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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Calendar Girl December: Anne V

Last Calendar picture of the noughties


Well, we have got to the end of another year and so come to our last calendar girl of the year. We have not managed to pick up a Sports Illustrated Calendar for next year (as they aren't available in the UK anymore) and went to Canada just too early to pick one up there.




This is not a great disaster as they tend to use the same girls over and over so next year's are likely to be largely the same as this year's.

Anne V displays a nice hemisphere


Our last girl is known as Anne V. Agent Triple P finds this use of a forename and then the first letter of your surname very annoying. Esentially you are saying "I'm not famous enough to be just known by my first name (Cindy, Claudia, Elle) but I am far too important to just use my last name like everybody else." Or, in reality, "I have a last name that's so unpronounceable I have to use my initial".



In this case Anne's last name is Vyalitsyna (all the "V" business is instantly explained) and her real first name is a much more Russian Anna.



The daughter of two doctors from Nizhny Novgorod (or Gorky, to Agent Triple P), she began modelling at the age of 15 having won an MTV competition in St Petersburg.



Anne on the catwalk for the Fall 2009 collections



A serious catwalk, as well as a photographic, model she has a very runway friendly 5'10" and 33-24-35 figure.




She has fronted campaigns for DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada, Zara and the Chanel (for Chance perfume).


Anne for Chanel


One of the new wave of Russian models that took the fashion world by storm six or seven years ago she ran the New York Marathon this year and guided a disabled athlete around the course.




Still only 23 and living in New York she claims to have no boyfriend and her only friends are other Russian models. Sad!


Our favourite picture!


We quite like Anne V although her look is perhaps a little austere for our tastes; although she has excellent legs.


Another weird Sports Illustrated body painting picture


She is currently very visible on the London Underground advertising H&M (below centre).





A splendid end for 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New UFO film


The original UFO's opening sequence. One of the best title squences in the history of television!



Apparently plans are well advanced to make a film based on Gerry Anderson's paranoid classic UFO. Now, given the travesty that was Thuderbirds, this should fill Agent Triple P with dread but director Matthew Gratzner does seem to have a firm grasp on the essentials of the original. Gratzner is one of those special effects technicians turned directors which doesn't usually work as whilst they can handle the visuals they often have trouble dealing with those troublesome actor chappies.

"What I want to do with UFO is what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman franchise, or Martin Campbell did with Casino Royale.” says Gratzner “UFO is not a spoof, or a parody or a kids' movie. It's a pretty dark story, actually…it is not a show for young children.”

This is a pretty good sign. The film is planned to be the first of a trilogy of UFO films. SHADO is still going to be sited under a British film studio (talks are going on with Shepperton and Pinewood at present), they are going to use the original characters, vehicles and even the original theme music. All very promising.

“My biggest goal for this is, firstly, to not alienate the fans of the original show. We're not picking up where the series left off - we are starting from the very beginning. We really take the franchise seriously, unlike a film such as Thunderbirds, where they were saying 'here's a franchise that was great and everybody loved it, now let's put a whole new spin on it...'. We're not doing that. There's a reason UFO has a following, there's a reason that Gerry Anderson has a following, and for us to overlook that or take that for granted would be foolish."

So far only one character has been cast, Col. Paul Freeman (Michael Billington in the Anderson show), who will be played by Dawson's Creek actor Joshua Jackson (who went out with Katie Holmes before she married Tom Cruise). Jackson was excellent in Dawson's Creek so should be a solid core for the new film.

Ali Larter. Also luscious



Also currently in talks to play Col. Virginia Lake (the luscious Wanda Ventham in the original) is Ali Larter, latterly best known for cult TV show Heroes. There is a Dawson's Creek connection here too as she co-starred with Dawson himself, James van der Beek in Varsity Blues (1999).





The incomparable Gabrielle Drake



Agent Triple P is more interested in who they get to play Lt Gaye Ellis, portayed in the original by the incomparable Gabrielle Drake.

