May 31, 2009

C.O.B.R.A.S. ROUND TABLE BEGINS

ROUND TABLE
The C.O.B.R.A.S. will host a round table discussion focusing on "Man vs Machine" all this week, and our agent Wes Britton has started the ball rolling with a fascinating article about the history of "Spy-Fi" in film and literature. Read more here.

May 26, 2009

NEW C.O.B.R.A.S. AGENT

NEW C.O.B.R.A.S. AGENT
Greetings Spy Vibers! Don't forget to enter the contests below for a chance to win prizes- including the complete PRISONER soundtrack set from Network. Random drawings in June, so keep posted. In the meantime, I've got two secret messages to leave for you in this virtual dead letter drop today:

I'd like to welcome Christopher Mills to the C.O.B.R.A.S. Chris is a comic writer and has started a very cool Spy Blog called Spy-Fi Channel. Check it out for news and reviews of spy movies, comics, and more. Welcome, Chris! And over at Permission To Kill, David has reminded us that there are only a few days left to listen to a John le Carre drama on the BBC website.

May 25, 2009

GIVE-AWAY: MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

GIVE-AWAY: MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
It's Spy Vibers appreciation and birthday week, and there are prizes to be won! Today's contest is for the first Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel. Published in 1965 by ACE, mystery/spy author Michael Avallone's "Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Thousand Coffins Affair)" began what became the most successful and prolific TV tie-in franchise of books (23 novels) until it was surpassed by Star Trek. Said to be grittier and more violent than the TV episodes, the novels are an exciting trove of new adventures for U.N.C.L.E. fans looking for more stories.

TO WIN:
A random drawing will be made on June 25th. To enter, simply post a comment on this announcement at the Spy Vibe blog, telling us what your favorite U.N.C.L.E. memory is and why. That's it. Good Luck! Stay tuned for more prizes.

May 24, 2009

GIVE-AWAY: GOLGO 13

GIVE-AWAY: GOLGO 13
It's Spy Vibers appreciation and birthday week, and there are prizes to be won! Today's contest is for the Japanese assassin classic comic, GOLGO 13 vol #2, from VIZ:


Golgo 13

For four decades, Golgo 13 has been the world's greatest assassin for hire--sometimes to settle a private score, and sometimes to change history! His real name and nationality are unknown--but his legend is everywhere. G13 never fails a job, and never sees his clients again--unless they try and betray him!

Golgo 13 began as a serialized comic in Japan in 1969. The stories are gritty and explicit, a kind of Dirty Harry violence with the "love is required whenever he's hired" sexual tone of the 007 assassin, Scaramanga. Vol #2, HYDRA, contains The Deaths of June 3rd, Hydra, and a Golgo 13 file: styles of dress, sex:an overview, methods of contact, favorite things, property and assets, prison record, chronic disease, serious injuries. Contest is open to readers over 18 for explicit content of violence and some nudity. Book is MINT, published in 2000.

TO WIN:
A random drawing will be made on June 20th. To enter, simply post a comment on this announcement at the Spy Vibe blog, telling us what your favorite assassin story is and why. That's it. Good Luck! Stay tuned for more prizes.

May 23, 2009

GIVE-AWAY: THUNDERBIRDS SET

GIVE-AWAY: THUNDERBIRDS SET
It's Spy Vibers appreciation and birthday week, and there are prizes to be won! Back on April 6th I posted a piece called LICENSE TO KILL- PUPPETS, about a great James Bond tribute episode of Thunderbirds. The show featured Agent Bondson and lots of cool Spy Vibe action. Today's prize is one 2-disc DVD set, THUNDERBIRDS Vol #4 (with "The Man From M.I.5"). Here's a description of the set from Amazon:


