Monthly Archives: April 2009

Marilyn Chambers Obituaries

Rewriting Pornology

When I was a kid, Marilyn Chambers wasn’t just the name of a porn actress, she was some kind of transgressing entity that somehow threatened polite civilization. I didn’t understand porn yet, but in NYC, all the tweenie kids knew her name in the local park playing ball. It was the name of a woman who seemed to be a cipher for the breakdown of walls in the 1970s. Everything was possible, and her name was part of that social force. And none of us had seen a single frame of her porno movies.

Time Magazine had an obituary/tribute column a fortnight ago when she died.

marilyn-chambers-1972People in the ’70s knew two things about Marilyn Chambers: she had appeared as a model on an Ivory Snow box, fondly holding an infant under the corporate slogan “99 and 44/100% Pure”; and she starred in Behind the Green Door, one of the first, weirdest and most popular hard-core movies in that brief period of the ’70s known as “porno chic.” These two factettes, with their colliding irony, made the blond, willowy Chambers the pinup princess of XXX cinema, a notoriety she parlayed into a career in soft- and hard-core sex films that lasted from 1972 until … yesterday.

The sad news is that Chambers, to quote the title from a 1974 movie she did not appear in, is 99 and 44/100% dead. The actress was discovered last night in her mobile home in Santa Clarita, near Los Angeles, by her teenage daughter McKenna Taylor, from the last of Chambers’ three marriages. An autopsy will be performed; foul play is not suspected.

marilyn-ivory-snowChambers wasn’t the first person to take the route from modeling and acting to hard-core, from commercials to pervertials. Eric Edwards, whose porn career spanned nearly four decades, had appeared in ads for Gillette razors and Close-Up toothpaste. But of all the shadow stars that emerged from the early porn sensation — Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems of Deep Throat, Georgina Spelvin of Devil in Miss Jones — Chambers was unusual in her Waspy good looks, her girl-next-door appeal and her use of her real name at a time when other actors resorted to jokey pseudonyms. If the Ivory Snow girl could go into porn unashamed, then maybe the genre wasn’t so sooty. She was different, and smart, in another way: when co-directors Jim and Artie Mitchell asked Chambers to star in Green Door, she demanded $25,000 (an astronomical sum in the pinchpenny industry) and a percentage of the gross. And she got it.

It’s pretty weird how the writing has the tone of somebody who grew up jerking off to her films. 🙂 Anyway… It’s also a little surprising to see the SMH run a belated Obit from the London Telegraph a good week later.

She was working as an exotic dancer in San Francisco when she saw a newspaper advertisement seeking actresses for what was described as a “major” film. Only when she filled out the application form did she realise it was pornographic. The producers offered her the starring role.

Shot on a shoestring budget, Behind The Green Door became one of the biggest adult film hits of the 1970s, thanks to its unexpected publicity boost when a photograph from Chambers’s modelling career appeared on boxes of a popular brand of detergent, Ivory Snow.

Chambers went on to be ranked by Playboy magazine as one of the top 100 sex stars of the 20th century and was named among the top 10 adult film stars of all time.

“The adult films have been a total pleasure,” she once said. “They were like getting paid to live out my greatest fantasies. The rest of the stuff … sometimes got to be a real grind.”

Chambers, who was found dead on April 12, was married and divorced three times. One of her husbands, Chuck Traynor, had once been married to porn actress Linda Lovelace. A daughter survives her.

A bit more somber in its tone there.

The 1970s really were weird, and for a moment in history it looked like the sexual revolution was going to overcome all mores. This is from Time Mag back in 1974:

Farewell, Deep Throat? So long, Miss Jones’? Could it be that the lust affair is over? Within the past year, two hard-core flicks (Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones) were among the nation’s top-grossing films and porno stars like Linda Lovelace (Throat) and Marilyn Chambers (Behind the Green Door) became nationally-known figures. Today, hard-core movie houses are half empty. “Business is only 60% of what it was last year,” says Porno Producer David Friedman, president of the Adult Film Association.

