600: Rise of My Blood Pressure

300 rise of an empire

Okay, last I checked the Spartans didn’t have an empire. They were some bad ass warriors, no doubt, but they didn’t have an empire. Anyway, 300 Part 2 (or 600), was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life. Historical accuracy is one thing movies are always short on, but this one was quite honestly pulling shit out of its ass like no one’s business. Honestly, the movie is so insulting on so many levels that I really can’t understand how or why it was made. First, the constant droning on about how the Greeks were all free men was just sickening. It kept making me think of George Dubya and all the news shows post-9/11 about how every terrorist (read “brown person”… whether from the … [Read more...]

Reasons for the Left to Be Optimistic

Optimistic Left

Being a liberal/lefty/whatever in America has never been easy, and it has seldom involved optimism.  Ever since Werner Sombart wondered “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” the Left has often seen itself as a chronic loser in US history, and especially since the historic routing of the New Left in the 1960s and the right-wing counterrevolution of Reaganomics in the 1980s, progressives could be regularly counted on to outmatch Eeyore in a dolefulness contest. In recent years the triumphs of corporate power and the Christian Right have meant that most on the Left have focused on defending what they’d already achieved rather than imagining anything better—hence the slogan “Another … [Read more...]

Does Rape Have a Color? Woody Allen, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby and the Racial Politics of Sexual Abuse

Woody Allen Bill Cosby R Kelly

Like so many over the past weeks, I have been following the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen conflagration that re-exploded in the media on February 1 with Ms. Farrow’s open letter to the New York Times. In the letter, Farrow accuses Allen in graphic and heart-wrenching detail of sexually abusing her when she was seven years old. This information wasn’t new since Maureen Orth at Vanity Fair had covered the story extensively when it first broke in 1992, but Farrow’s letter triggered new interest in the case, even beyond that of Orth’s November 2013 follow-up interviews with the entire Farrow clan. Apparently unable to stay silent amidst the firestorm, Allen followed Farrow’s letter one week later … [Read more...]

The Massive Missed Opportunity

school desegregation

Tanner Colby wants to use history to rethink liberal orthodoxy on questions of race and racism, but his stories so far reproduce as much rotten accepted wisdom as they challenge. Over at Slate, Tanner Colby is celebrating Black History Month with a series titled “The Massive Liberal Failure on Race.” The premise is simple: despite having been “ceded a monopoly on caring about black people” by the Republican right, liberals “hold on to some really bad ideas about race.” As a remedy, Colby prescribes a dose of history, a retelling of the “liberal establishment’s mishandling of this volatile issue” in order to encourage today’s liberals to “purge outdated orthodoxies, admit past mistakes, … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1

IMG_7161

Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

Dropping a Dime on Madiba: How the CIA Helped Arrest Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela in prison

If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace. Nelson Mandela, 2002 The president’s press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, a terse, stout spokesman for a vacillating chief executive, grew irritated.  “We find no value in reviewing a 30-year-old history in this case,” growled Fitzwater.  In June of 1990, the Cox News Service newspapers published reports that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (the CIA) had in 1962 tipped off the South African security forces, enabling them to arrest the embattled leader of the resistance to apartheid, Nelson Mandela.  Indignant that the Washington press corps … [Read more...]

The Motor City at War: Mobilization, Wartime Housing, and Reshaping Metropolitan Detroit

life-detroit-car-makers-world-war-II-1942_8_chrysler-tanks

“New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie,” commented former Punk rock queen Patti Smith in recent weeks. “New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."  Today, Detroit usually receives attention for all the wrong reasons: industrial decline, corrupt mayoral administrations, and racial tension to name only a few issues assailing the city.  Add the seemingly ubiquitous spread of ruin porn – photography that tends to capture Detroit as if it were nothing but municipal ruin and squatters – and Detroit’s main attraction seems to be, at the moment, its desperation. Desperate New York of the … [Read more...]

The Discreet Charm of the Gizmosie

female-gremlin

For some reason, our piece on Gremlins and the myth of the model minority has caught on in a big way in the last few months.  We first put together the piece nearly two years ago, as ToM sought a suitable candidate for our yearly treatment of some artifact of holiday pop culture.  Gremlins, the much-loved 1984 comedy-horror film, hardly seemed like a Christmas classic on a par with A Christmas Story or Community's delectable stop-motion send-up of Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, both of which we'd covered in the past.  Indeed, Gremlins seemed more of a piece with the postmodern popcorn hits of the early-to-mid 1980s -- films like The Goonies (1985), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and Back to … [Read more...]

Is White the Only Color in Upstream Color?

amy-seimetz-upstream-color

Maybe the title of Upstream Color primed me to be thinking about race from the film’s start, or maybe, given the non-white characters in the first scene, it was the fact that people of color are under-represented in films and are, when present, often accompanied by a race-related message. The movie opens with three non-white teens and a non-white guy who is later revealed to be some sort of confidence man. The non-white teens are involved in the production side of a sci-fi drug business, and they’re getting high on the product on the side. The confidence man uses the drug to infiltrate the life of a middle-class white woman and steal her money. Pretty much the rest of the movie is about … [Read more...]

Only Some May Follow: Southern California, Asian Americans, and Housing during the Cold War

Japanese Internment - Not America's greatest moment

“Years of media abetted conditioning to the possibility of war, invasion, and conquest by waves and waves of fanatic emperor worshiping yellow men,” the late writer Michi Nishiura Weglyn pointed out, “invariably aided by harmless seeming Japanese gardeners and fisherfolk who were really spies and saboteurs in disguise – had invoked latent paranoia as the news from the Pacific in the early weeks of the war brought only reports of cataclysmic Allied defeats.”[1]  Indeed, even before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and internment, the U.S. government questioned the loyalty of its Japanese citizens. The F.B.I. and Naval intelligence had performed exhaustive surveillance of the Japanese minority and … [Read more...]

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