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July 2020

The Real James Bond & the Bay of Pigs Part II

Yesterday I posted three photos from the Bay of Pigs -- 1 reminded of the real James Bond and two reminded me of the secret agent.

Here are my answers:

Cuban taxi 57-DSCN9899-004This old car was probably around when the real James Bond visited Cuba in 1960. It has some icons on the side window that reminded me of the secret agent:

Cuban taxi 57-DSCN9900-004
Certainly the martini glass, if not the icon on the right. And the third one was obvious:

Bay of Pigs license plate 57-DSCN9831-002(I'll be talking about these photos and more during my free Zoom talk for Bergen County Camera on Saturday, Aug. 8. You can learn more here.

The Real James Bond & the Bay of Pigs

Bay of Pigs DSCN9883-002 (1)
When the real James Bond visited Cuba with his wife Mary just before the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, they scoffed at Fidel Castro's plans to build a resort town there.

Turns out Castro was right. Playa Larga offers a beautiful beach right on the bay, above. (You can read more in my book, The Real James Bond.)

In November 2016, when I traveled to Cuba with the Caribbean Conservation Trust as part of my research for The Real James Bond, we visited the Bay of Pigs. One thing there reminded me of the real James Bond, and two things reminded me of his secret-agent namesake.

Can you guess which is which, and why?

(I'll be talking about these photos and more during my free Zoom talk for Bergen County Camera on Saturday, Aug. 8. You can learn more here.

Free Photo Seminar on My Book & Nature Pix

Jim Wright Crow attacks duck IMG_0893

On Saturday, Aug. 8, at 9:30 a.m., I'm presenting "Every Picture Tells a Story,"  a free virtual seminar offered by Bergen County Camera.

The illustrated talk and workshop will feature my photos from The Real James Bond (my latest book) and from my nature adventures in the Garden State, from the Celery Farm to Cape May.

I have found that with my type of writing, eye-catching photos go a long way to supplementing the text.

In some cases, the images -- like the one above, taken at the Celery Farm -- tell their own story.

In other instances, the images -- like the one below of Cuba's Bay of Pigs that I took for my book -- are far more persuasive than any written description I could provide.

Register for the event here.

Learn more about my book and order a signed copy here.

Bay of Pigs DSCN9883-002

A Shout-out to David Contosta

6-10 PRIAVTE LIFE OF JB COVER aimg526Researching and writing a book (and getting it published) is a ton of work, and no author can do it alone.

When I was researching The Real James Bond, noted Philadelphia author and historian David Contosta was an enormous help, from taking me around to places where the real Bond lived as a child to showing me Bond's grave at the Church of the Messiah in Lower Gwynedd, Pa.JB Contosta Grave DSCN9463

(The photo above is of David at the graves of Mary and Jim Bond at the Church of the Messiah.)

David wrote a slender, wonderful biography of the real Bond more than 25 years ago, called The Private Life of James Bond.  He was also a good friend of Mary Wickham Bond.

David shared photos and stories and pointed me to his own Bond archives at Chestnut Hill College -- a trove of Real James Bondiana.

David also helped solve the mystery of how Jim Bond's famous copy of You Only Live Twice, went from the Free Library of Philadelphia to an auction house.

Thanks, David!


Van Gogh, Tyson, Audubon & Fleming Kingfishers

Recently, I wrote how James Bond's uncle Carroll Tyson Jr., John James Audubon and Vincent Van Gogh all painted birds by posing birds that had been shot for that purpose.

I thought it would be neat to post all three artists' renditions of kingfishers. The cover of Carroll Tyson and James Bond's "Birds of Mt. Desert Island features the Tyson Kingfishers as well. (In Tyson's print, the male is feeding the juvenile.)

I should also mention that Ian Fleming wrote about a kingfisher in his classic short story, "For Your Eyes Only."

(Spoiler Alert!) 

It, too, was shot.

Fleming, Tyson and Audubon all painted Belted Kingfishers. Van Gogh, a Common Kingfisher.

I saw a kingfisher on my first visit to GoldenEye, Fleming's former retreat in Jamaica.

I did not shoot it, but wish I did (with my camera).

You can read my previous post on the common thread between Van Gogh, Tyson, and Audubon's bird art here.

An Album of Bondian Birds and Bird Songs

I  just came across an album that blends electronic music with the sounds of endangered birds in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.

The album's producers write:

"For the album we chose 10 endangered or threatened bird species and challenged 10 of our favorite producers or musicians from the region. Working with the Xeno Canto birdsong community and the Macaulay Library, we sourced a recording of each bird’s song. Each artist was then askeZapata wren 1936 botwi Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 3.00.27 PMd to create an original piece of music inspired by the bird and its song."

What's more, 100% of the profits from the album will go to organizations working to protect these birds, including a new favorite of mine, Birds Caribbean.

My favorite is "Black Catbird," by the Garifuna Collective. Reminded me of Belize and the wonderful times I had there.

My guess is the real James Bond would have loved the last song, Ferminia, featuring the call of Cuba's Zapata Wren, a bird near and dear to him.

The writeup to the right is from Bond's 1936 edition of Birds of the West Indies. Note the local name for the wren.

You can learn more about the album here.


A Terrific Movie for Book Lovers

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The other night, I rented "The Booksellers" documentary from an online/cable video provider.

If you love books -- especially beautiful old books -- and collecting these treasures, I highly recommend this first-rate movie.

I was mildly disappointed (very, very, very mildly) that the film made no mention of Birds of the West Indies, but it did include two references to Ian Fleming.

Continue reading "A Terrific Movie for Book Lovers" »

Audubon, Van Gogh and James Bond's Uncle

Van Gogh kingfisher painting Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

When artists painted portraits of birds before the advent of color photography, they had to paint from life. Thus ...

When John James Audubon created his landmark "Birds of America," he used stuffed birds as models.

When Vincent Van Gogh painted "Kingfisher by the Waterside" in 1887, he used a stuffed kingfisher as a model as well (see photo below, from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam).

And when Carroll Sargent Tyson Jr. -- James Bond's uncle -- did his splendid series of fine-arts prints of "Birds of Mt. Desert Island," he likely had to use collected birds as well, collected by none other than Bond himself.

You can read more about the prints in my book.

More on "The Kingfisher" from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum's Facebook page here.

and a museum webpage here.

Van Gigh kingfisher stuffed



A 1964 Ian Fleming Interview of Note

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In researching my book, I came across an interview that Ian Fleming did with
John Cruesemann of The London Express just before the author left for Jamaica in 1964.Screen Shot 2020-07-07 at 11.12.08 AM

The real James Bond and his wife would drop in unexpectedly at Goldeneye less than three weeks later.

There are lots of great quotes in the interview, but my favorites include calling Mary Bond "the real Mrs. James Bond" and calling the real Bond himself as "a distinguished American ornithologist, a splendid chap, I believe."

You can download the complete interview, which ran in The Pittsburgh Press, here:

Download Fleming_interview_1964