Archive | January 17, 2009

Obama Does Stand-Up

Earlier tonight I saw a replay of an interview with Obama from two years ago. Obama was explaining the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Republicans, he said, were adherents of an absolutist laissez-faire ideology and thought government should have no role in the economy. The Democrats, on the other hand, agreed with FDR that we all have obligations to one another in society.

Obama’s excellent comedy stylings inspired me to post the following:

DEMOCRATIC IDEOLOGY - I'm not clubbing this poor guy! I'm really clubbing some rich guy somewhere else! REPUBLICAN IDEOLOGY - I'm not clubbing this poor guy! I never club anybody! I don't even own a club!

Minus Six

Patrick McGoohan in THE PRISONERI was saddened to read of the death of Patrick McGoohan. I discovered him in high school during the late 80s, when PBS was replaying the two groundbreaking series which he both starred in and helped to create – the surreal, libertarian-ish science-fiction drama The Prisoner (which might be summarised as “an Ayn Rand hero in a half-Orwell, half-Kafka universe,” and whose famous line “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered” is an evident echo of Proudhon’s “To Be Governed” passage) and its quasi-prequel, the clever, realistic, often bleak spy drama alternately known as Danger Man and Secret Agent (with different opening musical themes for the British and American markets), which gave the world the line “My name is Drake – John Drake” a good two years before Sean Connery was saying anything similar. (In Danger Man, McGoohan’s character was originally introduced as an American working for NATO, and later retconned into being an English – or, according to some episodes, Irish – agent of Britain’s intelligence service. Given McGoohan’s indeterminate accent – his own upbringing was partly English, partly Irish, and partly American – it didn’t make much difference; he always sounded slightly wrong but not too wrong.)

Patrick McGoohan in DANGER MANIn both series, which make compulsive viewing, McGoohan is the epitome of cool – though not quite in the suave James Bond manner, as a rough-edged sense of not quite fitting into the world is frequently visible through the usually unflappable exterior. Even McGoohan’s not-quite-either-British-or-American accent contributes to his character’s presentation as an alienated individualist. (I own all three boxed DVD sets – one for the often-forgotten first Danger Man series (1960-62), which now bills itself as the “first season”; one for the second Danger Man series (1964-1968), which misleadingly bills itself as “complete” despite not including this “first season”; and one for The Prisoner (1967-1968). Lucky I bought them when did, since a glance at Amazon tells me that items 1 and 3 have since skyrocketed in price, while item 2 appears to be out of print.)

While Danger Man obviously drew inspiration from the Bond books (and certainly resembles them more than it does the movies), McGoohan disapproved of Ian Fleming’s womanising assassin, and reportedly turned down a chance to play Bond for that reason; in any case, he had written into his Danger Man contract that his character would have no romances and would rely on his intellect rather than on fists or gun, using violence only as a last resort. (If you were to conclude from this that Danger Man must be boring, you would be mistaken.)

In 1985, as my birthday present, I saw McGoohan live on stage in Boston, in Pack of Lies with Rosemary Harris and Dana Ivey. McGoohan played a secret agent once again, although this time a slightly menacing one (“At the risk of sounding rather unfriendly, it’s my duty to draw your attention to the Official Secrets Act”) as opposed to the often-rebellious agent of Danger Man and the totally-rebellious agent of The Prisoner; I’ve since learned that Pack of Lies (which also played on Broadway) was his only venture into American live theatre, so I’m glad I had a chance to see him.

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