James Bond, to me, was always the black-and-white comics published in the ’80s in a popular magazine in Hungary and the novels by Flemming (which did not age very well, admittedly). He is suave, confident, sophisticated, resourceful but also ruthless, cold and calculating. You know a guy men want to be and women want to be with. So I was really happy when I watched Casino Royale (the new one). It is probably the best Bond movie ever made, even though it only shows us “Bond in the making”. And this is where the series slipped with Craig I think. Casino Royale is a kind of origin-story: how a special forces type of person becomes the legendary Bond. This Bond was still somewhat rough in the edges (yet), but the movie held the promise of showing us Bond in his peak, so to speak. This promise was sadly never delivered. We never seen the suave, confident, cool Bond played by Craig (OK, we got like 1 minute of this Bond at the end of Quantum of Solace). He was always shouted at by someone, in every single one of his movies. Either because he was too inexperienced, and tended to kill everyone, or later because he was too old and outdated. One wonders why he kept his job so long.

Quantum of Solace was somewhat a bungled mess (still OK I guess), but M kept complaining about needing to keep him on a short leash, and by Skyfall Bond was already over his peak physically (and mentally if the tests to be believed), and was seen as a dinosaur, a relic by mostly everyone. Yes, this view was changed by the end of the movie, but still, this Bond was already in decline; that did not change. If the trailer from the new Bond movie is to be believed, this trend only continues in Craig’s last outing: he seems like a hollow shell of a man, a has-been, who is disrespected in his own movie, someone who just takes all the insults and have nothing to say in return. Even Moore was not depicted as pathetic as Craig when he was playing Bond close to retirement age, and you were always worried about him breaking his hips when he made a jump. Oh well. I really liked Craig as Bond; I think he was one of the best, next to Connery, but let’s hope the next Bond delivers. After all, this is only a silly movie, so apart from a sad post, this whole issue is not worth much more than that.

After the birth of our daughter we realzied real quick that the weekly cleaning routine is outdated. While my wife was putting the baby to sleep, I was vacuuming and doing the dishes every evening. Enter automation. I bought and installed a dishwasher (I count it as one of my greatest feats even though it was not exactly brain surgery), and a Roomba. (I gave a pass on the breadmaker because even though it IS an incredibly convenient piece of equipment, my daughter loves kneading the dough.)

The robot vacuum cleaner, if not changed our life, but at least it made it easier. Sure it does not clean as well as a human, and it also takes a long time to do its job, but the point is it does not have to. You can release it every day and keep the place relatively clean. I stress “relatively”, as it does not mean it will be spotless, but at least you do not sink into the dirt knee-deep by the end of the week. With a 2 year old harbinger of chaos in the house, it is all you can ask for. So personally I find it a fair price for the robot uprising in 2321.

As we know sometimes the things from children’s stories are considerably different from what reality is. Nowhere was the contrast to big than in one of my favorite childhood cartoon, the Diving Bell Spider.

Here is the spider in question

The short stories were interesting and quite educational about small animals living in a pond. So naturally I loved the spider itself. Here is an episode, if you are curious.

Then I saw the real thing.

Needless to say this is not something I want on my planet.

Here is what happened… Easter was approaching and we told our two year old that the Easter Bunny will come and bring her presents she will need to find in the garden. She nominated a large, flat rock a ‘bunny rock’ (her words), where the bunny will bring the present to, and put a sacrifice on it -a large carrot. (We told her to leave the bunny something to eat, and she put it on the bunny rock, expecting a return for the sacrifice.)

I will be damned. So this is how religions are born.

I saw this exhibition (and I use it in a very loose sense) well in the ’90s when the whole plastination came out. While people were floored at the artistry of the concept, and fawned over the whole thing I found the exhibition distasteful and disrespectful to the dead. Not to mention it was strange how every skinless body looked Chinese… Yeah, it might not have been by accident.

