Opinion

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It was during Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration address in 1933 when he uttered the famous sentence, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

It was a call to Americans to work together to fight against dark times.

Our country has known collective terror throughout the decades, and 2020 will be remembered as the year we feared an invisible virus and people taking advantage of peaceful protests by looting stores and burning cars. That trepidation carried over into the new year as citizens watched as extremists sieged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Nearly 90 years after Roosevelt called for Americans to fight fear, we find ourselves afraid of our fellow citizens. Since the attack on the People’s House in Washington, D.C., members of Congress are worried that their safety, as well as that of their family members, is in jeopardy. Some even believe their own colleagues will harm them if they speak out against former President Donald Trump (R). Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI-03), a freshman congressman, told CNN he was afraid of possible threats after he voted to impeach Trump.

The fear has trickled down to our own neighborhoods as many are hesitant to speak their opinions, afraid if their views are more conservative than others they will be tied to the extremists who assaulted the Capitol.

There are those who once wouldn’t think twice about standing on a corner to protest or rally, even if people who held opposing views were right across the street. Now many are hesitant that their words might be met with foul language, assault and worse.

Many this past summer, during protests, witnessed foul language being exchanged between protesters and anti-protesters. Black Lives Matters participants in a rally in Smithtown in June took to social media alleging that they were assaulted. In September, a Massapequa man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 64-year-old man who was rallying with the North Country Patriots, a conservative group that meets on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A every Saturday morning.

Our times have become so divisive that many have forgotten the adversities Americans have gone through together — the Great Depression, the world wars, 9/11 and more. These horrific events didn’t leave us weaker, they left us stronger.

We became stronger because we live in a country where we have the right to pursue happiness, the right to gather, the right to express our opinions and so much more. And while we may not have the right to use those words and actions to cause harm to others or property, we have those rights.

Most of our fellow Americans get that. So let’s move forward together, stronger and more fearlessly than before with knowledge and empathy, embracing our freedoms and respecting that others in this country enjoy the same rights.

Pexel photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

What do we do when we meet someone new in 2021 IRL, or, to the 12 uninitiated readers, “in real life?”

Well, for starters, we can’t and shouldn’t shake hands. That ritual is probably long gone. Maybe the Japanese were right with bowing. If handshakes are out, hugs, even for those we might have been speaking to for months during the isolated pandemic, are absolutely forbidden.

If we can’t hug grandma, grandpa and other relatives we’ve known most or all of our lives, we certainly can’t hug, even casually, someone new.

Ideally, we’d stand somewhere between six and 60 feet away from them, especially if we’re inside. That could be problematic for people who can’t hear all that well and who don’t have the benefit of reading anyone’s lips anymore. 

In fact, I’m thinking of going into the business of selling those Mission Impossible voice changers. If you’ve seen the movies, you know that the Tom Cruise teams can change their voices to sound like everyone else. Most of us who have heard our own voices on voicemail would like a few moments to sound more like James Earl Jones or Scarlett Johansson. Maybe we like our own voice, but we’d prefer to have a British, Australian or New Zealand accent. We could change our accents, the way we change the navigational voice on Siri and ask people if they know where we’re pretending we were raised.

Now, what we discuss is a bit tricky in the hypersensitive, polarized world of 2021. Someone who’s walking a dog most likely would be happy to talk about their four-footed companion. 

I’ve been surprised by the type of questions and information people seek when they talk about my dog. People have asked not only how old he is, but also how much he weighs, as if dogs around his size are in some kind of modeling contest. Fortunately, my dog doesn’t seem particularly concerned about his weight, as he demonstrates regularly with a feverish appetite for everything from broccoli to french fries to cat vomit. Yes, he eats cat vomit, which means that if I cook something he won’t eat, he thinks it tastes worse than cat vomit, a notion that delights my teenage children.

Now, if you’re thinking about politics, you probably should keep that to yourself. Unless someone is wearing a MAGA hat or has some version of Dump Trump on a T-shirt, it’s tough to know where they stand on the plate tectonic sized political divide.

We can talk about sports, but we run the risk of someone telling us how irrelevant sports is in the modern world during a pandemic or how they wish they could return to the age when sports mattered.

Children seem like fair game, although we have to watch out for many age-related minefields. 

My son, for example, is a senior in high school. Some parents are happy to tell you all the colleges that accepted and rejected their children, while others are content to share what city or even what coast intrigues their progeny, as in, “yes, my son has only applied to schools on the East Coast or in states with fewer than seven letters” (there are nine states in that category, by the way).

