Some fortunes for Chinese New Year.

Photo by tim ellis.

Are you, like me, disgusted with the increasing blandness of fortune cookie fortunes? Remember the good old days when you used to see fortunes like this?

1. I saw what you did. Pervert.

2. WARNING: Toxic lubricant leak detected in fortune cookie machine. Recalibrate according to section 6 of the Manual.

3. You don't know me, but we were meant to be together. Meet me behind the moo goo gai pan.

See This

Garry Kasparov's thoughts on computers, chess, and the human mind. A lot of non-obvious stuff.

The Best of the Bond Women

Photo by Rob Beyer

There never has been, and never will be, a Bond film without women. Women are an essential ingredient of the formula--although the best of the Bond movies don't stick too closely to the formula. I came across a rather depressing interview with Roald Dahl in which he describes the formula the producers gave him when he was writing the screenplay for You Only Live Twice. There had to be three women--no more, no less. The first woman had to do this, and the second had to do that, and the third had to do the other thing... it's little wonder that Dahl's story seems perfunctory.

The worst of the Bond women are pretty faces with no personality and nothing interesting to do. I'm thinking of you, Lupe Lamora, and you too, Manuela. Sorry you had to hear it from me. Another common device is to introduce an educated female character with some specialized knowledge that Bond needs. Holly Goodhead knows space travel; Natalya Simonova knows space-based weapons; Christmas Jones knows nuclear weapons. But these characters end up just tagging along with Bond, offering technical advice and falling into bed at the appropriate time--ultimately, not very interesting.

The best of the Bond women has these characterics:

1. She is her own boss;
2. She takes a hand in shaping events;
3. She is clever;
4. She is fun to be around.

Before I reveal her identity, I'll discuss some of those who don't qualify (trying to avoid detailed spoilers).

Pussy Galore from Goldfinger: She is clearly thinks of herself as a strong, independent woman. But in fact she merely goes from taking orders from one man at the start of the story to taking orders from a different man at the end of the story. She does nothing on her own initiative. (And moreover, she seems rather crabby and generally unpleasant to be around.)

Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale: Clearly intelligent--her sharp tongue is part of her appeal--but not clever. She never does anything that makes you think Huh! Look what she did.

Ruby Barlett from On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Perhaps the most fun of all the Bond women, and clever as well. But really no more than pawn in the big game.

Tracy Di Vicenzo, also from On Her Majesty's Secret Service: I'm sure I'll get flack from this, because Tracy is supposed to be the one. But I could never take a woman seriously who calls her father Papa, with the accent on the second syllable. And consider how she attempts to flirt with Blofeld:

Tracy: I want to see the dawn.
Blofeld: So poetic a pleasure!

Does anyone talk this way? Gag.

Okay, so the winner revealed is... Tiffany Case from Diamonds Are Forever. Technically she's working for the bad guy, but she is much more concerned with her own plans. Even at the end, on the boat with Bond (and that's not a spoiler--practically every Bond movie ends with Bond on a boat with a lady) she is still pursuing her own agenda. And clever? At one point she outwits twenty government agents and disappears with an important item, which she wants for her own purposes. None of this stops her from being fun to be around.

(P.S. Barbara Broccoli, if you're reading this, you seriously need to employ Goldfrapp to write the next Bond theme song.)