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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

 


Future imperfect

Filed by Jack Yan/December 15, 2020/10.59




Adi Constantin/Unsplash

Above, from top: The real 2015 and one photo that summarizes the decade: Kendall and Kylie Jenner go shopping for Ugg shoes in New York, and take a selfie. The 2015 of fiction: Michael J. Fox outside a cinema in Back to the Future Part II (1989). Still from Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, set in a Los Angeles of 2019, in some ways mirrored more by the metropolises of China. Unpredictable to most: few in the 20th century, with perhaps the exception of Norman Macrae, foresaw the rise of China to this extent—Shanghai’s cityscape could have been the stuff of science fiction 30 years ago. Below right: Twins Alan and Alex Stokes with another TikTok video.

Travel editor Stanley Moss sent me a news item on twin brothers who staged a mock bank robbery on public streets for their social media accounts. The brothers, Alan and Alex Stokes, have nearly 28 million followers on TikTok, and over 5½ million on YouTube. One prank saw an Über driver, not involved with them, held at gunpoint by police. Now, Orange County, California district attorney Todd Spitzer says the brothers could face criminal charges for putting the public and the police in danger.
   While social media have done a lot of good, there are those who take things to an unhealthy extreme for the sake of an audience. Once upon a time, there would be a controlled set and paid actors, but the Stokes brothers decided to do their stunts in the real world.
   They’re not alone in doing outrageous things for an audience, and this isn’t a piece about the decline or the dangers of social media influencers, a topic that Lucire has covered for some time. It’s whether this environment—the incident took place in 2019—could have been something that any of us foresaw in earlier times.
   People are notoriously bad at predicting decades into the future. This magazine has attempted to look a few months forward, such as our recent story about what a post-COVID world might look like, with China as an example (Lucire issue 42; Lucire KSA September 2020). However, once we begin looking at years and decades things look fuzzier.
   The twins’ pranks could have been foreseen mid-decade: people have been seeking attention for social media since they became the norm, and those who potentially make a living from it—with 28 million followers it’s likely that they do—might wish to see just how far boundaries could be pushed. In societies which are less outwardly focused, it is possible that they did not consider the consequences or the harm to others.
   But could this world have been foreseen in, say, 2010? Or 2000? A glance back through our culture shows predictions of our time looking very different the further back you go.
   In Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott foresaw a crowded technological world where androids (‘replicants’) walk among humans. Set in 2019, Scott’s vision is dystopian, with human colonies on other planets, flying cars, and overcrowding. The last point is probably accurate in terms of our global population; Scott envisaged skyscrapers and street scenes devoid of natural light. Down on the streets of his 2019 Los Angeles is a mixture of cultures, with English used alongside other languages. Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a dirty place, with lots of old stuff that lacks the sheen of the latest signage and advertisements, just as our urban world is today. Science fiction films often make the mistake of giving everything a modern, new sheen, but "blanket newness" doesn’t ever exist in real life: visual futurist and conceptual artist Syd Mead understood this well.
   The protagonist in the film, Deckard, is disenchanted with the technologist society that places little emphasis on human emotion; in some ways it illustrates how humans have become slaves to technology rather than having technology improve their lives. Memories can be implanted into replicants; today one supposes that editing photos on social media paint an idealistic and not always real story about our humanity. Once upon a time a photo album was private, with stories attached to them; today social media and online photos are often offered without explanation, to show one side of life—no wonder studies reveal that social media can make some people more depressed as they gaze at their friends’ seemingly perfect existences.
   Blade Runner might not look like 2019, nor was it right on androids and planetary colonization, but in many ways Scott identified the themes that make humans lonely because of technology.
   Later in the 1980s, Back to the Future Part II (1989) also had flying cars in its world of 2015. Robert Zemeckis, the director and co-writer of the film, said that the future could not be predicted so he and Bob Gale, who co-wrote, decided to have fun with it. Their 2015 is an intentional parody: an antagonist with microchip implants in his brain, hover boards, which are wheel-less skateboards that defy gravity, and a nostalgic hangout for young people called Café ’80s. In the cinema yet another Jaws sequel played, with a holographic projection coming out into the street as part of its promotion. Light switches at home are voice-activated, while what was once a posh neighbourhood was, in 2015, considered a lower-class area. Faxes hung on walls while videophones and multiple tv screens on a wall were part of the 2015 household.
   There’s less cerebral thinking here as it’s played for laughs, though video calls and voice activation are reasonably on the mark, as is the theme of urban decay. It’s not unusual to see a society nostalgic for the past—in fashion we saw our share of 1980s, even 1990s, revivals during the 2010s. An obsession with screens, as the teenage Marty McFly, Jr has in 2015, is accurate, even if those screens weren’t all on the wall, but hand-held.