At its best, Thunderbirds is an inspired mix of Japanese monster movie mayhem and British stiff-upper-lip attitude. The International Rescue team members are bland and interchangeable, a marionette family of clean-living Hardy Boys, but the high-tech toys are like big-kid fantasies come alive, and the awestruck seriousness of the direction is quaint and cool in these days of hyperactive cartoons. The highlight of Set 4 is "Attack of the Alligators!" where real-life baby alligators star as giant mutants thrashing about the dollhouse-sized sets and actually "act" with the wooden puppets; one of them actually chases a puppet hero through the jungle. Fan favorite Lady Penelope (the team's cool, high-class London agent) and her ex-con chauffeur Parker make memorable appearances in "The Imposters," where they track down a team of crooks passing themselves off as International Rescue, and "The Man From MI5," a James Bond parody where Lady Penelope is (uncharacteristically) a damsel in distress. Other episodes include "Cry Wolf" (two boys live the dream of every Thunderbirds fan and get a guided tour of the top-secret base), "Danger at Ocean Deep" (a fog of radioactive algae destroys ships and wreaks havoc with Thunderbird communications), and "The Duchess Assignment" (a rescue mission in a burning mansion). -Sean Axmaker

TO WIN:

A random drawing will be made on June 6th. To enter, simply post a comment on this announcement at the Spy Vibe blog, telling us what your favorite Gerry & Sylvia Anderson show is and why. That's it. Good Luck! Stay tuned for more prizes.

May 22, 2009

GIVE-AWAY: PRISONER SET

GIVE-AWAY: PRISONER SET!-FINISHED
In celebration of my birthday week and the over 8,000 visits to the Spy Vibe website (not including the blog site visits) in its first four months, I'm giving away lots of special prizes! Yes, it's a heartfelt thank you to you Spy Vibers. As readers of Double O Section will know, NETWORK is an fantastic UK resource for cult spy DVD and soundtrack sets. Their newest release is the complete soundtrack set for JASON KING! I urge Spy Vibers to check out their on-line shop. Their sets are produced with impeccable quality and detail. And to help illustrate that I am giving away one new copy of their amazing PRISONER soundtrack set!


From their website: Compiled from the original master tapes by Eric Mival (music editor on the series) Network is pleased to announce the release of a 3 CD set, available exclusively from this website. This album comprises the vast majority of music specially composed for the series (including a number of unused cues) presented in the order they were recorded. Complete with new notes by Eric which elaborates on his time on The Prisoner and a reproduction of his original music 'bible' giving an alternative and fascinating perspective of the production of the series, this new release is an essential purchase.

Disc one features the original scores and themes for Arrival by Robert Farnon and Wilfred Josephs together with a selection of Ron Grainer's themes including newly discovered original recordings of his earliest version known as The Age of Elegance. Discs two and three includes completes scores for Degree Absolute, Play In Three Acts, The General, Free For All, Hammer Into Anvil, Face Unknown and Living In Harmony finishing with a few additional music cues for Fall Out.

TO WIN:
A random drawing will be made on June 1st. To enter, simply post a comment on this announcement at the Spy Vibe blog, telling us who your favorite British spy is and why. That's it. Good Luck! Stay tuned for more prizes.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT LEGO

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES LEGO SETS
The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation announced today that The LEGO Group is now the exclusive licensed manufacturer of Frank Lloyd Wright Collection® LEGO Architecture sets. Press release from Wired and Prairie Mod. Sets available at the Guggenheim exhibit (May 15-Aug 23).

The LEGO Group and Adam Reed Tucker of Brickstructures, Inc. officially introduced the LEGO Architecture line in 2008. The line currently consists of six buildings – now including two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous and recognizable buildings, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and “Fallingwater.” With models developed in collaboration with architects, LEGO Architecture works to inspire future architects, engineers and designers as well as architecture fans around the world with the LEGO brick as a medium. Builders of all ages can now collect and construct their favorite worldwide architectural sites through these artistic replicas. Both exclusive Frank Lloyd Wright LEGO Architecture sets contain booklets that feature traditional building instructions along with exclusive archival historical material and photographs of each iconic building.