The recent Supreme Court decisions toughened local prosecution of pornography, and the FBI now has 90 full-time agents monitoring interstate shipments of film. The real trouble, however, is neither cops nor courts but boredom—the intrinsic tedium in the medium since hard-core hit the screen. “A hard-core film today is as strictly constructed as a medieval morality play,” Friedman complains. “There are just so many positions you can film.”

There are approximately 730 hardcore theaters in the U.S., and about 1 million regular patrons. To make big money, porno films must lure larger audiences. But, says Friedman, “the millions who saw Deep Throat and Green Door have now seen a dirty picture. They belong to the one-time-only club.”

Of course AIDS put an end to that happy prospect, but before the grim days of the 1980s, there was a period where you had ‘cross-over films’. Films that were essentially (and fundamentally porn) that somehow garnered mainstream critical press and audiences.

And if it weren’t for this willingness, kids wouldn’t have come to know the names of people like Marilyn Chambers or Linda Lovelace. It’s actually the sign of the times that the greatest whistleblower of the 1970s William Mark Felt Snr ended up with a codename from a porno flick – ‘Deep Throat‘.

In retrospect it seems unthinkable, but there were porn films with artistic aspirations and ambitions. The weirdness of this terrain got explored extensively in ‘Boogie Nights‘ so I won’t bother with the absurdity of that pretension, but Marilyn Chambers’ career fits right into that arc where for a moment in history, even hardcore porn found mainstream success.

It would be unthinkable to go take a girl on a date and to watch a porno in the movie theatres, but heck, that’s what happened with Marilyn Chambers’ 1970s work (for want of a better word!).  The confusion of the times is tacitly documented in ‘Taxi Driver‘ where Travis Bickle played by DeNiro takes Cybil Shepherd’s white crust girl Betsy to the cinema where they are playing hardcore porn. She says she’s uncomfortable but he insists it was recommended highly.

It’s laughable today, but back in 1975, there was a lot of confusion about these things. There’s a certain irony that Chambers got cast in her first porn movie for her resemblance to Cybil Shepherd, and for Cybil Shepherd to end up playing a character who is made uncomfortable by the social changes wrought by those films.

Yet, after all that, the biggest irony of them all might be the loving obituaries that Chambers got this month. In the end it seems, that moment in history when porn broke through to the mainstream mattered more than we thought, if only because she brought so much …err… joy to so many blokes.

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Screen Australia Presents… Its Guidelines

These People Scare Me

I don’t know what it is about government film bureaucracies and the people they get to make crucial, key decisions for them, but today I found out Ross Matthews is the head of Production Investment. I hadn’t heard Ross’s name in a long while but now that I have my heart has sunk. Dear heavenly hosts, why the fuck did I have to be in the Australian film industry!?

I’m not going to quote the whole thing because it’s privileged content, but this is an excerpt from Screenhub:

Ross explained that this sector is doing relatively well. “Obviously there are two types of feature films now, the offset and the non-offset. Every movie is an offset movie unless it’s under the offset threshold, and if you want to come to Screen Australia you have to utilize the offset as they are looking to do as many productions as we can, and the only way we can do that is by utilizing the offset, cash-flowing the offset and Screen Australia comes along as a top-up.”

He talked about the looming deadline of June 12 for low budget films, which is those under $1.2 million resulting in a QAPE under $1 million, which means it can’t utlize the offset. He said that Screen Australia would hopefully fund two or three features under this program, which don’t need domestic marketplace attachments, although it would be good if you had them.

With the offset, the total amount that can go to any film under the offset is 75% of the budget. “By legislation we can’t top up the budget to any more than 75% of the budget and it will be very rare for Screen Australia to go that high,” he said. They are hoping to fund films to a level of 60 to 65 per cent. “At 75% you’d have to have a really strong cultural remit such as a film like Ten Canoes.”