Grazner's special effects company, New Deal, encouragingly, has not moved lock, stock and barrel over to CGI. They still mix in matte paintings and miniatures with their digital work (as Weta Workshop did in The Lord of the Rings) which Agent Triple P thinks gives a much more organic feeling to the finished image.

The groovy Harry Stoneham


It's good to hear that they will be using Barry Gray's original theme music although it will be in a orchestral version by Julliard educated composer Richard Sortomme. For Agent Triple P. though, nothing characterises Anderson's groovy vision of 1980 like Gray's original version with Harry Stoneham (later to be composer of the Parkinson show theme and musical director of that show) on the Hammond B3 organ.

Shooting is due to start in 2010 for a 2011 release. Can't wait!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SpaceShipTwo

It's a spaceship Jim, but not as we know it

Well, Richard Beardy Branson has at last unveiled his bizarre looking Siamese triplets SpaceShipTwo (obviously whilst knowing a lot about space they haven't heard of the space bar) in California a couple of weeks ago. Possibly the most ungainly looking aircraft since the Wright Flyer, SpaceShipTwo is the central section sitting in the dual fuselage sub-orbital lifter known as White Knight Two.

Branson's Virgin Galactic has ordered five of the space planes and has named the first two Enterprise and Voyager (obviously a Trekkie). The actual spacecraft has a crew of two and can carry six passengers prepared to pay $200,000 per flight. Amazingly, Virgin claim that 65,000 people have applied for the first 100 tickets. The spaceship will have a ceiling of 110km (68 miles) and will give passengers six minutes of weightlessness in a two hour flight.


Although Agent Triple P is dubious about this really qualifying as space flight, Branson has plans for an orbital SpaceShipThree in the future.

I suppose that it is not that much of a stretch to then imagine an orbital hotel for really rich people who want to bonk in freefall. Certainly there is already at least one company looking to develop an orbital hotel.

Branson's original nose art


Branson has gone for one of his delightfully sexist pieces of nose art for the vessel although it has changed slightly from the initial version. The final young lady is in a much more contorted position: perhaps to better indicate the future possibilities of free fall sex.


The nose art from the VSS Enterprise

We wish Beardy Branson best wishes for his innovative space programme and just hope that he doesn't suffer some sort of Hindenburg moment which would stop civilian space travel in its tracks.

Personally, Agent Triple P wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.

Backpacks. No!

Lara Croft. The only person we want to see wearing a backpack in London


Agent Triple P is getting sick of being generally biffed about in London by people wearing backpacks (or rucksacks as they used to be known when we were younger).

Backpacks are acceptable wear for:

1 Astronauts participating in Extra Vehicular Activity from the International Space Station

2 People trekking in the Himalayas/Andes/Kilimanjaro

3 Soldiers

Er... that's it. Everyone else get a bag where you have some sort of control over whose space it is invading. Humans, unlike tortoises, have no concept of wandering around with things on their back. Consequently they have no spatial awareness as to whether they are crashing into others. In crowded situations, like the London Underground during the rush hour, backpacks are definitely anti social and should be banned. At the very least take your backpack off before boarding the train and put it at your feet.
Grrr!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Whither Playboy?


The first "double issue": July/August 2009


For the second time in less than a year Playboy has missed a month. The struggling magazine produced what they called a "double issue" for July/August this year and now the first issue of 2010 is another combined January/February effort. You do at least get two Playmate centrefolds rather than the twins in the summer issue.




The Playboy Empire is in trouble, as it has been off on on for over 25 years. From 1982 until 1994 Playboy, despite some good years, lost, on average, $6 million a year. The last time there was such a financial crisis it was caused by the loss of gaming licences from Playboy casinos in London and Atlantic City.




The current problems are blamed on a number of factors but despite its parlous financial performance investors are still looking to buy the ailing company. The most recent talks, with adult publisher Iconix Brand Management, recently collapsed partly, it is rumoured, over what role 83 year old publisher Hugh Hefner would have. He still owns 70% of the Playboy voting stock so his influence is still enormous.