   Wim Wenders’ 1991 film Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World) only had to go as far as 1999, and is more accurate what it predicted: a highly digital society, with hand-held assistants, search engines, and consumer GPS. Wenders foresaw a commercialized East Berlin—a reasonable prediction given the Wall had recently come down—and a San Francisco with a massive income disparity. However, the new invention where brainwaves can be read and dreams can be turned into digital images remains the realm of science fiction. Its main character, Claire, lives an empty life of endless parties before she decides to return to Europe to spend time with friends.
   The films are correct in some respects, illustrating that the human condition hasn’t changed much: it’s always possible to feel lonely and outcast from the world, and it is up to the filmmaker to identify causes. A designer must make similar predictions if a collection or a product is to be a hit: what is it about the human condition in the coming year that we expect to be highlighted? As we stand on the verge of 2021, is it a sense of optimism, that things will get better now that two companies have announced COVID-19 vaccines? Or is it a sense of caution? And how are these expressed? Those that somehow address human feelings, no matter how they are expressed, tend to do better than high concepts that are divorced from what people are going through.
   Some of it will come down to instinct—what are termed intuitive predictions. The more experience one has, the better the prediction one might make. Students of history are often well equipped to look into the future based on their knowledge of the past; our older citizens may well have witnessed phenomena similar to what they see today.
   Statistical predictions, meanwhile, rely on data and algorithms, and the more data one has, and the more reliable they are, the better the prediction. Factor in external events and their impact. Meteorologists rely on these for their forecasts, and designers might be in a position to do the same.
   One individual who had a better record than most was the former deputy chief editor of The Economist, Norman Macrae. He foresaw the rise of China, the ubiquity of the internet, and growing income inequality decades before they hit, all through hard, economic analysis.
   Norman Macrae is an anomaly in how accurate he was, as it is rare to allow for those external events accurately. The further out your prediction is going to be, the more external events you face, with increasing potential to render them inaccurate—just as we had with Blade Runner. Its sequel, naturally, had to take place in 2049 for the world it created to remain just out of reach of us.
   And while some events are cyclical, it can be tricky predicting just how long that cycle is. Economics is one field where smarter practitioners could work it out, but lay people might not see the cycles when they are living it.
   The 1980s were regarded by marketers as a "me decade": in the west this was fuelled by consumerism and free-market ideologies, but more than one author then predicted that the 1990s would be more a "we decade", more caring and more collective. It didn’t happen: the cycle was far longer than any of them expected, to the point where we have just been through a selfie decade aided by cellphones whose forward-facing cameras are often better than the backward-facing ones.
   The decade we have left behind was one that might be remembered for the Kardashians, who shot to fame precisely because the sight of self-indulgent celebrities caught the Zeitgeist. Many a successful Instagram account, especially in the modelling and glamour modelling fields, are founded on selfies, as everyone wants to be seen to be living their glamorous best. The Stokes twins took this to the next, dangerous, and selfish level, in a country that seems to encourage it.
   In 2021, it might be fair to ask if “weism” has finally arrived. Countries that have managed to push the COVID-19 curve down—e.g. China, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia—have done so with an eye on the collective good, demonstrating that we are stronger together. Have we tired of selfies? Certainly Facebook and Instagram engagement continues to fall each year. TikTok may be on the rise because of its novelty, but are enough of us now beginning to enjoy what nature has for us that we can put down the phones?
   In earlier issues (see Lucire KSA June 2020) we covered how some of nature has returned because of our lockdowns, and it seems the countries that respect nature more are the ones who have come out the other side more quickly.
   That’s perhaps an easy one to forecast. But it will still depend on how we see the human experience—just what mood will we, as people, possess in the year ahead.
   Additionally, Simon Sinek, in his book The Infinite Game, believes that having a just cause can overcome those unexpected external factors. It isn’t about having a finite position in the future, or some defined endgame; instead, it’s about understanding what you stand for and nurturing that for the long term. Here at Lucire, for instance, we have never stopped looking to the whole world for our stories, in the belief that the world can come together if we are exposed to more of it. We believe our readers are intelligent, hence we run stories like this: we are not in the business of dumbing down, and never have been. The quest for knowledge—the human thirst for it, and to gain an advantage as evolution would have us do—is part of the condition that doesn’t go away. And in the 2020s, we’re hoping people might want to pursue depth again, coming out of the selfie and Kardashian decade.
   Those that remained sure of their purpose through COVID-19 in 2020 have probably endured without facing some crisis over what they stand for. That’s ultimately what we have to create: a sense of purpose within us. We can look to the future as much as we like, and we can make an educated guess about what people will be going through, but the most sure thing is what we can do about ourselves.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Two ends of the spectrum: Citroën’s facelifted C3; GMSV releases Chevrolet Silverado in RHD

