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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


So here we are, fifty years and twenty-two films into James Bond's onscreen exploits. (Twenty four if you're not a purist and want to include David Niven's hysterical take in the original Casino Royale, and Sean Connery's subversive older Bond in Never Say Never Again.) As a boy growing up, Bond was a particular favorite of mine, and had an obvious influence on my approach and attitude towards travel. (Ah, you KNEW there was a connection!) Even today, I can count a number of destinations we have been among places I've wanted to go since childhood, seeing them first in one of the Bond films. And yes, there are still places I want to go, simply because Bond was there first.

If you're not familiar with the Bond films -- and I have to ask what planet you've been on if this is the case -- each one features three or four international destinations, many of them quite exotic and beautiful. Taken as an entirety, and ignoring the action packed races through the streets, dark alleys and sometimes deserts of the stories, the series is an excellent travelogue of the world -- for obvious reasons with a particular emphasis on the lands of the former British Empire. India, Hong Kong, the Caribbean -- in addition to classical Europe in all its splendor. In each film the location often plays as significant a role and most of the characters. This, in and of itself, helps to create the mood of the story. Would Bond be as truly global a character if the adventures were simply stock shots of a local, with the scenes themselves filmed upon a back lot? I doubt it. To do so would have given the movies a sense of being little more than a globe-trotting television show, where the Caribbean Islands have Palm trees more commonly found in, say, Southern California.

No, the fact that the Bond series has taken advantage of shooting in such far off lands as Pakistan, India, Columbia simply adds to the texture and reality of the movies -- a reality made necessary by the fictional nature of the story itself.

So, for myself, seeing these grand locales, and seeing the story unfold against the backdrop, helped goose along my natural tendencies to want to see the world. (With the exception of a couple of years during my adolescence, I have always enjoyed going new places and seeing new things. Almost to the point nowhere it's become a checkoff against some sort of tote board. "Yep, been there, done that!")

As an adult, I will admit that some of the films suffer in my memory precisely because of the backdrop. You may laugh, but I was uniformly unimpressed when Bond came to the States. I didn't want to see him in New York, Miami, San Francisco or LA -- those were already familiar to me, even though I now count New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas as three of my favorite towns. But their appearance in a Bond film made the movie itself more mundane in the process, at least to my younger mind. (The exceptions to this are Las Vegas in Diamonds are Forever, and New Orleans in Live and Let Die. Both films made me want to visit those places as much as the more exotic destinations.)

This is an indication of two things. The power of media to influence one's perception of the world, and my apparent willingness to go along with that. I watch a lot of films and TV shows with equally spectacular settings, but they do not have the same resonance emotionally when it comes to my impressions of the world. Thanks to James Bond, I've now been to the previously mentioned places, as well as Venice, Paris, London, the Caribbean, Key West and -- in particular -- Monte Carlo, as well as several other spots that got their first introduction to my consciousness through a Bond movie. And, also courtesy 007 (and other cultural references) such places as Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, Berlin, Vienna, Cairo and Istanbul are still on my to-do list. 

So, being a year and a half younger than me, my hats off to a half-century of Mr James Bond, showing me the world and giving me the impetus with which to explore it.

Now, where'd I leave my martini?
Shaken, Not Stirred

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