The Chinese English news site Xinhuanews carried a roundup of 17 Sexy Action Stars this morning. I find the Xinhuanew fascinating because it's never quite clear if they find us interesting — by us I mean the Western world — or completely degenerate. Today, for example, they also covered the "rubber and fetish event" Latexpo 2010 in Hamburg with a number of rather explicit images. Hard to tell which chapter of the Little Red Book this would be covered in.

I trust there's some inscrutable reasons for it, but the landing page for "17 Sexy Action Stars" features only 15 women, one of them Sigourney Weaver as she appeared in Aliens. I've never once thought of Sigourney Weaver as being sexy. Of course, it may be that she's just not my type. If you attempt to discover the missing two by clicking the upper left hand image of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and then clicking next, you'll discover something even more inscrutable. It continues, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Alexis Liu, in Charlie's Angels, Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the already mentioned Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Halle Berry in Die Another Day, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns, Pam Grier in Foxy Brown — the missing #16, from 1974 no less — followed by "to be continued..."

To be continued?

Back click to the landing page, click on something you haven't seen and you'll find yourself in the midst of to be continued. Carrie Fisher in Star Wars, Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element, Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita. Steady yourself. The missing #17 turns out to be San in Princess Mononoke. Now, Princess Mononoke is a cartoon — you can call it an animated feature if you like — a greatly respected cartoon, but a cartoon nonetheless, and San a cartoon character. Franka Potente in Run Lola Run, Zoe Saldana, in Avatar, another (almost) cartoon — certainly, her part is animated — and that's the list. A bewildering list heading off in many directions. A list, it seems, based on a Chinese system that with patience we could learn from. Or, maybe not. Every caption ends with "(File Photo)". So, it could be that the list has nothing whatsoever to do with Chinese estimations of sexy, even in relation to degenerate Western behavior, but everything to do with what's available in the Xinhuanews file system. As with everything Chinese, it's wise to reserve final judgment.

What caught my eye, however, before these other things came to light was Charlie's Angels. Alex, played by Lucy Liu, introduces herself to Marshal Ray Carter in a Mongolian dungeon saying,
"I'm Alex Munday. I'll be your rescuer today."

"I didn't think you'd find me," he says. "How many men do you have?"

She half-smiles, "I've got two girlfriends in the bar."

"They have fifty armed men," he exclaims.

"I know," she says, finally freeing him. "It hardly seems fair."
Now, it could be the byproduct of living in an flawed society, but I knew at once that what Alex meant was, one waiting in the bar, rather than two, would have been more sportsmanlike. Also, I suspect that some cultural defect allows me to take lowbrow artifacts such as Charlie's Angels, or in this case Charlie's Angeles: Full Throttle seriously. That's undoubtedly the subtext of Xinhuanews. But, contextually degenerate or not, I loved every improbable moment of them. And the posters too.

I like the diagonal of the title in this one. There are several versions of it, but I like how they carried the flames over from the original to sustain a purposeful but somehow devious contradiction between the flames of hell, or perhaps only of passion or womanhood, and the three (far from) angelic figures in the foreground. But the thing I always admired, and from which I learned, was the illusion of a waist this poster created. The elbow of Cameron Diaz appears to coincide with the indentation of Drew Barrymore's waist. Drew Barrymore is someone I greatly admire, though she has obviously fostered a bad girl image through the years that may or may not be deserved. (Something only her very close friends would know.) But, she proved her salt, in my opinion, when she produced, directed and acted in Whip It, a wonderful comedy with realms of meaning beneath the surface. Drew Barrymore has many fine things to offer, but a waist is not one of them. Her figure tends toward the cylindrical. So, to costar with two curvaceous actresses and to seem herself but not physically different requires an innovative approach. Each director, cinematographer, graphic artist has handled this problem in his or her own way. It makes for an interesting study, but this is my favorite — aggressively simple, shamelessly direct and surprisingly effective. I doubt that one in a hundred movie goers has figured out her actual shape.

Of course, they dug a trench for Ingrid Bergman to walk in, if I remember correctly, to give Humphrey Bogart a lift, and the Queen of England's limo has independent rear seat controls so that even the King of Norway will seem slightly shorter than this miniscule queen. I don't believe that such things are examples of degenerative behavior, though their intention, perhaps innocent in itself, is to deceive. But, sometimes it's necessary to fudge things a bit. Sometimes you have all the ingredients but one, and sometimes you have all the ingredients plus one. And sometimes you just have a bunch of things and a deadline to meet. The clever chef always succeeds.

According to the Guardian this morning,
The last American combat troops left Iraq today, seven-and-a-half years after the US-led invasion, and two weeks ahead of President Barack Obama's 31 August deadline for withdrawal from the country.
Seven years late, but two weeks early. And only fifty-six thousand left in country. It reminds me of Marilyn Monroe's missed appointment with Bert Stern, if I remember the photographer correctly. She appeared unannounced and unexpected the following morning. She was, in her wonderful logic, "a day late, but two hours early."