One of the curiosities of modern warfare and espionage is the British decision to make their most successful spy of the day known to the public. Generally, spies are kept secret, with great care being taken to keep their covers from being blown.
In the 1960s, however, the country of England (or Great Britain) decided that it somehow served their interest to publish and make movies about the exploits of their best spies. Some have suggested that this was to scare the opposition. If so, it hasn’t worked. We can discuss that another time.
The first person to receive the title of “England’s #1 Spy”—or, “James Bond” for short—was a Scottish lad named Sean. Tall, debonair, and with a voice that would have been instantly memorable to all (some have suggested that it was his voice that actually settled England on this new idea of spying because it was so easy for opposing forces to detect transmissions sent by this spy), Sean was the prototype for all James Bonds (sometimes called “Commander James Bond” or just “Oh, James!”) that would follow.
Following five spectacularly successful missions—if one can accept the maxim that it is better for the one to die to save the many (or, in these cases, that thousands should die to save the millions)—Sean retired from the title of James Bond.
England then hired someone from one of their outlying territories to take over the position of James Bond, chief of spies (who was given the number “7”, presumably to convince foreign powers that there were six other spies of even greater worth out there). The new spy was another tall, debonair young man, this time from Australia, and named George. George only led the British spy agency, MI6, for one mission, after which he got married. The official story—this, too, was a new thing: putting out an official story about a spy, but it had some precedent having previous published in Japanese papers that James Bond had died—was that George was retiring from the James Bond service following the tragic death of his wife but the rumors persist that George merely faked his wife’s death and went off to live a life of ease—probably in Jamaica—with his beloved Tracy.
Suddenly without a James Bond and no one in the training pipeline,Britain talked Sean into coming back for one more mission while MI6 trained a new apprentice. While Sean was blowing up a satellite with the aid of a woman in a bikini, MI6 was training a man named Roger to take his place. Handsome in an effeminate way, Roger brought a strange sense of humor and a year of experience in the American west to the job, leaving almost a decade later when it seemed that his missions were becoming just too silly to bother with. It was, after all, the early ‘80s and there wasn’t a lot to do, what with the Cowboy American president having vanquished all worthy foes. He did, however, before retiring, kill the man who had supposedly killed Tracy, in some weird attempt to facilitate the fiction that all the James Bonds were the same man and not distinct individuals with singular looks and a shared sex addiction.
At some point in these years, many debate the actual year, Sean came out of retirement and, of his own accord, took up the title of James Bond and, without authorization, saved the world from almost the exact same threat it had faced in one of his earlier missions. It has only been recently that MI6 would even acknowledge that his mission ever took place, so it remains shrouded in some secrecy.
It wasn’t until a few years later that England saw the need for another James Bond and hired a man named Tim. Handsome, like the others, but strangely well-read in the works of former spies of England, Timothy served in two missions with distinction before quietly retiring as it didn’t seem like England needed James Bonds anymore.
When the need did arise,England hired an ex-patriot working in Los Angelesas a private eye to take on the job of James Bond. Even when new to the job, however, he seems to have been aware of previous MI6 business well enough to tell the new boss where the old boss kept his liquor. Many people were initially reluctant to accept the newby in the job of James Bond, and may reasons why have been suggested, but it is this writer’s contention that the reason this James Bond was often viewed with some disdain was that none of the women spies he worked with were as pretty as the woman who ran the American detective agency. After serving with distinction for four missions, this James Bond—code named Pierce—retired to a quiet life in America with his wife and children.
It wouldn’t be until years later that England would again hire a James Bond, this time not out of necessity but, apparently, out of an overriding sense of, “Eh, why not?” In keeping with that attitude, the powers that be (whoever “they” may be) decided to conduct a world-wide search to find the most boring, most-non-charismatic person on the planet. Finding a man named Daniel whose personality was practically non-existent, they quickly set out to insert him in missions that, while vague in objective, were obtuse in outcome.