Filed by Jack Yan/November 11, 2020/11.41


Two motoring releases are taking place in New Zealand this week: the first was the facelifted Citroën C3, a B-segment car that we really rate. The C3, which was first released in 2016, gets a slightly more aggressive nose, tying it in with larger models in the Citroën range. We suspect it’ll drive largely the same, which means light steering, easy manœuvrability, and reasonably good visibility (especially given today’s trend of silo-like cabins). We enjoyed the 1·2-litre triple, which the C3 retains in petrol guise here. However, Citroën tells us that there are new Advanced Comfort seats with lumbar support padding and driver’s arm reset, and more safety gear.
   It’s a sensible car in uncertain times, especially with petrol continuing to hover around the NZ$2 per litre mark—for our US readers I recently converted it to over US$5 a gallon. Lucire had the pre-facelift C3 around Auckland not too long ago and it especially made sense in urban areas. Will it do well? That’s the catch: it should, but you have to wonder about buyers as yet another crossover, with all the fuel it will consume over a comparably sized car, leaves a dealer’s forecourt.
   I must be missing something as I don’t think five bucks a gallon is cheap, unlike those who have made the Ford Ranger the nation’s top selling vehicle. Or those who have made the Toyota Hilux our number two.
   In such an environment—and I used that noun intentionally—maybe GM Special Vehicles’ Chevrolet Silverado 1500 will make perfect sense to Kiwi buyers who believe trucks are the in thing, and size is king. If everyone else is finding petrol cheap, then who am I to argue?
   The biggest pick-up truck to be sold in the country, by what’s left of General Motors down here, will be just the ticket for those who like the sound of a 6·2-litre V8 hauling around 5,000 lb (2,268 kg). Sure, I know some of you will need the 4·5-tonne towing capacity, but I’m betting more will be swayed by all the chrome and a cabin that boasts the best-in-class front head- and legroom. GMSV points out there are 31 inches of displays: digital dash, infotainment, and head-up.
   A plus for Kiwis is the fact the Silverado is here with right-hand drive, converted in Australia by Walkinshaw Automotive Group.
   What’s the bet that a lot of these Silverados are going to be sparkling clean, barely going near a payload?
   We admit we enjoyed the Holden Trailblazer when it was on test with us, for being an honest workhorse, and maybe the Silverado falls into that category. Holden’s top model last year was the Colorado, the country’s sixth best seller, in a country where pick-ups are the second-biggest segment (after 4×4 mid-sized SUVs).
   However, it’s hard not to be a little cynical in the wake of GM’s withdrawal from our market despite having the most competitive range in years—only to tell us that they pin their future on a truck more than twice the weight of the C3. Maybe the Ranger posers will have something to aspire to, no matter how often this magazine leans toward sustainability. Find your dealer at www.gmspecialtyvehicles.com.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


Personal thoughts on the passing of Sir Sean Connery, 1930–2020

Filed by Jack Yan/October 31, 2020/20.52


Danjaq SA/United Artists

The iconic image of Sean Connery and the Aston Martin DB5 in a publicity still from Goldfinger.

