Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"There’s some precedent for a company trying a 'fake news' joke. In 2018, the food chain IHOP briefly tried to convince consumer it was exchanging the 'P' in its name to 'B,' trading pancakes for burgers."

"[Volkswagen spokesman Mark] Gillies, after presenting the false information the day before, came clean on Tuesday... '[W]e didn’t mean to mislead anyone. The whole thing is just a marketing action to get people talking' about its new car model." 

From "An unwelcome prank: Volkswagen purposely hoodwinks reporters" (AP).

VW must have thought that it's so clearly not true that the longstanding brand name Volkswagen of America would be changed to "Voltswagen of America" that it would work as an Onion-style headline, funnier because it looks like real news. 

But the Associated Press, USA Today, CNBC, and the Washington Post all took it seriously and reported it as news. And some of them are now acting outraged. E.g.: "This was not a joke. It was deception. In case you haven’t noticed, we have a misinformation problem in this country. Now you’re part of it. Why should anyone trust you again?"

"It's March 2021, and I'm looking back on this comments thread about drawings from Van Gogh Museum. It's so weird to see the one commenter breaking in..."

"... with the emergency news that Peter Jennings has died and I must get right on it," I write in the comments to a post I put in 2005

We were talking about a post that had my ink drawings of Van Gogh and of a museum guard yelling at a baby who'd sat down on the ledge that is there to keep people from standing to close to the paintings, and of the baby muttering "Bummer, bummer, bummer." 

I thought that was pretty amusing, but the commenter was all: "Ann, if you're still up, Peter Jennings' death was just announced 15 mins ago. I have a link in my blog, but so far, only lgf have the story. Since you're doing Glenn's blog this week, it seems you're going to be doing extra-duty on the obit watch -- they'll start to pour any second."

The notion that I'm here to hop to it when there's breaking news... it was absurd then and it's absurd now. Everyone knew Peter Jennings was dying. It was one of those death-watch situations. And yet it seemed important to some people to burst in and be first! when the dying man is actually dead. Why?!

"Two days ago, I decided to stop doing the dishes. I make all the dinners and I am tired of having to do all the cleaning too. SINCE THEN..."

"... this pile has appeared and at some point they are going to run out of spoons and cups and plates. Who will blink first? Not me."

Tweeted Miss Potkin, with lots of photos (keep scrolling). 

Via Metafilter, where somebody says "So it’s like Wages for Housework, except you get Twitter faves instead of wages, and instead of a deep feminist critique of capitalism, you get a resentful critique of your shitty family?"

"At this point we’re missing our tourists again. But I think there was a moment of really big joy in getting our city back."

Said the owner of an Amsterdam restaurant, quoted in "In Empty Amsterdam, Reconsidering Tourism/Before Covid-19, the city was packed with visitors. Now efforts to rein in the expected post-pandemic crowds are ramping up, but not without controversy" (NYT). 

In 2019, a record-breaking 21.7 million people visited Amsterdam, a city with a population of about 870,000.... On a typical Saturday night before the pandemic, the district, known as De Wallen, would have been heaving with young men going from bar to bar — perhaps stepping into sex shops or coffee shops or eyeing scantily clad prostitutes posing in their windows.

Several Amsterdammers interviewed for this story said that they would never consider visiting the neighborhood at such a time because of the rowdy, crowded scene. “The public space is dominated by facilities that are almost all redolent of sex, drugs and drink,” Ms. Halsema wrote of the historic city center in an official letter to the city council in July 2019....

[One proposed solution is] the relocation of sex workers to a “prostitution hotel” elsewhere in the city... Another headline-grabbing proposal... would make it illegal for visitors to buy cannabis in Amsterdam’s coffee shops, which are concentrated in the Red Light District and which have long been popular with tourists...

A tourism “monoculture” has [pushed out] residents... Businesses and services that used to cater to locals — high-quality bakeries, butcher shops, and the like — have been replaced by trinket shops, ice-cream parlors and “Nutella shops,” which serve takeaway waffles and other treats smeared in the hazelnut spread, mainly to tourists. Meanwhile, rising housing prices — due, in part, to the rise of Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms — have made the city center unaffordable for many locals.

I went to Amsterdam, solo, in 1993. I was interested in the art, and I had my pen and notebook. I never set foot in a marijuana coffee shop, and I tried to move quickly past the sleazier things, but I did stop to record some of the sleaziness:

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook. 