We can all thank England for using the James Bonds to keep the world safe and, I think I speak for everyone when I say: I wish they would bring back Sean.
My wife recently found a book about “discovering your love language”. It is, from all reports (hers, anyway) a good book and is really opening her eyes. Mine, too, by proxy and whether I want them opened or not.
The premise of the book—I haven’t read it but I have had each paragraph discussed with me in monologue form and have had several key passages quoted to me—asserts that we all have a “love language”. This is how we show love to other people and how we want to be loved. The author’s premise—and according to my wife, he’s right—is that many of us (especially men) are not aware of our love language. That’s why he wrote the book: so that we men could find out what our love language is and what our wife’s love language is by letting her read the book and then tell us how it comes out.
For instance, some people apparently show their love language through acts of service. This is the person who shows her love by taking food to someone who is sick or actually looking for thoughtful, applicable Christmas cards rather than just buying the cheapest box of generic cards and sending them all out with the same photocopied message to everyone in the phone book. This person, the author writes, is going to want to BE loved through acts of service. In other words, a bowl of soup when she’s sick will express more love to her than, say, a Valentine’s card.
My wife’s love language is, apparently (if I was listening well and I can’t swear that I was because there was a good YouTube video playing about a cat trying to kill a fly and getting caught up in the Venetian blinds), time together. For those of you who didn’t understand that sentence because you were thinking about the cat, let me repeat: my wife’s love language is time together. This can involve walks together, drives together, sitting on the back porch together, etc. The good news is (obviously) that I can show my wife all sorts of love without spending a dime.
My wife has another love language, but I’ve forgotten what it was. I should ask, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 24+ years of marriage, it’s “be very careful about admitting what you didn’t hear”.
Other people, according to the author and my wife, have other love languages. Some people really like to express their love through gift-giving while others express theirs through finding a hobby and sharing it. One interesting phenomena my wife told me about from the book is that, often, a person who likes to express their love verbally will marry someone who is a good listener. Another interesting thing, to my wife, was the revelation in the book that many people—especially or even almost exclusively of the male persuasion—like to express love through sex. I, for one, am really glad we have books to tell us these things. Men like sex? How would we have known that without this book?
My wife has finished the book and we’ve been through it in some detail as we sat on the back porch, walked around the neighborhood or went on long car rides. We’ve discovered what her love language is, but we still haven’t found mine. I can tell you what it isn’t, though: discussing love languages.
As a phenomenally unsuccessful author of several novels, I began to look into the matter and try to figure out why my books aren’t selling. Now, I began with the reasonable assumption that my novels are the best-written and most-entertaining works of fiction on the market.
That being the case, why aren’t they selling?
The first thing that came to my mind were the covers. I compared the covers of my novels with those of other independent authors and discovered that my covers don’t look like other author’s covers. For instance, despite my covers having been designed by a former graphics artist, I couldn’t help but notice that my novels were missing one key ingredient that seems common to all other independent authors’ works:
Now, let me make it clear that I have no desire to ever have naked people on the cover of any of my books. While there are some passages in my books that are both sexy and Christian (i.e. marriage-honoring), it just seems that naked people on the cover would probably send the wrong message.
Tell the truth: if you see a book cover—or a movie poster—that shows two people who, from the waist up, are wearing no clothes, the first thing that comes to mind these days is probably not, “Boy, that looks like a happily married couple!” No, we just assume they are unmarried because modern popular culture finds no pleasing sexuality among the married—unless both people are of the same gender.
But then, another question comes to my mind: where and how were these cover pictures taken? There is apparently no shortage of people in this world—men and women—who have no qualms about having their picture taken while they are naked. Where are these people? I’m not saying I want to meet them or hire them, but if I did, I have no idea where I would find them. I check the want ads occasionally and I have never seen one that reads, “Young, chiseled torso seeking people who will photograph me” or “pert derrière seeks opportunity to be photographed in latest swimwear.” Everyone I know seems to prefer to live life clothed and, from what I can tell based on how we fill out those clothes, I say, “Praise the Lord!”