So, where does that leave us in the strange world where we’re all putting on masks before we go into a bank (imagine taking a time machine from 1999 and seeing those entering a bank without masks getting into trouble?) Well, the weather is often safe, as are dogs, the disruption the pandemic caused and, generally speaking, children.

Photo from Pixabay

Not every publication out there is “Fake News.”

During last week’s insurgence at the U.S. Capitol, a photo — taken by a journalist — has made its way around social media, memorializing the words “Murder the Media” written on a wall inside The People’s House.

That’s disheartening to say the least.

Now more than ever, facts are important — whether you like us or not. 

The fact that journalists, reporters and photographers down in D.C. are now sharing their stories about that Wednesday’s events — how they were attacked, name called, hurt and threatened — is a terrifying thought.

The media has always had a rocky relationship with readers. A lot of the time, many people don’t like what is being reported on or how it’s being said. That is something this field has dealt with since the first newsletter came out centuries ago.

But the last four years are on a different level. It’s a whole new battle.

There have been many times that reporters at TBR News Media were harassed on assignment, also being called “fake.” 

We are your local paper. We are the ones who cover the issues in your backyard, who tell the stories of your neighbors that you live beside, and we showcase your children, whom you love, playing their favorite sports. 

We aren’t commentators or analyzers, except on our opinions pages that are clearly labeled.

We are the eyes and ears of our community, and we do the heavy lifting when you have questions. We interview your elected officials and bring awareness to issues other larger papers or TV stations forget to research or mention.

How is that fake? 

Now more than ever, we ask you to support what we have put our hearts and our livelihoods into. 

Next time you might think that the media had it coming to them, just remember that those reporters who have been hurt and humiliated don’t come into your workplaces, breaking your equipment and ridiculing you for what you do.  

We serve all the public and are proud to do so.

Photo from Pixabay

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

For my family and me, the pandemic-triggered life change started almost exactly 10 months ago, on March 13. How different is the life we lead now from the one we led way back in March? Comparing answers to the same questions then and now can offer a perspective on the time that’s passed and our current position.

Question: What do we do?

March 2020: Shut businesses down, encourage people to stay home and track everything. Talk about where we are “on the curve” and hope that we can “flatten the curve” and reach the other side, allowing us to return to the lives and habits we used to know.

January 2021: Try to keep infection rates down and take measured chances in public places, while hoping officials allow schools, restaurants and other businesses to remain open.

Question: What do we eat?

March 2020: Pick up take out food whenever we can. Go to the grocery store and cook. Baking rapidly became a release and relief for parents and children, who enjoyed the sweet smell of the house and the familiar, reassuring and restorative taste of cookies and cakes.

January 2021: In some places, we can eat indoors. Many people still order take out or cook their own food.

Question: What do we do with our children?

March 2020: Overburdened parents, who are conducting zoom calls, conference calls and staring for hours at computer screens, face the reality of needing to educate their children in subjects they either forgot or never learned.

January 2021: Many students continue to go to school, even as the threat of closing, particularly in hot spots, continues.

Question: What do we do for exercise?

March 2020: People take to the streets, order exercise equipment or circle the inside or outside of their house countless times, hoping to break free from their blinking, beeping and demanding electronic devices.

January 2021: Gyms have reopened, with some people heading to fitness centers and others continuing their own version of counting the number of times they’ve circled the neighborhood, with and without their dogs.

Question: What can we do about work?

March 2020: Many businesses close, asking employees to work from home.

January 2021: Many businesses are trying to stay open, even as others have continued to ask their employees to work from home, where they can talk on computer screens in mismatched outfits, with nice blouses and shirts on top and gym shorts or pajamas.

Question: What can we plan for?

March 2020: We cancel weddings, parties, family gatherings and all manner of events that involve crowds.

January 2021: We have learned not to make plans that are set in stone, because the calendar has become stone intolerant. We make plans and contingency plans.

Question: What do we do for entertainment?

March 2020: We secretly binge watch TV shows, although we don’t share our indulgences.

January 2021: After we ask how everyone is doing, we regularly interject questions about the latest TV shows or movies.

Question: What do we notice in the supermarkets?

March 2020: Toilet paper and paper towels are hard to find.

January 2021: Toilet paper and paper towels are generally available, but we may only be allowed to buy two packages. The cost of paper goods and other items seems to have risen.

