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Bienvenue à nos lecteurs français: Lucire KSA now published in English and French

Filed by Jack Yan/September 16, 2021/5.41




Top and centre: Lucire KSA issue 31, in English and in French. Above: One of the articles in French inside the magazine.

I’m very grateful to the team at Lucire KSA, who have created the first Lucire in French this month. They had an opportunity to reach Francophone readers, and the first issue is now out in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
   We’re currently working with the crew there on the second issue, with our translators in Antibes, France and here in Wellington, New Zealand, and the hope is we’ll eventually craft some exclusive French content. As has been the case since earlier this year, the Lucire KSA team chooses their own covers to suit their market, and inside there’s the mix of fashion, beauty, travel, lifestyle and culture that readers have come to know and love.
   As a Francophone myself, I’m thoroughly impressed by the quality of translation for Lucire KSA’s September 2021 number, which has set a high standard for our team to meet for October, our anniversary month.
   My small contribution this month was that I proofed the September issue before it was completed, and contributed the French titles of a number of films. Reading Cahiers du cinéma and Première all those years ago paid off.
   What we may see from October 2021 are some of the French articles online, letting you choose which language you want to read it in. We’re having a look at the template now—after all, the current web one dates back to 2013, which is a long time in internet terms.
   It marks the fourth language for Lucire: English being the first, followed by Romanian, and two issues in Qatar in Arabic over a decade ago. We briefly experimented with a Chinese-language website, but as it had a single article, I don’t think I can count it in this tally.
   I want to thank publicly a few Francophone Wellingtonians: Carine Stewart, Sylvie Poupard-Gould, and Geneviève Rousseau Cung, all of whom have played a part in Lucire over the years, and whose actions led to us finding the translation team. As some of you know, Sylvie named Lucire in 1997—little did we know I would be writing this message 24 years later.
   It feels like another step forward for us, with our five editions: this, the original web one, our New Zealand print edition (which was our second), Lucire KSA, Lucire Rouge over in the US with Elyse Glickman and Jody Miller, and now Lucire KSA en français. I thank everyone for their support and initiative. En avant!—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


The Firebird a triumph for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Loughlin Prior

Filed by Jack Yan/July 29, 2021/14.49







Stephen A’Court

Every element came together for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Firebird

Loughlan Prior’s The Firebird is a triumph for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, one that raises Prior’s own high standards, perfectly suited to the strengths of the company and its regular collaborators.
   Its première at the Opera House in Wellington last night was paired with the classic Paquita, which opened the show. Each ballet is roughly an hour long, with a 20-minute interval in between.
   With the hour’s run time, this is the version of Paquita that’s more regularly seen today, comprising a single act, and letting the dancers shine. It has been staged by Michael Auer and RNZB artistic director Patricia Barker, with Laura McQueen Schultz as ballet master. The costumes by Donna Jeffris and Barker are sumptuous and in the Russian tradition, with a bright set designed by Howard C. Jones and lit by Jon Buswell. Because it has been reduced to the final act, the traditional narrative is gone, but it remains a ballet that demonstrates the skills of the dancers, and there is plenty of energy, thanks to Marcus Petipa’s choreography keeping audiences enthralled.
   Mayu Tanigaito, in the pas de trois on opening night, is one of the RNZB’s greatest assets today as her performance and skill continue to rise, while we also have to note Kirby Selchow’s solo, showing her control and strength. But it was over to Kate Kadow and Laurynas Véjalis to do the most complex moves in the ballet: Kadow spent large parts of the grand pas de deux en pointe, and she executed an impressive series of pirouettes as part of the grand pas variations in the finalé. Véjalis, meanwhile, is a powerful, graceful dancer whose made some impressive and technically difficult leaps.