There is a difference between the Playboy brand (including enterprises such as clothing and gift items) and the magazine, of course. Investors are more interested in the potential of the brand and its iconic rabbit-headed logo than the ailing magazine and indeed, some investors in the US are trying to distance themselves from the naked women aspect of Playboy (which is still quite frightening in the conservative US).




Recently, for example, there have been talks between Playboy and the also struggling but once trendy Sagamore Hotel in South Beach, Miami. The idea is to open a Playboy bar in the hotel similar to the successful one opened a few years ago in the Pams casino in Las Vegas.





The Playboy clubs had been key to the financial success of Playboy since the first one opened in Chicago in 1961. Dozens opened in the US and around the world but then, as Playboy ran into financial trouble, they were gradually sold off; the last US club closing in 1988 and the last international club, in Japan, closing in 1991.




Now, however, it is the potential for a Playboy franchised nightclub or clothing line that has buyers interested. When Hefner's daughter Christie took over the management of the empire in 1982 she built Playboy Enterprises up into an intermittently successful brand diversifying into areas such as clothing. Recently, however, even this has had problems. Here in the UK there was a big campaign criticising stationers, WH Smith, for selling Playboy branded pencil cases and folders obviously aimed at young girls. The Playboy store on Oxford street, down the road from Agent Triple P's office, which sold clothing and other goods, largely aimed at women, has recently closed.





Last year Playboy sold off their loss-making DVD firm. Playboy DVDs were useless. Neither hardcore enough to compete in that market nor offering enough artistic content for those who wanted some tease and tantalisation from their women.






Generally, the feeling is that Playboy has been one of the worst managed brands in history; given the instant recognition factor of its name and logo; hence the circling potential buyers.

All of this is well and good but where does it leave the magazine which started it all? Playboy today is a dreadful magazine; a shadow of its former self. Under attack from the British invasion of FHM (which went to the US in 2000) and, particularly Maxim (which started a US edition in 1997 and even now sells 2.5 million copies a month there) Playboy quickly became more "laddish", as did its original inspiration Esquire. Eventually Playboy even hired an ex-Maxim veteran, James Kaminsky, to take charge of the magazine. Now, however, the honeymoon is over for FHM and it has stopped printing in the US. Maxim, whilst hanging on in the US is no longer a print publication in the UK. Online editions are where they have migrated to. Playboy has an online edition which is currently a bargain $12 per year. However, for someone of Triple P's generation there is no substitute for an actual magazine which you can read where you like, rather than being stuck in front of a screen.

 


All magazines are struggling at present and the view is that pornographic magagazines are struggling more than most because of the ubiquity of internet porn. That is all very well, but Playboy was never a pornographic magazine.






Its pictorial content was always a very small part of a magazine full of genuinely high quality articles, stories and interviews. People really did buy the magazine for the articles! When actually pushed into competing in explicitness of photography, as it was during the famous Pubic Wars of the early seventies, Playboy very quickly backed down as that was not what it was about.

 

The real problem with the magazine now is that it doesn't know what it is. It's not a pornographic magazine like Penthouse (which is not now as explicit as it was ten years ago) and instead has tried to hunt in the waters latterly inhabited by FHM and Maxim.





Agent Triple P has a suggestion or two about how to change the magazine for the better. Playboy, like much of the mass media, is fixated on the 18-35 demographic, which was certainly the target of the original magazine back in the Fifties. However the world has changed fundamentally since then.




Very few people seem to recognise this. One who does was being interviewed on TV here recently. Disc jockey Chris Evans, who has made enough money by being able to judge the public taste to buy the world's most expensive car last year, is taking over the hallowed BBC Radio 2 breakfast show from septuganarian Terry Wogan. How will all of Wogan's older listners cope with Chris Evans' choice in music, wails the Daily Mail? Evans pointed out that teenagers in the sixties, when pop music really took off, were now in their sixties. These people were part of a generation that has continued to listen to pop and rock music, go to the latest films and not dress like old people as those from just the previous generation did.