OK, so I don’t have naked people on my covers. What else am I missing? If there aren’t naked people, there are explosions. Once again: where does one go to photograph an explosion? I suppose some of this is being done with PaintShop, but they look real to me. As someone who generally tries to avoid explosions, I don’t know where I would go to take a picture of one—and I have a sneaking suspicion that if I tried to stage one the authorities might frown on me for doing so!
So I have no idea why my novels aren’t selling as well as the explosive-nudity cartel, but I’m going to keep working on it. If you have any ideas, please email me (unless you are currently running for mayor of New York City; I think I have made it clear I don’t want those kinds of pictures).
Like many of you, I became aware—whether I wanted to be or not—that royal wife Kate Middleton-Mountbatten (that’s what her last name would be in the normal world, right?) was quite possibly going to give birth this past weekend.
I think the Middleton-Mountbatten-Windsors are just about as cute a couple as there is in the known world, and for all their inherited pomp and circumstances they come across as very likeable and down-to-earth and I wish them the best as parents. And let me go on record that I am all for babies, pregnancy, and “all that rot” as a British person would say (at least, they do in PG Wodehouse novels of the early 20th century).
So put me down as a proud supporter of parenthood and babyhood and all the rest before I say … “What?”
As in, “I don’t get it.”
Not that I don’t get a happily married couple wanting to have children—we have two ourselves—I just don’t get why we, Americans who fought a war with England for the express purpose of being able to wear funny three-pointed hats if we wanted to and not pay a confiscatory tax rate (which was, actually, less than we pay now, showing that we may have actually lost the Revolution—or given it back) and … where was I going with this?
Oh yeah. Here it is: there are a lot of babies born all over the world every day and I’m happy for every one of them I hear about, but why am I hearing so much about this particular baby? So he might or might not get to be king ofEnglandsome day, so what? As near as I can tell, the purpose of the monarchy in England is to dress well and take fewer and less costly vacations than our President, so what’s the big deal about them having a “royal” baby?
Maybe it’s because I have grown up in America and the only king we’ve ever had during my lifetime was Elvis and I was too young to have noticed when his daughter was born but I just don’t understand all the hoopla for this one baby.
Morally, I think every baby should be cheered as loudly and happily as this little British boy. The baby born today in Moore County probably won’t grow up to be queen of England(especially if he’s a boy), but so what? He’s just as much a gift from God to his parents and the human race in general as little George Herbert Bartholomew Middleton-Mountbatten-Windsor the First and should be treated as such.
And lastly, I wonder if the prince and duchess are registered at Wal-Mart ‘cause I might get them something when I go there later for my tube socks.
It has come to our attention that the mayor of New York City has taken it upon himself to tell people how much sugary soda water they can purchase on a given visit to the convenience store. Claiming he is only doing this for the benefit of his subjects—who are, he seems to think, too stupid to regulate their own food intake—he has capped their, um, cup at 24 ozzes.
Out here in the rest of the country, we think this is nuts. Especially those of us with a libertarian bent, who think that if a person wants to eat nothing but fatty pork and keel over with a heart attack at a young age that should be their constitutionally guaranteed right to do so. Want to talk bloated, gorged and gluttonous? Let’s talk about the government’s “budget”. Who is the government to tell us what we should or shouldn’t eat?
I like food. I also like to eat out.
On occasion. For the sake of the household budget, my family eats out twice a week. Once a week we’ll go to a fast food place (read: cheap) and once a week we’ll go somewhere a little nicer. The rest of our meals are eaten at home—fixed expertly by my wife and just chock-full of health and happiness.
It’s not like this for everyone, though. A study a few years back said that the people of Oklahoma City eat out more on average than any other state in the Union at 17 times a week! I checked out my calendar and—unless the Okies have added a meal to the standard regimen of breakfast, lunch and dinner—there are only 21 meals in a week. This may explain why the Southwest Airlines flight from Oklahoma City to Dallas has to taxi on I-35 the whole way because they can’t get the planes in the air.