Question: Do we let our children play sports?

March 2020: Almost every league in every sport shut down, following the lead of professional teams.

January 2021: Youth leagues have restarted.

Question: What’s a cause for optimism?

March 2020: We believe in flattening the curve.

January 2021: The vaccine offers hope for a return to a life we used to know.

Stock photo
Leah Dunaief

By Leah S. Dunaief

It may have been the start of a new year last week, but life certainly hasn’t calmed down much. We are witnessing history in the making. Demonstrators who had traveled from all over the United States to Washington, D.C. last Wednesday turned from listening to President Trump rage to marching on the Capitol. Once there, many broke into the building and caused vandalism, chaos and death. Thanks to instantaneous news flashes, we heard it and saw it happen, and now we are living through the consequences.

One of the consequences is bans of certain accounts by social media, led by Twitter and Facebook. Is that censorship? Is that an assault on our Freedom of Speech enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution?

A simple way to offer an answer is to take you into the world in which community newspapers and media operate. As you know, we are the ones who report on the news closest to our daily lives, the events and issues that concern us here in the villages and towns where we live, send our children to school and most of us work. We report comprehensively on local people, local politicians and local businesses that would otherwise be overlooked by the bigger dailies and networks. We are the watchdogs on behalf of the local citizenry.

Here are the rules by which we must publish:

While we print opinions as well as facts, opinions must be clearly labelled as such and are usually confined to two or three pages specifically designated for Letters to the Editor and Editorials. We also publish pieces called “Your Turn,” or “Our Turn,” again as opinion or analysis. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and the publisher has a right to its policies about those articles and letters. Our policy is to publish opinions in as balanced a way as we are sent submissions, subject to libel and good taste.

Libel rules are more straightforward than good taste, which is, of course, subjective. But here is the bottom line: publishers have the final say in what they publish because they are private, not governmental enterprises. Freedom of Speech, which specifically prohibits censorship by the government, does not apply to us. Decisions made by private businesses on what to publish are not First Amendment issues. And those decisions may reflect any number of concerns that may affect the company: financial considerations, the environment in which the publisher operates and whether the publication is an avowed partisan or an independent one.

We, for example, are an independent news media company, supporting neither major party unilaterally but rather our own sense of merit.

We are responsible for the accuracy of the facts in our stories. Do we sometimes err? Of course. When we make a mistake, our policy is to print a correction in the same place that we ran the error, even if that’s on the front page. When we run ads, by the way, we are also responsible for the facts in them — although not the advertiser’s opinions, which still are subject to considerations of libel and good taste. And when we run political ads, we must print who paid for the ad in the ad itself. When it is a group under a generic name rather than an individual, we must have on file the names of the executive officers of that group and those must be subject to review by any member of the public.

Do we have the legal right to refuse an ad or an opinion or a misstatement of facts? As a private company, we do. Further, just as it is against the law to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is none because that is not protected free speech, we have the civic responsibility to vet misstatements and untruths. And while we consider our papers safety valves for community members to let off steam with their strongly held opinions, we do not publish just to add fuel to a fire.

Twitter and Facebook and the rest who consider themselves publishers of news and not just telephone companies also have a responsibility to the public.

That, of course, raises another issue. Do we want so much power in the hands of a few high tech moguls, whose messages instantly circle the world? Or should they, like us, be subject to regulatory control?

Stock photo

If only every main road could be a downtown. The ones we know and love, the ones with walkable streets, sights to see, unique restaurants to eat at, a feeling that life is being lived there at every level. 

Though of course anything is better than driving down the highway and passing by the umpteenth empty strip mall, with enough “for rent” signs to recreate a new mall entirely.

And it makes it that much more glaring when it seems every developer focuses on the new — of a new apartment complex or a new shopping mall or a new medical park — all ignoring the multitudes of empty complexes dotting the Long Island landscape. New development, especially that which plows ahead without concern for the neighborhood, next leads to issues of congestion and the impact on the environment. Meanwhile, local electeds are vying for shrinking pots of funds to buy up and preserve land that keeps the environmental vistas, as we have on the North Shore, viable and serene. There will never be enough money to buy up every stretch of forest or meadow or beach. 

Reporting on North Shore Long Island sometimes feels like watching a hoard of starving animals vying for the smallest strip of meat, as discarded carcasses rot not 5 feet away.

