We turned left at Maplesville and headed for Clanton, drawn by word of a Confederate flag and rumor of a lynching. Ida B. Wells wrote about the killing 125 years earlier. Now, we’d read in the paper, stars and bars flew nearby, well in view of drivers on Interstate 65 near the geographic center of Alabama. The flag adorns the Confederate Memorial Park and Museum in nearby Marbury. The lynching is all but forgotten.
One month earlier, the park grounds had seen cannon fire. Re-enactors presented a “skirmish” displaying military maneuvers that never took place in Marbury, the site of no battles. The park’s director, a man named Rambo, explained that the event offered the public an opportunity to see how Confederate forces engaged the enemy. “All of the people are trained living historians,” he beamed, reflecting on the re-enactors, “and they love to spread the knowledge. Unfortunately, a lot of people learn of history through Hollywood.”
We were there to make a film — An Outrage — a documentary about the history of lynching in the American South, and the legacy of this orphaned past. Good people in Clanton, Marbury, and beyond hadn’t learned about history that wasn’t taught. Others had succeeded in muffling open secrets that had fallen out of fashion. My wife, Hannah Ayers, and I had driven 723 miles from our home in Richmond, Virginia, to find killing fields across the region. We wanted to see how these places looked today. We wanted to explore memory, interrogate history, and ask what happens when the two do not agree.
Hard rain darkened the sky. It squeezed the spindly Route 22 to Clanton. The trees were tall, lining the way on both sides. They formed a silent swaying wall. We knew they held secrets, secrets herded into shadows, secrets long hushed.
Last week, ‘Tig’, a documentary about stand-up comic Tig Notaro–whose career reached new heights in 2012 after she opened a set by announcing she had breast cancer–debuted on Netflix. In January, at Vulture, Jada Yuan spoke with Notaro about the film, the assorted grave misfortunes from 2012 that are now behind her, her plans for marrying and having kids with her partner, Stephanie Allynne–and baring her mastectomy scars through an entire set, before an audience:
You did a topless set showing your mastectomy scars in New York this November. Why did you want to do that?
Well, I felt compelled after my surgery. It amused me to think of going onstage topless and not really acknowledging it. And just kind of in the same awkward way that it is to say, “Good evening, I have cancer, how’s it going tonight? Are you guys having fun?” Delivering it like, “Any birthdays?” And then I kind of put it out of my mind. But then when I started touring again a couple years later, I felt compelled, and I told a few friends that I was thinking about it, and they were all so excited. And then one person said that they were scared I couldn’t get the audience back if I did that, and then another person said they were scared it would be a stunt, and I feel very much like it is a stunt. [Laughs.] But it’s my skin, it’s my body, it healed, and it shouldn’t be taboo. It’s not a big deal. Cancer is a big deal, but my body — the aftermath — is not a big deal. I really did get a lot of feedback that people were stunned when I took my shirt off, and then 30 seconds later they didn’t even notice. I’m in a unique position after that album that I put out two years ago, and this would be the time for me to make that kind of statement and do that sort of action.
“When I lost my eyesight I thought my painting days were over.”
Our video pick of the day is this 8-minute documentary on Hal Lasko, a 97-year-old man whose family introduced him to Microsoft Paint 15 years ago and “he took off with it.” Lasko, who suffers from macular degeneration, works in a style that’s a blend of pointillism and 8-Bit art.
The film is directed by his grandson Ryan Lasko and Josh Bogdan.
“He never showed the slightest resentment when I published some of his ideas before he did. He told me that he avoided disputes about priority in science by following a simple rule: ‘Always give the bastards more credit than they deserve.’ I have followed this rule myself. I find it remarkably effective for avoiding quarrels and making friends. A generous sharing of credit is the quickest way to build a healthy scientific community.”
Feynman on his work on the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb: “So I want you to just imagine this young graduate student that hasn’t got his degree yet but is working on his thesis, and I’ll start by saying how I got into the project, and then what happened to me.”