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Russia’s Immortal Regiment Parade Is a Huge and Very Important New Phenomenon

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Editor’s note: The Immortal Regiment parade keeps reaching gobsmacking proportions – 1 million people in Moscow this year alone, and 10 million countrywide. Dreamt up in Tomsk, Siberia in 2012, it has caught on like wildfire in Russia, and for good reason. It is brilliant political, historical, spiritual ritual and theater. It is heartrending and moving and only the coldest of hearts could not be moved by these rivers of humanity paying homage to their ancestors, as basic a human impulse as an any, one of the 10 commandments. Now it is spreading to other countries.

Among other things, the IR is brilliant PR. A colossal, to the point testimony to the horror of war, and the shared humanity of all those who have suffered in war. Russia really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Here is some great footage from yesterday’s 1 million strong Moscow march. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVWRQcXs81c

We searched the internet for information about it, and this 2016 Christian Science Monitor article by Fred Weir about it is really very good. Enjoy.


MOSCOW — Sofia Serbinenko was on the streets of Moscow with about 800,000 other marchers Monday, carrying a beribboned photograph of her great-grandfather, a Soviet fighter-bomber pilot who fought the Nazis in World War II.

“Victory Day has always been very important in our family,” says Sofia, an 8th grader. “I have read so many books about the war, and I think all the time about the people who died so that we could live. For me, with a good life today, it is only right to declare that I will always remember, and to express my gratitude.”

The march of the “immortal regiment,” in which Russians from all ages and walks of life carry pictures of ancestors who fought, was modest at its 2012 inception. But while the war ended 71 years ago, the efforts put into annual commemorations of that titanic victory over the Nazis seem to be actually growing in Russia.

In a remarkable feat of historical memory, today it is a vast torrent that fills the streets of every Russian city and has since spread to over a dozen other countries, including nine US cities this year, according to Russian media. This year it almost eclipsed the more familiar official military parade, in which thousands of troops, armored vehicles, and intercontinental missiles rumbled past the Red Square reviewing stand, while bombers and fighter planes roared overhead.

The originator of the “immortal” movement, Igor Dmitriev from the Siberian city of Tomsk, has complained that his idea for spontaneous, voluntary, and non-commercial acts of memory has been hijacked by the Russian state and turned into a regimented spectacle that validates official views. Some veterans also say it papers over unmet obligations of the Soviet and now Russian governments to those who fought in the war.

Yet it’s hard to deny the sheer weight of public enthusiasm on display, with whole families walking together to honor their ancestors, generating a mood that seems both somber and festive.

“It is something for parents to do with their children, generation after generation,” says Sofia.

‘Not something you can ever forget’

It seems a bit of a mystery why the World War II anniversary, which has faded with time almost everywhere else, appears to be a growing concern in Russia.

One answer Russians give is the immensity of Soviet sacrifice in the war, which still remains largely unknown in the West. About 28 million Soviets died and much of the country was devastated, leaving almost no family untouched.

The numbers are mind-boggling. About 3 million Soviet prisoners-of-war were worked to death in Nazi camps, 1.5 million died of starvation in the siege of Leningrad, and the fates of many millions more remain unknown to their relatives.

“My two grandfathers died in the war. One was missing and has no grave, even if we know approximately where he was killed,” says Grigory Kunis, coordinator of the “immortal” march in St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad. “This is not something you can ever forget. For my family, it’s an incredibly important day.”

But as Russia drifts into a new era of geopolitical isolation and economic uncertainty, the unifying force of the anniversary is hard to ignore.

“Victory Day is practically the only 20th century event that all Russians, from every part of the political spectrum, can agree upon,” says Nikolai Petrov, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. “Now the Kremlin is emphasizing the glorious Soviet past. But when you examine that past, almost every episode evokes controversy. All that we actually have is the victory over Naziism, and maybe Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. So, a big part of Victory Day is about official myth-building.”

Historical re-evaluation?

Serious historical controversy is brewing over the looming centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which arrives next year.

For many Russians the revolution remains a sacred event, and they regard the czarist regime it overthrew as odious. But President Vladimir Putin signaled that tough debate and historical re-evaluation may be in the wind when he told a group of supporters recently that Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin planted “an atomic bomb under the house called Russia,” which later exploded and destroyed the state.

“The anti-Nazi victory is a great source of pride for our people, and legitimacy for our state, at a time when there is quite a lot of uncertainty,” says Mr. Petrov. “So, the idea is to take every opportunity to celebrate it.”

Paradoxically, polls show that overall public interest in the anniversary is gradually declining, as one might expect as the event recedes in time. Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the independent Levada Center in Moscow says that 82 percent of Russians said they were actively celebrating the day in 1995, but that fell to 75 percent in 2010, to 65 percent last year, and 63 percent today.

“The ‘immortal regiment’ has touched a public nerve, and inspired many to take part in it,” Mr. Grazhdankin says. “But, overall, the interest in Victory Day celebrations is inexorably decreasing.”

Promises unfulfilled

For Russia’s 3.4 million surviving war veterans, it’s a day to parade in the old medal-bedecked uniforms, and accept flowers, praise, and gratitude from strangers in the street.

But there is a nagging undercurrent of criticism from some veterans, and their supporters, who complain that despite the lavish public ceremonies on Victory Day, thousands of those who fought in the war have yet to receivethe housing that was promised to them 7 decades ago. Just last month Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered local governors to urgently provide apartments to 8,350 World War II vets who are still waiting in the queue.

Another controversy concerns the millions who went missing, most of whom died anonymously, whose relatives have received minimal state assistance and have little hope of closure.

“The USSR lost 15 million military people in the war, but the general staff only recognizes the figure of 11 million to this day,” says Mikhail Cherepanov, director of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kazan, in the Volga republic of Tatarstan. Part of the reason for that, he alleges, is that the state does not have to pay full pensions for those who are missing-in-action to surviving families, but gives much lower allowances.

The task of locating and identifying remains of lost soldiers on Russia’s far-flung World War II battlefields also falls to private groups, with little state assistance, Mr. Cherepanov says.

“I still go every summer with young people, who dig in the forests and steppe, to locate unburied soldiers and try to restore their identities,” he says. “There are still so many of them. What prevents our government from making these efforts? Apparently it has too many other things to do, and different expenses to pay for.”

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New book reveals the true story of how the Oscars got their name | Culture

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The most coveted trophy in cinema is called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Award, but it was dubbed the Oscar several years after it was first presented on May 16, 1929, at the Roosevelt Hotel, just a block away from the gala’s current venue, the Dolby Theater.

The Hollywood Academy has it all on record. The nickname, the official name – the whole shebang. But where does the nickname come from? Well, from a “straight and tall” Norwegian sailor, in fact. A book on the first 50 years of the Academy, to be published in the US in October, mentions the origins of the name and singles out Academy assistant, Eleanore Lilleberg, as the creator of the alias.

Until now, it was commonly believed that Margaret Herrick had given the name to the award, which is not, in fact, solid gold, but britannia – an alloy of copper, tin and antimony – bathed in gold. This story had it that, in 1931, Herrick, who was then Margaret Gledhill, joined the Academy’s library and on her first day of work came across a statuette, of which she said, “It reminds me of my uncle Oscar.” According to the 1947/1948 Hollywood Academy Almanac, a journalist got wind of the anecdote and put it in print the following day.

In 1943, Herrick became executive director of the Academy and was the first to negotiate with a television network for the live broadcast of the gala in 1953. This gave the Academy financial independence, freeing it from reliance on membership fees, and allowed it to expand its educational programs and cultural activities.

Margaret Herrick, librarian and first female executive director of the Hollywood Academy.
Margaret Herrick, librarian and first female executive director of the Hollywood Academy.

But in the forthcoming book The Academy and the Award, due out in October, author Bruce Davis tells it differently and he should know, as for 22 years, he was the Academy’s executive director until his retirement in 2011. In other words, he has had access to the archives, which is what he has devoted himself to since leaving office. Davis is not just any executive either: some time ago, he came up with the idea of investing some of the Academy’s savings in the museum that has now become one of the jewels in its crown.

According to the website Deadline, which has had access to the 521-page tome, Davis’ research has been thorough. Regarding Herrick’s story, he found a 1938 Los Angeles Examiner report in which Herrick offered a different version of the tale, namely that she and her first husband, Donald Gledhill, used to have a private joke between them that went, “How’s your Uncle Oscar?”

In a bid to get to the bottom of the matter, Davis then brings in the 1970 memoirs of columnist Sidney Skolsky, Don’t Get Me Wrong – I Love Hollywood. Skolsky also took credit for the name, recalling that, under deadline pressure in 1934, he used it in mocking tribute to Vaudeville comedians who liked to say to the conductor of the orchestra, “Will you have a cigar, Oscar?”

Bruce Davis, at an academy event in November 2010.
Bruce Davis, at an academy event in November 2010.Amanda Edwards (Getty Images)

However, on March 16, 1934, Skolsky himself wrote in the New York Daily News: “Among the profession, statuettes are called Oscars.” So, both Skolsky’s initial claim and Herrick’s claim were unseated, leaving that of actress Bette Davis.