The assessment process for features has changed, with the merging of the evaluation and marketplace doors, and now there is one door for which you need a domestic distributor, an international sales agent, an idea of where the finance is coming from but the finance plan doesn’t have to be fully formed, and then it can come into the assessment process. At the moment Scott Meek and Tristan Miall are the assessors along with external readers. Every eight or nine weeks a committee meets to decide whether Screen Australia will or will not support the project.

Within the nine-week turnaround the assessors meet with the filmmakers once or twice. “The assessment committee includes the assessors, Ross Matthews, Ruth Harley, any investment managers working on the film, Martha Coleman from development, someone from marketing will be there, and the meeting is extensive and the final decision not taken lightly.”

There was some discussion around the need for a deal memo to be in place. You don’t need a long memo apparently, a one pager is okay. However Bryce Menzies said that even with a one-pager, this means that the deal is then locked in at a time when the distributors and sales agents have the upper hand, and once it’s signed you can’t renegotiate. There was then discussion about therefore whether you needed such deal memos to be signed, or whether the project may be better off with unsigned memos.

Bryce said that at the moment if Scott doesn’t like your project you’re dead in the water, so in a way it would be better to wait to see what he thinks before proceeding into the marketplace.

Dee McLachlan said that it was difficult dealing with a distributor where the budget is changeable depending on what stars will end up being attached to the project.

Ross said he believed the assessment process is currently working well, but the difficulty is the level of the bar that they’re requiring producers to get over. He said that in the next couple of years they’ll have to assess how it has worked. “We have a team of people who take a careful look at the projects, talk to filmmakers, talk at length and meet at length. You can argue about their decision. If it’s a no we’re a bunch of fuckwits, if it’s a yes you’re very happy.”

Well, to be absolutely frank, even if he were to fund one of my pet projects and I were to be a happy-camper director I’d still think he’s a fuckwit. That would be because he would still be one until the day he drops dead, goes to hell, and gets his face raped right off by a flock of extinct pteranodactyls. And he’d still be a fuckwit in my books the day after that. And the week after that too. So there’s nothing new. Moving right along…

Martha Coleman’s a name from my AFTRS days. It’s interesting how that vintage of AFTRS producing grads keep cropping up in Film bureaucracies as opposed to y’know… being producers. It’s a side effect of the industry tanking for so many years under the guidance of such apostates as Ross Matthews, but what the heck, it’s all new and shiny now at ‘ScrOz’, right? Get me my vomit bag puh’lease!

On A More Sanguine Note

It’s nice to know that if Scott Meek and Tristan Miall hate your project, you have zero chance of it getting made, even with a deal in place.

An Issue Of Competence

One of the assumptions we’re forced to live with is that people are competent until proven otherwise. The cop who takes your call after a burglary, the school teachers to whom you entrust the care of your children, the doctor the nurse, the lawyers you entrust for their professional judgment. Just as all the accused are innocent until proven guilty, we must presume competence upon all and everybody we meet.

Even if our lifetime of experience tells us that the cop is just some country yokel who couldn’t find any other job but was fortunate to be tall enough to join the police; that the teacher might not be a pedophile but is illiterate; the doctor only passed his courses, the nurse is a sadist, the lawyer a drunk; in spite of all these things we might encounter in our lives as we continually bump in to gross incompetence by people you wish weren’t so, we have to presume competence. And so it is with Screen Australia.

Thus, even after my entire adult life of seeing the Australian government fuck up the industry over and over and over and over again, and the likelihood is that this is going to continue due to institutional inertia and endemic incompetence, I – and by extension you and therefore we – must presume competence of these poor, wretched souls entrusted with making decisions at Screen Australia.

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BrisConnections Chaos Continues

Mac Bank Earns World Of Trouble

Of course it’s not going to help the sense of chaos that characterises the whole BrisConnections venture. Now, the second largest shareholder has decided to go for management control.

The company’s second-largest shareholder, represented by Jim Byrnes, and a mysterious finance company in Surfers Paradise have launched a bid to secure management control.