That’s why the Town of Brookhaven’s plans for a so-called commercial redevelopment district zoning are so interesting, because it seems like one of the few real efforts we at TBR News Media have seen toward incentivizing rebuilding instead of new development. Though we also hope that such developer incentives can find ways around abuse, especially when too many developers are already incentivized to build with things like Industrial Development Agency tax deals.

Brookhaven’s proposed CRD special zoning, as proposed, will only be available to those property owners who can prove they are redesigning aging property with walkability, livability and commercial interests all in one. Such applications for that special zoning will also be at the discretion of the Town Board.

If the idea pans out, it could mean a massive push toward revitalization in places such as Port Jefferson Station. If it does what it’s intended to do, other towns like Smithtown or Huntington, who are suffering their own ills of vacant stores and strip malls, could adopt something similar as well. It would be nice, for a change, to hear from a developer about redesigning an eyesore rather than the usual plan to pave paradise to put up a parking lot.

Though we also have to share our reservations. Developers are already well incentivized throughout Suffolk County to build anew, especially with a multitude of deals coming from IDAs at both the county and town level. In Port Jefferson, for example, every single new apartment complex in the past several years has been given a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. While IDA board members say such projects will contribute to the economy, these new developments hardly add any significant job numbers to the local economy once the building process is complete. 

Brookhaven’s CRD zoning intends that developers will get more leeway on applications for rebuilding based on location or how many amenities there are — such as green space or places for social activity. The risk is that these same builders will find ways to take advantage of these deals while still getting IDA money. Such a new zoning will need even greater scrutiny on applications than is already happening at the town level. A bike rack here or there isn’t worth as much to a community as a new location’s property taxes.

Still, overall, we think this could be a great leap in the right direction. We hope both local developers and local government are up to the task of revitalizing the commercial areas too long neglected.

Photo from Pixabay
Daniel Dunaief

I have brought three fictional characters in to discuss their thoughts for 2021. Please welcome Yoda from the “Star Wars” series, Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy books, and Jane Craig from the film “Broadcast News.” I will call you all by your first names. Well, except for you, Yoda.

TBR: After such a tumultuous 2020, I wanted to ask you what you all thought would likely happen next year.

Yoda: Tough to say, the future is. If the answers you don’t like, the questions you must change.

Jack: Look, I’m not sure what we’re doing here, but I think the vaccine offers real hope for change. Your world, such as it is, should be able to move in the right direction.

Jane: The trends at this point are horrific. You have enormous numbers of positive tests each day, hospitalizations are up and the number of dead continues to rise.

TBR: Yoda, you’re kind of off point and sound like a backwards fortune cookie. Jack, I appreciate the optimism and Jane, I think you’re focusing on the negatives.

Jane: We can’t preclude the possibility that the positive infections will continue to climb for months. While it’d be swell to have a big party to celebrate the vaccine and the return to whatever version of normal each of us has, it’s important that we protect ourselves and our families.

Jack: She’s right. Everyone doesn’t have the vaccine and everyone hasn’t taken it, which means we won’t reach herd immunity for a while. While this is killing the entertainment industry, among so many others, it’s necessary for us to sit tight for a while. At the same time, we need to consider the possibility that other governments will become opportunistic about this messy transition at the White House. We need to protect ourselves and remain vigilant. This is a dangerous time, in so many ways, and we need to analyze all kinds of traffic.

Yoda: Know something about vigilance, do I. Messy, this world has become. Goodness, hope and optimism, there remains. Effort to get there will it take.

TBR: Jane, this question, in particular, seems right up your alley. What do you think about the news business in 2021?

Jane: I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been a tough year for everyone, particularly in the news business. We are not the enemy. When we do our jobs well, people get to hear the truth. They can make informed decisions that affect their lives. Are there problems? Of course, but that doesn’t make the entire industry corrupt, any more than it would in any other business.

Yoda: Inside each of us, the enemy resides. Confront it, we must.

Jack: I’ve dealt with journalists all the time. They are a competitive group, I’ll give them that, but they are necessary to shine light, at the right time, on everything from the fight against the virus to the battle against corrupt governments.

TBR: Do you think we’ve learned any lessons from 2020?

Jack: It’s been a brutal year and so many people have lost so much. The numbers don’t tell the entire story. We can only live with what we know: we can protect ourselves and our family through policies that have nothing to do with politics. Careful analysis and science brought us the vaccines. We need to make informed decisions about using them.

