1. “How Selma Got Smeared.” Grantland’s Mark Harris on historical drama and its malcontents.
“[Ava] DuVernay’s understanding of the importance of legacy to men in power is profound—she grasps it not just as an aftereffect, but as a motive. And the issue of legacy may be why so many of Selma’s attackers, who speak the language of establishment power, are bent on invalidating the film. The old saw that history is written by the victors is particularly relevant here, because Selma is the first mainstream movie about this era to raise the question of who, exactly, gets to claim ownership of that victory. To many historians and politicians, the triumph of civil rights is that, after much toil and strife, they were bestowed from above; to many African-Americans, however, the victory is that those rights were taken—wrenched, with tremendous will, persistence, and effort, out of a system that was not in an immense hurry to offer them up. The former stance has long been the vantage point offered by most white filmmakers who have tackled this history. So it’s little wonder that DuVernay’s movie, the first on the subject by a woman of color and the first not to view mid-20th-century civil rights purely as an example of presidential, judicial, or legislative beneficence, has distressed those who, even 50 years later, would be far more at home in a room with President Johnson than with Dr. King. They are unnerved not only that Selma threatens to become ’official’ history, but that it represents a sea change in who has custody of that history.”
2. “The Hollywood Blacklist, Revisited.” Guernica’s Colin Beckett interviews Thom Andersen on the radical legacy of American communist film.
“There’s no one alive today who defends the blacklist except for Richard Schickel [the American journalist and film critic who currently writes for Truthdig]. It’s an example of something I talked about in Los Angeles Plays Itself in relation to L.A. Confidential (1997): ’History is written by the victors, but it’s written in crocodile tears.’ We have a Malcolm X stamp, a Paul Robeson stamp, a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. We pay our respects to these people precisely so that we can continue policies which are completely antithetical to what they stood for.”
3. “A Note to My Readers.” Andrew Sullivan says farewell to blogging.
“Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen. The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.”
4. “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say.” How the language police are perverting liberalism.
“But it would be a mistake to categorize today’s p.c. culture as only an academic phenomenon. Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today’s political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.”
5. “Charles H. Townes Dies at 99.” He envisioned the laser, bringing it into daily life.
“He had an ’a-ha!’ moment. Sitting in a park in Washington in 1951, pondering how to stimulate molecular energy to create shorter wavelengths, he conceived of a device he called a maser, for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. It would use molecules to nudge other molecules, and amplify their thrust by getting them to resonate like tuning forks and line up in a powerful beam.”
Video of the Day: Fantastic Four gets a teaser trailer:
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