Less than a fortnight after a proposal to wind up the project was voted down by unit holders, BrisConnections said yesterday it had a received a request from Brisbane Toll Road Link, which owns 15.2 per cent.

The request was for a second meeting to consider the appointment of Armstrong Corporate Capital to replace the BrisConnections Management Company.

Another request was for the second $390 million instalment call for BrisConnections shares, due on Wednesday, to be delayed until “Armstrong notifies members that it is due and payable”.

New Hampton Distressed Asset Fund is the owner of BTR but Macquarie and advisers close to BrisConnections are questioning whether the US hedge fund exists.

But Mr Byrnes said in an email last night: “The company does exist.” He provided no other information and declined to answer the Herald’s questions or identify who was behind the fund. According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents, its address is the same as Mr Byrnes’s home address. Mr Byrnes also lodged a statement of claim in his name in the Federal Court yesterday, as part of his planned $1.3 billion class action against the toll road’s advisers, Macquarie Capital Advisers.

BTR director Carl Trad, an importer of luxury cars, declined to say how he became involved with the company, except: “I’ve had some really good advice.”

When the Herald phoned the Armstrong office in Surfers Paradise, the unidentified person who answered the phone said: “I’m sorry, I’m not giving any interviews to the press, thank you.”

The problem for BTR is that even if a meeting is called, the earliest date it could be held is May 12, three days after the final deadline for it to pay the second installment. A Macquarie bid to buy out 80 per cent of the unit holders would do little to solve the problem of many in dire financial circumstances if they were forced to pay the installments.

Don’t you just love the way the craziness begets more craziness?

It’s enough to wonder when ASIC is going to step in and fix this thing. Leaving it to the unit holders or Macquarie Bank or eve this new bunch out of Surfers Paradise is a surefire recipe for horrible repercussions where the tunnel might not get built.

Then there is the consideration whether if Brisbane really needed this tunnel in the first place, and whether Mac Bank were up to their usual tricks in inflating forecasts for just how much traffic is going to use this lousy toll road when current roads already service the airport just fine. It’s certainly starting to stink of the same graft and greed routine that plagued the Sydney Cross-City tunnel fiasco all over again, and surely ASIC has to be wondering if Mac Bank was acting in good faith when it launched these partially paid units. Because so far, if the past record is anything to go by, there’s a lot that “goes to character” sying they were acting in much, much, much less than good faith.

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Yankees Update 26/04/09

Driven To Tears …In The Tendon

The story of the week in most part was the piling up injury concerns. Wang was sent to Tampa for assessment and a simulated game and was promptly put on the DL with a soreness in the hip – which is a euphemism for a pain in the ass, I’m sure.

Brian Bruney has also been placed on the DL along with the non-achieving Cody Ransom. Filling 3B with Ransom in the absence of A-Rod was probably a tall order given that the Yankees already have a weak CF and injury concerns in the other corners thus far. Unfortunately this has meant that the third string 3B is Angel Berroa who has played one inning at 3B in his pro career.All of this goes to that it’s hard to have depth at 3B when your starting 3B is A-Rod under contract for another 9 years. It also highlights why some of us hold out hope that Eric Duncan amounts to something along the way. If he could play league average 3B about now, he’d be the right tonic. If, that is.

Bruney going on the DL actuall impacts my last remaining fantasy league as well as the thus-far-cruddily-performing bullpen. Hopefully he won’t be out for too long. All the injuries and callups have resulted in the Yankees releasing Humberto Sanchez outright. I guess the Yankees got nothing for trading away Sheff.

In relatively good news, Nady won’t be going under the knife; he’s going to rehab his elbow tendon.

Why Can’t They Beat These Guys?

2 games in Boston thus far have yielded 2 slugfests. Neither of which the Yankees won. It’s enough to make you hate the game. This capped off a week where the Yankees took 2 from the A’s and split the series with the Indians.

Still, the 5-4 and 16-11 losses to the Red Sox just drives me around the bend.

