Naked Lady of the Week: Lindsey Marshal

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Lindsey Marshal is a smiley Canadian with light freckles and sea-foam eyes. In 2004 she experienced a brief flash of fame when she was fired by the Toronto Raptors, for whom she was cheerleading, for posing nude on the internet. There’s an amusing and charmingly old-school discussion of the scandal here.

When nude photos of an actress are posted on the internet, she gets more work. I guess it doesn’t work that way for cheerleaders.

She’s such a sunny thing. Here’s hoping she achieved her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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Guns Again

Fenster writes:

In The Nation, Katha Pollitt suggests that in a new generation the NRA may have finally met its match.  Could be.  A spate of recent polls indicate a spike in support for some kind of action.  If those polls indicate a permanent shift Pollitt may be on to something, though even then it is far from clear whether a shift in favor of so-called common sense regulation really signifies an emerging revulsion against guns and gun culture and the death of the NRA, both led by the young.

While there could well be a turn of sorts on the margin it could well be among all age categories.  If I am suspicious of anything about Pollitt’s argument it is the breathless Age of Aquarius implication, so characteristic of Boomer vanity, that a child will lead us, just as America was delivered by a youthquake in Pollitt’s formative years.

It is true that polling data suggests that support for the NRA is lowest among younger Americans.  But the fight over the NRA as a proxy for the fight over guns is also generationally-inflected.  Boomers like Pollitt have been fighting the NRA/gun battles for decades and may not see that new generations are not just shock troops to be conscripted for one’s own side but are also going to bring to the broad question their own idiosyncratic views.

Unless one thinks that youth has suddenly been galvanized as whole–remotely  possible but evidence please–this could well be a case of a slice of youth having louder mouths, with megaphones and podiums graciously provided by the media.  This also reflects Boomer history.  Even today a small slice of youth stands in for the whole in cultural memory of the Sixties and early Seventies.

So while keeping one eye on the newer polls and where they go is important it is worth looking back at past polling data, too.  There, the issue of guns and youth is decidedly mixed.

While being less partial to the daddy’s NRA today’s youth have been somewhat less in favor of gun restrictions than their elders and are significantly more likely to think concealed carry will result in more safety.  The rate of gun ownership is lower but guns are take seriously recreationally and in terms of safety by those that do own them.

Things change to be sure but they do not change on the two-dimensional axis that constitutes the default worldview of those getting on in years.  Rachel Wolfe writes in Vox that “it’s possible that being born after the Columbine High School shootings and experiencing mass shootings as a routine event will change how (the young) think.”  True, but what kind of change?

Will it necessarily signal gun revulsion in line with the Pollitt agenda?

Or might it be in favor of some restrictions but lack the underlying desire—palpable among many now both under and above the surface—for something like confiscation?

Or might it even reflect a mature consideration of the need for guns for self-protection, for the need to harden schools as targets, for the wisdom of arming teachers?

In other words is it possible that when the younger generation grows up a bit they will take this problem, left unresolved by decades of distrust from the edges, and solve it from the center out?  Gun control and abortion are both issues that have been stuck in gridlock for ds now, with partisans unwilling to give an inch for fear of slippery slopes to the other edge.  The best way of stopping a slippery slope all the way to the other edge is to empower the center, and to bulk up the belly of the bell curve.

I can imagine a political and legal environment in which gun rights advocates feel that their backs are well protected against reinterpretation of the Second Amendment. And a social environment that reflects a general consensus against confiscation or anything like it. Perhaps in that environment we could see the kind of legislative debate we see with most other issues, with a reasonable muddling through of this or that weapon, this or that definition of mental illness, this or that process for buying or being precluded from buying.

That environment would meet the anti-gun advocates desire for some kind of action. The problem is that the conditions for it would otherwise be anathema: no progressive president, a judiciary remade under eight years of Trump, a Supreme Court not tempted to alter settled Second Amendment law and interpretation. 

A less toxic environment would be healthy overall.  It would expose the hardliners on both sides for what they are.  That would mean marginalizing right-wing loonie holdouts.  But it would also mean, as I pointed out in a previous post, shining a light on “liberal dogmatists who talk about guns because they don’t want to talk about inner city pathologies, deinstitutionalization or radical Islam.”

One can only hope that a rising generation might solve the gun problem from the center outward.  Pollitt may gripe that we remain a country with too many deplorables from which she is culturally alienated.  The NRA may find its membership drops and that is had less control over the terms of the debate.  But I don’t see the gun war subsiding until the culture war recedes, and we may be a crisis or two away from that happening.
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Earlier posts on guns and the Second Amendment here and here.
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Zero Days and Russian Meddling

Fenster writes:

If you haven’t seen Alex Gibney’s excellent 2016 documentary Zero Days you should.  If you have you will recall it recounts good, bad and ugly aspects of cyberwarfare as practiced by America on others, and the risks of it being practiced back on America by those we have attacked in the virtual world.  I think it has relevance to discussions today over weaponizing Facebook, Russian meddling, making life difficult for RT, and the like.

