands of years, and goes way back to some of the great cities in history. Some times the process succeeds, sometimes it fails, and fails spectacularly. But what is different hear is that an ancient evil is getting involved in the birth of NYC, and this is against protocol. We know this because the most recently birthed city must send its avatar to the city being born to help it along and make sure nothing goes wrong. And there is indeed something is going wrong.
I mentioned before that the story is multiversal and inter-dimensional. Jemison does invoke the horrors of Lovecraft into THE CITY WE BECAME, complete with tentacles that rise out of the ground and attack the avatars--in general, normal citizens have no idea what's going on--and frightening beings from other dimensions lurking just out of reach of our own. And it seems that the head bad guy (if you will), is breaching said protocol by attempting to stop New York City from being born.
Let me reiterate: This is an absolutely terrific story. While I'm primarily a science fiction reader, I am fascinated by Lovecraftian horrors. I found this story invigorating and fascinating.
On the other hand, I found the trappings of the novel distracting. Jemisin uses the novel to angrily rail against all the injustices and bigotry that exists in the world. She is not shy about it. While one would expect a backlash against Lovecraft--and it's here in the book--she uses Lovecraftian horror to make her points about racism, bigotry, and hatred. To me it felt very over the top and heavy-handed. There are those who have said that her handling of this issue in the novel is necessary and well done. While her points are valid and correct and I support them, I felt as if I was constantly being hit over the head with a hammer, and I was constantly taken out of the story.
Yet, I will most likely read (or listen) to the other novels in the series. I did like THE CITY WE BECAME, and I expect I'll like the rest of the books in the series.
Robin Miles' narration of this book is nothing short of magnificent. Her ability to change voices between characters, make the characters sound distinct and believable, and her tone and pacing are all outstanding. In fact, really, the whole production staff for this audio book is to be commended, as sound effects and atmosphere--it's hard to describe, but trust me, it's good--add to the story. A great many more books can benefit from this kind of production. [-jak]
James Bond Films (letters of comment by Fred Lerner and Daniel Kimmel):
In response to Mark and Evelyn's comments on James Bond films in the 08/06/21 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:
Many thanks. I've added eight films to my skimpy Netflix DVD queue, which should see me through the summer. [-fl]
Daniel Kimmel writes:
I'm with Evelyn nearly all the way. Watch them in chronological order. Mark seems to be watching them for a different reason. I can't imagine anyone preferring ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE to GOLDFINGER or THUNDERBALL.
I differ on the spoof version of CASINO ROYALE. First, it's not the "Woody Allen" movie. He's *in* it, but isn't even the main character. (And he claims he's never seen it.) And second, I'm no masochist, but I love the film. It's a complete train wreck with, IIRC, *five* credited directors (including John Huston!), but it's my favorite guilty pleasure. It's got a great score, including the standard "The Look of Love" and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass doing the title song, and a hilariously unwieldy cast. Peter Sellers and Orson Welles did not get along to the point that their big scene together--the baccarat game--had to be shot separately and then created in the editing room. Not necessary for Bond completists, but a definite '60s cinematic curio. [-dmk]
Actually, I frequently find people who think that ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE was the start of Eon making more serious spy thrillers. That may be overstating the point.
But GOLDFINGER for one thing never explains why Bond is kept around, but after the gold table is never interrogated. He seems to be kept as a pet. It would be interesting to hear what the readers think are the relative merits of GOLDFINGER and ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Having now browsed the Old Bridge Library twice (resulting in thirteen books checked out) and the Matawan-Aberdeen Library once (four books checked out), I figured I should at least comment on the books.
My Matawan-Aberdeen books were VERITAS: A HARVARD PROFESSOR, A CON MAN, AND THE GOSPEL OF JESUS'S WIFE by Ariel Sabar, THE MAN WHO MADE VERMEERS by Jonathan Lopez (both about forgeries), THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON by Garth Nix, and MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
And my second Old Bridge visit netted THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Michael Grant, HOW YOU SAY IT: WHY YOU TALK THE WAY YOU DO AND WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU by Katherine D. Kinzler, IN THE LAND OF INVENTED LANGUAGES: A CELEBRATION OF LINGUISTIC CREATIVITY, MADNESS, AND GENIUS by Arika Okrent, LOST LANGUAGES: THE ENIGMA OF THE WORLD'S UNDECIPHERED SCRIPTS by Andrew Robinson, and DINNER AT MR. JEFFERSON'S: THREE MEN, FIVE GREAT WINES, AND THE EVENING THAT CHANGED AMERICA by Charles A. Cerami. (Boy, do those subtitles make that a long sentence!)
And as if that weren't enough, the next day my last ILL book arrived: THE ART OF EATING by M. F. K. Fisher. This wouldn't be so bad, except that it turns out to be an omnibus of five books and is almost 800 pages long.
The Hugo and Lodestar finalists will get their own columns. I have already commented (or will comment) on many of the others, so this is just quick comments on some of the rest.
THE MAN WHO MADE VERMEERS: UNVARNISHING THE LEGEND OF MASTER FORGER HAN VAN MEEGEREN by Jonathan Lopez (Mariner, 978-0-547-24784-7) is yet another book about the man who forged not just Vermeers, but many Old Masters, and far from being someone who was a patriot and did this to scam Goering, he was a Nazi sympathizer, or at least someone to go whichever way the wind was blowing. The problem is that there are so many people involved in van Meegeren's dealings over the years that it was impossible for me to follow who was who, or even who were the con artists, who were the unknowing accomplices, and who were the victims. Those with better memories for names might get more out of this book than I did. For now, I would recommend Edward Dolnick's THE FORGER'S SPELL instead, which goes more into the technical details of forgery and less into how the economics (and psychology) of the forgeries are marketed.
THE LEFT-HANDED BOOKSELLERS OF LONDON by Garth Nix (Katherine Tegen Books, ISBN 978-0-06-26825-0) is enjoyable enough, even if there is very little about bookselling in it.
MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey, ISBN 978-0-525-62078-5) is pretty much what its title indicates, a Gothic thriller set in Mexico. Recommended.
Several books I gave up on for various reasons.
ESCAPING EXODUS by Nicky Drayden: I found the "geography" of the ship and in particular the sails too hard to follow.
WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GO TO WAR by Karl Marlantes (Grove Press, ISBN 978-0-802-14592-5: I read a few chapters of this book, which was recommended by historian podcaster Dan Carlin, which seems to be basically a memoir of Marlantes's time in Vietnam, though told more by "topic" than chronologically. At any rate, I was not motivated to read any further.
THE ART OF EATING by M. F. K. Fisher (Wiley, ISBN 978-0-7645-4261-9): This is an omnibus of SERVE IT FORTH, CONSIDER THE OYSTER. HOW TO COOK A WOLF, THE GASTRONOMICAL ME, and AN ALPHABET FOR GOURMETS. It's a classic (or five classics, if you prefer) but frankly, it didn't work for me. I did read the chapter in AN ALPHABET FOR GOURMETS titled "K Is for Kosher" and while Fisher's views are interesting, I am not convinced that Moses (or more accurately, the rabbis who followed him hundreds of years later) invented kashering utensils as a way to fight bacteria, both because no one really knew about bacteria at the time, and because the kashering method described doesn't really apply to the vast majority of utensils in Moses's time. Other claims about the purposes of the various kosher laws are equally suspect. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man-- --William ShakespeareTweet
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