Robinson Cano’s Hot Bat

In amongst the crappy week, there was this line of .354/.403/.538 through yesterday.

He has 3Hrs, but also 6 walks to go with 6 strike outs in 16 games so far. He’s doing very well indeed. I like this 2009 version of Robbie. Much better than 2008.

BABIP? Did I Hear You Quote BABIP?

During the week, Brian Cashman mentioned that one of the reasons they picked up Nick Swisher was because of his BABIP last year.

Cashman, in his two-hour program, talked of the collecting and meshing of information in making decisions. He still employs scouts extensively to speak to a player’s intangible qualities, but the use of underlying stats to evaluate players is a growing part of running the franchise.

For instance, in the decision to acquire Nick Swisher despite a .219 average for the White Sox last year, stats like line-drive percentage and pitches taken were used. “The only stat that was different was batting average when he put the ball in play,” Cashman said, “so we concluded it must have been an unlucky year.”

Swisher has been an early-season success for the Yankees.

If there were any doubts about the sabermetric-savvy of the Yankees GM, I think it should be banished. He at least understands BABIP which means he is abreast of DIPS theory. What a GM! This is why Yankee fans like Cashman.

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From The Pleiades Mailbag 22/04/09

Columbine Still Bowling

Here’s an article about how schools are run along the lines of prisons since the Columbine shootings.

Based on the assumption that schools are rife with crime and fueled by the emergence of a number of state and federal laws, mandatory sentencing legislation, and the popular “three strikes and you’re out” policy, many educators first invoked zero tolerance rules against kids who brought firearms to schools. In the aftermath of Columbine, exacerbated by a number of high-profile school shootings in last decade, and an increase in the climate of fear, the assumption that schools were dealing with a new breed of student—violent, amoral, and apathetic—began to take hold in the public imagination.  Moreover, as school safety become a top educational priority, zero tolerance policies were broadened and now include a range of behavioral infractions that encompass everything from possessing drugs or weapons to threatening other students—all broadly conceived. Under zero tolerance policies, forms of punishments that were once applied to adults now applied to first graders.  The punitive nature such policies are  on display in a number of cases where students have had to face harsh penalties that defy human compassion and reason. For example, an 8-year-old boy in the first grade at a Miami Elementary School took a table knife to his school, using it to rob a classmate of $1 in lunch money. School officials claimed he was facing “possible expulsion and charges of armed robbery.”

In another instance that took place in December 2004, “Porsche, a fourth-grade student at a Philadelphia, PA, elementary school, was yanked out of class, handcuffed, taken to the police station and held for eight hours for bringing a pair of 8-inch scissors to school. She had been using the scissors to work on a school project at home. School district officials acknowledged that the young girl was not using the scissors as a weapon or threatening anyone with them, but scissors qualified as a potential weapon under state law.”

Time to break out the old copies of ‘The Wall, I think. If this kind of thing is going to be education, then they sure as hell don’t need this kind of treatment. If you read on it gets worse. 7 year old forced to the ground and the numbers of suspensions doled out are ridiculous. You sort of wonder what will happen to kids who grow through this and come to think of it as normal.

Bush Torture Memos

For some reason the much ballyhooed Bush Torture Memos have been made into pdfs where people can send around. I must be on the 6th degree of Kevin Bacon from the first person to send it out to the world, but somehow I’ve managed to get it thanks to Pleiades. I don’t think I even asked for it, but bang, there it is.

It makes for chilling reading. The details found within are pretty bluntly put so there is no mistaking that the degree to which they had permission to hurt and coere people for information was delineated. It’s not a bright moment in the history of the United States. Naturally,one imagines the Repuablicans are very updeat that the Obama administration let these documents out into the public domain, but tha’s the funny thing. There’s no mistaking that yes, they said yes to torture, and the language isn’t even velied with bureaucrat-ese.

Here’s an article about all this in Time.

