All posts by James Ashley

The Bond Martini


We all know that James Bond drinks his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”  In the first Bond novel by Ian Fleming, we are actually given directions for making a very large martini, which Bond invents and later dubs ‘The Vesper,’ after Vesper Lynd, the heroine of Casino Royale


Bond insisted on ordering Leiter’s Haig-and-Haig ‘on the rocks’ and then he looked carefully at the barman.

‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet.  Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?’

‘Certainly, monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.

Bond laughed. ‘When I’m … er … concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one drink to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.’

He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.

‘Excellent,’ he said to the barman, ‘but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it still better.’

‘Mais n’enculons pas des mouches,’ he added in an aside to the barman. The barman grinned.

‘That’s a vulgar way of saying “we won’t split hairs”,’ explained Bond.

I and Thou

Few of us are ever afforded the opportunity to read so thoroughly and deeply as we once did in college.  I am occassionally nostalgic for that period of my life, thinking fondly and even enviously of the boundless amount of leisure time I once had, but did not seem to appreciate.  In fact, the overwhelming mood that pervaded my experience of that time was not one of leisure, but rather one of impatience.  A fellow student remarked to me,  while we were both participants in a seminar with a  longish reading list, that she wished deeply to be free of the burden of having all these books still to read.  And I suggested that while the reading would indeed be difficult, it would be a great pleasure to one day know that we had mastered these books.  She corrected me.  Her desire was peculiar.  She wanted through some miraculous conveyance to have had already read these books, and to have had already mastered them, rather than to have them before her as a large unknown that only emphasized, by contrast, our state of relative ignorance.  She wanted, as many people have in the long history of man, to possess instant wisdom.  Upon hearing her describe this desire, I realized that I wanted this also.

But all that was said before google and wikipedia.  The internet has become, for many, the royal road to wisdom — or at least a simulacrum of wisdom.  In virtual communities across the world wide web, arguments are now settled by appealing to wikipedia.  Despite the well publicized problems with its reliability, wikipedia is still more convenient than looking things up in a book or relying on a shared education.  When one is in want of an argument, political blogs are often the best place to go to find out how one should best defend a given viewpoint.  Not only are arguments provided for any topical issue, but even rhetorical flourishes are provided.  Nor does one have to cite the source of one’s arguments.  Instead one can simply state them as one’s own original viewpoint — they are in a way open source opinions.  Finally, when one needs to appear wiser than one actually is, for the sake of one’s virtual community, google readily points to facts, viewpoints, timelines, interpretations on almost any subject, generally in an easily digestible form.  And again, citations are completely unnecessary.

These wonderful tools: the internet, google, wikipedia, and the blogosphere,  can be used as if they are an extension of our memories.  They offer that for which my college friend longed, the ability to possess knowledge, as well as the perspectives and opinions which come with that knowledge, without the laborious effort that once was required to actually gain this knowledge.  While there may still be some bragging rights associated with having gained knowledge through one’s own effort, it is fair to ask what is the real difference between this new form of wisdom and the traditional kind that had previously been so difficult to attain?  Is it anything more than one of loci: whether the wisdom is contained within our souls or accessed from outside our skulls?

One can already feel the impatience with the state of the technology.  As fast as the internet is, it still does not match the speed with which one can recall information from the internal memory.  And while a search of one’s recollections is often as uncanny as Plato’s aviary it still tends to be less tendentious, if also not so extensive, as a google search.  The technology, however, much like we once said about the mind, can be improved.  As the interface between our minds and the cavernous stores of memory available on the interenet improves, the separation we perceive between the two may eventually become a mere figment, a virtual oddity future generations will read about on a future wikipedia to better understand how people used to think.

Where to Begin?


But in the night of thick darkness enveloping the earliest antiquity, so remote from ourselves, there shines the eternal and never failing light of a truth beyond all question: that the world of civil society has certainly been made by men, and that its principles are therefore to be found within the modifications of our own human mind. Whoever reflects on this cannot but marvel that the philosophers should have bent all their energies to the study of the world of nature, which, since God made it, He alone knows; and that they should have neglected the study of the world of nations, or civil world, which, since men had made it, men could come to know. This aberration was a consequence of that infirmity of the human mind by which, immersed and buried in the body, it naturally inclines to take notice of bodily things, and finds the effort to attend to itself too laborious; just as the bodily eye sees all objects outside itself but needs a mirror to see itself. — Giambattista Vico, The New Science