Bodrum ho! It isn’t just how many oligarchic super-yachts have found safe harbor on the sanctions-free Turkish coast—according to an investigation by The Times of London, “at least ten yachts that are believed to be owned by tycoons under sanctions or on a US government list of oligarchs close to President Putin are languishing across Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines,” the total value of those yachts “estimated at £2.2 billion [$2.5 billion], greater than the estimated value of the superyachts that have so far been successfully impounded under international sanctions.” No, what’s really eyebrow-raising is that a significant chunk of that informal fleet apparently belongs to the former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
His £403 million [$465 million] Solaris (eight decks, 48 cabins, 20 jet skis, helicopter, anti-missile defense system, etc., etc.) is lurking just off Bodrum, and more of the Abramovich flotilla isn’t too far off. “Another of Abramovich’s suspected yachts, the £363 million [$420 million] Eclipse, was anchored off the Turkish Göcek Island this week,” the newspaper said. “The 533ft Eclipse was the world’s largest private yacht when Abramovich bought it in 2010 and is reported to have a mini-submarine and missile launchers. Two of his smaller yachts, Halo and Garcon, are also located off the Turkish coast.” For perspective: Garçon is a mere 220 feet long, and Halo a rather embarrassing 188. Dinghies, essentially.
It’s a given that Shakespeare’s King Richard III doesn’t come off so well in the play that bears his name. He’s a murderous power grabber given to “naked villainy” who enjoys “play[ing] the devil”—and that’s in his own estimation. The reappearance of the actual Richard, or his remains, anyway, under a parking lot in Leicester in 2012, brought renewed attention to the ongoing debate over how evil he really was—or wasn’t. Now a film about the discovery of those five-century-old bones, starring Steve Coogan (who also co-wrote it) and Sally Hawkins, is stirring an additional controversy even before its release.
The Lost King premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival later this month, but some of the archaeologists involved in the discovery of Richard’s grave are already raising concerns about the film’s accuracy. “Philippa Langley [Hawkins], the woman behind the campaign to look for Richard Plantagenet under the asphalt … is a passionate member of the Richard III Society and the woman who persuaded the local council and the University of Leicester to start the dig,” reported The Guardian. “All agree she is the heart of the story, but the historians and archaeologists who carried out the work fear the acclaimed team making the film, including co-screenwriter Jeff Pope and director Stephen Frears, have now cast them all as obstacles, rather than as Langley’s supporters.”
Richard Taylor, the former deputy registrar for Leicester University, noted that “tension makes a good story but it doesn’t necessarily make it true. If you are going to portray real people, at least involve them. It strikes me as pretty reckless.” Langley herself, who spent eight years trying to make the dig happen, had earlier told the newspaper, “I was sidelined and marginalised. I was hugely vulnerable. Because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a professor. But in the end, I came to find my voice.”
Nigeria is banning foreign models and voice-over artists from its television commercials. “Ten to twenty years ago if you checked the commercials, I would say they were almost 50/50 in terms of foreign faces and all the voiceovers were British accents,” the president of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria, Steve Babaeko, told The Times of London. “I think the law is just catching up with national sentiment.… People will tell you, ‘There are about 200 million of us. Are you telling me you could not find indigenous models for this commercial?’” The newspaper noted that in 2018 the Nigerian fashion designer Deola Sagoe was criticized for advertising a collection of traditional Nigerian dresses—“Nigeria’s regal gift to the world”—using “three white models, an Asian model and only one African model.”
Alexandre Villaplane, the star who led the French soccer team as captain at the first-ever World Cup (Uruguay, 1930), is the subject of a new biography called Le Brassard (The Armband), by Luc Briand, and much of the attention it’s getting has nothing to do with his exploits as a midfielder. Villaplane “had a penchant for gambling, drink and extramarital affairs that ate up his earnings,” reported The Times of London. “When his career ended, he turned to crime — mainly fraud — and was on the fringes of the Paris underworld when the Nazis invaded in 1940. Hitler’s occupiers found French criminal gangs to be willing helpers. The Nazis would turn a blind eye to their activities.”
Villaplane became a Nazi collaborator, a wealthy one, as well as a Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) “in charge of a unit who went to the Dordogne and murdered resistance members and civilians.” Arrested when the war ended, he “told police that he had been a secret resistance agent” but “no one believed him,” and he was tried and executed.
We’ll get to this item in just a moment, but can we first put you on hold briefly?
[Irritating music of your choice here.]
A Silicon Valley start-up is hoping its voice-manipulating software will make communication a little easier during those occasional conversations one inevitably and frustratingly has with someone halfway around the world. A demonstration on the Sanas Web site “features a voice with an Indian accent switching, at the touch of a button, to sound more like an American, albeit one with a slightly robotic tone,” reported The Times of London. “The designers have been accused of racism and ‘whitewashing’ for trying to promote a generic western accent as the norm.” But one of Sanas’s co-founders, Sharath Keshava Narayana, himself a former call-center worker from India, told the newspaper, “Should the world be a better place for accepting people? Yes. But call centres have existed for 45 years. And we built this for call centre agents because imagine if you were waiting tables, and every second person you served abused you … For me and for my team”—most of the Sanas staff are immigrants, he said—“this is about 15 million call centre agents. If we can make them smile at the end of the day, not having to go through this abuse, we’ll take that win right now.”
The software, said the newspaper, was inspired by a Stanford student who, while temping at a phone-tech-support job in his native Nicaragua, “was racially abused for his accent by English-speaking customers, and called stupid.” It can be turned on or off by whoever is speaking. That sounds encouraging. Though one worries whether it might lead to impatient demands along the lines of: I can’t understand you, push the damn button! —George Kalogerakis
George Kalogerakis, one of the original editor-writers at Spy, later worked for Vanity Fair, New York, and The New York Times, where he was deputy op-ed editor. A co-author of Spy: The Funny Years and co-editor of Disunion: A History of the Civil War, he is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL