Monday, November 28, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Deadly Goddess Affair”

Somewhere in North Africa, Napoleon hangs out in a hookah bar and ogles belly dancers while eavesdropping on a conversation between THRUSH boss Colonel Hubris (Victor Buono) and his knife-wielding henchman, Malik (Joseph Sirola). THRUSH Central is sending Colonel Hubris millions of dollars to finance his plot to seize control of all of Africa; the money, along with all of THRUSH’s top-secret plans, will be transported via what Hubris refers to as a “robot plane”, which will drop a satchel containing the cash and plans in Hubris’s backyard before self-destructing. In today’s world, in which unmanned aircraft have become commonplace, I think we all really missed an opportunity by opting to call them “drones”.  “Robot planes” sounds infinitely cooler.

Illya traces the flight path of THRUSH’s robot plane, which is scheduled to fly directly over Odysseus’s (fictional) Isle of Circe on its way to Hubris’s lair. Equipped with a device designed to signal the plane to remotely jettison its precious cargo, Illya meets up with Napoleon on Circe, where they kill time by hanging out in a café and leering at Mia (Brioni Farrell), a pretty young woman who, as their waiter Narouz (Michael Strong) informs them, is unable to get married because her family is too poor to provide her with a dowry. Illya and Napoleon debate the merits of dowries for a while (Napoleon is anti-dowry; Illya is staunchly pro-dowry), then Napoleon makes a weird and faintly tacky pass at Mia. “Who’d want a dowry with a lovely girl like this?” he asks her. “Any American wouldn’t ask for a penny!” Nonplussed, Mia hurries off without responding. Napoleon asks Narouz, “Did I do something wrong?” Yes, Napoleon, you did. You made a weird and faintly tacky pass at her.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Tigers Are Coming Affair”

In India, the sinister Prince Panat (Lee Bergere, slathered in a generous coat of brown face paint), accompanied by his right-hand man, Colonel Quillon (Alan Caillou, who also wrote the episode), and a beautiful French woman named Suzanne de Serre (Jill Ireland, again), hunts tigers on the grounds of his lavish estate. A ragged young man, whom Suzanne recognizes as the prince’s private pilot, interrupts the hunting expedition by hurrying up to Suzanne and gasping out something about poison. At Prince Panat’s orders, guards knock him unconscious and drag him away. The prince calmly explains to Suzanne that the man was only an escaped prisoner and therefore nothing for her to worry about (“It does liven up rather a dull day, doesn’t it?”).

Suzanne visits U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York and explains her predicament to Mr. Waverly and Napoleon: She’s a chemist/botanist, who’s been working in India to introduce technological advances in farming techniques to the locals. At this, Napoleon interjects, with his tone laden with skepticism and a smug grin on his lips, “You’re interested in farming?” Oh, oink. I adore you, Napoleon, but please try not to be a sexist jerk, okay? Suzanne explains that her most recent shipment of pesticides went missing shortly before Prince Panat’s pilot disappeared. She suspects the prince of stealing her pesticides for some diabolical reason.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Roundup

Because Goya seems appropriate these days.

How’s everybody holding up? Are you all getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, drinking in moderation, not letting anger and/or despair interfere with productivity, taking time to appreciate all the good things in life? If so, you have my respect and admiration; on any given day since the election, I’ve managed maybe half of those things.

One of the (many) consequences of having a catastrophic election outcome is that it robs us all of the luxury of remaining outwardly apolitical. I’ve spent too much time over the past week and a half poring over analyses and election postmortems and rants and calls to actions. I imagine many of you have done the same, but in case it’s of any help to anyone, I’ve put together a very fast and not-at-all comprehensive resource guide and reading list to start to shape a course of action for the rough days (weeks, months, years) ahead:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Discotheque Affair”

We now live in a world without Robert Vaughn, and it’s a mighty cold and unglamorous place. Don your best tuxedo and/or sparkly cocktail gown, pour yourself a stiff martini, and help me celebrate his iconic and irreplaceable magic.

In Manhattan, THRUSH goons transport bullets and hand grenades hidden inside vacuum cleaners to their secret headquarters in a repair shop. Napoleon slinks into the store, where the counterman is arguing with an irate customer. At the sight of Napoleon, the counterman whips out a gun, whereupon Napoleon calmly shoots him with a tranquilizer dart. Being an anarchic sort at heart, he then opens the register drawer and encourages the customer to steal herself a refund. He bursts into the back room and confronts the THRUSH goons, who jump into a van and make a break for it; Illya, who is loitering in the alley, fires a rocket launcher and takes out the van.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Roundup

Hey, everybody! Any news this week?