I do have strong views on death, which might have something to do with it. After all, it is just bodies you can argue, so who cares? Certainly not their previous owners… However seeing the body of a pregnant woman with the baby exposed and the woman positioned in a way that it cradled the baby was especially horrifying to me. I do believe you should afford the dignity even to the cadavers (a good word to gloss over the fact that we are talking about dead persons here). The tragedy of death and dying is enough; especially for someone who lost her life while she was about to produce a new life. (Not to mention the woman who kept pushing the testicles of one of the exhibited “subject” with her fingers to amuse herself.) There is no respect in this exhibition.

After 20 years they are still going on which I find curious.

It is indeed an interesting question when does the display of a human body become educational; after all, there are plenty of Egyptian mummies in museums all over the world. Yet one thing is certain. People go to these carneval of dead bodies and feel they witness something daring, something exceptional, when in fact they only see something that violates basic decency and transforms death into a source of base entertainment. It may be the same reason why people attended to exhibitions or to the mummy exhibit (for me they do not yet cross the treshold mentioned above): to assure themselves they are alive. Not sure, as I said, but what I am sure of is that it should not be advertised as some sort of higher educational experience because it is not.

I have to share something I have been thinking about a lot, but as a disclaimer: I am a virologist. Which does not mean a lot when it comes to theoretical physics, but it at least should mean I am a completely rational being who only accepts scientific theories… or not.

Anyhow, concept of time moving forward, the temporariness of existence has long been something that has been scaring the living daylight out of me. (See relevant posts.)

You listen to music from fifty years ago, you see old photos of people that you know are now either dead or old, you read books or just see things they created (or lost) and you can’t help to wish that these people, these things, captured by light, sound or an object still existed the same way as they were, like little insects caught in amber. That nothing truly passes, but gets preserved somehow; every second is somehow saved, like pearls on a string, unaccessible for us, but still existing. This would make things much more bearable, since our mortality is the scariest thing I can ever imagine, and it is something I can’t see an escape from – since I can’t (although I do wan to) believe in a higher being, in a life after death.

I have a confession to make. I learned to appreciate Modern Talking.

Yes, those guys.

Back in the ’80s I was very young and impressionate, but then I felt they were incredibly naff and cheesy, and proper men (well, 10 years olds) should not be caught listening to them. Well, they are naff. But they were songs put together by people who know how to put songs together, and sang by people who knew how to sing. When listening to a classic pop radio station, I re-listened a lot of their songs. And I have to first say: this is not nostalgia talking right now. Compared to today’s pop music, they were the Mozarts of pop.

Take these two bozos, for example.

I heard this excuse of a song on radio first and had no idea it was actually two goofs singing. The music sounds like it was created with an algorithm and the singing… well, as I said it was not clear it was two dudes singing badly instead of one dude singing badly. (Ed Sheeren annoys the heck out of me with the “guy crying with a lone guitar” act, anyhow.) And these are not two amateurs trying to break into the music business. These are two of the highest paid stars of the day.

So compared to what counts today as a smash hit…

…this is actually quite good. Heck, even the Hoff was amazing compared to this.

As I said it is not nostalgia speaking. It is the decreasing level of expectations speaking.

That is a stupid title, but it is my blog, my titles.

What I noticed with my child ever since she was very small (she is two now…) that she notices absolutely everything around her. And I mean everything. Tiny abstract owl drawings on some product in the supermarket, a cat very far away in the field, literally nothing can slip by her.

I think it is a survival mechanism – she is still in survival mode where the tiniest little details can mean life and death. Our anchestors lived like this for hundreds of milennia -or millions of years, really, if we talk about hominids, and not just Homo sapiens. We have the luxory of not having to do this any more, and can devote a lot of time thinking about other things while we do routine things -like walking home. Normally you only need to pay attention before crossing the road, and do not have to be worried about a hiding lion in every bush.

Little kids do not seem to be doing this yet. It is both a learning strategy (she is incredibly preceptive of the world around her), and also something that is left over -but this is my own theory based on a sample size of one, so take this with a grain of salt. (Lots of grains, in fact.)

