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The James Bond Books by Ian Fleming — Live And Let Die

Live And Let Die is the second of Ian Fleming’s legendary James Bond novels. It is also frankly the most problematic. Written in 1954 about a Caribbean crime boss wreaking havoc from his lair in Harlem and obviously penned by the most English of mid-century Englishman this side of Churchill, the writing often invokes cringe-worthy instances of political incorrectness for the modern reader. For example, while the dangerous and supremely intelligent super villain Mr. Big is erudite and possesses a genius level intellect, there are many bits of dialogue spoken by his African American underlings in rather unfortunate “Yassuh, Boss” dialect. This may reflect Fleming’s efforts at portraying colloquial English accurately but 60 years on it does not exactly hold up as the author’s best moment, not to mention Bond calling those henchmen “clumsy black apes” or the use of rude British seaman’s slang as the name for shallow coral reefs once the action shifts to Jamaica (hint: rhymes with “biggerhead”). At best the offending language is terribly dated and at worst it is extremely condescending and racially insulting.

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But if we can forgive Fleming for being a man of his time and for his very English mid-20th Century views on race relations and insensitive language (which is probably much easier to do if you’re not a person of color, to be fair) then what we get when putting aside those jarring racialisms is a massive improvement in Fleming’s writing style over Bond’s debut in Casino Royale, though the latter was published just a year prior. Bond’s character has much more depth, humor and élan than in the first book and the action and adventure is crisper and more sustained, not mention the book seems much better edited so that Fleming’s more repetitive ticks have been largely jettisoned. While Casino Royale was already a very good effort, especially as a debut, Live And Let Die proves that Bond has real staying power as an iconic super spy through his character’s increased toughness and ingenuity. And certainly one doesn’t go into a Bond novel — or most of the films, for that matter — looking for a treatise on racial or feminist enlightenment. As the more modern movies would come to acknowledge, Bond is a dinosaur, a man of thoroughly 1950s outlook on women and minorities. If you can’t get over that — and it’s fine if you can’t, of course — essentially none of the original Bond novels is going to work for you. They are a guilty pleasure best enjoyed as old action books and not viewed through a modern prism any more than you would, say, a Sam Spade, Mike Hammer or Philip Marlowe adventure.

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After recovering from injuries both physical and emotional sustained during the course of the brutal Casino Royale affair, Bond is summoned by M., head of MI6, to investigate the flooding of gold coins dating from the notorious privateer Henry Morgan’s era onto the black market. With the spymaster’s typical well-reasoned logic, M. theorizes that a Russian agent of Haitian descent, Buonapart Ignace Gallia, a voodoo practitioner who keeps a criminal empire running on fear and murder, aka “Mr. Big,” is pulling the strings on the elaborate plot to launder the old pirate’s treasure for nefarious ends. For Bond, who has sworn personal revenge on the Soviet assassin’s group SMERSH for their evil deeds in the Royale caper, the chance to take on Mr. Big, their key man in America, is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Quickly, Bond finds himself in New York City, where Fleming’s love of all things American (except for the lousy coffee and fast food of the era) is ever apparent in his evocative descriptions of the fast-paced big city. Staying at the luxury St. Regis hotel in Midtown, Bond is quickly reunited with his pal from the CIA, Felix Leiter, who is to team with Bond on the Mr. Big case. (Never mind that the CIA is ostensibly prohibited from operating within US borders…) The two secret agents make the journey up to Harlem and unsurprisingly, as two extremely square, extremely white gentlemen they are quickly spotted by Mr. Big’s pervasive underground network. This leads to Bond and Leiter being captured while looking for clues at Mr. Big’s lurid exotic club, “The Boneyard.” The men are separated and Bond finds himself alone and face-to-face with the fearsome Mr. Big.