The fabulous aesthetic pleasures of the historical city with its grand museums was undermined by some awful, ugly junk even back then, nearly 30 years ago, so it is hard for me to imagine what the residents are complaining about today, which is the crowds and worsening conditions of the last few years.

"Unlike so many Hollywood roles, the sexuality at the core of hers wasn’t cute or passive or submissive."

"It was challenging, confrontational, defiant; she stared into the camera with those remarkable eyes, almost daring us to return her gaze. The parts became increasingly transgressive: in The Night Porter, Rampling has a sadomasochistic relationship with her Nazi torturer; in ’Tis Pity She’s A Whore she has an incestuous affair with her brother; and in Max Mon Amour, she cheats on her diplomat husband with a chimpanzee. 'Ah, the ape – I love it,' she says affectionately.... Rampling says she simply wasn’t interested in Hollywood. 'Let’s use a nice old English expression: it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I wanted to go into the auteur and European world of the semi-darkness.'"

 From "Charlotte Rampling: ‘I am prickly. People who are prickly can’t be hurt any more’ She’s best known for her dark, difficult roles, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The actor talks about swinging in the 60s, family tragedy – and why she’s still got It" (The Guardian). 

Rampling is 75, and she's still doing movies. She's been in so many things over the years, beginning with the uncredited role of Girl at Disco in "A Hard Day's Night." I haven't seen many of them at all. Avoided "The Night Porter," which was a big deal in its time (1974). I did see "Stardust Memories" (1980):

I looked up "Max Mon Amour," and I've got to say the poster is very nice:

From the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes (where it has a 22% rating): "Impossible to take seriously or as satire, this film is an embarrassment to humanity and our cousins in the jungle"/"A wry mix of King Kong and My Man Godfrey, it's a potent premise that somehow never catches fire."/"On the whole, it works as a witty, black comedy of manners that judiciously avoids the vulgarity inherent in the subject."

The Guardian says "the sexuality at the core of hers wasn’t cute or passive or submissive," but are we to take these movies — which she did not write or direct — as expressive of Rampling's sexual core? She got the roles she got. This seems like a good place to bring up Sharon Stone's new memoir. Here's an article about it in TNR, "Sharon Stone and the Fantasy of Female Domination/At the peak of her fame, she exuded total control on screen. According to her new memoir, a different story played out behind the scenes." 

A woman’s performance of power in public—the all-knowing sexual omnipotence built into the idea of Sharon Stone’s celebrity, you could say—has had little to no correlation, in her experience, with her day-to-day life.... As an adult, Stone saw the famous crotch-shot in Basic Instinct for the first time in “a room full of agents and lawyers, most of whom had nothing to do with the project.” All she had been told was, “We can’t see anything—I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on.”...

In 2018, an interviewer asked Sharon Stone if she had any #MeToo stories, and she laughed long and bitterly....

"Why operate your business from an expensive midtown office when all you need is a smartphone and laptop, a tasteful backdrop for your video calls, and Amazon Prime?"

"Ask the same question on a societal level... why... pour billions into a staggeringly expensive system of urban infrastructure when all you need to keep the wheels of commerce turning is Zoom, Signal, and a reliable, super-fast wireless network…. After Covid, nothing defined 2020 more than an explosion of crime across urban America, even though there were far fewer people outdoors to victimize…. [A]re nightclubs as much of a draw when dating can be now conducted online?… Covid has [sped the] demise of retail stores…. [M]useums and concert halls [and] sports stadiums and arenas to theaters and neighborhood cinemas… are all under assault, [from Covid and from] streaming video and virtual events. Another potential threat to density is the green movement… The manufacture of density’s core ingredients, steel and cement, produces some 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions…. The fates of major metropolises are hanging precariously as they grasp at untested policies predicated on borrowed stimulus dollars, short-term business bailouts, non-eviction mandates, and other spit-and-glue measures that are most likely unsustainable…. All these challenges will be made even greater as the politics of cities grow increasingly polarized." 

From "The Death of Density?/To survive and thrive, cities will have to overcome a number of formidable trends" by Richard Schwartz (who has "served in senior positions under 3 New York mayors).

I've compressed a lot, and I completely omitted the last paragraph — which calls for hope, hope for density. But the argument against density is so strong. You've got environmentalism counting in favor of the suburbs now. You've got all the new patterns of work and social life, all the speed and connection of the internet replacing the physical proximity maintained within a city. And you've got the crime in the city. And the politics, which will skew evermore to the left as people who want the benefits of nondensity — and want out of the ever-tightening grip of left politics — exercise their option to leave.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021