Many Democrats and human-rights activists see the memos as damning evidence that the U.S. violated international law, and that officials should be held accountable. Many Republicans and national-security experts are dismayed at the decision to air the dirty laundry, claiming the revelations weaken the country’s intelligence gathering capabilities and give an misleading picture of the efficacy of such interrogation tactics. (Read how waterboarding got out of control.)

The Obama Administration has already ruled out the prosecution of those who actually carried out the harsh interrogations, so long as they complied with the government-approved guidelines. And Obama treaded carefully on Tuesday, stressing to reporters, at the end of his Tuesday meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, that he did “not want to prejudge” the outcome of the Justice Department’s inquiry into the policy’s legal underpinnings and that he would not want any inquiry to turn into a partisan witch hunt. “I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively and it hampers out our ability to carry out critical national security operations,” he said. But at that point it was too late. By not entirely ruling out the authors’ prosecution — as his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had appeared to do over the weekend — the President had effectively unleashed the hounds.

What a drag. It’s as if these people who okayed this stuff thought they were going to get away with it by dint of September 11. Who needs terrorism and terrorists when the CIA is given carte blanche to torture?

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CJ Henry Sighting

A Bust Is A Bust

The last we heard of CJ Henry was when he went and played basketball with his brother Xavier. Now he is at the centre of some problem in the NCAA because of the tuition fees that came about because of his signing that original contract with the Yankees.

The Yankees, you see, signed C.J. out of high school in 2005 (after he had committed to play basketball for Kansas). Three years later C.J. gave up his baseball dream to play at Memphis. At the time it was reported that C.J.’s contract with the Yankees stipulated that the team would pay for his college education should he ever want to return to school. So, when C.J. did just that in 2008, the Yankees footed the bill and C.J. joined the Tigers basketball team as a walk-on. (Because of his deal with the Yanks, C.J. wasn’t eligible for a scholarship.) Due to that deal, Henry won’t require a scholarship next year should he stay at Memphis or transfer to Kansas or Kentucky, a nice bonus for Bill Self or Calipari, who won’t have to free up scholarship room for both Henry brothers. Got all that?

Goodness that signing in 2005 was terrible, even if it netted Bobby Abreu at the trade deadline in 2006. I know it’s beating a dead horse, but in retrospect CJ Henry was an awful, awful, awful choice.

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No Reason To The Pricing

There’s No Correlation!?

Most businesses have a cost and set a price for their services in line with costs. That is everybody except the rail services in Sydney. Check out this article:

It’s been revealed that NSW Premier Nathan Rees is being urged from within his own government to make public transport free for everyone as part of a radical bid to win the next election.

The Daily Telegraph says it’s also learned the government is doing extensive modelling to make ticket prices fairer for outer suburban commuters if the free transport move does not go ahead.

The paper says that if public transport were to be completely free it would cost the government about $1 billion a year.

But fares only cover just over a quarter of the $3.8 billion total cost of operating public transport.

The move could save hundreds of millions in staffing costs and ticket-machine operations, and abolish the trouble-plagued smartcard.

Blacktown MP Paul Gibson has lobbied Mr Rees to consider the idea, and says it would take pressure off the roads, shore up Labor’s western Sydney heartland and help win the green vote.

Mr Gibson told the Telegraph Mr Rees gave him an undertaking to cost the proposal when he last raised it several weeks ago.

The paper says Mr Rees is unlikely to back such a move at a time when the budget is already in the red.

Get that? The amount of money paid by the public only goes towards about a 1/4 of the annual cost of running the thing. Clearly the price hikes they’ve been carrying out have been largely irrelevant attempts to raise more money to cover the 2.8billion that’s never going to be covered.

At the same time, you’d have to say that they’re actually charging too much for their services which in turn is driving people to just drive their cars instead. As the article points out, if the PT system goes free, they also cut out the cost of ticketing and the execrable smartcard system.

I doubt the NSW government would ever give public transport away for free (although they might if it won the ALP an election), but they could afford to slash the prices radically to about 1/5th. They might be pleasantly surprised at just how many people would go back to braving the PT system.

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