continued below


Stephen A’Court

   As enjoyable as Paquita was, we weren’t prepared for the dramatic impact and choreographic quality of The Firebird. This is the fourth version of the Stravinsky ballet performed by the company, reimagined completely for the 2020s, and with a message that is directly relevant to audiences today.
   Prior has set his version of The Firebird in a dystopian wasteland, led by the tyrannical Burnt Mask (Paul Mathews, in an excellent turn as the antagonist). The Scavengers from the settlement head out in search of food and water, and it’s on the search that Arrow (Harrison James), left behind by the pack, encounters the Firebird (Ana Gallardo Lobaina).
   It’s a direct contrast to Paquita, with extensive use of animation and graphics by POW Studios’ Marie Silberstein and Tim Hamilton, while Tracy Grant Lord’s costumes and set design place audiences right into the desert of the wasteland. The Firebird’s flames are cleverly projected on her, bringing her powers to life; they have a natural, organic effect. The image of a burning orb is a motif here, signalling both fire and rebirth; NASA imagery of the sun served as an early inspiration. Buswell, here, too works his lighting magic to great effect, taking the colours from the animations and letting both performers and animations do their work. Every aspect came together perfectly with Igor Stravinsky’s score.
   The Firebird is great storytelling at its heart, an intense drama that held us spellbound, that the precise techniques and movements of the dancers served to enhance. Lobaina’s Firebird was largely en pointe as the mythical creature whose feathers could draw water; and with James’s Arrow there are romantic pas de deux moments that, with classical movements at the core, highlighted innovative approaches in Prior’s choreography.
   When the Firebird is brought by the Burnt Mask and his scavengers back to the settlement, there are suggestions of violence danced out on stage. Neve (Sara Garbowski), Arrow’s partner, and Elizaveta (Kirby Selchow), the Burnt Mask’s second in command, play their roles convincingly, especially the final confrontation between the Firebird and the principal antagonists. Here, Lobaina has a chance to shine as the Firebird regains her strength, portrayed by the addition of four ballerinos who add volume to her wings.
   Buswell very cleverly turns off the lights at The Firebird’s final moment, leaving things on a powerful high, and we were left breath-taken with the intensity of the one hour’s drama that had just unfolded.
   Prior wants to remind us that we are fortunate to live in the conditions on Earth that we currently do, and The Firebird is a warning of a world where things have gone drastically wrong for all life on the planet. We have a symbiosis with all earthly life, in which climate action and conservation must be at the fore of what we do. In the uncertain vacuum of a post-pandemic era, The Firebird suggests what could happen if no action is taken.
   No wonder there were members of the audience standing at the end, and numerous curtain calls for the dancers and the team. There is no exaggeration when we say, ‘If you can only see one ballet this year, make it The Firebird’—if we gave star ratings, this was a deserved 10 out of 10.—Jack Yan, Publisher

The Firebird with Paquita tours New Zealand from July 29 to September 2. It runs in Wellington till July 31 inclusive; then heads to Napier (August 6–7), Auckland (August 12–14), Dunedin (August 21), Christchurch (August 26–8), and Palmerston North (September 2). Tickets are available here.

 


Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Giselle revival has a fresh, youthful energy

Filed by Jack Yan/May 12, 2021/12.28





Stephen A’Court

Giselle has become one of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s signature productions since this version was conceived by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg in 2012, and each season—this is the third in New Zealand—brings with it a different energy, as well as newfound elements to enjoy. The cast changes this time bring with them a more youthful take, while the production values and design give Giselle a sense of depth and quality.
   Opening night’s Mayu Tanigaito, in the title role, is no stranger to Giselle, having taken the role in the 2016 season on occasion opposite Daniel Gaudiello, though that time Lucy Green and Qi Huan took the leads on opening night. Qi is still missed as one of the great ballerinos of the company, but in his place tonight, Laurynas Vėjalis has the required regal manner to carry out the role of Albrecht.
   Tanigaito is a seasoned dancer yet exudes a youthful quality as Giselle—a perfect casting—and her solo seeing her en pointe with a series of fouettés brought spontaneous applause from the audience at the Opera House in Wellington. Vėjalis and Tanigaito were convincing as young lovers in their pas de deux in the first act; Vėjalis’s solo is happy, upbeat and confident. It’s hats off to Paul Mathews who brought real energy to Hilarion, who is frustrated and hurt by Giselle’s love for Albrecht. Being a taller dancer than Vėjalis, and executing large moves on stage, you could feel Mathews’ Hilarion trying to demonstrate desperately his feelings for Giselle—and one would almost be forgiven for sympathizing with him, if his character hadn’t also brought out a knife at the first sign of feeling he had been jilted.
   We had seen Tanigaito perform the role of Myrtha, queen of the Wilis, in 2016, and it remains a role that has a dominant presence in Act II. Sara Garbowski’s solo at the start of the second act was a skilful and beautiful piece of classical ballet, and there is a beauty to the sight of the veiled Wilis, resplendent in tulle. It’s in this act that the principal roles really shine in this production: Hilarion is consumed by the forces of the Wilis and shows a vulnerable side, while Albrecht dances for his life more passionately than the assured aristocrat of the first act. This is a more touching, emotional act, performed successfully by the principal dancers.
   When you see the minor roles—such as the group of 12 Wilis—you realize that there is plenty of young talent in the company and its future seems assured.
   Special mention must be made once again to Howard C. Jones’s scenic design, and lighting design by Kendall Smith. Natalia Stewart’s costumes remain as exquisite as they did when we first viewed this ballet in 2012. Clytie Campbell, who herself had performed in Giselle in 2012, faithfully staged the revival with Stiefel and Kobborg’s supervision, as neither was able to travel to New Zealand.
   Hamish McKeich faultlessly conducted Adolphe Adam’s music, more than ably performed by Orchestra Wellington, who give the impression of a bigger score.
   After Wellington (May 12–15), Giselle heads to Palmerston North (May 19), Napier (May 22–3), Auckland (May 27–9), Christchurch (June 4–5) and Dunedin (June 9). Hamish McKeich conducts the Adolphe Adam score with Orchestra Wellington, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in those centres, with the Wellington recording used elsewhere. More details can be found here.Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher





Stephen A’Court

 


Kia launches flagship Sorento model with plug-in hybrid powertrain in New Zealand

Filed by Jack Yan/April 7, 2021/0.33

It seems to be the trajectory of brands such as Hyundai and Kia: offering ever more stylish, premium models on the basis that even people who indulge in luxury like value for money.
   Kia’s rise has been particularly marked after its appointment of Peter Schreyer as head of design, before being named one of the company’s three presidents. Schreyer worked his magic on the Audi TT, and he has been behind such hits as the original K5 (Optima in New Zealand) and Stinger.
   The latest Sorento benefits from similar design philosophies: whereas Japanese marques often veer toward either a domestic (e.g. Honda Civic) feel or a mid-Atlantic one, Kia looks west and bridges the gap between Korea and the occident. The Sorento is no exception and its latest entry, the Sorento PHEV Premium, blends the luxury appointments of the range’s flagship with a plug-in hybrid powertrain—not to mention all-wheel drive, seven-seat capacity, and 1,988 ℓ load space when the second and third rows are folded down.
   Its all-electric range is 57 km, and carbon emissions are at a low 36 g/km—thanks to its 13·8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack mated to a 1·6-litre turbocharged engine, developing 265 PS (195 kW) and 350 Nm of torque.
   There’s the trade-mark “tiger nose”, 19-inch machine-finished alloys, and a premium cabin that’s marked by two digital displays (12·3 inches ahead of the driver, 10¼ inches for the central infotainment screen), and includes a panoramic sunroof, a wireless smartphone charger and a Bose 12-speaker surround-sound system. The power leather seats are 14-way for the driver, with four-way lumbar support and cushion extension, while the front passenger gets a 10-way. You can expect the usual conveniences for a premium model: lane-keep and lane-follow assist, smart cruise control, sat-nav and life traffic updates, and seven USB charging ports.
   Warranty is for four years’ or 40,000 km scheduled servicing for the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, complementing a standard five-year warranty and five-year roadside assistance (unlimited kilometres) plan.
   This premium machine retails in New Zealand for NZ$89,990 plus on-road costs.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


The Outlierman commemorates 60 years of the Jaguar E-type with luxury fashion accessories

Filed by Jack Yan/March 25, 2021/11.21





Andrea Mazzuca, co-founder of the Outlierman, is a huge motoring enthusiast, so it’s no surprise his company was going to let the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type, one of the British marque’s most iconic models, pass unnoticed. The Outlierman has released a range of accessories commemorating the anniversary, with scarves, T-shirts, pocket squares and silk ties, all handmade in Italy by its skilled artisans.
   As profiled by us last year, the Outlierman’s luxury driving accessories are made by artisans whose world-class quality suits the most discerning customers—and who has managed to attract Bentley and Pagani as exclusive partners.
   Mazzuca notes, ‘The Jaguar E-type is one of my most favourite cars—the elegance, style and panache are all unrivalled. It’s a car I’ve loved ever since I was a child so naturally, to celebrate the 60th anniversary, I knew the Outlierman had to pay tribute in the only way we knew best—by producing the E-type’s very own collection.’
   In addition, the Outlierman has a Rent & Drive service, which has a classic car fleet comprising two Jaguar E-types. But if they’re not your cup of tea, there’s a 1956 W154 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, a.k.a. the Gullwing, a 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder, a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, and a 1957 Ferrari 250 GT California short-wheelbase Spyder. Rates-wise, the E-types are bargains, with both a Series I and a Series III on offer.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


After the events of January 6, Emily Ratajkowski and others point to the real dangers

Filed by Jack Yan/January 8, 2021/12.53


Inez & Vinoodh/Kérastase

Above: Emily Ratajkowski (centre) in a new promotion for Kérastase, as promoted on her Instagram. But it’s what she wrote on Twitter that’s far more on point with the events of January 6 in the US.