My family and I took a trip to the Dallas area over the weekend and one of the things I like about such trips is eating out. We hit some fast food places, a couple “finer” dining experiences, and—I’ll tell you the truth—after two days I was ready for some good ol’ home-cooked meals.
It’s not just that my wife is a better cook than those employed by most restaurants. I like to be able to put on some music I want to listen to, and feel free to eat fast or slow as the mood takes me without a waiter hovering over my table. I enjoy being able to get up and go get my own glass of water (or other beverage) when the mood takes me.
I also like being able to walk around the block after a meal without feeling like a coronary episode is impending. See, after I eat out, I generally go get back in the car and drive to some place. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like the food starts to settle in almost instantly and, by the time I get an opportunity to walk later, I’m feeling heavy and bloated like—and I mean this in the best possible way—an Okie.
But this is just me. I don’t want the government telling me or anyone else how much to eat, drink or consume. I don’t want them telling restaurants they have to waste menu space on printing the calorie count for an order of grease-soaked cheese fries. I don’t think it’s any of the government’s business whether I eat out 21 times a week or none.
I also don’t think it’s any of the government’s business who I talk to on the phone but I guess that ship’s already sailed.
I’m listening to “Jack & Diane” by John “Used to Be Cougar” Mellencamp and thinking how glad I am that being 16 years old wasn’t actually the high point of my life!
I remember a friend of mine in 10th grade who was lamenting no longer being in junior high. Even at the time, it seemed kind of pathetic to already be living in the past. He would be my age now—assuming he’s still with us—and I really hope 9th grade wasn’t thehigh point of his life.
What is it about popular singers—and entertainment in general—that so lionizes the teenage years? I get that the entertainment complex wants to appeal to that demographic because they often have disposable income and are—let’s face it—morons (when it comes to fiduciary responsibility). Still, you can’t make a sustained living off of only teenagers.
They must know that we adults are tuning in, too. So why this push to take us back?
One of the all-time great “looking back at my high school years” songs is “Glory Days” by Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen. I hear that song and I’m taken back to my own high school days … even though I was a lousy baseball player, never had a girlfriend—let alone one who married someone else, divorced, and now lives down the street—and I don’t drink (and didn’t then). But I can listen to that song—or play it for my sons—and say, “Man! That’s how it WAS!!”
[Full disclosure: my sons haven’t figured out the attraction of Springsteen’s music—to them he is, at best, The Shop Foreman—other than that my younger son likes the song “DarlingtonCounty” because it ends with the protagonist’s best friend getting hand-cuffed to a state trooper’s Ford.]
Now, on one level, it makes sense that hearing songs that were popular while we were in high school would evoke thoughts of high school. But why is there this pull to romanticize what wasn’t—for me, anyway—romantic?
It’s more than just high school and/or the teenage years in general, though. I like listening to the Beach Boys even though I’ve never surfed. I was playing some Jimmy Buffett music earlier today even though I’ve never tasted a margarita, robbed a filling station or gone very far on a boat without getting seasick. I adore Joe Walsh even though I have never (knowingly) trashed a hotel room.
This is what music does for us: it takes us some place we wouldn’t have otherwise gone. To a mountain peak, a sandy beach, or even to the very throne of God. I don’t want to go back to high school—even as a visitor—but I can enjoy a song that takes me there vicariously.
Much as you’re probably enjoying the thought of going somewhere that has a coherent ending to this column.
Twice a year, I get a very nice magazine put out by the wonderful people at Vail Resorts. In all honesty, I have only been to Vail (Colorado) once and the only part of the trip that sticks in my mind is that (I’m not kidding) while standing in the parking lot of the elementary school so our kids could play at the playground (the only free thing to do in Vail) a hawk dropped a snake on me.