Many movie fans were greeted with sad news with the passing of Sir Sean Connery at 90 in the Bahamas.
   Sir Sean had been unwell for some time, according to his son Jason, and died in his sleep.
   Most moviegoers will remember him for his role as the first big-screen James Bond, but it was decades later in The Untouchables where he received his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
   Talking to other movie fans today, his work in The Hunt for Red October, Highlander and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was highlighted.
   One fan, in particular, relayed to me that Connery’s work played a part in her growing up, and despite his distasteful public comments about spousal abuse and violence toward women—both in the 1960s and 1980s—it was still with a tinge of sadness to note his passing.
   His first wife, Diane Cilento, confirmed Connery’s behaviour.
   It is perhaps only fair to mention it; some find it unforgiveable to do so in the wake of a person’s passing, while others who feel that violence needs to be called out ask: if not now, then when?
   His professional life was less open to criticism, an actor who became a superstar while still able to do solid character work.
   I often joked that Connery’s career could be summed up in four lines: ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’; ‘There can be only one’; ‘We sail into history’; and ‘You’re the man now, dog!’, the last from Finding Forrester.
   As someone who missed out on the 1960s, my introduction to Connery was still through Bond—in 1983 he returned to star in a remake of Thunderball, the unofficial Never Say Never Again. I opted to pay to see Octopussy though during the “battle of the Bonds” that year, and it would be a few years later, on a rented video cassette, that I caught up. The rest I caught out of order, also on cassette: Diamonds Are Forever was next, followed by Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.
   It was my parents’ insistence initially that Connery was the best actor to play the role of James Bond that made me want to see the rest of them. They courted by going to the Bonds, including double-bills that combined two earlier films.
   Eventually, I saw the rest of the Bonds starring Connery, then saw them again in order to observe his career progress.
   It was natural for James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to release a statement today—after all, they might not be in the Bond movie business if this rough diamond of an actor hadn’t originated the role as Ian Fleming’s super-spy, and paved the way for all the actors who followed.
   ‘We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words—“The name’s Bond … James Bond”—he revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him,’ they said.
   Never mind Connery never actually said, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ (look back—Roger Moore was the first to say these exact words in A View to a Kill; Connery said the simpler ‘Bond, James Bond’ in Dr No, and ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’ in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever), their quote is otherwise on the money. It would be hard to imagine Cary Grant, James Mason or Richard Burton in the role.
   And it was because of this role that I wanted to see Connery in others, from pre-Bond outings in The Longest Day and Darby O’Gill and the Little People, to post-Bond work in Meteor, Outland, Highlander and The Presidio.
   What I saw was an actor who matured in his confidence and capability, and I don’t think at any time he “phoned in” a performance.
   It didn’t matter that the Spaniard in Highlander or the Irishman in The Untouchables had a Scots accent: Connery’s presence made you forget such details.
   He was a delight in the big-screen adaptation of The Avengers, as Sir August de Wynter, and I would say that his presence made the film. (I’m also in the minority when I say I rather enjoyed it, with Connery being a big reason.)
   In Jon Amiel’s Entrapment, made just before the millennium—and using Y2K as a plot device—Connery showed that he could still lead an actioner.
   It was a shame that his last big on-screen role was in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a filming experience he was not thrilled about. His last role that I caught was another disappointment for me: a voice role in the animated Sir Billi.
   But that is the life of an actor: you can’t choose great films all the time. And when someone is part of your cinemagoing for three decades, you think of the joy he brought.
   He was a proud Scot, and donated his entire US$1·2 million fee (a record in the early 1970s) from Diamonds Are Forever to kick off the Scottish International Educational Trust, which he founded, to help young Scots of exceptional ability.
   He knew what it was like to come from humble beginnings and saw the value of education, hence his interest in the Trust. He also believed in a Scottish parliament, and pushed for it, addressing the first session after its reconvening in 1999. He was knighted in 2000.
   It was a few years after that, at a conference where he was used as an example, that a colleague brought up his record about his private life, something that was disappointing.
   We did find ourselves in the same city once—Sir Sean had holdings in radio in New Zealand—and I learned I visited one station hours after he did. My mischievous side was tempted to make a crank call in his voice—I was asked to do an impersonation for the local Scottish Association, for their automated phone service, so I imagine it wasn’t too awful—but thought better of it. Despite all the celebrity interviews over the years, Sir Sean was retired by the time I could have interviewed him, and we never crossed paths. Like most of you, I was an admirer who saw the man on the silver screen, and what a career he had there.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


A welcome return to the ballet, with RNZB’s The Sleeping Beauty

Filed by Jack Yan/October 29, 2020/12.34





Stephen a’Court

Top: Kate Kadow as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Above: Kate Kadow and Laurynas Vejalis as Prince Désiré. Kirby Selchow as Carabosse and Sara Garbowski as the Lilac Fairy. Kirby Selchow. Kirby Selchow and Clytie Campbell as the Queen.