As with nearly all of Fleming’s villains, Mr. Big is something of a physical monstrosity: 6’6″ tall and 280 pounds with an enormous, oversized bald head, gray skin and bulging yellow eyes. Bond concocts a story of coming to America to aide the US Treasury in tracking the mysterious inflow of ancient gold coins but Mr. Big, as a key member of SMERSH, already has intelligence hinting at Bond’s broader plans and his Double-0 status. Mr. Big asks his kept woman, the beautiful Creole psychic Solitaire, to corroborate Bond’s cover story by reading the Tarot cards. To Bond’s surprise she does so, while also sending him unmistakable signals of alliance. As a parting warning, Mr. Big directs his henchman, the fearsomely gleeful Tee-Hee, to snap Bond’s pinky finger. Coming to after blacking out from that pain, Bond is warned by Mr. Big to go back to England and stay away from his affairs. The next time they meet, the theatrical and megalomaniacal SMERSH agent will have Bond killed in as artistically satisfying way as he, the great Mr. Big, can devise.

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So begins the first third of Live And Let Die and it only picks up steam from there, with a furtive train journey down the East Coast to Mr. Big’s secretive operations in St. Petersburg, Florida; a deepening relationship between Bond and the now-fugitive Solitaire; and mortal danger for Bond, Leiter and the beautiful Creole telepath at every turn. Culminating with a masterfully tense and brutal showdown at Mr. Big’s aka Baron Samedi’s secret island hideout in Jamaica, Live And Let Die ratchets up the considerable thrills of Casino Royale with an even more sensational plot, graphic violence and detailed attention to the intricacies and dangers of spycraft by Fleming. The characters are sharper, the villain bigger and better and the second novel also introduces the globe-trotting change of locales that would come to be a hallmark of the series, both literary and filmed. If the 1973 movie Live And Let Die, Roger Moore’s debut in the iconic role, cleverly incorporated elements of the pulpy and then-popular Blaxsplotation genre, as well as inaugurating the more high-concept, sometimes wacky action era of Bond in cinema (see that speedboat chase in the bayou as well as the redneck sheriff and army of crashing police cars), the original book is more focused on finely honed observations about the power and history of voodoo, how a huge criminal enterprise might successfully operate in the United States under cover of small time crime and the ingenious and ruthless methods deployed by the criminal mastermind involved. In short, it’s a ripping yarn full of dynamic changes of pace, hard-nosed detective work, camaraderie in the face of danger and memorable bursts of ultra-violence. Fleming’s gift for the sudden shock and the unexpected upping of stakes continues to evolve nicely, leaving one primed and ready for the apocalyptic possibilities of his third Bond adventure, Moonraker. Tune in next time to see how that one stacks up.

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Earworm of the day — Flame Of The West by Big Country

This old Big Country song from their remarkable Steeltown album way back in 1984 has been going through my head on repeat to start 2017. The late, great Stuart Adamson certainly had a way with a socially conscience anthem.

Aside from the more charismatic elements of the subject it definitely reminds me of someone today. Can’t quite put my finger on it but it’ll come to me, I’m sure…

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Merry Christmas from MFL!

Merry Christmas to all our loyal regular readers and casual visitors. Wishing you and your families the very best this Holiday Season and a joyous, prosperous & healthy New Year!

Today we’re going (very) old school with this clip from 1954’s White Christmas. This Holiday classic featuring the inimitable Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s songs ably assisted by the very funny Danny Kaye, the charming songstress Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) and the amazing dancer Vera-Ellen. Helmed by the great Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, White Christmas is a very funny musical and dance extravaganza with enough sentimentality to warm the heart of even the Grinchiest viewer. If you’re having trouble getting into the spirit of the season, this slice of 1950s post-War Americana will do the trick like the visual equivalent of turkey with all the trimmings and a cup of egg nog. Merry, merry!

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tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — December selection

You know December’s finally arrived when the air has gotten genuinely cold and the Holidays are just around the corner. And as long as we’ve all got visions of beautiful gifts on our minds it’s probably not a bad thing that I have an abolsutely gorgeous Rolex on offer this month. An uncommon transitional Datejust with old-style acrylic crystal and beautifully warm Tritium luminous but with the high-beat, quickset date caliber 3035 under the hood, this circa 1979 reference 16030 is pretty much the best of both worlds — old school, classic good looks with the functionality of a more user friendly, more accurate movement than previous Datejust models.

