Beth and I went to see the new James Bond movie, SPECTRE, last night. Long-suffering readers may recall that Bond has a cameo roll to play in the story of my massive haemorrhagic stroke. More about that in Being a Man Again: Strokes, Power Tools and James Bond.
It feels like seeing the stark, terrible beauty of Glencoe in Skyfall serves as easy reference for all of the parts of my life that were coming together to direct me back to Scotland. The Glen eventually served as a major character in a short story I wrote for the first issue of Brain of Forgetting.
Saw #SPECTRE tonight. Here’s the review. (Spoiler alert!) A lot of things happened. In no particular order. It was pretty. 2 stars.
— Ricky Brown (@ricky_ballboy) November 1, 2015
So when it becomes evident during the course of SPECTRE that Bond is still having difficulty putting Glencoe behind him, I get it. Daniel Craig’s Bond’s middle-aged, a bit emo, and he can wear the hell out of a suit. Of course I get it.
Yep, he’s almost exactly my age now in that pic. Of course I get it. It was a big deal when Craig was cast as Bond. Bond aficionados started sites with names like No Blond Bond. When I heard about the casting, I was very pleased. I’d first been introduced to Craig in the awesome BBC miniseries, Our Friends in the North (with Christopher Eccleston, above). The Brosnan Bond movies were losing the plot. Casino Royale was awesome, I thought. Now, we’re nine years into Craig’s reign as the king of spies. It’s hard to believe. But now, the latest set of Bond movies have fallen into a comfortable pattern echoing the original Star Trek films. Good one, duff one, good one, duff one…
Now, people are discussing who might be the next person to play Bond. Damian Lewis’s name gets mentioned in casual conversations a lot. He may already be two years older than Craig in Casino Royale, but he does look good in a tux. No doubt people are already reserving urls along the lines of Nae Ginger Bond. Idris Elba seems to be getting a bit of buzz, too. No doubt, just as with Craig, people will be saying, Bond can’t be this, and Bond can’t be that. But after SPECTRE, we are confronted with aspects of movie Bond’s character that are delinked from the books. In Doctor Who, the possibility of changes in the Doctor’s personality on regeneration are written into the concept. Yet still, unlike the movie Bonds, there’s a certain Doctorishness to each of his incarnations. Yes, even that bloke with the beard up top.
For all that that Craig said he paid a lot of attention to Connery’s characterisation of Bond, I don’t think one can imagine for a second that Connery’s Mr Misogyny is the same as the later Moore’s Carry On Spying or Dalton or Lazenby or Brosnan or Craig’s Emo Bond. They may all mix a martini wrongly, but the catchphrase maketh not the man. This is only a narrative problem for the movies if people don’t actually change. Well, it’s only a problem for the movies if people actually give a shit when they sit down to watch a Bond movie, but let’s pretend they do.
Now, I’ve seen the emergence of Ricky 2.0 from the burning wreckage of of Ricky 1.0, and subsequently the re-emergence of certain of my pre-stroke personality traits as we move further from The Event. It makes sense that Beth encouraged me to listen to a recent podcast episode of Radiolab, called New Normal?
Hey, I wrote a blog post called The New Normal!
In New Normal, the Radiolab team revisit three of their true life stories, and ask:
Radiolab describes itself as “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” It comes out of WNYC and airs on public radio stations around the United States and around the world, so you won’t be surprised to hear that the answer to question 3 is that nerds are the pinnacle of evolution and natural selection.
They’re all interesting stories, though, and I commend them to you. What’s also interesting is the reason the Radiolab producers were particularly interested in these stories. The lead-in to the episode discusses some research done by John Horgan. To illustrate it, Horgan walks round the streets of Hoboken, asking people
Will humans ever stop fighting wars once and for all?
He’s been asking this question for years, because it goes to the question of, can we really change who we are? He first asked the question of a church congregation in 2003, just a few days after the first invasion of Iraq. He wanted people to feel that they could believe peace was possible. One or two people in an audience of sixty believed that peace was possible. Back in the ‘eighties, Horgan has found, one in three people thought that war was inevitable. Today, nine out of ten people on the streets of Hoboken believe humans will never stop fighting wars once and for all. It’s in human nature to keep at it, the people Horgan asks tell him.
Maybe the three stories Radiolab revisits do suggest the possibility that individual choice can challenge “destiny”. At the moment, the British government seems to be laying the ground for military intervention in Syria. On the weekend of 10th October, the Tory MP and former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, and Labour MP Jo Cox, a former head of policy at Oxfam, wrote an article in The Observer supporting a plan for the intervention. The Observer led with an article that weekend indicating that “at least 50 Labour MPs are prepared to defy Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn” and back the action.
Yesterday, in defiance of Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish branch office of the Labour Party voted against a renewal of the Trident
nuclear submarine-borner missiles stationed in Scotland deterrent. Today on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary and MP for the Merseyside constituency of Garston and Halewood, Maria Eagle, made clear that
This is an input from Scottish Labour into the policy-making process. This does not change our policy. Defence is not a devolved matter and Labour party policy has to be set at a UK level.
So UK Labour continues to support the maintenance of a 24/7 seafaring nuclear cabability and its replacement – a replacement at a cost estimated by Reuters to be £167 Billion.
In between those two pieces of news, Sir John Chilcot announced that his inquiry into the British government’s role in the Iraq War will be completed in April 2016. He anticipated that publication would follow in June or July 2016, after national security checks. Since that’s 13 years after the war, seven years after the Inquiry commenced, and five years late – and since it’s four times longer than War and Peace, at two million words, let’s jump to the 30-minute version Peter Oborne pulled together for Radio 4 in three weeks with the help of a producer and a researcher.
Did the British government mislead Parliament about weapons of mass destruction? Yes.
Did the war very substantially increase the threat from al-Qaeda? Yes.
Is there hard evidence that Tony Blair entered into a secret deal with the US president? No.
Was the war illegal? Yes.
The full programme – with contributions from Dr Hans Blix, Sir Christopher Meyer, Sir Stephen Wall, and Carne Ross – was shocking to me, and I’d like to think that, having been both a Park Avenue lawyer and an interested attendee of Occupy Wall Street, I’m fairly unshockable by political revelations. Again, I commend it to you. But since your eternal life is important to the blog, I think that adding the time that it takes to read four War and Peaces to your life is A Good Thing. As is the resulting wisdom. Alternatively….
So. In light of recent developments, let’s return to an earlier question:
Can we really change who we are?
Christ, I hope so.