Thankfully, it didn’t hit me. It did, however, cause my wife to scream and it made a sickening sound upon hitting the pavement. The snake, I mean, not my wife. Why the hawk chose to drop the snake right then—or, for that matter, why he picked it up to start with—has never been clear to me. But when I think Vail,Colorado, the first thing that comes to mind is not skiing or hiking but “snakes falling from the sky.”
So now you’re wondering if Vail just automatically sends out a magazine to everyone who almost gets hit by a snake. Not so far as I know. The reason I get the magazine is that three years ago, my family and I stayed and skied at Breckenridge, a ski area owned by whoever owns Vail.
It’s a nice magazine, with lots of pictures of beautiful mountains and fun stories about fun things to do for people who enjoy fun. Mainly, though, it’s an advertisement. An advertisement for Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and some place inUtahorNevada.
You see, their market research has revealed to them that I am an “avid skier” with a “taste for the finer things” and would, therefore, appreciate an “insider’s guide” to the “best places.” Well, sure I would!
For instance, the next time I “ski Breck” I need to stay at a place called “[Name Redacted to Avoid Copyright Infringement]” which was “created just for people like” me. Ministers! Well, not exactly “Great accommodations, right next to the slopes, with several restaurants close at hand as well as a single bowling lane, a couple swimming pools, and a convenient gondola to the shopping district.” Yep, they’ve pegged me to a “T”!!
There’s just one little hitch.
I almost hate to bring it up, but there’s a small matter of, well, money. You see, when my wife and I “go all out” and “blow the wad” on a “top of the line vacation”, for us that means a motel with a “6” somewhere in the title. Fine dining means we buy the food there in town and cook it in the microwave at the motel (as opposed to bringing it from home and hoping the pressure-packed potato chips don’t explode [again] at high altitude).
Still, while the boys were at Scout Camp, my wife and I went to Breckenridge (and stayed in the cheapest place we could find) and decided to take a look at this wonderful place that had been “tailored” for our “needs”. And let me tell you: it was a nice place! It had everything that was advertised, and more. And the salesman couldn’t have been nicer. Why, he told me confidentially, if I was willing to sign that day, he could put me in a nice little one-bedroom unit forJUST(this is how nice he was) a million dollars.
I asked if they had a service for insuring that I wouldn’t have any hawks throwing snakes at me and then my wife and I beat a hasty retreat while he talked to his manager.
I think my life turned a corner when I was sitting in bed one evening, looking at my leg. I wasn’t looking at the leg in the cast, but at the other one, the one that was—for that moment in time—my “good” leg.
I know some women who are really proud of their legs and other women who are constantly embarrassed by their legs. I don’t believe I have ever been one or the other. I never thought I had the prettiest legs around (or the most athletic, or most shapely), but I never thought they were the worst, either. Physically, I have good qualities and things I’m not thrilled with, but my legs? If asked—and I don’t think anyone ever has—I would probably have just said, “They’re OK.”
I was never quick enough with a glib comment, but if I were, maybe I would have paraphrased Honest Abe and said something like, “They’re long enough to touch the ground.” Or maybe I would have declared, “They get me where I’m going.”
Sitting there in my bed, pillows propping me up from behind and more pillows under what up until so recently had been my “good leg” in that it hadn’t been broken in a long time, my mind began to change. Not just about whether my legs were nice, hot, fat, skinny or ugly, but whether much of what I had held and believed was true.
It started with myself, though. And while I would like to think that I wasn’t so shallow as to be driven entirely by self image, I know my self image was a part of what was wrong with how I thought.
At that moment in time, I had one leg that was in great shape, but broken. The other leg was unbroken, but still a little atrophied from when it had been broken. As I sat there looking at my legs, I realized that the one that appeared to be worse off at the moment might be better off and the one that looked OK actually needed the most work.