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Even better than its technical sophistication is the absolutely fantastic silver-gray dial, a metallic marvel that changes from gunmetal gray to pure silver depending upon the angle. It’s essentially flawless after all these years and looks amazing on the wrist. And with its timeless 36mm case size and Rolex-signature “Castellated” engine-turned bezel, this all-steel stunner can be worn with a suit or a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, making it an ideal daily driver.

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Add to that its really nice tight and long period Rolex USA Jubilee bracelet and the overall Excellent vintage condition of the watch and this transitional 16030 makes for the perfect stocking stuffer for that special someone. Even if that special someone turns out to be you.

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Check out the full ad with complete condition report and many more pictures over at Vintage Rolex Forum’s Market section. ON HOLD

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Results & aftermath

Rosberg claims 2016 Divers’ Championship despite Hamilton victory & tactics in Abu Dhabi; Vettel a noble P3 for Ferrari

It all came down to the final race of the season to decide who would emerge victorious in the fierce internecine battle between Mercedes’ teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg for the 2016 Formula 1 Driver’s Championship. Going blow for blow over the course of 21 grueling rounds around the globe, Hamilton sought desperately to come from behind, ring up his 3rd consecutive title and once again prove himself top dog at the Mercedes factory team. But despite starting from pole and leading nearly the entirety of the race en route to victory at the tricky Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, and despite slow rolling to try to push Rosberg back into the clutches of other competitors, Rosberg maintained his poise and managed to come home P2 to earn his first-ever World Championship on overall points. Rosberg rode a dynamite start to his year that saw him reel off 6 straight victories and the supreme reliability of his nonpareil Mercedes chassis to join his father Keke as father-and-son F1 Champions. The great Graham and Damon Hill are the only other duo to earn that rare familial distinction. It was a well-earned payoff to Rosberg’s elusive championship dreams and it must have been extremely satisfying coming at the expense of his ultra-competitive and ruthless archrival after being a heartbroken runner-up to Hamilton the two previous years.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

For Hamilton, the disappointment must have been equally strong. Seeking to join Alain Prost & Sebastian Vettel as members of the 4-time F1 Champions club, the tenacious and talented Englishman did all he could to close out the season with another crown, winning the last four races on the trot. In fact, Hamilton won 10 Grand Prix overall to Rosberg’s 9. But Hamilton also suffered from occasional reliability problems and mystifying poor starts and in the end those few points left on the table doomed him, as Rosberg’s consistency edged him out by a slim 385-380 margin. Hamilton’s final gambit was to cold-bloodedly try to back Rosberg into the clutches of Ferrari’s Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by running just a bit slowly as the laps wound down, defying explicit team orders to pick up the pace in the process. In that Machiavellian way he hoped to force Rosberg off the podium and seize the title. It didn’t happen as Rosberg had enough pace left in his tires to hold off those other stalwart competitors and come home a hard-fought P2. With that high finish he ascended to the pinnacle of F1 for the first time despite Hamilton’s race win and finally got the better of his more decorated foe in the ultimate season-long contest for the first time as Mercedes teammates.

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In truth it seemed like Vettel was very kind to Rosberg in those closing laps. With the fastest car in the field after a late pit stop gave him the freshest rubber, Vettel made one good run at Rosberg after getting by the flagging Verstappen. When the Ferrari driver failed to pass he seemed content to come home P3 and not ruin his fellow German’s lifelong dream. Nonetheless, it was probably Vettel’s best drive of the year in what was otherwise a pretty dismal campaign for the Scuderia. It certainly was an honorable way to finish up a season where the 4-time World Champ has often been uncharacteristically impetuous and whiney. Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who outscored him more often than not in the second half of the season, was a distant P6.