Agent Triple P's aunt was born in 1945. She is aproaching 65. She does not look, act, dress or think like what our generation's idea of an old person should be like. Most people in their thirties, forties, fifties or sixties now dress the same way,  like the same things and have the same attitudes towards sex. If anything the older ones are more likely to be liberal in this area than the younger generation. Yet this generation is largely ignored by the media.





So why is Playboy chasing a sub thirty-five audience? Where is the men's magazine for someone of Triple P's age? Men in their forties, fifties and sixties are more interested in good writing than the younger soundbite/internet post generation. They have more disposable income and are much more likely to spend on luxury items. They are still as interested in sex and still like looking at pictures of beautiful naked women.




On this latter point, however, there is a big disconnect between the visual images presented to them and what they were brought up to expect from erotic photographs. The average Playboy Playmate today has probably got a silicone bust (a big turn-off for most men of Triple P's generation), is photoshopped so much that her skin looks like she has been embalmed in morticians' wax and has no pubic hair whatsoever. This means that she does not look anyhing like the wife or girlfriend of the older reader and that older reader does expect some form of connection between his fantasy woman and the reality in his bed.






Furthermore, he lived through the Pubic Wars when a girls bush and, latterly what was concealed beneath it, became the prime focus of erogenous zones in print (after decades of the bust). The gradual revelation (in every way) of women's pubic hair and then their labia gave a tease value to pictorials from the seventies that just isn't there on today's nude models. The presentation of women with totally smooth pubic areas also introduces a rather strange girl/woman image that further alienates the older reader. He doesn't want to see a forty year old nude but he doesn't want to see one who looks like his teenage daughter either.




So, as it creaks towards its sixtieth anniversary in 2013 is there any way to save this venerable institution? Agent Triple P has a number of suggestions.





1 Aim it at the thirties to sixties market. Stop chasing teenagers. They have a very limited outlook on the world and very narrow tastes. Basically the world has always been the same to them and they have no interest in previous times. For someone of Triple P's age nostalgia is becoming more important. Mostly this is a nostalgia for a period when we were younger. Oddly, however, some of it is nostalgia for a period which we didn't even experience such as the fifties. This is because it is what we could call referred nostalgia picked up from old films, music or even the recollections of family.





2 Improve the written content. Playboy was a first class magazine in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Get some proper writers in again. Older readers will read the articles. They, don't, however, want to read about rap stars, club DJs, getting drunk in beach resorts, or street fashion.





3 Cut down on the photoshopping in the pictorials. Digital manipulation of photographs has generated a bizarre alternative reality which is a parody of perfection. Get some proper, atmospheric lighting in again rather than the bright day-glo approach being used at present.





4 Photograph women who have pubic hair. They do exist, especially in Europe. Get models who look like young women not pubescent girls.





5 No girls with plastic busts. Ever. Make a stand. A successful picture of a naked woman should project a tactile response in the viewer. Silicone tits do not do this.


Argh! Too much text! The current edition of Playboy


6 Sort out the covers. Playboy has had some of the most striking covers in magazine history. Now they are horribly overwhelmed with uneccesary text screaming out at you over a dull photograph of a semi-celebrity. One striking picture is worth dozens of words. look at the fine examples from Playboy's past in this post. Less is more.





7 Sort out the distribution. If Triple P wanted to go out and buy a copy of Playboy now in London he wouldn't know where to go. WH Smiths, our major magazine retailer, doesn't stock Playboy even though it stocks lesser men's magazines (although only in stations and airports).




So, things look bleak for Playboy. magazine. The value of the brand now has nothing to do with the magazine that generated it. Those who have plans for Playboy clubs, digital media and other goods will, no doubt, be aiming at the same 18-35 demographic as currently. Interestingly, one of the 11 groups looking to buy Playboy (which is currently being valued at what is regarded as a somewhat over-inflated $300 million) is Richard Branson. Triple P thinks that he, rather than an asset stripping corporation, might just be the sort of man to turn the brand around. He, like Hefner, has built his brand on the back of personal, charismatic leadership and not a bland corporate approach.

So, we shall have to see what the future holds for this iconic and influential entity. Whatever happens it is likely to be quite soon.