The LEGO Group will release the first of the LEGO Architecture Frank Lloyd Wright Collection® sets at the opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright Exhibit: From Within Outward at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on May 15, 2009.

Doug Volker of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: According to Director of Licensing and Product Development, Doug Volker, “The LEGO product was one that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation had considered pursuing for several years. It was the vision, passion and creative desire of Adam Reed Tucker to capture the essence of Mr. Wright’s most famous buildings using the medium of the LEGO brick that brought this partnership into being.” Another exciting aspect of the Architecture Series is the capability to use them for education, team building, or other formats that make the LEGO Architecture series more than just a toy.


“The LEGO Group is known for its creative approach to brick models and now, with its Architecture Series, it will reach even further, to individuals of all ages,” Volker concluded. “Mr. Wright’s buildings are a treasure trove of possibilities,” says Adam Reed Tucker, innovator of the Architecture Series for The LEGO Group. “I wanted to create these marvelous buildings for years, so I’m thrilled to be working with the Foundation in order to include Mr. Wright’s timeless buildings in this series, which conceptualizes the very essence of each building in LEGO bricks.”

Images copyright LEGO, Brickstructures and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

May 20, 2009

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 4

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 4

Kindred Artists
In the early 1960s The Beatles were on a rigorous gigging schedule, hungry for success and hungry to land that ever-elusive recording contract. With their natural charisma and ability to wind up an audience, they became the biggest band in Liverpool- then London and onward until Beatlemania swept the world. The youthful momentum of live performance was exciting at first, but the band soon tired of the road. It wasn’t the playing, but the anxiety around the mania that surrounded them. And, more importantly, it was the fact that the spectacle of their appearance overshadowed them as artists. Indeed, neither the band nor the audience could hear the music over the din of the crowd. Fans and the Press were not leaning forward to examine new song structures, they were fascinated by The Beatles’ haircuts, how they shook their heads on stage, and other idiosyncrasies. Within three years of making their first major record in 1963, The Beatles retired completely from live performance to focus on the artistic process of studio recording.


As I explored in my last post, The Beatles music also found its way behind the Iron Curtain and inspired generations of black market listeners to find new freedoms of attitude and expression. This is the focus of the documentary concert film, Paul McCartney in Red Square.

The year 1964 was an important one for The Beatles. A number one hit on the US charts paved the way for their first voyage across the Atlantic. This was the era of iconic Beatles moments: Ed Sullivan, the press conferences, waving from the plane, all captured in various documentaries and re-lived by The Beatles themselves in A Hard Days Night.


1964 was an important year for another musician, who is the focus of the second documentary film I’d like to highlight this week. Imagine fans clamoring for payphones during intermission- calling their friends to rush down to the theater to see this fantastic act. Tickets now sold out, additional seats were added to the sides of the stage and a group of over one thousand was permitted standing room only at the back of the hall. Yes, it does sound like the familiar stories of The Beatles experiences in Hamburg and in Liverpool. Not a quartet of rockers this time, however, but an eccentric young pianist and musical genius from Canada, Glenn Gould.


Peter Taussig said of Gould, “Suddenly you get a sound that no one has heard before…it’s boney, it’s tout…it is very rhythmical, it’s clean, it’s transparent. Here is a skinny scrawny guy from Canada who looks as if he’s about to die by the time he comes on stage- so pale… he sits almost on the floor, he sings while he’s playing. We’ve never heard anything like this. It’s like, “Where did this guy come from?” The larger-than-life balance between Gould’s genius and his physical idiosyncrasies would, like The Beatles, become a tiresome burden. Gould was as fascinating to watch as he was to hear. Constantly in fear of illness and complaining of circulation problems, Gould kept bundled in coats, scarves, mittens, and soaked his hands in scalding hot water before playing. He sang and conducted while he played (one can hear his voice in the background of many of his recordings), and he enjoyed taking on playful personas, much like John Lennon, and giving humorous speaches in mock-German accents.