For Red Bull’s Verstappen it was another spectaular race. The Dutch teenager spun on the opening lap after coming together with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and then had to fight his way through the field yet again, as he did so magnificently in the rain in Brazil two weeks ago. But this time he had all race long to do it and the team gambled by keeping him on the second softest tire on offer this weekend, the red-banded Super Softs, for an extended stint to recover track position. The bet paid off and set Verstappen up on a one-stop strategy that very nearly resulted in a podium even if it eventually fell short. It certainly did give Rosberg some worried moments late in the contest as the Red bull phenom harassed the eventual champion, causing Rosberg to plead for his pit wall to speed up the recalcitrant Hamilton. In the end Verstappen’s rubber went off after a number of hard fought moments and he came home just off the podium in P4. But 2016 will be remembered as this young man’s breakout season and we can look forward to many more special moments to come from this talented wunderkind.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo must have wondered why he was not also left out for a one-stop strategy. Running well on his original Super Soft tires, the team somewhat inexplicably called in the Aussie to switch to the more durable Soft compound, the hardest and theoretically slowest on offer, on only Lap 10. This insured that Ricciardo would have to make another stop and also saw him shuffle back out behind Ferrari’s Raikkonen. That loss of track position proved fatal to any of Ricciardo’s further aspirations. In the end he leapfrogged Raikkonen later in the race but came home a disappointing P5. Nico Hulkenberg survived his first lap clout with Verstappen, taking P7, and his Force India teammate Sergio Perez was P8, ensuring that overachieving team’s emarkable and lucrative fourth place finish in the Constructors’ Championship. That came at the expense of Williams whose disappointing year went out with a whimper, with the retiring Felipe Massa managing some points in his final drive with a P9 finish but stablemate Valtteri Bottas forced out early with suspension damage. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso took the last points paying position with P10 but his teammate Jenson Button went out on Lap 13 with a suspension failure. It was a sad end to the 2009 Champion’s final race and an otherwise superlative F1 career.

To 10 finishers at Abu Dhabi:

POS NO DRIVER CAR LAPS TIME/RETIRED PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 55 1:38:04.013 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 55 +0.439s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 55 +0.843s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +1.685s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 55 +5.315s 10
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 55 +18.816s 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +50.114s 6
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 55 +58.776s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 55 +59.436s 2
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 55 +59.896s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

Click here for final Drivers’ Standings.

Click here for final Constructors’ Standings.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Friday

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi — Qualifying results

Hamilton sets up final race showdown with blistering lap for pole in Abu Dhabi, points leader Rosberg just behind in P2; Red Bull’s Ricciardo pips the Ferraris to start P3

At the final qualifying session of the 2016 Formula 1 season and with the Drivers’ Championship poised on a knife’s edge, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton gave himself the best opportunity to snatch his third consecutive title and break his teammate’s heart once again. Trailing by a mere 12 points in the Drivers’ standings, the hard-charging Hamilton was faster than all comers at the futuristic Yas Marina circuit, laying down a lightning fast lap of 1:38.755 as Q3 wound down. That was good enough for pole position, his fourth in a row and sixth from his last eight attempts. Hamilton’s Championship-leading Silver Arrows teammate and archrival, Nico Rosberg, couldn’t match the speedy Englishman but still came home only 0.7 seconds in arrears to take P2. As it has been all season long there is little to separate the Mercedes duo and it’s only fitting that they will start side-by-side yet again for the ultimate prize in this last race of the season. For Rosberg, all he has to do is finish on the podium to secure his long dreamed off first career Championship. Even if the German contender finishes P4, he wins on the tie-breaker for 2nd place finishes throughout the year, where Rosberg has a 4-3 advantage. There are other permutations but essentially Hamilton needs the victory and for Rosberg to finish P5 or worse. And with Rosberg’s rather poor record at Abu-Dhabi — he’s only finished on the podium twice in six attempts at Yas Marina — his finally prevailing over his stablemate and chief tormentor is hardly a sure bet. Literally anything can happen in a Grand Prix race so buckle up. Tomorrow’s intra-team showdown and season-defining finale should be a real nail-biter with echoes of the glory days of Prost vs. Senna .

Top 10 qualifiers for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:39.487 1:39.382 1:38.755 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:40.511 1:39.490 1:39.058 12
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:41.002 1:40.429 1:39.589 17
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:40.338 1:39.629 1:39.604 14
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:40.341 1:40.034 1:39.661 14
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:40.424 1:39.903 1:39.818 13
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:41.000 1:40.709 1:40.501 12
8 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:40.864 1:40.743 1:40.519 12
9 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:41.616 1:41.044 1:41.106 17
10 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:41.157 1:40.858 1:41.213 15

Complete qualifying results amiable via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s GP will be broadcast live starting at 8:00 AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. It’s for all the marbles with two Mercedes drivers desperate for the title and the rest of the field eager to make their own impact in the season’s final race. No real racing fan should miss it so hope to see you then!

