Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Alan Freeman, RIP

Alan Freeman
Alan Leslie Freeman MBE, 1927-2006

Farewell, Fluff. You entertained us PopPickers hugely.

Erm....not 'arf!

Bond, James Bond

James Bond

Now before you chide me, I haven't forgotten about the cowboy poll -it's just that I've been overtaken by life recently. So I promise to publish the results soon. However as we've been on the topic of spys and spying recently I thought I'd continue the leitmotif today. As a distraction from grant writing (now done, Praise the Lord!) I took myself off to see Casino Royale at the weekend. I have to admit to leaving the cinema ("movie theatre" in American) slightly breathless after two hours of non-stop action and I offer the following comments:

Daniel Craig is a great Bond; possibly the best since Sir Sean. And I mean Connery in the first two flicks, Dr No and From Russia with Love in which he was very phyiscal and quite ruthless: Craig did well to play a similar character. I note that Timothy Dalton (an excellent actor and an underrated Bond) tried hard to do something similar but was given rubbish scripts and as a result came across as a bit wooden.

Lots of the old stuff is gone. Mercifully improbable stunts and ridiculous gadgets have been deleted (why did it take so long for the producers to get rid of this nonsense?). Notable missing items are:

-the Aston Martin DB5 (although there is a hat tip to it)

-the Walther PPK (I guess too old fashioned and puny -now the preferred pistol seems to be a modern Walther, always carried with a quite phallic silencer)

-Ms Moneypenny (but again there is hat tip but you have to be awake to catch it)

-"Q" nobody could really step into the shoes of the late, great Desmond Llewellyn (and please don't even mention John Cleese) and in any case the gadget-gimmick stuff became seriously silly after the autogyro in You Only Live Twice

-Martinis, shaken not stirred. Bond does drink in the film. Indeed he seems to drink quite heavily but when asked if he prefers his Martini shaken or stirred he snaps "do I look like I give a damn?"

In fact with so few references to the past you could be forgiven for thinking that the movie was just a plain old action-thriller but then in the final scene Daniel Craig reinvents the Bond character as he introduces himself to the arch villain as "Bond, James Bond" -then as the credits play the old familiar Monty Norman theme tune starts up for the first time. Brilliant!

Now don't get me wrong. There are still big stunts, luscious ladies and some extraordinary violence. But somehow it all appears credible.

Overall, Daniel Craig and the producers have more than reversed the rot that started to in creep into the films after Goldfinger. Heaven knows, I never thought the franchise would be taken seriously after Roger Moore (bloody hell, what did do to get his knighthood -if I had my way I'd have him thrown in the Tower of London for his efforts).

Now I can't wait to see Bond #22...

Friday, November 24, 2006

"...the bastards got me..."

Apart from the occasional sideswipe, I don't really do politics on this site. However I was very moved by the death in London of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko. Mr Litvinenko was almost certainly assassinated by elements from his former country who used an unusual form of toxin: a radioactive isotope known as polonium 210. The story bears ominous similarities to that of the unfortunate Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov who was killed in London in 1978 (ironically on 9/11). In this latter case the poison ricin was used and deliverd by a miniscule pellet fired from an umbrella. Why I am disturbed by a single act of political violence in an era when it is commonplace to read of 150 people killed by car bombs on any given day in the Middle East, is the sheer sinister nature of the deed. The use of a rare isotope suggests that a degree of sophistication well beyond that of the common criminal was involved: a notion that will probably be reinforced when the toxin delivery system is revealed. I am thus saddened and outraged that acts of overt political criminality are perpetuated by governments pretending to have foresworn such activities. But more so I was moved by the dignified statement issued by Mr Litvinenko before hs passing and I will repost here:

I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me, the British police who are pursuing my case with vigour and professionalism and are watching over me and my family.

I would like to thank the British government for taking me under their care. I am honoured to be a British citizen.

I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death.

I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like.

I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilised value.

You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilised men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.

May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

Alexander Litvinenko
21 November 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thaksgiving

Happy turkey day to all US readers. In the meantime I'm still writing the wretched typhus grant. No peace for the wicked, as they say! More soon...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

30,000th Visitor

Today the 30,000th visitor passed through the portals of MD&E. Congratulations to IP address 81.79.152. I note that you work at Energis, UK and that you visited just after five pm GMT. I hope you won't get into trouble for surfing at work and that you enjoyed the picture of Sarah Beeny who is still very popular according to the search titles on my sitemeter.

It's taken two years and three months to achieve this modest level of readership. No fewer than twenty thousand of you have pitched up here since last November which is gratifying as I've been fairly quite for a large part of 2006. Anyway a hearty thanks to all readers; please keep visiting and feel free to add (hopefully polite) comments.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Concerning Rats, Disease and History: Spot-the-Bug Competition #5

guess this?!
Mad Dog's latest enemy (or at least a close relative).

I have a huge grant deadline coming up in the next week and blogging may be a bit sparse: just talk among yourselves for awhile. For those readers who have some background in the biosciences, see if you can can guess the name of the bug that's the topic of my latest activities. It's an age old foe and it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out considering the clues here and in the electron micrograph above (apologies to the authors for borrowing their data but I'll give the citation when I've announced the results in about a week).

Cowboy poll results coming soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Celebrity look alikes

My nocturnal activities have reached a new high (or low depending on your POV) in frivolity. For the most part I'm quite happy with these comparisons as most of these guys are pretty cool but I bet a certain ex-politician is laughing his arse off loudly about the results following Thursday's sideswipe. What goes around comes around, I suppose.

If you want to try this silliness for yourself, click here. Hat tip to Dawn for this link.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oh Frabjous Day!

Oh Frabjous Day

Callooh, Callay!

And there I was quite looking forward to going mano a mano in nuclear combat with Iran, North Korea and sundry failed states and terrorist groups. So I suppose I'd better hold off on the construction of the nuclear bunker in my basement now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Election year2_1_1
As an immunologist I've always loved this cartoon which I borrowed from the now sadly defunct satirical magazine "Punch" (May 1981 issue, believe it or not).

Today mid-term elections are being held in the USA and the results are awaited with interest. Despite extensive TV campaigns I haven't got a clue what either party stands for, especially the Democrats. I have seen an awful lot of awful attacks ads though. UK residents count yourselves lucky that these things haven't crossed the Atlantic yet (although I suspect it's just a matter of time).

Cowboy poll results, just like the Elections, to follow.