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Thumbnails 6/25/2013

"The Guileless 'Accidental Racism' of Paula Deen." For The Atlantic Monthly, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about the TV chef's ongoing scandal, and what it reveals about America's artful dodging of its past.

"We have conditioned ourselves with a kind of magic to believe that racism is a matter of kindness and prohibitive vocabulary—as though a hatred of women can be reduced to the use of the word 'bitch.' But what does a country which tolerates the terrorism of Southwest Georgia expect? What does a country whose left wing's greatest policy achievement was made possible by an embrace of white supremacy really believe will happen to children raised in such times? What do we expect in a country where many find it entirely appropriate to wear the battle-flag of the republic of slavery? Perhaps it expects that they will be savvy enough to not propose sambo burgers or plantation themed weddings. But this is an embarrassment at airs, not the actual truth."

"Gangster Boogie: Curtis Mayfield Injected his Own Cultural Commentary Into the Super Fly Soundtrack." For Wax Poetics, Michael Gonzales writes about one of the greatest original scores as both music and journalism.

"From its former glory days as a cultural capital where Langston Hughes scribbled poetry, Billie Holiday sang the blues, and Duke Ellington tinkled his Steinway, the once vibrant village of Harlem had become, as Wesley Snipes’s stoic gangster Roemello Skuggs observed in Sugar Hill (1994), “a burnt-out jungle, a ghost of better days. Yet, while the streets of Harlem had become a haven for the criminal minded (in addition to drug dealers, there were also numerous pimps, whores, number bankers, and practitioners of other vices), that depressing wonderland of burned-out tenements and trash-strewn lots became the perfect backdrop for the coolest crime movies of that period. [...] 'The one thing about our movies was that they had dynamic music,' says film legend Fred Williamson, who starred in the 1973 Harlem double feature Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem. 'The music was as big as the movies.'"

"Only the Lonely." Actor and writer Stephen Fry writes, movingly and with great humor, about his ongoing struggle with depression.

"Some people, as some people always will, cannot understand that depression (or in my case cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder) is an illness and they are themselves perhaps the sufferers of a malady that one might call either an obsession with money, or a woeful lack of imagination. 'How can someone so well-off, well-known and successful have depression?' they ask. Alastair Campbell in a marvelous article, suggested changing the word 'depression' to 'cancer' or 'diabetes'  in order to reveal how, in its own way, sick a question, it is. Ill-natured, ill-informed, ill-willed or just plain ill, it’s hard to say. But, most people, a surging, warm, caring majority, have been kind. Almost too kind. There’s something a little flustering and embarrassing when a taxi-driver shakes you by the hand, looks deep into your eyes and says 'You look after yourself, mate, yes? Promise me?'"

"Rex Reed Refuses to Apologize for Melissa McCarthy Comments: 'I Stand By All of My Original Remarks." The critic once called the actress "tractor-sized, a "female hippo," and a "screeching, humongous creep." He says he wouldn't change a word.

"I can only repeat what I have said before -- that I do not have, nor have I ever had, anything personal against people who suffer from obesity," he wrote to Us in an email. "What I object to is the disgusting attempt to pretend obesity is funny. It is not remotely humorous, and every obese comedian who ever made jokes about the disease are now dead from strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. As a critic whose opinions are constitutionally protected by law, I stand by all of my original remarks about Melissa McCarthy's obesity, which I consider about as amusing as cancer, and apologize for nothing."

"David Gregory is What's Wrong With Washington." Andrew Sullivan takes the NBC correspondent to task for trying to tear down Glenn Greenwald's take on the case of Edward Snowden, who is accused of illegally disclosing classified intelligence. Gregory believes that Greenwald is "not a journalist" and refers to him as "a polemicist." This is a key to understanding the real power politics surrounding this story, Sullivan argues. Related: "Snowden Case Has a Cold War Aftertaste," by David M. Herszenhorn of The New York Times.

"Underlying a lot of this is the mainstream media's fear and loathing and envy of the blogger journalist. Notice that Gregory calls Greenwald a 'polemicist' – not a journalist. The difference, I presume, is that polemicists actually make people in power uncomfortable. Journalists simply do their best to get chummy with them in order to get exclusive tidbits that the powerful want you to know. Second: ask yourself if David Gregory ever asked a similar question of people in government with real power, e.g. Dick Cheney et al. Did he ever ask them why they shouldn’t go to jail for committing documented war crimes under the Geneva Conventions? Nah."

"There's a man on the wing of this plane!" John Lithgow as the terrified passenger who thinks he seems a gremlin in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," director George Miller's episode of the 1983 anthology film Twilight Zone: The Movie. To read Roger Ebert's review, click here. This episode of the movie and two others were written by science fiction and fantasy legend Richard Matheson, who died yesterday at age 87. To read Peter Sobczynski's appreciation of Matheson, click here.

For "Filmmaker IQ," John Hess traces the evolution of the screen shape from the silent film days through the widescreen explosion of the '50s, to the aspect ratio of modern digital cameras. Amazing stuff. 

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