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Results & aftermath

Rain plays havoc at Interlagos but Hamilton prevails, Rosberg hangs on for P2; Verstappen puts in wonder drive in the wet for stunning P3

A steady downpour enveloped Autodromo Carlos Pace on Sunday during the Brazilian Grand Prix. On a track better known as Interalgos, veritable rivers and lakes of standing water created havoc from the start to the end of the protracted contest, the penultimate of the year, causing numerous crashes, Safety Car periods and two prolonged Red Flag stoppages. In the end, with the championship one greasy moment away from being decided by an unfortunate incident, both key contenders managed to keep it on the black stuff and finish in their best possible positions. Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg crossed the line 1-2 on this treacherous day, with Hamilton securing the victory he needed to keep his championship dream going into the last race at Abu Dhabi and Rosberg holding on for second to limit the damage. With Hamilton starting from pole and front-running out of the blinding spray for nearly the entire race, Rosberg did well to secure P2. The German looked much less assured than Hamilton for the entirety of the race, seeming to tiptoe around at times. But description proved to be the better part of valor because the Championship is still Rosberg’s to lose and while he might have tried to take risks and gone for the win that would have clinched his first-ever title this was simply not the day for it in rainy Sao Paolo, as car after car spun off and out of the GP. So Roseberg did what he had to do to limit Hamilton’s gains, with the Englishman’s gritty and poised performance good enough for the victory, his third on the trot, and pulling him within 12 points of his archrival Rosberg with all to play for in the final contest. As it is, Rosberg must only finish 3rd or higher in Abu Dhabi to claim his prize in two weeks and vanquish his tormentor. Game on.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

The results might not have been as kind for Rosberg had Red Bull not made the inexplicable decision to pit for Intermediate wet tires for their young phenom, Max Verstappen, on Lap 41 with the rain still bucketing down and a lousy forecast looming. When Williams’ Felipe Massa lost it and crashed out shortly thereafter on Lap 47 and with conditions not improving, Verstappen and his team made the decision to go back to Full Wet tires during the ensuing Safety Car period. This extra change cost the Dutchman valuable track position and shuffled him back to P14 upon the restart. But with the freshest deep-groove rubber in the race and less than 20 laps remaining in the 71-lap contest, Verstappen began a remarkable surge through the field, picking off first his teammate Daniel Ricciardo and then a fleet of other competitors. Using unconventional lines reminiscent of karting, Verstappen passed far off the standard racing line, counterintuitively seeking out the parts of the track where rubber had not been laid down that were actually less slippery in the rain. As the laps wound down, Verstappen made short work of Daniil Kvyat, Estaban Ocon, Felipe Nasr and Nico Hulkenberg. On Lap 67 he confronted Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who tried to defend but was still no match for the hard-charging Red Bull. With the teenage wunderkind executing a power move up the inside to take P4, Vettel was forced wide onto the rumble strips and was left to sputter and gripe on the radio about the unfairness of it all, as the former 4-time World Champ has so often done this disappointing season. On Lap 70, Verstappen completed his amazing ascension to the podium seizing P3 from Force India’s Sergio Perez by holding the inside line over a series of corners until the talented Mexican had to yield. In the end it was a remarkable performance in the trickiest of conditions and validated once again why Verstappen is held in such high regard for his pure driving skills, which are sure to get even better as the 19-year-old matures and gains more experience. One wonders where he might have finished had Red Bull not made that dubious extra tire stop — would he have had something for Rosberg and maybe even Hamilton at the end? But then perhaps we would not have all been treated to one of the great drives in F1 history.