When you have US friends on all sides of the political spectrum—greens, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians—you tend to get a reasonable idea of who they are, rather be trapped in the bubbles that Big Tech keep you in, to give you a false sense of your own righteousness. It’s never been healthy to be so entrenched in your own viewpoints that you can’t entertain another’s, yet our reliance on technology has done just that, as Big Tech platforms seek to occupy our attention, and to do that, they feed us what will increase it. That means telling us we’re right and the other side is wrong, and feeding extreme versions (including lies) of how the other side is wrong, so we’re more outraged, and spend still more time with them on Facebook, YouTube, and wherever else we might wander.
   So while it’s easy to be up in arms about some of the facts from the Washington, DC insurgency by supporters of President Donald Trump—the flying of a Confederate flag on Capitol Hill, which no one achieved during their civil war; the first time anyone managed to storm the place since the British in 1814; or the tragedy of five deaths—the big story is in Big Tech and how it decides to shut someone down when it feels like it. These companies, who pay little tax in their own countries, who are generally unanswerable to laws and happily pay fines that amount to mere hours of earnings, yield a power that any “side” in a political debate should be wary of.
   In the cases of Facebook and Twitter, both are culpable and moved only to save their own arses: had they applied their own terms and conditions evenly to all users, then President Trump’s use of the platforms would have been moderated through the years; or he may well have found himself on the wrong side of the rules and saw his account terminated long ago. Facebook, in particular, has had a record of not moving till public outcry reaches fever pitch, and its moves to ban Trump from using the platform must be seen in that context. The statements from these platforms struck me as insincere and reactionary, especially as both have taken down accounts for doing absolutely nothing at all, while others have been removed from bucking orthodoxy—for instance, I can think of a grandmother in Finland who was consistently anti-war, who fell foul of Twitter’s whims.
   The web’s original great promise was the even playing field: that we could all benefit equally on there, and that we finally had a truly meritorious medium. Yet that has been steadily eroded over the years by the dominant players seeking to cement their positions. They know they are monopolies, or at best oligopolies. As far as we can tell, Google’s news results favour corporate media over independents. They have each created an uneven culture, where indulging those in power, political or commercial, has become the norm.
   The EU has successfully sued Google over biases in its results. This, teamed with the bubbles, have taken us further away from the promise of the web, as barriers to entry rise, and as it becomes harder to create challengers to the monopolies.
   I have long maintained that people in the US have common enemies, rather than each other. Listen to them and you’ll find the themes are common: stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, the vanishing middle class, corrupt politicians who do the bidding of donors rather than the people, and unbridled corporate power. I touched upon these in my podcast on September 11, 2020; and my blog has a related post dating back to 2014. Even here in Lucire I published an op-ed in 2017.
   Of course one should condemn violence and I admit I felt relieved when Trump was silenced, albeit temporarily, on Twitter, since friends have been banned, suspended or shadow-banned for far less. I thought: finally, they’re enforcing their own rules evenly. What he wrote must be a breach of their terms and conditions. But after some reflection, this isn’t the whole story. Those T&Cs have meant little because they were never applied evenly. These platforms go with the flavour of the month, and while many might cheer on these developments, they may think twice when the sword is pointed their way.
   In 2018, The Anti-Media had their Facebook and Twitter accounts deleted in coordinated fashion. Some of their contributors found their presences gone, without explanation. The Anti-Media Radio account was deleted because of ‘multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules’, yet had never Tweeted.
   I seldom criticize Chinese platforms such as Weibo even though they are monitored and censored by the régime in Beijing. But Weibo’s terms say as much when they tell you what legislation will come into play, which is far more honest an approach. Free speech, after all, doesn’t mean platforms must host what we say, or publishers must publish what we write, and as long as I know where the boundaries lie, I’ll aim not to cross them. If I wish to cross them, I will do so in my own spaces.
   Big Tech in the US, however, is different, because the terms don’t marry up with the reality. And when rules are applied unevenly, just as when laws are applied unevenly (US police actions toward whites versus blacks, for instance), we cannot trust what the powers-that-be might do.
   Emily Ratajkowski, who has regularly proved more insightful than many wish to give her credit for, Tweeted along these lines in the wake of the Washington, DC riots yesterday.
