Gals, Gadgets, and Guns

Bond- be polite

Last night we drove to Tioga to catch the new Mission Impossible movie, a film with the subtitle Rogue Nation. It was loud, somewhat stupid, often improbable, and thoroughly entertaining. But it got me thinking about action movies and spy thrillers.

The genesis of all these movies is of course James Bond. I can’t say that I’ve seen every Bond film. Never saw the Lazenby or Niven films, there might be a Connery film missing, and a couple Roger Moores. So I can’t call myself an expert but I know my way around the tropes. I felt sorry for Timothy Dalton, who didn’t get enough credit for some pretty good work and Pierce Brosnan, who always wanted the films to get a little darker, a little more realistic, but never got the chance. Then came Daniel Craig and at least in his first film, we got what Brosnan pined for.

Keep in mind, we would have never seen Daniel Craig’s grimdark Bond if it hadn’t been for Jason Bourne. When the Bourne Identity came out in 2002, fans and critics were saying that it was what the Bond films should have become. Darker, grittier, higher stakes and realism. Less dependence on gals, guns, and gadgets. And while Casino Royale didn’t go totally in that direction it was a complete triumph. The pre-title sequence still sends a shiver up my spine as we see Bond earn his 00 license. It was graphic, violent, and Craig was at turns volatile and ice cold. It was magnificent.

The Bourne films then upped the game. Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum work best when viewed together, the better to appreciate how Paul Greengrass wove the two sequels into a greater, smarter, relentless, and riveting whole. My only complaint is that the fight scenes are too often confusing – shot in that damn hand-held shaky style that is too much the go-to style these days. (Go back to that Bond scene, the fight in the lavatory. That’s how you shoot a fight.) But still, those two Bourne movies are golden.

The last Bourne movie had Jeremy Renner, a star as oddly compelling in an everyday way as Matt Damon. Daniel Craig is charismatic, consuming, an almost inhuman force of nature. With Renner and Damon, you can almost identify. Renner’s movie did not have Greengrass directing or as engrossing of a storyline. In fact it seemed to crib a little from the first Bourne film. But it was still entertaining and not a waste of time.

This brings us to Mission Impossible. The first couple MIs suffered in that they were like the Moore/Dalton/Brosnan movies. Bloated with too much gadgetry and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Tom Cruise is the oddest of movie stars. He’s hard to identify with, he does have some acting chops but he’s insufficient up against someone like Craig. But yet, people like him. Oh, and he has absolutely no chemistry with any female actors (gee, I wonder what that’s about). The third MI movie suffered because it was written by Orci, Kurtzman, and Abrams, three complete idiots that couldn’t come up with a coherent plot even if threatened with the ball crusher from Casino Royale. But MI: Ghost Protocol was different. Smarter, tauter, with preposterous action sequences that nonetheless left you terrified and on the edge. Cruise seemed less remote, running a little hotter. And Simon Pegg’s role as his comic relief/sidekick became more substantial. Jeremy Renner shows up to give it all a little more gravitas (gee, where have I seen that name before).

Rogue Nation is just as improbable but just as entertaining. There’s even more humor this time around, mostly due to Pegg. Renner keeps it anchored. The gadgetry is ridiculous and fun. And TC does what TC does, pulling off improbable stunts, taking his shirt off, and trying to appear six feet tall. Rebecca Ferguson is the unromantic Bond gal this time and she has as much chemistry with Cruise as its possible for a woman to have, not to mention being damn lethal as well. The movie clicks right along. An oxygen-deprived underwater sequence will leaves the viewer breathless. Some of the plot points are predictable but the cast plows through them with such panache you don’t care. It’s not the equal of the better Bourne or Bond movies. It doesn’t care. Rogue Nation is pure popcorn and it knows it. And even in a world of smarter, darker spies sometime that’s all you need. 

Posted in James Bond, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Mission Impossible, Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, Movies, Jeremy Renner, Matt Damon, Tom Crusie, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg | Leave a comment

A Threat at the Cradle of Conservation

Here is Jim Fuglie’s semiannual update on the battle to save/plunder the Elkhorn Ranch, in the heart of the ND Badlands. You would think that with the oil boom on hiatus, these asswipes would be backing off from the insanity but nope, no time like the present to double down on the stupid, greedy, and irresponsible.

Jim Fuglie was a reporter, a legendary Director of Tourism for the state of ND (featured in People magazine back in the day), and a damn fine writer. Now days he blogs and watchdogs on a number of topics but none are more important that exposing the threats to the state’s great outdoors. We’re lucky to have such a diligent steward. I urge you all to read, study, and spread the word.

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Caturday – Old Cat, Young Cat


Sneakers looks a little rough in this photo but generally he presents a better view than this. He’s a little ratty and a lot less body mass but he still trots outside, jumps up on the bed, demands attention…everything he’s done in the past just at a slower pace. I suspect he’ll check out this year but he’s certainly making a graceful dignified exit.


