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The Beales of Grey Gardens return in ‘That Summer’

Peter Beard captures the eccentric Edies through another lens

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Little Edie Beale and Lee Radziwell in ‘That Summer.’ Photo by Peter Beard. Courtesy of Thunderbolt Productions.

By now, the story of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, “Little” Edie, is well-known lore within the popular culture.

Aunt and cousin to Jackie Kennedy/Onassis and Lee Radziwell, this pair of eccentric society women fell on hard times and lived in isolation together for decades at their decaying Hamptons mansion. When local authorities threatened to evict them for health and sanitation violations, Jackie and Ari Onassis donated money to finance the necessary repairs – staving off unsavory publicity and ensuring that the reclusive Beales could maintain their strange, co-dependent existence for years to come.

That existence was revealed to the wider world in the 1975 documentary, “Grey Gardens,” filmed by two brothers, Albert and David Maysles, who had initially been enlisted by Lee Radziwell to make a film about her and Jackie’s own childhood in the Hamptons. When they accompanied her to visit the Beales during the summer when their home was being brought up to code, they became entranced, and subsequently suggested to Radziwell that they shift the focus of their film to her reclusive relatives instead. Radziwell abandoned the project, but the Maysles were undeterred. They secured permission to return and spend a few weeks filming with Big and Little Edie; the result was a film that turned the women into unlikely cultural icons and has gone on to inspire a 2006 sequel, an HBO biopic, a Broadway musical and a legendary segment on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

It has also come to enjoy tremendous popularity among gay men, perhaps because the personas of the two women – particularly the “staunch” Little Edie, with her bold “sweater-as-a-head-wrap” fashion sense – resonate deeply with many of their own sensibilities.

Gay or straight, fans of “Grey Gardens” have new reason to rejoice, thanks to Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson, who brings us a “prequel” of sorts in the form of his new documentary, “That Summer.”

Constructed from long-buried private footage taken mostly by artist/photographer Peter Beard, the film documents the lives of then-beautiful and stylish Radziwell and her circle of famous friends – who include Beard, Andy Warhol, and Truman Capote, among others – during the summer of 1973. This cadre of sophisticates is ostensibly Olsson’s focus – but part of their summer activities was that fateful visit to Grey Gardens, and the main attraction here is the inclusion of the legendary Beales.

The early scenes of Radziwell and her entourage are lovely and nostalgic; these beautiful people exude effortless grace and elegance, seeming completely at ease in a lifestyle of which most of us can only dream. Fascinating as this material may be, though, it’s not particularly revealing; its most significant value, perhaps, is that it reminds us of a bygone era when America’s super-wealthy population was not represented predominantly by classless buffoons.

The four reels of film that Olsson uses as his centerpiece are a different matter; these segments heavily feature Big and Little Edie, and they offer a much rawer look at the Beales than we get in “Grey Gardens.” Making that film, they knew that the eyes of the world would soon be upon them, and they were putting their best foot forward. They do it here, too, but with less self-awareness. The roughness creeps in at the edges; their cheer is a little more desperate, their patience a little thinner. They’re the same Edies that we know and love, but unplugged.

The mansion itself is also rougher. As dilapidated as it is in the Maysles’ movie, it’s heartbreakingly worse here. The camera lingers on its piles of clutter, its rotting walls and ceilings, its disintegrating furniture. The atmosphere, instead of being rustic, is gloomy; the omnipresent cats and raccoons seem less adorable, somehow – and so do the Beales.

This doesn’t make them any less likable – in fact, this subtle difference in perspective brings out their humanity, and opens us up to feel even more compassion for them. These women endured years of pain and hardship – the broken dreams and shattered relationships of their lives have been well-documented since “Grey Gardens” first brought them into the public eye – and in this film, we can see the scars.

Olsson wisely follows the Maysles’ example by employing the same “direct cinema” style; the footage is presented without narration or commentary (aside from a few transitional moments when we hear reminiscences by the modern-day Beard or comments by Radziwell excerpted from a 2013 interview), allowing the audience to make what they will of the Beales and their jet-set visitors. That everyone comes off in a sympathetic light is hardly surprising, given that the material itself was created by its participants, but this politeness doesn’t take anything away from the film; the civility of its tone is appropriate to its genteel subjects, and savvy audiences can still easily read between the lines to draw their own conclusions.

“That Summer” is a movie with a tough act to follow; its predecessor into the world of the Beales was the proverbial lightning in a bottle, one of those shimmering masterpieces of cinema that captured a moment in time that can never be recreated. Through a combination of art and happy accident, “Grey Gardens” became somehow magical, and no follow-up could hope to match its remarkable quality. It’s to Olsson’s credit that his movie doesn’t even try. Instead, it contents itself with offering another peek at Big and Little Edie, and by giving us a little more context through which to see their world. It’s not a classic on its own, but it’s a valuable supplement to one – and that’s enough to make fans of the Beales welcome it with an open heart.

“That Summer” opens at select theaters in Los Angeles on May 25.

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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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