In January 1941, Bette Davis became the first woman to preside over the Hollywood Academy, a position she resigned from a few months later after a stand-off between her and the board of directors. However, in her memoirs The Lonely Life, published in 1962, she maintained that she was the one who thought of the epithet when holding her first Oscar for Dangerous in 1936: “His back view was the spit of my husband’s. Since the ‘O’ in Harmon O. Nelson stood for Oscar, Oscar it has been ever since,” she wrote. When it was pointed out that the term had already been in use for two years by then, the actress recanted.

So, Bruce Davis kept digging. And he found that the Oscars were actually probably named by Eleanore Lilleberg, a secretary and office assistant in the early days of the Academy who was in charge of looking after the statuettes in the run-up to the ceremonies. She had been previously mooted as responsible for the name Oscar, though not how it came about.

Bette Davis, in 1936, with her Oscar for 'Dangerous' in hand.
Bette Davis, in 1936, with her Oscar for ‘Dangerous’ in hand.

But in a small museum in Green Valley, California, dedicated to Lilleberg and her gemologist brother Einar, Davis found Einar’s unfinished memoirs in which he explains that it was Eleanore who named the award Oscar, after a Navy veteran from Norway, the Lilleberg family’s country of origin. Together, they had met this sailor in Chicago and noted that, like the statuette, he “stood straight and tall.” A 1944 newspaper interview with a colleague and an oral account back up this theory.

Which puts this particular mystery to rest, though there are plenty more Oscar secrets in the book…

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Back in Action: The return of Cameron Diaz, the once-highest-paid actress in Hollywood | Culture

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In an interview with her close friend Gwyneth Paltrow, actress Cameron Diaz explained how it felt to leap from the Olympus of Hollywood into the abyss, leaving behind a career full of blockbuster movies. “I’m at peace. I got a peace in my soul. Because I was finally taking care of myself. I feel like my feet are on the ground. I’m lighter.” The actress starred in romantic comedies from the mid-1990s through the first decade of the 2000s, including the hit There’s Something About Mary. For several years, she was the best-paid actress in Los Angeles, making up to $20 million per film. But at age 40, with no warning, she decided to “semi-retire” from the industry. Diaz was focused on enjoying her personal life: she is married to musician Benji Madden, and she gave birth to her first daughter, Raddix, at age 47. But she never closed the door on a possible return. Now, eight years after her last movie, America’s blondest sweetheart is back.

The Californian was the second actress in history, after Julia Roberts, to be paid $20 million for a movie.
The Californian was the second actress in history, after Julia Roberts, to be paid $20 million for a movie.Getty

“I’m excited, but I don’t know how to do this, you know?” Cameron Diaz admits in the video in which she announced the end of her retirement and confirmed her return to the industry. Simulating a call with her fellow cast member Jamie Foxx, the 49-year-old actress revealed that she will play the lead in a new action comedy for Netflix, titled Back in Action. In the clip, Foxx – who won an Oscar for the movie Ray – seeks help from football player Tom Brady, who this year announced his retirement and changed his mind a month later, in order to prepare Diaz for her return to the big screen. On social media, other entertainers, including Jennifer Aniston and Kim Cattrall, received the news with enthusiasm. Nancy Meyers, who directed Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, wrote: “Finally! Some good news!” Still, in keeping with her decision to avoid the buzz of stardom as much as possible, the Californian actress didn’t even share the news with her nearly 10 million Instagram followers.

During her time outside the public eye, Cameron Diaz, like peers such as Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, has attempted to follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s path, using her platform to establish herself as a wellness guru. She published two books on well-being and longevity – The Body Book and The Longevity Book. She has also invested in emerging alternative medicine companies, including Modern Acupuncture and Lyra Health, which helps companies improve the mental health of their employees. In 2020, she also became the founder of the Avaline wine brand, which sells wines made with organic, pesticide-free grapes. The line includes eight varieties, and the starting price for a bottle is €23 ($23.6). “Avaline is the only day-to-day work that I’m doing other than being a wife and a mother. It really has been the most fulfilling part of my life so far,” she said in an interview last year.

Cameron Diaz married Benji Madden, a member of the band Good Charlotte, in 2015.
Cameron Diaz married Benji Madden, a member of the band Good Charlotte, in 2015.MICHAEL NELSON (EFE)

The resurgence of the romantic comedy could be behind Diaz’s return to film. The genre reached its box office peak in the mid-1990s. Earlier this year, Sandra Bullock found unexpected success with her return to the genre in The Lost City. Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan gave the latest remake of Father of the Bride a Latin twist. And in September, Julia Roberts will return to theaters in September after four years of absence: in Journey to Paradise, she will join George Clooney to play a divorced couple who team up to torpedo their daughter’s wedding in Bali. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise is enjoying the success of Top Gun: Maverick, Laura Dern and Sam Neill are returning to the Jurassic Park franchise, and Brad Pitt is preparing for the release of his new action film Bullet Train. After being slammed by the effects of the pandemics, movie theaters are finding that old stars are the best way to get viewers back in their seats.