The stress of performing and the constant focus on his affects drove Gould to retire completely from the stage after a concert in Los Angeles in 1964. And, like The Beatles, he found a pure form of creative expression through recording. Gould’s experimentation with the Classical Masters now extended to multiple tape loops, splicing alternate takes to craft his pieces, and creating overlapping soundscapes and audio documentaries.


A documentary film, The Russian Journey, chronicles Gould’s tour of the Soviet Union in 1957. Very much like the film, Paul McCartney in Red Square, the film interviews musicians, teachers, and scholars who tell a fascinating story of discovering Gould behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. The pianist is most known for his interpretations of Bach, two versions of The Goldberg Variations book ended his recording career, and it was interesting to learn in the film that his Russian audience saw the music as subversive because of its connection to the church. Like the black market for Beatles records, Gould’s Soviet audience recalls how the pianist broke open whole areas of music that had been banned. Suddenly copies of sheet music were being passed among music students. Young musicians were inspired by new freedoms of expression. Gouldmania followed him from Moscow to Leningrad and continues to echo throughout conservatories today.


After Gould’s return to Canada, he spoke out and lectured in support of artistic freedom behind the Iron Curtain. While fans continued alight from his inspiration, the Party publicly denounced Gould and proclaimed that his visit had been a kind of spy-like maneuver so that he could create a platform to subvert the Soviet Union. Who knew that Bach and Beatles could be so equally as terrifying to the state. I encourage Spyvibers who are interested in music and the Cold War to check out Paul McCartney in Red Square and Glenn Gould: The Russian Journey. The parallels between Gould and The Beatles are quite interesting. You can see clips from both films on the Spyvibe website.


Learn more about Glenn Gould:
Bach- The Goldberg Variations
Bach- The 2 and 3 Part Inventions
Glenn Gould: A Life in Pictures (foreword by Yo-Yo Ma)
Glenn Gould: Hereafter (documentary film)

May 14, 2009

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 3

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 3
LESLIE WOODHEAD: OUR MAN IN CHESHIRE

Born in Glasgow in 1937, Leslie Woodhead is one of Britain's most distinguished documentary film-makers. His pioneering films, often on major Eastern European themes, have won many awards, including a BAFTA and the Royal Television Society award. He has been awarded an OBE for 'services to television'. Woodhead is currently working on a film about The Beatles behind the Iron Curtain!
Official website here. He is also the author of a memoir, My Life As A Spy.


MY LIFE AS A SPY
An award-winning and highly distinguished documentary film-maker, Leslie Woodhead has written a funny, sad and highly atmospheric memoir of what it was like to be hurled into maturity amidst the peculiar circumstances of the Cold War. In the spring of 1956, like two million other men of his generation, the eighteen-year old Leslie Woodhead received a summons to serve Her Majesty. Charting his progress from the austerity of post-war Halifax, via comically bleak RAF training camps and the grim, isolated Joint Services School for Linguistics, "My Life As A Spy" takes us finally to Berlin and the front line of the Cold War. In the ruins of a city gripped by espionage and paranoia, Leslie Woodhead discovered adulthood and his vocation as an observer and documenter of people. A slice of Cold War history and a poignant tale of how our lives can be formed by events and experiences we barely comprehend at the time. '[a] delightfully irreverent memoir...Woodhead's memories exude a wonderful sense of nostalgia for a world of lost innocence that to anyone over 60 is instantly recognizable' - Sunday Times

May 13, 2009

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 2

Further reflections and quotes from the documentary film, Paul McCartney in Red Square: At a time when the average salary in Russia was 150 rubles per month, black market Beatles records sold from 50 to 80 rubles. Russian musicians and long-time followers proudly share their memories on-screen of growing up as closet Beatles fans. A number of them have a precious, worn photograph that they've kept close for years. One man says they didn't even know which Beatle was Lennon and which was McCartney- so little information about the band could be found.