Arya has gone from scruffy to fluffy. Early this year she chewed a lot of her fur off. The vet could find no cause for this and it was a lot of worry for us. Whatever it was, she shook it off. Now she’s a giant ball of fluff, obsessed with either roaming the yard or jumping into my lap when I’m working.

That’s it for today. Got a lot of house-work done this morning and now it’s back to work-work and writing-work. And maybe some baseball. There’s always room for baseball. Even when the Twins are losing there’s room for baseball. They haven’t been doing a lot of losing lately and it’s getting very entertaining. The next several seasons are going to be a lot of fun.

Have a good weekend.

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Late Summer Haircuts

P1010402 P1010403 P1010404

I got a haircut just before the funeral last week. It was getting quite long. In another month or so I would have been approaching the look I sported in the mid-70s. I no longer have the hairline to pull off that. Plus my hair has a lot of natural waves and the hair on the sides of my head were waving out to Bozo the Clown levels. So I was overdo. Now I have about an inch on top and a #3 buzz on the back and sides. It looks neat, trim, and current.

Pippin was also overdue a haircut. It had been several months and his coarse hair was several inches long. He’s been groomed at several places but we like this independent pet store in Minot. At least we used to. When I came to pick him up the groomer upped her fee to $60 because his hair was too long and he got a little nippy. I’d never seen this person before. She had a sloppy demeanor and a deep southern drawl. I normally don’t prejudge redneck mouth-breathers but this woman didn’t get that far with me. Pippin has only gotten A grades from other groomers so I suspect incompetence rather than him being a problem. So Pet Parade will never see our business again.

As far as the haircut itself, it’s made the little squirt delirious. Grooming always makes him happy. He’s more nimble and playful, a little more vulnerable, and just fun to rough up. My dog is a good dog, no matter what that inbred groomer thinks.

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And We’re Back on the Air


I took some time off from blogging. We had my mother-in-law’s memorial service last Friday, had my sister-in-law as a guest for a week, made trips to Minot and Bismarck, etc. Sister-in-law flew home yesterday and we’re back to what constitutes normal here. I’m back in the mancave, trying to bring a new opening chapter to life. Carjo is in front of her computer, reconnecting with friends and fighting the good fight for Social Justice.

Tomorrow I’ll post a photo of Pippin’s new haircut, update on the cats, rant about whatever irritant is getting on my lawn, rave about something I really like, or just pillory the new Walking Dead series (hint, it sucks). Until tomorrow….

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Golden Waves in August


We went to the farm last night and took several photos. This is one of the better ones. It’s a wheat field just across from the farmstead. That’s right, “amber waves of grain” is not a myth of Americana. It’s the real deal out here.

It smells different during August. There’s chaff in the air from the combines and a dusky rich scent that is grain maturing under the unforgiving sun.

It was a hundred degrees or more yesterday. It’s a hundred degrees or more today. My cousin, the Singing Farmer, has begun harvest today and no doubt thanking the air conditioned cab in his combine. I just let Pippin outside to do some business and the mere act of that left him panting and ready to come back inside. All the cats are in, sleeping in sinks or up against the floor vents. Our air conditioning is over thirty years old and struggles to keep up at 90 degrees. 100 is a significant strain. We’ve got a room air conditioner in our bedroom and Carjo is there. I’m working in the living room, the coolest room in the house. I’ve got Rush playing on the stereo and the bass rattles the walls.

Tomorrow will be an onslaught of thunderstorms and then a break in the high pressure ridge that is beating us down. Temperatures will be in the seventies next week and harvest will march on. And the amber waves will come crashing down.

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Damn I Miss Warren Zevon

Keep Calm and Zevon

Warren has always meant a great deal to me. He’s a bonding point between me and my brother, between me and many of my friends. His cynicism, his optimism, his joy and his bleakness. Few in rock music reached his level of lyrical brilliance, his way of shining a light into life’s darkest corners.

When David Letterman asked him if there was any message  on life and death could be gleaned from his terminal cancer diagnosis he said, ”How much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich,”. I often forget the import of this even though I took those words to heart at the time. I shall endeavor to do better from now on.

All this came to me the other day while hobbling on my morning walk. I was on the final block. My left ankle was hurting, my bursitis in my right hip was flaring, and my t-shirt was clinging to the sweaty parts even though my pace is not very fast or steady. I thought of the song posted below. And then I remembered I should be enjoying this. Enjoy that I can walk outside. Enjoy that my work enables me to do what I want when I want. Enjoy that pets and spouse will be glad to see me when I get back. Enjoy every single sandwich. Especially if your shit’s fucked up.

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