Jane: Exactly my point, Jack. We can and should make informed decisions, which the media, at its best, can support.

Yoda: Mistakes, everyone makes. Opportunities to learn, we have. Family and those fortunate enough to share life with us, we must cherish.

Photo from Pixabay

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of my favorite days occurred this week. It is the winter solstice, usually considered to be Dec. 21 or 22. Why do I like that day, you might wonder? Some people think of it negatively as the shortest day of the year. In New York, the night was 14 hours and 45 minutes, shorter than in Minnesota at 15 hours and 50 minutes but longer than Miami at 13 hours and 28 minutes. For me it marks the turning point of the seasons, when each subsequent day then begins to have more light. Darkness will be lifting over the next six months, gradually but definitively. And for COVID-19, the pandemic of the century, it is a perfect metaphor. The vaccine is arriving at winter solstice with the promise that the disease, like the days, will lighten.

The vaccine is the match that will eventually banish the darkness. People all over the world, since the beginning of recorded history, have lit fires to ward off the night. It is not a coincidence that the birth of Jesus is celebrated at this time. Houses and trees are brightly decorated with all manner of lights. Hanukkah candles burn brightly at this same time, and in an 8-day sequence, as if prophesying the gradual lighting up of the days. Diwali is a five-day festival of Hindus, Sikhs and others, pushing back the night and celebrating the coming of more light. 

So will the vaccine, perfectly timed, gradually vanquish the pandemic over the same next few months.

Just as a point of information, I looked up the meaning of winter solstice and found the definition as the time during the earth’s orbit around the sun at which the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. So the other part of the shortest day is the winter season that we have to get through with its long days before we can enjoy more brightness and warmth. And we will also have to endure more illness and death from the novel coronavirus before we can recapture the world as we have known it. We will have to hold on, using our various strategies for survival, until what has been described as the unending “snow days” of lockdown yield to recovery.

Winter can be thought of as a time of intense cold, of scarcity, of starkness and even of death of the earth. But the earth has not died. It is merely resting, and all who live on it are forced to slow down until light and warmth bring growth. For us humans, it can be when we nest with our families, play games, watch movies, tell stories about our ancestors and fill the house with the smells of stick-to-the-rib cooking. Unfortunately, we have been doing just that, unwillingly, for the past 10 months. But the warmth and the light inside the home are especially welcome now that the wind is howling and the snow is sticking. 

When we were in Alaska some years ago, many of the residents we met said that winter was their favorite season, when members of the community come together indoors to socialize and look after each other as the elements rage in the darkness outdoors.

This winter, we will be coming together via zoom and the other miracles of modern technology. As the earth lies fallow, we can just rest. Or we can evaluate our lives and priorities, learn things that, like planted seeds, will flower in the warmth and light of the spring. We can certainly straighten out our closets and desk drawers, if we haven’t already. All the while, we can follow the guidelines of the scientists and physicians and keep ourselves safe for the spring.

This is my last column of the year. The next issue, of 12/31, will be entirely filled with stories about those heroic and tireless residents who kept life going in 2020 and richly deserve to be honored as People of the Year.

We here at TBR News Media wish you and your loved ones holidays that are happy and safe.

We look forward to rejoining you next year.

METRO photo

We want you to compare a few numbers. Look at these figures: 27 to 34; then 106 to 2,923.

The news is consistently stacked with such figures, but it’s all our job to prioritize them to make sure we’re doing the right thing.

On a call with reporters last week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said people are dying at higher rates because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In just the first week of December, the county counted at least 34 dead. This means we can expect a horrific month, as just 35 people died from COVID-19-related issues in the entire month of November. 

When we look at national figures, on Thursday, Dec. 10, at least 2,923 Americans died from COVID-19. That is more deaths than all those who perished when the towers fell on 9/11, and it is happening on a daily basis. This is what our focus should be on. If we can get through the winter months, then hopefully we can see more broad use of the vaccine and then, if we stay focused, a return to where we were before March 2020.

Instead, another figure drags our attention to political irrationality. Only 27 of 249 Republican members of Congress were willing to say as at Dec. 5 that President-elect Joe Biden won the election in a Washington Post poll, despite the fact that all states’ voter rolls were already certified.

A total of 106 U.S. representatives signed onto the State of Texas’ attorney general’s plea to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ballots of four swing states that went to Biden. Of those pledging onto this strange and ill-conceived attempt to usurp the national election includes U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1). Last week, the Supreme Court threw out the plainly ridiculous Texas AG’s suit, but that original act by the GOP underlays a deepening resentment to the very foundations of our democracy.