I often think how great it would be to be like this: to have a brain that soaks up everything around it, and to process every little detail; as an adult it would seem like you have superpowers. But this may be incredibly tiring on the long run if you think about it: to have a brain that constantly runs on maximum capacity to observe its surroundings will wear you out. I think the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes must have been like this; no wonder he dealt with this with difficulty. (He was a substance user, for one.)

I do not have a snappy conclusion; but having the observational, language, etc. abilities of my baby would certainly make me look like a prodigy. Which is really a weird thought if you stop to think about it.

Since I have been reading a lot about the Pacific war -and listen to Dan Carlin’s podcast about the conflict, and Japan’s role in it, I decided to give this movie a shot. Although I mostly heard negative things about it, I thought at least I will see some pretty ships and airplanes in glorious CGI.

Well, I was really, really surprised. Pleasantly, no less. The movie was great – especially if you compare it to other “blockbusters” coming out lately, which may or may not actually be movies… and also keeping in mind that a lot of “historical” movies coming out of Hollywood have very little to do with actual history. It even mentioned the staggering 250 000 (!) Chinese people who were massacred in retaliation of the Doolittle-raid -a rare thing in American movies where unintended consequences are usually not shown.

Well, this one actually is more historically accurate than the acclaimed Tora, Tora, Tora, which, for some reason, ranked higher on the critics’ opinion. (Although not much higher.) Reading the criticism both movies received I am kind of perplexed of what the critics would expect. (And this is a case-study why you should never pay attention to what a couple of uneducated, stuck-up morons with a bull-horn think.) History, in general, is kind of dull; rather, it does not really give itself to Michael Bay-type of movies. If you want to make a movie paying homage to historical events, to people who took part in it, well, the more accurate you are, the less “blockbuster-y” your movie will be. This is a sad fact. Things in real life are usually not as exciting as Jason Bourne jumping from rooftop-to-rooftop but just as interesting (I do love the Bourne series, by the way). If you want to depict real-life people, show their real-life actions in a movie, unfortunately real-life situations and characters will not allow for the usual movie drama and structure. It may even be non-politically correct, you know, because people in the past talked and behaved differently, surpising it might be. You will have to accept that people sometimes said or did things that today would cause a veritable Twitter storm. So you will have to compromise. You either have to change the events and people -which would defeat the purpose of the whole thing, or you will have to accept that your movie will not be the usual nail-biter where everything happens at the right pace and works out satisfactory at the end with a catharsis. The makers of Midway did not compromise much: even the most outrageous scenes (like jumping into a parked airplane to use its machine gun to shoot at Japanese planes, or attacking a flattop with only three dive-bombers) actually happened… and the latter example turned the tide of the war in the Pacific as it essentially made sure all four of the Japanese carriers at Midway were destroyed. But it was not an action-movie battle. Nimitz did not actually stand heroically on top of an airplane carrier single-handedly defeating Japanese airplanes, and a ship captain did miss the action at Midway because he was hospitalized with shingles, even though he was introduced in the beginning of the movie, which would normally make his inclusion dramatically unwise. (Why build up a character if you do not do anything with it, right?)

As soon as you introduce the required excitement, heroic acts, romance and character development arcs, you end up with Pearl Harbour and U-571. Imitation Game is also in this group, because although it is a good enough movie, it falsifies history in order to tell a story, just like U-571 does. Don’t forget, Saving Private Ryan is a fictional war movie. Only the assault on Normandy was historical. (I have not seen Dunkirk, so I can’t comment on that.)

A lot of it comes from the political attitudes of the critics and a lot more from sheer ignorance – as it seems like graduating with an arts and humanities B.S. will not actually give you historical knowledge that would allow you to meaningfully judge a historical movie. For that you would need to read a book first. (A Brige Too Far also suffered from this issue.)

In short, Midway really is a good example of how a (relatively) accurate historical film fares with critics who take themselves too seriously without actually knowing about the subject at hand (which is to say most critics…) And what these people write becomes reality, somehow, as they are the ones setting the narrative. It is a good movie, perhaps not a perfect one, but I would like to hear Spielberg’s opinion about its failings, because he knows movies.