Dawn Wells, best known for playing the girl-next-door castaway Mary Ann on the iconic CBS comedy series Gilligan’s Island, died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles of complications due to Covid-19. She was 82.
Wells, who was Miss Nevada in the 1959 Miss America pageant, beat out 350 actresses for the role of Mary Ann Summers. She also appeared in more 150 series and several movies during her career as well as on Broadway.
Wells’ naive country character on Gilligan’s Island was juxtaposed with that of Tina Louise’s Ginger, a sultry movie star. The rather-stereotyped dueling characters fueled a debate that continues among fans today: Mary Ann or Ginger.
By the time the friendly robot Wall-E makes it to outer space in the Pixar movie that bears his name, the audience is ready to meet the humans. Years earlier, when Earth became overrun with the detritus of overconsumption, those humans absconded on spaceships owned by the giant corporation that sold them all that stuff, leaving little robots like Wall-E behind to clean up the planet. Now Wall-E has found a way onto the ship where the humans are. What will he find? Astronauts? Lord of the flies? An advanced, enlightened iteration of the species?
Nope. Human civilization, left to its own devices on a giant vessel owned by a corporation, has more or less devolved into full-time consumers. Earth’s descendants are effectively blobs — they sit in comfy chairs that cruise around the ship all day, wearing pajama-like outfits that can change colors at the touch of a button, with personalized screens to look at whenever they’re not sleeping. They’ve forgotten how to walk or interact with other people or do anything offscreen at all. In fact, the screens are so engrossing that although thesehumansare surrounded by other humans on other chairs with other screens, they never actually look at each other. Instead, the screens are portals to their entire reality. They’re where people order food, watch entertainment, talk to one another, and, most importantly, learn about what they should buy next.
Legendary designer Pierre Cardin, whose futuristic and stylish designs helped revolutionise fashion in the 1950s and 60s, has died at the age of 98.
The French fashion giant, whose career spanned more than 70 years, helped usher in the post-war “golden age” of couture with his modern style.
He broke ground by bringing designer styles to the masses with some of the first ready-to-wear collections.
A business pioneer, he also licensed his name for a wide range of products.
Cardin was born in Italy in 1922 but moved to France as a child. He began his fashion career in Paris working for firms including Christian Dior, for whom he helped create the New Look collection in 1947.
He set up his own fashion company in 1950 and made his name with visionary designs like the iconic bubble dress in 1954 and his Space Age collection in 1964.
At the end of the 1950s, he launched his first ready-to-wear collection for the Printemps department store. While pop stars and actors like the Beatles and Lauren Bacall were seen wearing Cardin, his cutting-edge designs were also within reach of ordinary customers.
As part of Slate’s project on the80 most influential Americans over 80, we spoke to some members of the list to reflect on aging, work, and life in their ninth decade and beyond. Willie Nelson, 87, is an iconic singer-songwriter and one of the originators of outlaw country music. His latest album, First Rose of Spring, is his 70th; his 71st, the Frank Sinatra tribute That’s Life, will be released in February. Slate spoke with Nelson by phone last week. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jonathan L. Fischer: A lot of your songs that I love have the feeling of being sung by an old soul. Your outlaw country years, even before then—it sounded like it’d been done by someone who’d lived a lot. When you were younger, what did you think about being old? And now that you’re older, what do you understand about being young?
When it comes to weird stories that keep getting weirder, the elusive “Jet Pack Guy” of Los Angeles pretty much takes the cake. After multiple reported sightings from airline pilots on more than one occasion of a guy in a jet pack flying around at thousands of feet near Los Angeles International Airport—some of the most congested airspace on earth—as well as ongoing FAA and FBI investigations into the matter, we now have credible video of what seems to be the flying object in question.
The footage doesn’t come to us from some random Reddit board or YouTube channel, either. It was taken during an instructional flight from Sling Pilot Academy in the training area off Palos Verdes. We reached out to the flight school, which is based out of Zamperini Field, in Torrance, California for additional details.
For half a century, it’s been one of the most significant phrases in American Christianity. A prelude to something sacred in an unlikely place: the Gospel of Luke, King James translation, as recited by Linus van Pelt in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
My parents were atheists; I knew almost nothing about Christianity as a child, although I got the lay of the land when I was sent to Catholic school in sixth grade. Before that, my parents—especially my mother—actively worked to keep me and my sister free from religion, Christianity in particular. But we had our gods. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny reigned over us, with great kindness and generosity, and if we came, eventually, to a crisis of faith, we dealt with it privately. My sister and I understood that our feelings about Christmas were very important to our parents. The brief—transmitted in the silent language of the family—was to be happy, because our parents had had terrible childhoods, and instead of working out their pasts in psychoanalysis or “involvement,” they threw themselves into these perfect Christmases. It was the most wonderful, extremely tense time of the year.