How fortunate we are in Aotearoa New Zealand to be able to attend events while the world battles a pandemic, and judging by the opening night of The Sleeping Beauty at the Opera House in Wellington, audiences were more than ready to be entertained by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
   It was a wise decision to put on a classical ballet for the end of the year, with choreography after Marius Petipa and staged by the RNZB’s artistic director Patricia Barker, with the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky score performed by Orchestra Wellington, conducted by Hamish McKeich. This was a safe bet that would bring audiences in, and what better in 2020 than a sense of the familiar, performed by some new faces in prominent roles, and an energetic company that has been all too ready to show the country—and the world—what it has to offer.
   This was the first time Lucire has seen Kate Kadow in a lead role, that of Princess Aurora. Kadow had plenty of difficult manœuvres to perform, and had to be present from Act I (or Chapter Two, as listed in the programme) through to the end. A challenging pas d’action at the end of Act I—the Rose Adagio—saw Kadow en pointe for a particularly lengthy period. This is a famous pas d’action, which Kadow carried out well, and deservedly earned a round of applause. She had similar, if not as lengthy, en pointe balances in other parts of the ballet. One hopes we will see more of this experienced American-born dancer in prominent roles with this company.
   Kirby Selchow relished the role of Carabosse, and reminded us just why so many actors—and dancers, for that matter—like the role of the villain. Audiences do take to them, and without spoiling it with specifics, her entrance was one of the grander and more entertaining ones for any baddie of late.
   Sara Garbowski, as the Lilac Fairy, might be the one to watch—though it should be mentioned that the role has been a prominent one for some time, in some cases more so than Aurora’s. It’s the Lilac Fairy that has to countermand Carabosse’s spell, and she is present from the prologue through to the end.
   Prince Désiré, performed by Lithuanian-born Laurynas Véjalis, had a wonderful grand pas de deux with Kadow in the final wedding scene, with some technically tricky steps. He made holding Kadow in his arms look effortless despite the technical difficulty and strength required.
   This was a family ballet, with any scenes that might disturb children completely toned down: Désiré’s battles with Carabosse’s minions in the forest are done with plenty of dry ice on stage, and the villains are dispatched quickly; and we must also say that the awakening of Aurora was innocently done.
   Humorous moments for the children, bearing in mind this is a two-hour, 45-minute production, include the pas de deux between Puss in Boots and the White Cat (Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson and Leonora Voigtländer respectively). And it’s always a good lesson to not go for the bad boy, as Aurora does with the Rose Adage.
   Ballet masters Clytie Campbell, Laura McQueen Schultz and Nick Schultz assisted Barker in staging the ballet, and Michael Auer served as dramaturge.
   Donna Jeffris’s costumes were a stand-out, particularly the Queen’s sparkling gown and the use of tulle; meanwhile her work for Carabosse had a dose of drama and darkness, while Morfran’s epaulettes hinted at a certain army that terrorized Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
   As usual, the scenic design, by Howard C. Jones, is of a particularly high standard, including the use of digital elements on a screen, such as growing vines around trees during the 100 years Aurora is asleep. Jones worked on the RNZB’s much acclaimed Giselle.
   Jones’s design also saw the use of Bodoni display type at the beginning of each chapter, explaining, in poem form, what lay ahead, making the ballet accessible to younger audience members.
   A technical glitch on opening night did see the type fail to display for the prologue, necessitating a restart with the overture performed again—the sort of minor thing that is easily forgivable after nearly a year without a ballet to attend. In fact, the audience applauded to show their understanding and appreciation.
   The child performers in the ballet added to the family touch, and their role in the garland dance was particularly well choreographed and danced.
   The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Sleeping Beauty runs from October 29 through December 12, touring nationally. Further details can be found at the RNZB website.Jack Yan, Publisher


Ross Brown

Above: Kate Kadow as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

 


Cover design notes on our 23rd birthday

Filed by Jack Yan/October 20, 2020/10.25

We’ve happily been able to add a few more covers to the montage we published last year on the occasion of our 22nd anniversary. Now 23, we thought an update was in order, and we’ve included our latest issue, which you can order now.
   The story of Lucire’s founding has been covered elsewhere, during more appropriate anniversary numbers.
   Here we’ll just remark at how much has changed design-wise since we went into print seven years after our founding. Some of the early issues have dated; and even if we look at the turn of the decade, heading into the mid-2010s, our layout ideas have aged. This is despite a very earnest effort to make a magazine look “timeless”, an impossible task because one is always affected unconsciously by the trends and moods around us. The photography from this period, interestingly, has stood the test of time far better, which makes us wonder if there has really been that much progress out there.
   Right now, with bandwidth so readily available, we are getting more images than ever to accompany fairly innocent stories, making it tempting to use as much of them as possible. More cramped, less airy layouts are the result, and even though we observe a grid, we’ve definitely been trying to give more bang for the buck on every page. Technology so often drives changes in approach and in design.
   Maybe the new decade will force us to rethink this as people want calmer, more relaxed existences to counter the added stresses of work; whatever the case, we’ll continue to strive to present the best and most informative fashion magazine that we can. We thank our amazing team for creating so much beauty on every level, and we thank our readers for over two decades’ worth of support.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher


Jon Moe

Claudia Goetzelmann

Sixteen years separate these two. The commitment to quality and providing an intelligent read has not changed. Coincidentally, both were shot in California, and the older issue has that state’s current First Lady on the cover

 


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