Well. Things are awful. As to the election, I had a long rant composed in my brain, but I'm going to hold off on it for the moment. We have four years of intensive damage control ahead of us, and we will need great amounts of strength, courage, and kindness, all of which seem to be in short supply at times.

We lost a pair of greats this week. First up: Rest in peace, Robert Vaughn, you magnificent, beautiful, brilliant bastard.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


I'm sad and angry, so I wrote a sad and angry poem.


That’s the thing about self-inflicted wounds:
You get pity, but no compassion.
You get mocked, and it’s hard to say it isn’t deserved.
Yet the bullet lodged in your squishy bits
Does no less damage when you put it there yourself.
We stood in lines in drab school hallways.
We chatted with our neighbors. Beautiful fall weather, Earl.
Nice day, isn’t it. Let’s burn it down.
We hovered at rickety booths and fired our weapons at once.
Not all of us, no. Fewer than half. But that’s another thing about self-inflicted wounds:
They can cause collateral damage.

We did it because we dislike loud women, clever women, women with opinions.
We did it because higher melanin levels make us suspicious.
We did it because we hope wealth is contagious.
We did it because we didn’t read the damn manual.
We did it for the lulz.
Tens of thousands of reasons. Rank them on a spectrum
From careless to foolish to venal to vile.
Now we wait for the hemorrhaging to start,
For systems to collapse, for ignorance to devour us, for kindness to wither,
For the victories of hard-fought battles to be wiped from the record.
An exhausted nation scans the horizon and notes the shape of the clouds
Then crawls into a cave to die.
Morgan Richter, November 10, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The When In Roma Affair”

In Rome, Napoleon races through the outdoor seating area of a restaurant with a pair of THRUSH goons in hot pursuit. As the goons close in on him, he stops at a table and tucks a perfume atomizer containing a top-secret formula into a purse belonging to Darlene Sims (“The Foxes and Hounds Affair”’s lovely Julie Sommars), a meek young woman from Omaha who is visiting Italy with a tour group. This episode is pretty typical of season three, in which the plots were drawn with increasingly broad strokes, so we’ll never learn any concrete details about what the atomizer contains. It’s a formula, it’s top-secret, Napoleon has it, THRUSH wants it. That’s all the information anyone’s going to get. It’s probably all anyone needs, really.

The goons capture Napoleon and drag him off to a lavish palazzo owned by a louche count, Cesare Guardia, who, upon finding himself in dire financial straits, has reluctantly allied himself with THRUSH. Cesare is played by dashing Italian actor Cesare Danova, who gives a strangely nuanced and poignant performance while surrounded on all sides by the usual overcaffeinated third-season nonsense; it sometimes seems like he mistakenly wandered into the episode from the set of some somber, respectable drama filming simultaneously on the MGM lot. The effect is weird, but not unpleasant.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Roundup

Duranies unite! My Duran-loving friends, I could use your help.

Good news first: There will be a Duranalysis book. And it’s not going to be just a bunch of repackaged blog content, either; this is going to be 100% original material. It’s going to be jam-packed with premium, uncut, all-new Duranny goodness. Nothing but the absolute best for you guys.

The bad news: I’m having trouble finding an agent to represent the project. Over the summer, I put together a slick, funny, insightful, meticulous, airtight, comprehensive, fifty-page book proposal, complete with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and sample material, and last month I started cautiously sending it around. Here’s the first and thus far only response to the proposal: This sounds like a great project but I don't see that you have the social media numbers in place that will be needed to really convince a publisher. 

Okay, then. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Deadly Toys Affair”

At headquarters, Mr. Waverly meets with Dr. Armand Warshowsky, a THRUSH scientist who has defected to U.N.C.L.E. Dr. Warshowsky tips Waverly off about a diabolical plot to poison all of Southern California’s water supply. In return, he demands to be allowed to see his brilliant young son, Bartlett, who is a student at a fancy THRUSH-run private school in Switzerland; Mr. Waverly refuses, on the grounds that his visit might alert THRUSH to his switched allegiances. The argument grows heated, so Mr. Waverly brings the discussion to an abrupt close by spraying Warshowsky with a blast of knockout gas hidden inside his pen, which seems like a grotesque overreaction to a perfectly reasonable request. After all, the dude just wanted to see his kid. I think we just learned a lot about the way U.N.C.L.E. conducts negotiations.

Acting on Warshowsky’s information, Illya and Napoleon head to the Mojave Desert to destroy a water tank containing THRUSH’s supply of poison. They slink around in adorable THRUSH jumpsuits and punch out guards and set off alarms and get shot at and blow a lot of stuff up, the usual.