In an article published last week in TBR papers, Suffolk Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia spoke about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) used the pandemic to “scare voters away from the polling places,” and used the crisis to hurt GOP primaries. It’s important to note that Suffolk Republicans only had one primary this year, while the rest of their candidates were appointed by party leadership. Democrats had four of their primaries delayed by these new rules in Suffolk alone. While more Dems voted by mail than Republicans, there was a significant number of absentee ballots sent by conservatives, as evidenced by the end total of votes compared to those shown on Nov. 3.

Giving little evidence of any real fraud, Garcia cited a case in which a Water Mill man, a Democrat, was indicted for allegedly requesting two mail-in ballots for his deceased mother back in October. He was indicted by Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini, a Democrat. If anything, this example shows that current efforts to account for fraud have worked, rather than the opposite.

Erroneously saying such fraud was widespread in Suffolk also discounts the work of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, of which there are two commissioners, one appointed by the Republicans and one by the Democrats. 

If there turns out to be real evidence of fraud, and not just partisan hyperbole, we expect it to be looked into through the proper channels, but anticipating illicit activity with no proof does little but reinforce a deepening partisan divide, something we clearly do not need right now.

Is this a distraction? Do we need to forget the more than 2,000 who have died in Suffolk County alone throughout this awful year? Which ones are numbers to be plotted in a spreadsheet and which ones should we apply real effort toward? Because keeping COVID numbers low means that hospitals can deal with the incoming patients. When hospitals become overloaded, more people die. It’s that simple. That is why we wear the masks and keep socially distanced. That is why we care for our neighbors and support those people on the front lines.

Those elected officials focusing on rewriting the outcome of the election need to look back to their folks at home and perhaps remind themselves which numbers are the ones that matter.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

What if James Bond had to wear a mask? What would it look like and would it become a fashion accessory and a multi-functional gadget at the same time?

It could be all black to match his dapper tuxedo. If he ever wore a bow tie that was a different color, he could coordinate the two items to keep the visual integrity of the ensemble.

Then again, maybe it’d be pink with a small ribbon, to show that he’s finally caught up to the times and, after all those years of leading ladies who fall in love with him at their own peril, he sees an opportunity to show his appreciation for women and the fight against breast cancer.

Maybe the mask would have a bright light built into it. He could use the light to interrogate someone, to shine it in someone’s eyes who was about to shoot him or to distract a vicious dog or lion that was about to eat him, but who followed the light around the room instead. He could also use the light in dark tunnels or underneath pyramids.

A problem with masks, even the ones we change each day, is that they don’t change what our faces do beneath them. It’s hard to sense the difference between a hidden smile and a smirk.

Remember those mood rings, which changed color depending on how we were feeling? A modern Bond could have a mood mask.

A James Bond mask wouldn’t simply be colorful. It would also be a communicator, akin to Maxwell Smart’s shoe in “Get Smart.” By tilting his head once to the right, Bond could speak with M or Q or any other one-letter person or, perhaps, another 00 like him, who would be able to speak with him through their mask. Tilting his head twice to the right would hang up the phone. He could dial by touching his tongue to a keypad in his mask.

By tilting his head to the left once, Bond could order a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, from the nearest bar.

In fact, keeping up with modern times, maybe Bond wouldn’t need to speak at all, but the mask could pick the ideas in his head, like, “hey, that woman over there looks intelligent. I can’t wait to speak with her about her hopes and aspirations. After we get to know each other well, we can establish a trusting relationship and then blow stuff up, kill some bad people, save the world and then spend some time undercover, if you know what I mean.”

A James Bond mask would also be the modern version of his all-purpose watch. Contoured to his face, he could whistle, causing the mask to break glass by releasing a supersonic sound. It could also shoot out a lifesaving dart or even provide oxygen for him if he were trapped underwater by a bad guy who didn’t realize that you can’t drown Bond while he’s wearing his mask.

Given the physical demands of the job, the mask would also come with a built-in coolant. Instead of sweating into the mask, the mask would be made of a dry-fit material while, on cue, it would release a comfortable and sweet-smelling coolant that would also cover up his bad breath.

Maybe he’d have a mask that played the theme song from his movies. Each time he bit down, he could sway and swagger to the familiar and engaging theme, annoying the evildoers with a song that almost always signals a Bond victory.