Juneau, Alaska

July 29, 2008 at 2:19 pm (1, blog)

American eagle in Juneau. It was blind in one eye. The guy looking after him told a tourist that’s he’s not worried about global warming. Alaska has 10,000 glaciers. Only two or three are not receding and only one is expanding. Below is an animal called a marmot, posing to be photographed.

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Brand awareness

July 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm (1)

Unbelievably, a talented duo are using the Soul Bean name on a cartoon strip called Gnawed Soul Bean. While we haven’t the clout to urge the artists to change the name of their creation, we implore them to at least make it look cute. Watch this space for our cartoon response.

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From Empire with love

July 5, 2008 at 12:09 am (UK) ()

How the James Bond exhibition in London fails to highlight 007’s less charming side


James Bond is arguably the mother of all ‎on-screen celebrations of white, European ‎masculinity. More than 2 billion people – ‎two fifths of the world’s population – have ‎watched a 007 film. Only Tarzan or Indiana ‎Jones might rival his stature. For Your ‎Eyes Only: Ian Fleming And James Bond – the ‎exhibition currently running at London’s ‎Imperial War Museum – sets out to outline ‎the relationship between the fictional ‎secret agent and the man who created him, ‎Ian Fleming.

Fleming (pictured) was born to a wealthy Scottish ‎banking family.

He went to the elite school Eton and then the military training academy ‎Sandhurst. His father Valentine Fleming, an ‎aristocratic MP, was killed in 1917, ‎serving in the same unit as Winston ‎Churchill in World War I. Peter, Ian’s ‎older brother, was handed the mantle of ‎family patriarch.

A journalist and established travel writer, ‎Peter’s derring-do in foreign climes in ‎part inspired his younger brother to take ‎to fiction. Ian ‎needed a refuge from his sibling’s towering ‎shadow and found this in the character he’d ‎created, James Bond.

Peter recommended his publisher Jonathan ‎Cape publish the first Bond novel in 1953, ‎something Cape did with reluctance. Another ‎‎11 novels were written before Fleming died ‎in 1964 – a window one cannot help but ‎notice — in which the sun truly set on the ‎British Empire. Bond, you can be forgiven ‎for thinking became a fictional substitute ‎for Empire, a national hero who could – and ‎did – take over the world, or at least its ‎imagination.

But historical context is not what this ‎homage to writer and character is about – ‎nor is it is about the gadgetry that many ‎Bond aficionados will be hoping to see.

Sure, there is the gun from Goldfinger; one ‎of the yellow space helmets from Moonraker; ‎a cello pierced by a bullet from The Living ‎Daylights; flick-knife shoes from From ‎Russia With Love; a spear-gun from ‎Thunderball; a transparent “nuclear” bomb ‎from The World Is Not Enough; a golden gun ‎with bullets marked “007”; a wing-mirror ‎dart-gun from Live And Let Die; the heart-‎transplant unit used for smuggling diamonds ‎in The Living Daylights; the overcoat worn ‎by Sean Connery in Dr No; Daniel Craig’s ‎bloodied shirt from Casino Royale; and a ‎portrait of Halle Berry in an orange bikini ‎in Die Another Day.

There’s also much to read up on – it is, ‎after all, a biographical display: here’s ‎Fleming in Switzerland, at school, here he ‎is with Ms X or Ms Y, his recipe for ‎scrambled eggs – there are truly Bond facts ‎galore.‎

But all this is no solace for museum-goers ‎there for more interactive fun. The exhibition’s problem is not its lack of ‎gadgets, but that they are not Bond ‎gadgets. A virtual roulette table turns at ‎the press of a button, sending a ball ‎landing on a number which then triggers a ‎Bond fact in audio. The two children I saw ‎playing with this machine, however, were ‎less interested in hearing what the ‎roulette table had to say about Bond, than ‎in spinning it around and around.

There is a signed letter to Fleming from ‎Joseph Stalin refusing him the audience he ‎had asked for one while in Russia, among ‎family albums and numerous postcards, ‎letters and loads of manuscripts. Then you ‎reach a glass display with international ‎editions of the novels.

Here, the exhibition loses its steam. Who ‎wants to see a wall of international first ‎editions?‎

And you can forget about any dissection of ‎the appeal of James Bond as the embodiment ‎of British imperialism too – eminently ‎civilised exterior, licence to kill without ‎compunction – is not touched on.
‎Tony Blair comes to mind. Aptly, we learn ‎that Bond attended Fettes, the same school ‎Britain’s former prime minister – though ‎poor Bond today would probably end up ‎poorly equipped in Afghanistan or Iraq on ‎the basis of dodgy information taken from ‎the internet and end up in an Al-Qaeda ‎video.

What struck me most at the exhibition was ‎an oil painting featured on the cover of ‎Live And Let Die depicting a restrained and ‎half-naked 007 looking on powerlessly as ‎two or three black men held a Barbarella-‎style blond captive – a possible indicator that ‎Bond is the product of a racist colonial ‎mindset.

‎ The exhibition is intended to celebrate a ‎hundred years since Ian Fleming’s birth and ‎to coincide with the publication of the ‎Sebastian Faulks-penned novel Devil ‎May Care – in which Bond visits Iran. Yet ‎although we might be on the brink of seeing America’s first black ‎president sworn in, we are probably a century away ‎from seeing a black James Bond.‎

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