The Wrath Of Gorgon

I had heard that we were due for some cold weather and snow today, so I checked the Weather Channel website to try to get some details on timing of the snowfall.  There I learned that it wasn’t just any snowstorm heading our way — it is winter storm Gorgon that is bearing down on us and will be bringing heavy snow and a few days of bitter cold.

Gorgon?

Apparently last year’s constant discussion of one “polar vortex” after another wasn’t sufficient.  “Polar vortex” apparently is too abstract.  Now we’ve started naming those brutal winter storms, just like we name hurricanes and typhoons.  And we’re not messing around and giving them regular people’s names, either.  Instead, we’re giving them names of monstrous creatures from Greek mythology whose glance could turn a person to stone.

This is a good idea, when you think about it.  If you want people to bundle up against the approaching cold, telling them about winter storm “Ernie” probably isn’t going to do it.  But limiting winter storm names to terrible inhuman beings from Greek and Roman mythology is too limiting; given the regular appearance of bad winter storms, eventually we’re going to run out of names, just as has happened with naming celestial objects.

So I suggest sprinkling in some popular culture references, too.  Let’s start with the names of James Bond villains, Star Trek evildoers, and comic book and movie supervillains.  Oh, yes — we’d definitely pay attention to news about winter storm Draco, polar vortex Khan, snowstorm Ultron, or the approaching icy clutches of Megatron.

Card Sharks

An Atlantic City casino, the Borgata Casino & Spa, has sued a big-time gambler, claiming that he cheated at cards and won $9.6 million playing baccarat in the process. (Those of you who are James Bond fans, like me, will recall that baccarat is 007’s game of choice.)

The casino alleges that the gambler used a method called “edge sorting” that took advantage of defective cards with patterns on the backs that were not uniform. The lawsuit claims that the gambler noticed the defect and got the dealer to arrange and shuffle the cards in a way that allowed him to use the non-uniform patterns to identify which cards were coming out of the dealer’s shoe.

$9.6 million is a lot of money — but it’s got to be embarrassing for a casino to admit that they didn’t detect that they were being provided with defective cards and were duped by this alleged scheme. Don’t casinos, as a matter of course, take steps to make sure that the cards they are using have uniform patterns on the backs?

It reminds me of my high school days, when boys would gather in the “student lounge” during free periods and play euchre. We didn’t gamble for money, but I remember one of my classmates bringing in a deck of “marked” cards and showing us how you could decipher the marks on the back. I never would have noticed the difference — but then I’m not a casino where gamblers have the opportunity to win millions of dollars.

The Best Bond

We may go see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, this weekend.  I think Daniel Craig is an exceptionally good James Bond, but I still put Sean Connery at the top of the Bond l– James Bond — list.

When you think about it, playing Bond isn’t easy.  He’s supposed to be a handsome, charming rogue who is irresistible to the ladies.  He has to deliver droll lines with impeccable timing.  He must look dashing in a tuxedo, play expert baccarat, and order a drink with style.  He must seem intelligent, capable of acting as an independent spy, and able to respond effectively to the unexpected.  And, most fundamental of all, he must be believable as an unstoppable, cold-blooded killer.  The whole point of James Bond, of course, is that he has a license to kill and is perfectly comfortable with his role as assassin.

It’s the last point, I think, where most Bonds have fallen short.  The pretty boy Bonds — and I put Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan in that category — never seemed credible as the ruthless, single-minded killing juggernaut.  Connery always did.  His Bond was a big man, sharp as a razor, who looked like he actually could win a fight to the death with Odd Job or Robert Shaw’s unflappable Russian killer.  In the two finest Bond movies, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, Connery managed to bring all of the Bond elements together in one stunning package.  You knew he meant it when he told some femme fatale that he had enjoyed her favors solely for king and country.  If I were a supervillain or a supervillain’s henchman, Connery’s Bond would be the one I feared the most.

After the Connery era ended, the Bond series has veered in various directions.  Many of the Roger Moore movies — and some of them were pretty good — focused more on over-the-top scenarios and humor, rather than the stone-hearted killer that is Bond’s core.  Other Bond movies have gone too far in the direction of gadgetry, or absurd conquer the world schemes, or “Bond girls.” All of those movies, I think, also lost some of the essence of Bond.

I’m glad that the two Daniel Craig efforts I’ve seen so far have moved Bond back into his role as flinty-eyed assassin who will complete his murderous mission without much reflection.  Craig, like Connery, also is believable as someone who would unthinkingly snap some stranger’s neck like a dry twig in order to complete his assignment.  At some point, Craig’s Bond might be a contender — but for now, Sean Connery’s Bond remains definitive.