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Grace Jones doc reveals a star who still shines

Two intense hours of the icon as never seen before

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Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami
Grace Jones Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones in ‘Bloodlight and Bami.’ (Photo courtesy the studio)

The documentary “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” has been a long time coming. Director Sophie Fiennes (yes, she’s the sister of actors Ralph and Joseph) spent five years following the legendary diva with crew and camera, and that was even before she began the process of raising finances to assemble the footage into a film and get it released.

After a debut at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and a UK release in October, the finished product has finally hit screens in the United States – and the wait has been well worth it.

From its first moments, the movie arrests our attention simply by showing us its remarkable subject doing exactly what she does best – being Grace. Fiery, fierce, and fabulous, this pop culture icon has made her indelible mark simply by being herself, and Fiennes’ film wisely focuses on allowing her to do just that. There are no on-screen interviews here with friends or associates, no protracted sequences of archival footage, no career retrospective; Fiennes assumes her viewers will already know the history, or be readily able to find it elsewhere, and concentrates instead on giving us nearly two hours of Grace in the here-and-now.

As a result, we get to discover Jones as we have never really seen her before. The first introduction we get to her on the screen is in the role with which we are arguably most familiar – Jones onstage, performing one of her signature songs, “Slave to the Rhythm,” while sporting an ornately theatrical Death’s Head mask. It’s an apt metaphor for the persona long inhabited by this Jamaican-born preacher’s daughter – powerful, primal, intimidating, but also majestic and resplendent – but Fiennes is quick to undercut that image by splicing in footage of Grace at another performance, sans mask, singing the same song while spinning a hula hoop on her hips. It’s a perfect portrait, right up front – Jones the dark goddess vs. Jones the playful child at heart. It’s the dynamic between these two sides that is explored throughout the film, and exposure to the seeming contradictions between them both illuminates her public image and makes it even more enigmatic.

It’s not a calculated effort, either, shaped by the director’s intent to create or enhance an existing mystique. We are treated (and that is most definitely the right word), to plenty of Grace onstage, courtesy of a special concert staged for the film in Dublin’s historic Olympia Theatre, but these are interwoven with scenes of offstage life that give us a much more intimate portrait of the singer’s private side.

The concert sequences are highlights, of course, revealing a performing artist whose mastery remains undiminished by maturity; her age and experience only serve to heighten her commanding presence, and her unmistakable voice seems to ring with a deeper richness than ever – but anyone who has been a longtime fan will be unsurprised by that. It’s in the other footage that we get the opportunity to know this remarkable woman better, perhaps, than we did before. Much of the film shows her during a family trip to her native Jamaica, where she reminisces with her siblings (and mother, Marjorie, who has passed away since participating in the film) about their childhood experiences – and growing up under the shadow of “Mas P,” their austere and abusive step-grandfather.

These scenes, juxtaposed with Jones’ performances of songs clearly inspired and influenced by her family background, lend tremendous insight without the need for discussion or analysis; the stories, the relationships, and the emotions speak for themselves. Likewise, the scenes in which we see Grace’s dealings in her professional life – discussing “creative differences” with a director during a guest-starring gig on French television, wrangling with longtime collaborators Sly and Robbie over the phone about their commitment to an upcoming recording gig, or throwing a tantrum over unsatisfactory contractual dealings in a hotel room before a concert – give us a glimpse at facets of her personality that we might well have imagined, but never seen in action. To say these moments confirm her as every bit the diva we expect her to be would hardly be a spoiler.

Then there are the moments, brief and fleeting, where we see her at her most private, perhaps – such as when she spends time reminiscing with former collaborator (and romantic partner) Jean-Paul Goude at a photo shoot, or when she shares a precious moment with her infant granddaughter. This is Grace at her most human, her most accessible.

Even so, by the time we reach the end of “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” this near-mythic woman has created an indelible impression of just how human she really is, no matter which “mask” she may be wearing at any given time. She carries herself with supreme confidence and savvy; it’s obvious that, even in her “offstage” moments, she is supremely aware of her image, and how it is affected by every word she says and decision she makes. Just as she’s never shied away from revealing her nude body (which she does, here, too), she is not afraid to show us her anger, her ego, her vulnerability – all the qualities which might be considered, by some, as unattractive aspects of her personality. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she shows them to us despite being afraid – a fine point, but one that makes her candor even more inspiring.

To put it another way, the woman we see in “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,” is a woman who doesn’t give a fuck. That’s the Grace we’ve always loved – and though she explicitly says in the film that she “never wanted to be a role model,” that’s what makes her a hero. In an era when strong, outspoken, empowered figures – especially female ones – have become increasingly important in our public consciousness, it’s what makes her a hero we need more than ever.

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Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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Online Culture

Facebook banning users who post that abortion pills can be mailed

When Facebook started removing these posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday

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Facebook/Meta Headquarters Menlo Park, Calif. (Blade photo by Brody Levesque)

MENLO PARK, Ca. – Social media giant corporation Meta’s Facebook platform has removed posts and has banned some users who wrote posts detailing that abortion pills can be mailed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Tech journalist Joseph Cox, who writes for Motherboard part of the Vice magazine group, reported that Facebook has removed some posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases according to Motherboard, temporarily banned those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday.

Motherboard had communicated with one user had shared a status that read- “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” who then told the publication in an email:

“I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Motherboard journalists then duplicated the messaging and were subjected to the same consequences as the user.

The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site’s community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating “abortion pills can be mailed” was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter’s Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pill.

The platform’s policy clearly states “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

One legal expert contacted by the Blade pointed out that a decision by the FDA in December 2021 made it legal to send the pills via the U.S. Postal Service.

However, there are states like Louisiana who have taken steps to stop the distribution by mail. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) into law a bill that will prohibit pregnant people from getting abortion pills via mail.

Axios reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that states cannot ban mifepristone, a medication that is used to bring about an abortion, based on disagreement with the federal government on its safety and efficacy.

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” the Attorney General said.

As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Six states, ArizonaArkansasMissouriLouisianaTexas, and West Virginia, have passed laws specifically banning telehealth for abortion provision. In addition,14 other states have enacted laws that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present during the procedure, effectively prohibiting the use of telehealth to dispense medication for abortion remotely.

The question for social media platforms is what can be ‘policed’ especially in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the FDA deciding that patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

Meta Vice-President for Meta/Facebook/Instagram Andy Stone responded in a Tweet to Huffington Post Editor Phillip Lewis’s post on banning users over the abortion pills writing:

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”

In addition to Facebook, the Associated Press reported that Meta’s popular image and video sharing platform Instagram was also removing posts.

The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.

An AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.”  The post was removed within one minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods.” Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained untouched.

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out to Meta/Facebook for a comment.

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