1. “Maya Angelou R.I.P.” The Lyricial Witness of the Jim Crow South Dies at 86
“Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, ’I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’—which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South—was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Her death was confirmed by her longtime literary agent, Helen Brann. No immediate cause of death had been determined, but Ms. Brann said Ms. Angelou had been in frail health for some time and had had heart problems. As well known as she was for her memoirs, which eventually filled six volumes, Ms. Angelou very likely received her widest exposure on a chilly January day in 1993, when she delivered the inaugural poem, ’On the Pulse of Morning,’ at the swearing-in of Bill Clinton, the nation’s 42nd president, who, like Ms. Angelou, had grown up poor in rural Arkansas.”
2. “Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds.” Nerdy guys aren’t guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick as long as we work hard. There isn’t a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by getting the girl.
“We (male) nerds grow up force-fed this script. Lusting after women ’out of our league’ was what we did. And those unattainable hot girls would always inevitably reject us because they didn’t understand our intellectual interest in science fiction and comic books and would instead date asshole jocks. This was inevitable, and our only hope was to be unyieldingly persistent until we ’earned’ a chance with these women by ’being there’ for them until they saw the error of their ways. (The thought of just looking for women who shared our interests was a foreign one, since it took a while for the media to decide female geeks existed. The Big Bang Theory didn’t add Amy and Bernadette to its main cast until Season 4, in 2010.)”
3. “The Real Origins of the Religious Right.” They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.
“One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it. This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: ’I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,’ Falwell writes, ’growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.’ Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.”
4. “The Absurd and the Sublime: Herzog’s Stroszek.” Bruno Stroszek remains one of the great human characters because Bruno Schleinstein gave one great human performance.
“There’s something about that chicken. Stroszek concludes with its hero’s life in ruins: flat broke, newly homeless, his stolen pickup left ablaze and smoking in a small-town diner parking lot. We last see the hapless Bruno Stroszek looping up and down a dinky mountain lift, a ten-pound frozen turkey in one hand and a rifle in the other. After making a go of a new life abroad he’s found himself stranded in a country where he doesn’t speak the language, his modest American dream left in tatters around him. The future looks dire; he has no plans, no options, no recourse. In his desperation he follows an old trope: he turns to crime. The last fifteen minutes of Stroszek are like a demented version of Bonnie and Clyde: Bruno and his senile neighbor become idiots on the run, robbing a barber for petty cash before fleeing next door to spend their spoils. The neighbor ends up arrested. Bruno ends up dead by his own hand. Werner Herzog brings this comic tragedy to a close with a shot of farm animals performing tricks for quarters—a duck that bangs a drum, a dancing chicken. It’s inexplicable. It’s also devastating. What is it about that damn chicken?”
5. “Pre-Code: Hollywood before the censors.” Mike Mashon explores the history of demands for a system of moral oversight and shows how conservatives lobbied to enforce it, while below, James Bell examines the new-found freedoms filmmakers enjoyed in their depiction of taboo subjects from adultery and poverty to crime.
“Forget sex, horror or portrayals of unruly mobs of the unemployed, it was the gangster film that provoked the greatest moral panic in Depression and Prohibition-era America. Though it wasn’t the first American gangster feature, Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar was the first of the sound era, and had an incendiary impact, paving the way for William Wellman’s The Public Enemy later the same year, Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1932) and numerous other imitators—by one reckoning, more than 75 gangster films would go on to be made before the Code was enforced in 1934. With Al Capone and John Dillinger barely off the front pages, Edward G. Robinson’s tightly wound, gun-totin’ mobster on the rise Rico Bandello exemplified the torn-from-the-headlines approach of Prohibition-era Warner Bros productions, and has cast his shadow on every onscreen anti-hero gangster since.”
Video of the Day: Maya Angelou reading her inaugural poem “On the Pulse of Morning”:
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