Gorbachev:
“I do believe the music of The Beatles has taught the young people of the Soviet Union that there is another life. That there is freedom elsewhere. And of course, this feeling has pushed them towards Perestroika- towards the dialog with the outside world…I don’t think this is just pop music. This is something much greater.”
The record, Band On The Run, was eventually made available- but all references to the Band and "the Run" were censored. In the film, Paul meets the Russian Defense Minister who admits that Love Me Do and Beatles music in general motivated him to learn English. Paul was also granted an appointment with president and former KGB head, Putin:

Paul: When you were growing up did you listen to The Beatles?
Putin: It was extremely popular. It was like a gulp of freedom. Your music was like an open widow to the world.

Paul: It was banned by the authorities, you know.

Putin: It was considered at this time a propaganda of some alien ideology.

During the tour, Paul reflects on meeting former president Gorbachev, president Putin, and the Defense Minister in light of the Cold War roots of their generation: "If I’d been able to say to my dad, “Hey dad, you know I just had this premonition I’m going to be in Red Square in front of the president, the ex-president, and by Lenin’s tomb, and I’m going to have all these people listening to me, and I’m going to be singing to them all. And they’re all going to dig it. He would of just thought I was mad.”

May 11, 2009

NOTES BEHIND THE CURTAIN 1

Within the galaxy of windows lit in the night, imagine brave souls listening to banned music, recording copies of tape cassettes and vinyl records with homemade jackets. Like a scene from Persepolis, friends out after curfew around a small speaker- their imaginations lit by music, sparks of human expression from across the planet. Messages from another world. For some behind the Iron Curtain, the distance probably seemed as intraversable as the moon. I recently explored two documentary films about music behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War that I believe Spy Vibers will find interesting. Today I'd like to highlight Paul McCartney in Red Square. 

PAUL MCCARTNEY IN RED SQUARE
I imagine it’s difficult for those of us who grew up with complete accessibility to mass communication and to the Arts to understand what it might have been like to have only known a prescribed menu of sound and vision that echoed the official policy and voice of the state. “Ah, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Ah, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all belong?” So wrote experimental/pop artist and songwriter Paul McCartney in 1967. The Beatles had escaped live performance for the deeper, artistic experience of sound recording a year earlier. McCartney developed the concept that their studio selves, a virtual band on vinyl (dubbed Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band), would tour the world as proxy. Freed from the stress and monotony of stage appearances, The Beatles discovered a new level of expression and set a new standard of what could be achieved in the studio, and in the form of pop music itself. The album was a multi-track epiphany and an international event that bridged cultures, generations, and musical genres.

The heavy bass and drum sound of The Beatles had echoed privately among sub-cultures behind the Iron Curtain for years, though their music remained banned in the sense that Beatles records were not officially available. Industrious fans printed discs and tapes, and long before the grass-roots power of MySpace, The Beatles’ message spread and inspired many musicians and thinkers to dare enter the subversive world of Rock and Roll. For them, the music of The Beatles represented the courage to fight for creative and political freedom. McCartney made a special album of R&R standards, Снова в СССР, for Russian release in 1988. In 2003, Russian fans, including then-president and former KGB man, Vladimir Putin, finally had a chance to see McCartney perform live in Red Square- an event that Paul would never have dreamed possible back in the days of the Cold War.

The film is an excellent window behind the Iron Curtain as Beatles fans talk about their experiences growing up in that climate and about their emotional and political relationships with Beatles music. These interviews are interspersed between footage of the concert and taped experiences from Paul’s journey during the tour. For years I hoped to make a documentary film about the preservation and power of Beatles culture around the world (I have great footage of a live band in Tokyo), and Paul McCartney in Red Square achieves a very valuable and moving part of that story.