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Perez still did very well to come home P4, while his Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished P7 despite an ill-timed post-Safety Car puncture. Continue reading

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Brazil — Qualifying results

Hamilton takes 60th career pole at Interlagos, Rosberg P2; Raikkonen nabs P3 at the death for Ferrari

Mercedes’ ace Lewis Hamilton blistered the short and tricky Autódromo José Caros Pace circuit in Sao Paolo, Brazil on Saturday en route to a dominant lap good enough for pole position in Sunday’s race. Desperate to keep his championship aspirations alive on a track that has been far from kind to him, Hamilton nonetheless prevailed in slightly damp conditions, beating out his teammate and current points leader, Nico Rosberg, by .10 seconds. It was Hamilton’s 60th career pole and pulled him within 5 of his hero Ayrton Senna for second on the all-time list. More importantly, with only two races remaining it gave the Englishman his best shot at holding off Rosberg in Sunday’s Grand Prix, where the German can clinch his first World Championship with a victory no matter where Hamilton might finish. Even starting from P2 Rosberg’s chances seem decent to pull that off but Hamilton did what he had to do to hopefully start fast, keep Rosberg behind and live to fight it out at the last race in Abu Dhabi.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a nice burst on his very last lap in Q3 to vault himself into P3 on the starting grid, relegating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to P4 with that excellent effort. Raikkonen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel did well to qualify in P5 after his car had hydraulic issues that almost cost him a chance to get onto the track at all, so big kudos to his Ferrari mechanics for getting it resolved in time. Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo ended up behind Vettel in P6 and it should be very interesting to see how those rows 2 and 3, split as they are between Ferrari and Red Bull, get off the line and interact when the lights go out. Haas’ Romain Grosjean had a superb effort with a time good enough for P7, the eye-opening first year American team’s best ever quali rank. Force India ended up with Nico Hulkenberg in P8 and Sergio Perez P9 but scored an extra bonus of sorts when neither of the Williams could break into Q3, despite the crowd’s partisan urgings for their retiring countryman Felipe Massa at his last Brazilian GP. That kept tiny Force India’s chances of beating out storied Williams F1 for a very lucrative fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship looking good. Fernando Alonso rounded out the Top 10 starters on Sunday with a time good enough for P10 in his McLaren.

Top 10 Qualifiers for the Brazilian Grand Prix:

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:11.511 1:11.238 1:10.736 12
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:11.815 1:11.373 1:10.838 12
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:12.100 1:12.301 1:11.404 15
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:11.957 1:11.834 1:11.485 12
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:12.159 1:12.010 1:11.495 13
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:12.409 1:12.047 1:11.540 12
7 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:12.893 1:12.343 1:11.937 18
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:12.428 1:12.360 1:12.104 20
9 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:12.684 1:12.331 1:12.165 21
10 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:12.700 1:12.312 1:12.266 17

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live at 11AM Eastern on NBC Sports Network here in the States. The penultimate contest in a fast and furious 2016 campaign, Turn 1 on the opening lap could mean everything to the two Mercedes contenders, as contact is common there. Hope to see you then to find out how it all shakes out!

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Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Krysten Ritter

Once in a while an actress finds a role so perfect that it lets her punch through to another level entirely. Such is the case with the fascinating and unconventionally beautiful Krysten Ritter and her wonderful work as the title character in Netflix’s original series,  Jessica Jones. Netflix and Marvel have cleverly reimagined some of the more obscure protagonists in the Marvel Universe for TV, with Luke Cage and Iron Fist also getting their own series, and the compelling Jessica Jones shows just how satisfying it can be when relatively unknown superheroes get modernized and fleshed out in a morally complex world that is anything but black & white.

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And it is Ritter who enables Jessica Jones to reach it’s very fine full potential. At turns fragile and combative, cynical and idealistic, Ritter lets Jones’ damage show beneath the surface of her gamine good looks and her tough private eye facade. With it’s claustrophobic urban setting and her ominously dangerous nemesis, Jessica Jones inhabits a truly adult superhero demimonde, portraying sexual and mental subjugation in ways the big ticket franchises could never be bold enough to tackle. Add to that barely remarked upon interracial sex scenes between Jones and Cage, Jones’ use of her wits over her own seldom-deployed super strength and surprising eruptions of deadly, sanguineous violence, and Jessica Jones is a sophisticated vehicle that Ms. Ritter is wringing the very most out of.

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The 34-year old actress was born in rural Pennsylvania and was spotted by a modeling scout as gangly teenager in a local mall. With her throwback Coco Chanel looks, Ritter found herself in New York City in no time flat, where she was signed by the big agencies for print and runway work. With her lively and outgoing personality she made an easy transition into acting for commercials and television. She also made a concerted effort to act in theater, honing her acting chops even further.