As the days went by and I was able to rehabilitate—to force myself to rehabilitate—my focus went entirely to my legs. I was determined that both legs look good—not in a vain, supermodel way I told myself, but in a healthy, in-shape way—and in the process I lost focus on pretty much all else in my life. Still, the idea had crept into my psyche that evening that what appeared right wasn’t necessarily so and, as much effort as I put in to telling myself that truth only applied to my legs, the seed was planted that maybe it described the sum total of me.
To avoid that thought, I threw myself into my work and every workout, every exercise, even what I ate. I read articles on line and in print about the best nutrition for healing a bone break and for building back the muscles after a period of inactivity. I learned exercises I could do at my desk while at work, and more I could do in the evenings while watching TV or whatever. I devoured all the information I could find about the human body and how it heals after trauma …
And ignored pretty much everything I ran across about how the human mind heals after tragedy. I wasn’t interested in the mind. The mind, I told myself, was taking care of itself. It was taking care of itself by looking after the body, by exercising itself with reading and study (about the body, granted), and by putting the trauma of the past behind me.
I told myself I was dealing with the mental and emotional aspect of the tragedy by moving on. “Moving on” meant to me that I never thought of it and quickly changed the subject if anyone else brought it up. It was behind me and wasn’t worth worrying about. The now was what counted, and the future!
The amazing thing about seeds is also the problem with them. As a little girl I used to be fascinated with the way a tree could tear up a sidewalk. Here was this wooden thing that you could damage with an axe (or a bike, if you ran into it, while showing off in front of your sister … or boys), that you could cut up with a saw or burn with fire. And over here you had concrete which didn’t show the least little mark when you crashed your bike into it, that you couldn’t cut with a saw or set fire to. Yet, over time, that tree which had sprung from a tiny little seed—like an acorn—could destroy the sidewalk.
Once the seed got planted in my mind that everything was not as it seemed, it never stopped growing, expanding, working on me. And like the tree whose battle with the sidewalk may take a long time before it can be seen, it was a while until the seed in me grew big enough to no longer be ignored.
In the midst of looking at my legs as if I could will them into better shape or perform some sort of psychic surgery on them, the phone rang. I had a unit right beside my bed, but I didn’t answer it, preferring to let my family be my buffer zone.
A couple moments later, my father stuck his head in the door and said, “It’s him.” His hand was over the mouthpiece, of course.
When I didn’t respond immediately, just gave him a firm countenance that probably looked like I was constipated, he asked, “Shall I tell him you’re busy or to stop calling here or what? How ‘bout I tell him to go jump in the lake?”
I didn’t think of any smart remarks at that moment, saying at the time, “Just tell him I don’t want to talk to him.”
“Think you’ll ever want to talk to him?”
I avoided the subject by looking away and saying, “I’m kind of tired.” I hated lying to my father—or anyone, for that matter—but the seed hadn’t taken root, yet.
As he walked away, I heard my father saying, “She doesn’t feel like talking on the phone just now.” I marveled that my father was more truthful with someone he didn’t like than I was with someone I loved.
If you take a look at the cover art for my upcoming novel below (or in larger format here), you’ll see the dresser of the main character. What’s on it … and why?
That flute, for instance. Why is that there? Back in high school, she learned to play the flute because she needed something to take her mind off the one thing her mind was on …
Gymnastics. She was good at gymnastics, as is witnessed by the medals that are still strewn on top of her bureau. She had Olympic dreams at one time, but an injury got in the way. Which led her to pursue …
Cheerleading. As a gymnast, she had looked down on the cheerleaders, but when she found that it was the closest she could come to gymnastics (and it would help her pay for college), she pursued the life of a Hawg cheerleader at the University of Arkansas.
That gun? It’s a Makarov rip-off and the ammo’s a little hard to come by, but it’s easily concealed in a purse and is quite handy in her post-college career as an operative with the Home Agency.
She likes skiing and snow and mountains, hence the photo of a pass near Keystone. What else is on her dresser-top? Watch this blog to find out.