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Wonton Speculation

Fenster writes:

Citizenship increasingly resembles a night at the movies.  Better yet, an obscure foreign art film without subtitles.  Better yet, a foreign miniseries with multiple plot lines and seasons, each uncertain climax leading us not to clarity but to another season of confusion.  We poor schlubs are alternately entertained, horrified and mystified in search of the plot line and in the hope of a satisfactory conclusion.  “What the hell is going on?” is a better default attitude than reflexively rooting for a good guy.

What shall we make of the current tension between Russiagate and FISAgate?

My guess below, with implications for how the season may end.

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“Marjorie Prime”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Director Michael Almereyda often uses postmodern prickliness to bring us closer to his subjects. He courts obviousness, underlining his meanings so that we won’t miss them; yet his work has a quicksilver quality that belies its didacticism. It can sharpen your perceptions, bringing you to a state of pleasant cogitation that makes you feel as though you’ve retreated into your headspace. It helps that Almereyda is so attentive to mood and setting. In his 1994 “Nadja,” the atmosphere of ironic-posh alienation revealed the characters’ romanticism as a kind of protective garment — as ephemeral and as lovely as the shoegaze pop on the movie’s soundtrack. In 2015’s “Experimenter,” the shifting planes of the sets and narrative highlighted the way in which our sense of reality is inseparable from our manner of testing it. If we devote our lives to developing a theory of the world, at what point does the theory become the world, and the world change to conform to it?

In Almereyda’s latest, “Marjorie Prime,” adapted by the director from a play by Jordan Harrison, a family deals with the gradual loss of its members by replacing them with artificially intelligent holograms. In the opening scene, the aged Marjorie, played by Lois Smith, talks to a recreation of her dead husband, Walter. Portrayed by Jon Hamm, the hologram — it’s named Walter Prime — is half Marjorie’s age; it’s a representation of the handsome Walter of fifty years prior. So it’s no surprise that Marjorie looks at it with longing. But there’s a hint of the predatory there as well. For we gradually realize that this is Marjorie’s Walter; its consciousness exists for her benefit; she owns it. Even so, when she tells the faux Walter that she feels the need to perform for it, she’s being truthful: The hologram’s performance is drawn from her memories; without her input, it has nothing to work with, no material. In return the hologram engages in a performance of its own — a performance designed to seduce Marjorie. When it tells her a story, we understand that it’s reciting her cherished memories. In doing so it imbues them with a vividness that her failing mind won’t permit. Perhaps it even rewrites those memories. Like the two women in Bergman’s “Persona,” Marjorie and her electronic amanuensis constitute a feedback loop. Where does one personality end and the other begin?

Occasionally Almereyda opens up the play by inserting a flashback to the characters’ past lives. Since they’re unmediated — untainted by repetition and performance — they’re our only glimpses of the family’s actual history. In one such flashback, the youthful Marjorie canoodles in bed with Walter; the 1997 “My Best Friend’s Wedding” plays on a television. Walter proposes to Marjorie in a way that’s perhaps too casual. We immediately recognize that the flashback doesn’t jibe with Marjorie’s memory of the moment, as expressed by Walter Prime in the opening scene. In the memory the couple saw the movie in a grand theater. It was a big moment; there was nothing casual about it. Did the hologram invent this embellishment or did Marjorie? Either way, its extravagance has replaced the mundanity of the actual event — reordered it as a recording head reorders the particles on a magnetic tape. Now it’s the reality for Marjorie and hologram alike.

The plot of “Majorie Prime” is riddled with false memories, unfounded stories, and elisions. Late in the film, a story concerning one of Marjorie’s former suitors is revealed to be the partial invention of her daughter and son-in-law, Tess (Geena Davis) and Jon (Tim Robbins). In order to pad her ego they’ve given her the impression that she rejected a tennis pro; in reality, he was in the drywall business. Does a part of Marjorie recognize the tale as bunk? Smith’s performance, a diaphanous evocation of the cunning naivety of old age, suggests that possibility. On the other hand, Marjorie has heard the story so many times that it might as well be real; its telling has become a ritual with a value independent of veracity. Why contradict it? Though Jon calls the story a “harmless lie,” other fibs cut deeper. Over the course of the film we learn that as a young woman Marjorie lost her son, Damien. Though it was a defining moment, she’s suppressed her memory of it, a lie of omission in which the whole family is complicit. Is this lie also harmless? By forgetting Damien the family has attempted to erase him, but his specter persists; his absence is felt in the awkward shapes their conversations take as they talk around his existence. And the consciousness of this evasion has left a poisonous residue. “I hated him,” says Tess, without apparent guilt. In an act of transference as troubling as it is understandable, Marjorie has moved her memories of Damien onto the late family dog. She catches herself when she refers to its fur as “hair”; the shadow of a barely understood revulsion flits across her face.

It’s too simplistic to say that “Marjorie Prime” is about the fudginess of memory. Harrison and Almereyda are after something more elusive. They’re trying to pin down the subjectiveness of personality, of relationships, of communal narrative. Like the Primes (in addition to Walter, we meet electronic recreations of Marjorie and Tess), the movie’s viewers engage in an act of intuitive reconstruction. Presented with the chunks of a family’s history, we fill in the gaps between them, inevitably adding our own biases to the emerging model. Is this not how shared notions of history take form? That these notions contain inaccuracies is admitted by the movie’s writers through their inclusion of at least one historical red herring: The composer of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is not Mozart, as the characters of “Marjorie Prime” believe, but an unknown songwriter, a person whose name has failed to find a place in our collective memory. (Does that absence mean the composer never existed?) Being a movie buff, Almereyda can’t help but wink at the issue of unreliable memory via a film reference: A flashback scene depicting the first meeting of Tess and Jon takes place in a museum whose walls are painted to resemble the gardens in “Last Year at Marienbad.”

It’s to Almereyda’s credit that “Marjorie Prime” never feels like a puzzle movie. Its revelations are gradual rather than abrupt; even the deaths of major characters seem to register subconsciously, as though we’re remembering rather than experiencing them. Wisely, the chamber-drama structure has been taken as the basis for the film’s aesthetic; the nondescript domestic settings are as anodyne as the pacing, and Sean Price Williams’ diffuse lighting makes everything look a little transient, like a sunset. Almereyda and his team prove that philosophical sci-fi doesn’t require scale and showy ponderousness to put its points across. Despite its modesty, “Marjorie Prime” is sprightly, engaging, and profound; it expresses in 100 minutes what the handsomely catatonic “Blade Runner 2049” merely suggests in 160.

In the movie’s final scene the electronic shades of Walter, Marjorie, and Tess engage in a conversation. They trade tales, all derived from their now-deceased human subjects. Left without their fleshy reference points, sources of new material, will they eventually converge on a single consciousness, all of them repeating the same details of the same stories for eternity, or are they capable of improvising? Their discussion may provide a clue: In their retelling of Walter’s proposal to Marjorie, the movie they attend is not “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” but “Casablanca.”

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Reflections on the Russian Meddling

Fenster writes:

Let’s stipulate the meddling.  The amount spent was minuscule and the effort undertaken paltry. The only way it could have sown discord is if we did it to ourselves.

Maybe those evil Russkies are clever enough to know we would tie ourselves up in knots over some Facebook ads.  Maybe it was their strategy all along to count on a huge overreaction based on domestic political considerations. But what they actually did–as described in the actual documents, not as described on the evening news–is pretty thin gruel. You don’t have to defend the Russians or deny they were engaged in the common practice of meddling in the affairs of other countries to conclude that this has been overblown from the start.

But to indulge my pessimistic side for a minute, it could be that control of narrative is an essential feature of any large political entity, as important as establishment of systems of law, justice and policy. Our constitution explicitly deals with these last three systems by embodying them in the three branches of government and setting them apart from, and in tension with, one another. But our system leaves the media free, on paper.

Yet what if all effective public action is in the long run deeply tied to information, interpretation of information and, in turn, consensus and legitimacy? The press was free enough over our history but nonetheless had ties to the established order sufficient to allow us to cohere and for government action to be considered legitimate. Now comes the internet and social media. And the Establishment asks, perhaps quite reasonably from the point of view of regime management, “can we afford the unregulated spread of these destabilizing platforms?”  Beyond the overstated worry over throwing an election there are more legitimate concerns over the spread of counter-narratives that are false as well as counter-narratives (as with Wikileaks) that are true but are held to be detrimental to American interests, however those interests are defined by those in power.

So it may be all about Russia, Russia, Russia today but in the background is fear and dread over losing the historic ability to shape the narrative under our freedom of the press rules. In China and even in Europe they are coming at this question head-on by formally regulating social media and controlling speech. We are daintier about it here given our Constitution, history and traditions.

But we are at it in our own ways. In the US “private” internet companies practice shadowbanning and demonetization to suppress while the government screams “RUSSIA!!” It seems to me to be all part of the same thing. And who knows, if large political entities need to control narrative irrespective of whether they technically are supposed to have freedom of the press and freedom of speech then our technological future will be collective and not individualistic.

It is a little ironic that an Establishment that is so cavalier about the virtues of borderlessness should be so Pecksniffian about its own interests in the national project.  But as they say everyone is conservative about what they know best.

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Naked Lady of the Week: Gillian Duxbury

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

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Gillian Duxbury was a popular Page 3 girl of the ’70s who, based on the evidence of photos found on the internet, did a lot of out-of-the-way modeling work during her heyday. As a blonde she had a sunniness that wouldn’t have been out of place in a travel brochure, but when she posed for Penthouse she was a brunette and somewhat moody.

Her luscious eyes and prominent front teeth are pretty appealing.

Here’s a nice appreciation from one of her fans.

Here’s a small collection of pulp novels on which she appeared.

Nudity below. Have a great weekend.

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