A portrait of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (1914–1953) sitting in an unidentified bar in the early 1950s. (Weegee / International Center of Photography / Getty)
The drunk guy. What are you going to do with the drunk guy? He’s holding forth, he’s sucking up air, he’s rhetorically inflated, he’s ruining everything, and no possible appeal to decency or art can stop him. A bucket of cold water might answer. Or a Vulcan nerve pinch. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to take it, you and everyone else, sinking deeper into a kind of frozen grave of disaffection, an icy bed of umbrage, as he goes on and on, drunk on himself, drunk on being drunk, drunk.
And it’s even worse if the drunk guy is a writer. Because not only are writers very tricky—viciously down on themselves, impossibly in love with this or that, squirting little shafts of bile or ambrosia from secret writer glands—they also have language. Their drunk-guy monologues will not, unfortunately, be without interest. They might even be—as lights flutter out in the brain—somewhat creative.
David Fincher’s Mank, now streaming on Netflix, and Steven Bernstein’s Last Call, which I saw recently in a fantastically deserted AMC theater, both feature protracted drunk-writer monologues, because both movies have a drunk writer for a leading man. In Mank, it’s Herman “Mank” Mankiewicz, the screenwriter who gave us Citizen Kane; in Last Call, it’s Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet who gave us … Dylan Thomas. Mank was brilliant; Thomas was a genius. Drunk guys that they frequently were, neither man, to put it mildly, was without insight. What can they teach or impart to us about writing and booze?
An Oil Scion Is Giving a ’60s-Era Dune Buggy a New Lease on Life
by Hannah Elliott
(Bloomberg Businessweek) — The centerpiece of Phillip Sarofim’s Los Angeles home is his garage. The immaculate space holds two of the most collectible cars in the world: his Ruf CTR Yellowbird and Lancia Stratos Zero, a wedge-on-four-wheels in burnt caramelized orange.
It’s fair to say the venture capitalist, oil scion, and former Avril Lavigne paramour has access to pretty much whatever his heart desires. But his recent acquisition of Meyers Manx LLC runs slightly counter to the image of that blue-chip garage.
Sure, the fiberglass-tubed Manx dune buggies gained global attention when Steve McQueen drove one in 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair. An edition from that year sold for $55,200 at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2019. But at 1,200 pounds, just 90 horsepower on its four-cylinder engine, and not even the courtesy of a radio, the open-top rambler with knobby wheels is better suited to cruising deserted beaches than the Monaco promenades where you’d find that Lancia.
Videogames have grown to resemble competition-based, interactive movies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled the industry to make more money than movies and North American sports combined.
Global videogame revenue is expected to surge 20% to $179.7 billion in 2020, according to IDC data, making the videogame industry a bigger moneymaker than the global movie and North American sports industries combined. The global film industry reached $100 billion in revenue for the first time in 2019, according to the Motion Picture Association, while PwC estimated North American sports would bring in more than $75 billion in 2020.
The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas — hence the nickname of the “Christmas Star.” While it’s not an actual star, the two planets will certainly make a bright splash in the night sky.
On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. This close approach is called a conjunction. The fact that this event is happening during the winter solstice is pure coincidence, according to NASA.
“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said astronomer Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston, in a statement.
“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”
There are really only two types of facial hair: beards and mustaches. Every style of facial hair you’ve ever seen is one of these two, or a combination of both.
Think about it like part of a Linnaean taxonomy of human traits that we just made up but totally makes sense, where facial hair is a family, beards and mustaches are each a genus, and their many varieties are individual species that could interbreed, as it were, to create hybrid subspecies like the duck-billed platypus of the facial hair family, the soul patch.
This might seem self-evident when you take a second to think about it, but then why would you be thinking about this at all unless you work in the relatively booming beard care industry or you’re a pogonophile—a lover of beards and the bearded. The Economist wrote about that very philia in a 2015 article about the growing trend of beardedness while reporting from the National Beard and Mustache Championship that was taking place in Brooklyn that year … obviously. (A year earlier, in February 2014, the New York Post ran a story about men in Brooklyn paying as much as $8,500 for facial hair transplants in order to grow better beards.)
Bret Easton Ellis: ‘Being cancelled has endeared me to part of the population’
After his recent collection of essays stirred controversy, the author has written the script for a slasher horror movie. He tells Ed Cumming why today’s social media storms are nothing compared with what he faced for writing American Psycho
Until last year, Bret Easton Ellis had been drifting from the public eye. Thirty-four years had passed since the instant celebrity that followed Less Than Zero, a stylish, nihilistic vision of Los Angeles published in 1985 when its author was just 21. The furore over American Psycho, his third and most famous novel, had long since faded into literary history, even after a resurgence around the 2000 film that starred Christian Bale as its corporate psychopath antihero, Patrick Bateman.
Ellis was prone to the odd misjudged tweet, in particular during 2012, a bumper year in which he variously claimed the American actor Matt Bomer was “too gay” to play the lead in 50 Shades of Grey, said the director Kathryn Bigelow was overrated because “she’s a very hot woman” and, most memorably, invited his followers to “bring coke now” to a party he was at. But by last year he had gone quieter on social media, too. Sober after a lifetime of well-documented excess, Ellis seemed to be charting a quieter course, writing screenplays and making podcasts.