Cameron Diaz has limited her public appearances in the last decade to a handful of promotional interviews.
Cameron Diaz has limited her public appearances in the last decade to a handful of promotional interviews.NBC (NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

During her hiatus, Diaz has avoided spotlights and red carpets, appearing only on programs hosted by colleagues such as Paltrow and Drew Barrymore. The actress has spoken unequivocally about the elements that have hampered her professional career, from the abuse of power exercised by Hollywood studios over their stars to the dictatorship of beauty standards. “Every day I sat in front of the mirror for hours. It ended up being toxic […] You start criticizing yourself and you think, why am I sitting here being mean to myself?” she said in a BBC podcast, calling herself a “victim of the objectification and social exploitation that women are subjected to.” In deciding to return to the spotlight, Diaz follows the example of other contemporaries who have recently come out of similar semi-retirements, such as Renée Zellweger, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Judy Garland, and Lindsay Lohan, who will premiere a Christmas-themed movie on Netflix at the end of this year.



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Today’s leading Tik Tok influencer creates fashion parodies from one of the world’s poorest islands | Culture

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Shaheel Shermont Flair is 24 years old, and he wants to be a comedic actor. On his social media, where he showcases his talent for comedy through videos/reels, he describes himself as a “public figure” and “artist.” On June 20, he shared his latest witty idea online: a fashion show parody. “Fashion shows be like this,” he declared (alongside the emoji of a face crying with laughter). Then, barefoot and dressed in a T-shirt and sport shorts, he started walking like Linda, Naomi, or Christy through what looks like the backyard of his house. Each trip displayed a style created with all sorts of knickknacks, junk, utensils and household furnishings. In an unintentionally Rickowensian moment (or not), he even used his little sister, Riharika, who was accessorized and off to the side, as a complement. On TikTok, where he has been appearing as @shermont22 for a little more than a year, the short video has racked up over five million views and counting. He continues to gain followers as well; he has nearly 350,000 right now and 13 million or so “likes.” Viewers keep asking him for more. At popular request, he uploaded his most recent video a few hours ago. It is the ninth installment of a viral saga that, in reality, is not so ironic and hilarious.

By today’s standards, Shermont is already a star in terms of fame and glory. In a recent story on his Instagram profile (@shermont_22, which has considerably fewer followers, although one assumes that his viewership there will eventually grow), he confessed to having googled his name and was in disbelief about how far-reaching his performance was. “I’m in the news!” He was amazed and posted screenshots from different digital media, especially from Southeast Asian outlets. On Twitter, he is being hailed as the week’s hero for making fun of, mocking, and deriding that silly and increasingly absurd thing: fashion (of course).

The same thing happened just two months ago, when a video on Douyin (a social network) went viral on its Western counterpart, TikTok, giving rise to the turn-your-grandmother-into-an-international-supermodel challenge. In the video, a venerable elderly Chinese woman was dressed as the personification of Balenciaga, Gucci and Prada by a little boy (presumably her grandson) with what he had on hand in his yurt, including chicken. The results of the challenge—images done in the style of luxury advertising campaigns with brand logos superimposed on them—tell us that we are all Demna Gvasalia, Alessandro Michele, or the tandem Miuccia-Raf Simons, or at least we can be.

An elderly woman dressed by her grandson, who used everyday objects to recreate a Balenciaga advertisement.
An elderly woman dressed by her grandson, who used everyday objects to recreate a Balenciaga advertisement.RR.SS

For a long time, people have complained repeatedly about how bad fashion is, now more than ever. Not only does fashion pollute the planet and exploit its workers, but it also mocks consumers. Are these designers crazy? No, they are just pulling our leg with so much aesthetic arbitrariness/ugliness/stupidity. It’s only fair, then, to return the favor in jaw-droppingly funny ways. In fact, trolling the fashion industry—like Shermont and the Chinese grandmothers (there are quite a few of them)—may be evidence of a certain social disgust with its three-ring circus and its trainers, illusionists, and clowns, whose extravagances are understood as nonsense and, even worse, insults or near-insults. Vetements’s DHL uniform. Virgil Abloh’s Ikea bag. JW Anderson’s broken-skateboard-encrusted sweater. Balenciaga’s shredded sneakers. All of Balenciaga, the brand inevitably referred to in comments on the young comedian’s reels. There are more than a few comments that also praise Shermont’s attitude and stylish model’s trot; they ask to see his fashion show in Paris and Milan already. And then there are those who attempt to be funnier and more sarcastic and ironic than the video itself, which is typical on Twitter. But none of the commenters have taken issue—or even tried to take issue—with the video’s deeper premise.