Learn more about Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles
The Unknown Paul McCartney: McCartney and the Avant-Garde by Ian Peel
McCartney Paintings by Paul McCartney

May 9, 2009

TALKING JAMES BOND WITH RICHARD KIEL

TALKING JAMES BOND WITH RICHARD KIEL

Richard Kiel with Sir Roger Moore

When the topic of James Bond henchmen comes up for discussion, it is almost a sure bet that the character of Jaws will be mentioned more than once.

Even though he starred in just two films that hit theatre screens roughly 30 years ago, Richard Kiel’s steel-toothed baddie-turned-goodie remains a favourite amongst fans. As a result, Kiel will be making an appearance this weekend for the BFI screening of Moonraker as part of the Albert R. Broccoli centenary celebrations currently taking place.

The Guardian’s Geoffrey Macnab had a chance to sit down with the 7’ 2” tall actor to discuss just what it was like to square off against Roger Moore’s Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

As stated by Kiel, producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli’s original idea for Jaws was a character who has ‘teeth like tools, maybe like a shark. They’ll be made out of steel and he’ll kill people with them.’

The Spy Who Loved Me

The teeth themselves resulted from a visit to a dentist near Pinewood Studios for a fitting. ‘The guy ended up successfully making one set. He told me he couldn’t make any more - it was just too difficult,’ Kiel said.

During shooting, however, Kiel could only wear them for a few minutes at a time. He said: ‘They were nauseating. They were up in the roof of your mouth and gave you a gagging effect - you felt like you were going to be sick. It did add to the stoic part of my character - to keep from throwing up.’

‘They were kind enough to have a lady with a tupperware container with some cotton at the bottom. As soon as the director called cut, out they came. She would take them and rinse them with mouthwash and leave them to dry off for the next scene.’

Kiel also reveals that the teeth went into a safe each night throughout filming. However, their current whereabouts remain a mystery.

Moonraker

For his second time around in the outer space extravaganza Moonraker, Kiel convinced Broccoli to make Jaws more than just a steel-toothed killing machine and add a little bit of character. ‘If I was to play this role, I told him I’d want to give this character who kills people with his teeth a human side to make him more interesting, maybe have him be persevering and frustrated, so he wouldn’t become boring. A guy killing people with his teeth could easily become over the top.’

Despite filling his career with numerous non-Bond films and projects, Kiel accepts that it will be his role as Jaws that remains the most memorable. Just recently he was announced as the number one favourite Bond film character in a poll by HMV that collected more than 4,900 votes.

‘I was a big fan of the Bond movies,’ Kiel says. ‘I grew on Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball - all the gals and the gadgets. To find out that with the general public, I got a 30% vote with the second place being 16% - that was incredible for me!’

For further details about his upcoming appearance, click here for CommanderBond.net’s full report.

May 3, 2009

BOOK SALE!

SALE!
Jason's book, Mort Walker Conversations, now 50% off on the University Press of Mississippi Website! Pick up a copy and learn more about this prolific cartoonist and creator of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois. Check out the sale for other great books about the world of comics and movies. Spy Vibers might enjoy the many interview books with authors, directors, and artists- including Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell. Sale ends July 15th.

May 2, 2009

FREE AGENT: LITERARY REVIEW

FREE AGENT: LITERARY REVIEW
The Literary Review (UK) approves of Free Agent: 'A cross between James Bond and Jason Bourne... carefully researched so the history is credible, even instructive... The action is fast and violent and so is the hero...' The exciting new spy novel set in the 1960s, Free Agent, by Jeremy Duns will be released on May 5th in the UK and on June 25th in the US.



Jeremy Duns talks about Bond, Fleming, le Carre, Amis, Philby and Biafra and reads the first chapter of Free Agent at Penguin's website - click on 'Listen to an excerpt'
here. Text version here. And be sure to check out Jeremy's interview with fellow C.O.B.R.A.S. David Foster at Permission To Kill.
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