Then he published White, a collection of musings about, among other things, safe spaces, Twitter, liberal hysteria over Trump, #MeToo, the radical beauty of Richard Gere in American Gigolo, Black Lives Matter, the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, and snowflake millennials – “Generation Wuss”, whom he declared unable to handle criticism. The essays – and interviews promoting them – provoked a barrage of criticism. The Guardian called it a “nonsensical, vapid book, written by a man so furiously obsessed with his right to speak that he forgets to say anything”. In the London Review of Books, James Wolcott noted Ellis’s gift for “upsetting the maximum number of people with the minimum amount of effort”. Ellis was back in the news, portrayed more as a middle-aged crank than a bad boy.
Now, nearly two years since White’s release, Ellis claims to have been baffled by the reaction. “I was shocked,” he says. “It was an argument about aesthetics, and unfortunately the meaning got twisted. I never saw it as a proclamation or politics. I saw it more about cultural history. The reaction was politicised. It was terrible, because I really don’t feel that way at all. My boyfriend’s a millennial.” He often refers to his millennial boyfriend, Todd, a musician, in a way that reminds me of how Captain America uses his shield to block attacks but also as something to throw at his enemies. “Still, we were prepared,” he adds. “We knew it was going to freak the media out, and it did. It was nothing compared to American Psycho, when there were protests and people throwing blood on bookstores and telling me my career was over.”
A new mural by Banksy has appeared on the side of a house in the southern UK city of Bristol. The piece shows a woman in a headscarf sneezing, with her dentures flying several feet out of her mouth and a graphic spray of saliva following them. She is doubled over by the force of the sneeze and has lost her grip on her purse and cane.
Two days after Brits began to receive the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the piece seems to issue a gross reminder that, one step toward herd immunity notwithstanding, citizens ought to continue to wear their masks to avoid spreading the deadly virus via droplets, or in this case gobs, of saliva.
MEMES AND THE internet—they’re made for each other. Not because they’re digital visual communication (though of course, they are that), but because they are the product of a hive mind. They are the shorthand of a hyper-connected group thinking in unison. And, friends, the web hive mind is a weird (often funny, sometimes dangerous) place.
The term “meme” comes from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. For Dawkins, cultural ideas were no different than genes—concepts that had to spread themselves from brain to brain as quickly as they could, replicating and mutating as they went. He called those artifacts memes, bits of cultural DNA that encoded society’s shared experiences while also constantly evolving.
But Dawkins coined the term in 1976, in his book The Selfish Gene, long before the modern internet, before memes morphed into what they are now. Back then, Dawkins was talking about passing along culture—song melodies, art styles, whatever. Today, denizens of the internet think of memes as jokes passed across social media in the form of image macros (those pictures of babies or cats or whatever with bold black-and-white words on them), hashtags (the thing you amended to what you just wrote on Twitter), GIFs (usually of a celebrity, reality star, or drag queen reacting to what you just wrote on Twitter), or videos (that Rick Astley video people used to send you).
Frankincense, myrrh, and… cannabis? Archaeologists have discovered traces of weed on an ancient Israelite altar, suggesting that getting high was a religious ritual for the Hebrew people.
The discovery was made using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry testing on an Iron Age Judahite shrine at Tel Arad, in Israel’s Negev desert. The cannabis altar was in the inner sanctum of the temple, known as the cella, or holy of holies.
“We know from all around the Ancient Near East and around the world that many cultures used hallucinogenic materials and ingredients in order to get into some kind of religious ecstasy,” Eran Arie, curator of Iron Age and Persian Periods archaeology in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem told CNN. “We never thought about Judah taking part in these cultic practices. The fact that we found cannabis in an official cult place of Judah says something new.”
Giant iceberg on course to collide with south Atlantic penguin colony island
By Cassandra Garrison
An enormous iceberg is heading toward South Georgia Island in the southern Atlantic, where scientists say a collision could devastate wildlife by threatening the food chain.
Scientists have long been watching this climate-related event unfold, as the iceberg – about the same size as the island itself – has meandered and advanced over two years since breaking off from the Antarctic peninsula in July 2017.
The peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, registering a record high temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius (69.35 degrees Fahrenheit) on Feb. 9. The warming has scientists concerned about ice melt and collapse leading to higher sea levels worldwide.
The gigantic iceberg – dubbed A68a – is on a path to collide with South Georgia Island, a remote British overseas territory off the southern tip of South America. Whether that collision is days or weeks away is unclear, as the iceberg has sped up and slowed down with the ocean currents along the way, said Geraint Tarling, a biological oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey who has been tracking the icy mass.
A collision, while looking increasingly likely, could still be avoided if the currents carry the iceberg past the island, Tarling said.
Charley Pride, a country music Black superstar, dies at 86
By MARK KENNEDY
NEW YORK (AP) — Charley Pride, one of country music’s first Black superstar whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.
Pride died Saturday in Dallas of complications from Covid-19, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media.
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you,” Dolly Parton tweeted.
Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during a career that began in the mid-1960s. Hits besides “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” in 1971 included “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Burgers and Fries,” “Mountain of Love,” and “Someone Loves You Honey.”