Shaheel Shermont Flair is a Fijian of Indian descent; his ancestors were Indian girmtyas who went to British-colonized Fiji in the mid-nineteenth century as slave labor. He is also gay. “Welcome the queen to Instagram,” he urged in April 2021, when he debuted on the social media site. In November, he posted that “[m]y sexuality isn’t the problem, your bigotry is.” In April of this year, he returned to the fray: “There are those who hate me for being different and not living by society’s standards, but deep down they wish they had my courage.” Before his phenomenal fashion show, he was already doing “low cosplay” of Indian women by using waste—toilet paper for the sari, a bottle cap for a nath on the nose, and a tea bag for the maang tikka on the forehead, for example—to create an Indian bride’s trousseau in the playful post, “Getting ready for my lover.” In another, he straps on two water-filled balloons as swaying breasts under his T-shirt. “The things I do for TikTok,” he wrote. Indeed, Shermont has made comedy his path to escape bullying and discrimination (prejudice is double in his case) and turned his social media accounts into a highway to heaven. Just like Apichet Madaew Atirattana did back in his day.

Thai Dovima turns everyday objects, twigs, and garbage into original garments.
Thai Dovima turns everyday objects, twigs, and garbage into original garments.

Except for its glamorous intent, everything about Shermont’s catwalk recalls that of the so-called Thai Dovima. In 2016, before Tik Tok’s one-track mind took over, a teenager from the rice-growing region of Isaan—one of Thailand’s poorest areas—astonished the world by turning everyday objects, twigs, and trash into fabulous outfits. He filmed himself modeling those clothes at different locations in his village; his grandmother acted as a styling assistant. Facebook and Instagram went wild over what was termed the “break down of barriers between gender identity, fashion and recycling.” At the time, Madaew (a nom de guerre) explained it this way: “I want people to see that ugly things that don’t fit in can be transformed into something beautiful. And that dressing well is not about money.” Just a few months later, Asia’s Next Top Model, the South Asian edition of the U.S. talent show, called him to be a guest designer during the program’s fourth season. The following year, Time magazine put him on its list of new generational leaders. His example spread. Soon, new stars made their appearance: Suchanatda Kaewsanga, a fellow Thai who is openly trans, and the Chinese Lu Kaigang, whose offerings for fashion shows in his village—located in Guangxi province—unironically included dresses made of garbage can lids and old air-conditioner bags.

Here, we have a response from the poor and marginalized to fashion’s global impact as a mass phenomenon ascribed to the culture of leisure/entertainment. It is a practice that resonates with the button-down politics of Patrick Kelly, the first African American designer to join the ranks of the Parisian ready-to-wear trade association in the mid-1980s; the clothing activities of the swenkas (workers of Zulu origin) and skhothanes (post-apartheid image-obsessed youth) in Johannesburg; and the young Ghanaians who exploit the city-sized textile dumps surrounding the capital, Accra, as sources for their creativity. The narratives of the designers who establish the industry’s current direction, amplified as never before by digital media, also show that it is indeed possible to dress as stylishly as Balenciaga, Gucci or Prada without breaking the bank. That’s why TikTok’s Chinese supermodel grandmothers reflect aspiration and not scorn; they are proof that fashion has something for everyone, even the most socially disadvantaged (one can’t miss the proud hashtag that usually accompanies them, #chinastreetstyle). That’s why Apichet Madaew Atirattana, Suchanatda Kaewsanga and Li Kaigang have made careers as creators, bloggers or influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. They’ve come so far, propelled by the dreamy fuel that the magazines in village hair salons and satellite TV offer. “It’s very easy to blame fashion for all the problems it creates, but I’d like to think it’s also capable of helping people in many ways, in positive ways,” says Minh-Ha T. Pham, a professor of media studies at Pratt Institute in New York and the author of Asians Wear Clothes on the Internet (2016), an essay about the dynamics of race, gender and class among the young Asians who have found a way to express their identity through fashion, and in the process pushed the system to finally recognize them as a socioeconomic and cultural force. Shaheel Shermont Flair laughs, but he does fashion shows because he also knows what fashion can do for his ambition to become an actor.

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