Nudity for all!

Too hot? Lose the swimsuit, say several venerable publications. Plus: Reform Party madness, TV racial quotas and a ridiculous theory on recent violence.


Jenn Shreve
August 6, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

I made a startling discovery this week. Everyone is on vacation but me. Hard-hitting news? Forget it. Sam Spade is learning to hula in the Bahamas. Thought-provoking essays? Why bother? "Bridget Jones" is out in paperback! Several alternative weeklies haven't even bothered to update their Web sites, leaving me to merely speculate as to their content: Arianna Huffington comes out of the closet, too! Bill Gates donates his excess wealth to the NEA! Jesse Ventura body slams Pat Buchanan into heavenly oblivion. Oh, perfect world ...

Where was I? Oh, yes! Actual stories published this week included a thrill-a-minute tale of "Death and Dog Grooming," a suspenseful, investigative feature on soap and this guaranteed page turner, "The Republican mayoral candidate who fishes with his family!"

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It took a summer-themed package in the Boston Phoenix to remind me that the cure to my summer content doldrums had been sitting on my coffee table all along.

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The Boston Phoenix, July 29-Aug. 5

"Nudefest!" by Chris Wright

Every time I read this story, I love it more. Journalist goes to nudist retreat, strips to get closer to his subject, feels vulnerable, learns something. "As one who enjoys the odd pint, my body is a road map that leads back to the Sam Adams brewery. But here -- and not only because the majority of the people are in worse shape than I am -- I feel completely comfortable. Or at least I'm beginning to," Chris Wright reports from the scene.

The naked piece is part of a larger package on beaches. Jason Gay reiterates a few truthful stereotypes in his list of "5 beach jerks" and his disturbing report on Martha's Vineyard's private beaches. And no good time should be had without a smidgen of guilt, courtesy of the mandatory Interview With an Environmentalist to tell us how all this frolicking in the sand will kill Mother Earth.

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Nude & Natural: The Quarterly Journal of Clothes-Optional Living Summer 1999

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If I've done my job correctly, you just skimmed that last part in a mad dash to find out just what was on my coffee table. It was a copy of Nude & Natural: The Quarterly Journal of Clothes-Optional Living. I hope you're not disappointed.

Did I pick up a N&N because I'm a firm believer in the naturalist way of life? Because I believe public nudity should be accepted by all? No. Although I support nudity in designated areas, I picked up this magazine because I thought it would be good for some laughs. Indeed it was. Naked people covered in pudding are funny. And let me tell you, there is nothing unfunny about a straight-faced, naturalist take on "Beavis & Butt-Head" ("From the Outside, Looking In" by Mark Storey).

Ultimately, N&N does offer more than giggle fits to the uninitiated reader. The same essay offers an intelligent examination of Diane Arbus' photos of nudists by a nudist. Later, Greg Friedler explores the alienating quality of clothing in a series of photographs of people with their clothes and without (excerpted from "Naked New York" and "Naked Los Angeles"). And, of course, the multitudinous shots of nudists on vacation -- with their abundance of body types, superfluous accessories and uneroticized genitals -- are a lovely reprieve from the idealized bodies we are bombarded with daily.

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San Francisco Bay Guardian, June 9

"Nude Beaches '99"

For 25 years, the S.F. Bay Guardian has been providing the left-coast with a guide to nude beaches. Bless them!

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McSweeney's

"Sixteen Punchlines for Hot Days" by Jason Ross

"It was so hot, a woman waiting for the subway imagined jumping down onto the track bed, hopping over the electric rails, and climbing up on the far platform. Then she wondered if anyone watching would be impressed. After a moment, she decided that yes, they would be impressed."

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Hartford Advocate, Aug. 4-10

"Reform Party Acid Test" by Curt Guyette

"Think of attending the three-day convention as a prolonged political acid trip, a good strong hit of yellow window pane that sends the senses into a chaotic, psychedelic swirl before lifting you to a peak of clarity," writes Curt Guyette of the annual Reform Party Convention, this year. If there was ever a job made for Hunter S. Thompson, this would be it. And where is he? Still snorting, drinking and inhaling, that's where he is. And we poor chaps are left to conjure up what wonderful prose the Doctor might have spun if trapped in a room with Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura and a whole lot of mescaline.

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Guyette's no Thompson (then again, neither is Thompson anymore), but he does capture the psychedelic qualities of a political party that wants to be taken seriously, yet is composed of flamboyant misfits.

"Driving Miss Lazy" by Robert Masterson

Just in case you haven't read enough articles about hookers lately, an interview with a guy who drove cars for an escort service. Titillating? Perhaps. Interesting? Hardly.

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Austin Chronicle, July 30-Aug. 5

"Take the Money and Run" by Robert Bryce

We know George W. has raised unprecedented wads of cash from corporate donors with dreams of legislative payoff in their heads. Robert Bryce looks at how he's spending the dough and what it means to us. Smart, insightful stuff.

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L.A. Weekly, Aug. 6-12

"'Homeboys From Outer Space' and other transgressions" by Erin Aubry

In the uproar over the lack of minorities on network television, Erin Aubry expresses her displeasure with the quality and content of the black shows already in existence. Before we insist on creating and enforcing TV quotas, we need to take a look at how blacks are portrayed on television and what we can do to write black characters with personalities that go beyond skin-deep, Aubry argues. She makes an excellent point with impressive force and a healthy dose of self-awareness.

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Village Voice, Aug. 4-10

"All the Rage" by Richard Goldstein

Mark Barton's killing spree? The rapists and rioters at Woodstock? The guy who assaulted a Continental Airlines worker when prevented from chasing his runaway son? There are numerous explanations for these violent outbreaks. Village Voice media critic Richard Goldstein offers his: "x-treme corporate backlash" against "outrageous corporate conduct." Voice mail, airline delays, $4 water bottles, misleading advertisements: This is why these people decided to kill, rape, maim and destroy!

It's a theory, all right! But one born out of a simplistic urge to blame The Man rather than any coherent reasoning or anthropological study. I only wish violence could be stamped out by airlines offering more leg room, music venues charging reasonable prices and e-trade companies addressing newcomers as "fools."

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"Urban Up" by Amanda Griscom

Somebody is building a car that flies. Mass production and highways in the sky may become a reality in our lifetime. Why isn't this front-page news?

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Seattle Weekly, Aug. 5-11

"Why the Web Sucks" by Angela Gunn

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Why this article sucks: Instead of the Luddite argument against the Internet this article's headline would lead you to anticipate, we get an interview with a know-it-all who thinks Web design could use some tweaking. He has some good points, but they're lost in a maze of badly organized paragraphs and misleading exclamations.

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The Stranger, July 29-Aug. 4

"Spookier than thou" by Rebecca Brown

This smart, brief history of Goth in art is an excellent primer for us fans of useless trivia.


Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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