   ‘Anyone else feel like proper amount of capital police being absent/letting Trump people in/providing insane visuals of MAGA dudes on the floor of the house was wildly convenient to justifying big tech’s rollout of censorship?’ she wrote. She followed this with: ‘I’m saying it’s very convenient to justify taking away more rights & privacy’ and ‘This gives Facebook/tech/Zuck THE MOST POWER. If he can shut the president up/off he can shut any of us up/off’.
   Her other words: ‘My concern is that this gives big tech the opportunity to shut down “leftist extremists” who are important political organizers.’ And, in one response, ‘And before tech leftists were being blacklisted by other means. People responding to my tweet somehow do not understand what license this gives big tech to continue to do so this time with people cheering. Patriot act 2.0?’
   At no point is she cheering on violence, or agreeing with the MAGA movement, but she paints a chilling picture. Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced? All I am advocating for is fairness, and I believe that Ratajkowski is, too. It’s something we’ve not seen.
   Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who unlike so much of the US media plays no favourites, Tweeted a few hours after Ratajkowski: ‘A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal.
   ‘Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak …
   ‘This is particularly menacing because they’re not just like any other companies with competitors. A Democratic-controlled House sub-committee three months ago definitively concluded that 4 of them – FB, Amazon, Google and Apple – are classic monopolies.
   ‘Demands that Silicon Valley censor more were already rapidly escalating. After yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus. Look for way more.
   ‘As I wrote today, it’s very redolent of post-9/11 calls for censorship.’
   Edward Snowden, meanwhile, Tweeted, ‘For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech.’
   I have to concur. By all means, have terms and conditions—but have them apply to all. And if you’re going to indulge one to a certain level, you must indulge us all to the same. What happened on January 6 were unilateral exercises by platforms that have allowed one party to violate their own terms and conditions for years, only for them to have a change of heart brought upon by public pressure.
   What’s worse is that the uneven playing field that they have created was motivated by greed. Twitter was at least frank enough to admit that Trump was given a free pass for years, with his newsworthiness their excuse. But they all knew, just as the US media did when all of them—from MSNBC through to the Murdoch Press—that his content was good for their business because it meant attention.
   Fuelling it was in their best interests. An internal Facebook report revealed that 64 per cent of the time someone joins an extremist Facebook group, they have done so because it was recommended to them by the algorithm. This is no accident. Roger McNamee goes one further when he points out in Wired: ‘Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people.’ Remember that the same argument must apply to leftist extremists, too.
   He continues, ‘Congress and law enforcement must decide what to do about the unprecedented insurrection in Washington. President Trump and elements of the right-wing media must pay. So, too, must internet platforms. They have prioritized their own profits and prerogatives over democracy and the public health and safety of the people who use their products.’
   The solutions are numerous, but among them must be the enforcement of antitrust laws as they were originally intended to be used, not what they became over the last three decades. The US Justice Department is pursuing this.
   Secondly, the intentional design of these platforms to bubble, radicalize and incite needs to stop, and individual nations’ legislatures could go some way to enacting laws to force it. Let them serve people and society, which is what technology should do—people should not be bending to the technology. Allow us to find alternative viewpoints with “the other side” if we are truly to understand and engage with one another.
   Thirdly, when these platforms lie, they should be punished, but with penalties that fit the crime. Fining Google four hours’ earnings after hacking a setting on Iphones is hardly a punishment, for instance. Lying has become a regular practice in some US businesses because we all know that Big Tech has done so with impunity.
   These alterations won’t suddenly make Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and the others poor, either. Their owners will still be worth myriads of millions of dollars, but at least people’s lives won’t be threatened to the same extent. While some are blaming Trump for the five deaths on the Capitol Hill insurrection, Big Tech platforms were the ones that helped bring the mob there, just as YouTube recommended conspiracy videos, or Facebook incited genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The US might still be more a democracy rather than an anocracy if not for Big Tech’s greed over the last 20 or so years.
   There’s no left or right to this. And when those divisions are removed, when the bubbles are popped, we might just see where the real obstacles in society lie—corruption, tax-dodging, monopoly power, environmental harm—rather than each other.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


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