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She had her first sustained TV work with a nice multi-episode role on the WB’s very popular hit, Gilmore Girls. That propelled her to supporting roles in features in the romantic comedies What Happens in Vegas with Cameron Diaz and Aston Kutcher, 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl and She’s Out of My League with Jay Baruchel (all 2008) and again as the lead’s gal pal in 2009’s Confessions of a Shopaholic alongside Isla Fisher.

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But Ms. Ritter’s real breakthrough came with her remarkable portrayal of Jane Margolis during the second season of AMC’s legendary Breaking Bad. Effortlessly conveying the trademark tough-vulnerable qualities that would serve her so well in Jessica Jones, Ritter’s sexy tattoo artist and heroin-addict is a wonderful femme fatal and irresistible to the love-starved Jesse. So perfect was the role and the casting that one wishes Ritter’s Jane and Aaron Paul’s Jesse could have escaped Walt’s clutches and made their getaway to New Zealand. Instead the character’s death served to propel several profound plot twists going forward, and Ritter’s short-lived Jane Margolis was very much a vital deus ex machina. More than that, though, her performance was pitch perfect and indelible.

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An actor never likes to see a project get canceled but it was almost certainly a blessing when Krysten’s ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- In Apt. 23 got the axe after two seasons. Yes the show was reasonably funny and Ms. Ritter was perfectly cast as the titular B—-. But the show’s demise created the opening for her to take her role of a lifetime in Jessica Jones. Now not only is her show one of Netflix’s top properties and a critical success but she will be featured in the multi-hero spinoff, The Defenders, slated to debut in 2017.  Alongside Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Jessica Jones will be keeping good company as these heroes team up to fight crime and injustice. And Krysten Ritter is sure to keep doing attention-grabbing work as one of the more interesting actresses out there.

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2016 F1 Grand Prix of Mexico — Results & aftermath

Hamilton dominates in Mexico for second win on the trot, Rosberg drives spirited race to secure P2; Ricciardo declared P3 after both Verstappen & Vettel demoted

Lewis Hamilton continued to do the only thing he can do to keep his Championship aspirations alive and the heat on his points-leading Mercedes teammate Nico Roseberg: just win, baby. After dominating last weekend in Austin, Texas at the US Grand Prix, Hamilton continued showing untouchable pace in the thin air of Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. Starting from pole, the English contender and current two-time consecutive World Champ seems to have put his chronic starting woes well and truly behind him and blazed off the line cleanly. Despite Hamilton’s locking up and running off course briefly, Rosberg was still unable to match Hamilton’s acceleration, probably because the German was duking it out for positions with the two aggressive Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. But even though Rosberg had every incentive to drive conservatively and perhaps live to fight another day he banged wheels with Verstappen rather than cede second to the precocious Dutchman.

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pics courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Careening off and then back onto the track ahead of Verstappenan after the contact, it could have been argued that Rosberg gained an unfair advantage but the stewards ruled no action was warranted. So Rosberg’s decision to fight it out paid off and, as it has more than once this season after contact, he managed to escape any significant damage that might have compromised his race. Despite an early Safety Car period that scrambled the contenders’ tire strategies somewhat, the two Mercedes did what they have done 6 times this season: take another dominant 1-2. Hamilton was never really challenged for the victory, his 51st in F1 overall tying Alain Prost for second all-time. And while Rosberg again had to fight off Verstappen again on Lap 49 to secure second, the day still played to Rosberg’s undoubted advantage. With only two contests remaining in 2016 the 31-year-old German leads by 19 points over his bitter rival in the quest for his first Drivers’ Championship. Even if Hamilton takes the final two victories it will require failure from Rosberg or his car to overhaul him. And with the now-impressive combination of skill and determination that Rosberg has more often than not displayed this year, as well as more than a touch of necessary good fortune, it’s hard to see that happening no matter Lewis’ supreme talent.

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Despite being the only real challengers to Mercedes dominance in Mexico the day did not quite play out according to script for team Red Bull. Continue reading