Laissez-Faire | In Love & Free Trade

White man pretending to be black pretending not to be white
August 15, 2008, 11:36 pm
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tropic thunder

Courtesy of Beyond Hollywood


Not to mention that it’s Robert Downey, Jr. sporting blackface in the controversial ‘Nam satire, “Tropic Thunder”. In his defense, Esquire recently published an article explaining why Downey, Jr. (and only Downey, Jr.) can pull off blackface.

How does Downey pull it off? Singular talent. The Oscar-nominated actor has spent his career perfecting humor and pathos in equal measure. Which means that when, in Tropic Thunder, he plays a dead-serious Australian Method actor who insists on taking a role originally written for a black man, what ends up parodied is the self-seriousness of Method acting and the Vietnam-movie trope of the chitlins-chewing Negro grunt. Blackface isn’t the subject; it’s the vessel.

Speaking of blackface, I once teasingly asked one of my girlfriends, who is Jamaican, about the extent to which blackface is really offensive. The running analogy goes – if you’re impersonating MC Hammer for Halloween, impersonate the pants NOT the skin color. “But why not?” I ask. “What about accuracy?” I persist. To which my friend responds, “How would you feel if someone went around and made Asian eye-slit jokes?” Enough said. Still, I’d be curious to see someone impersonate my almond eyes – like the wartime comic strips about China. Technically, it would be Thailand in this case. But, like, who cares ’cause we know all Asians look the same.

Week Wrap Up

michelle williams


About A Boy: Michelle Williams graces the blog page of Boy, a designer for preppy basics (T blog)

The economic turmoil does not apply to New York Magazine (Folio)

A Journalist’s Worst Fear (Boston Phoenix)

How Coca-Cola Can Influence Foreign Aid (Treehugger)

The East Village of the ’80s (NYT)

Finally, a textbook that reinvents medical procedure for war surgeons (NYT)

In Search of Zen: How One Woman Became A Buddhist Nun (Guardian UK)

Week Wrap Up

andre zucca

“Springtime for Hitler” by Richard Brody (New Yorker)

A Hitler era photo exhibition in France incites controversy.


Steve Aoki’s Father Passed Away (NYT)


Clay Felker: The cover star and renowned founder of New York Magazine

“Felkerism” by Kurt Andersen (NY Mag)

Tight writing style for an iconic subject.

Men’s Cut Off Shorts (NYT) 

Pencil Skirts On the Street by Bill Cunningham (NYT)

NY Newsstands (NYT)


“How Leona Helmsley’s Dog Got Stiffed” (NY Mag)

What happened to the rest of her fortune?

The Ultimate Nostalgic Vice: Chocolate Chip Cookies! (NYT)

can a war photographer change the world?
July 9, 2008, 9:53 pm
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W. Eugene Smith

In June 1944, during the Pacific War in Saipan, a US Marine pulls an infant – barely alive and naked – from underneath a rock. The scene was captured on black and white film by W. Eugene Smith, who wrote the following caption: “The baby’s head was under a rock. Its head was pushed in and its eyes were full of pus. We hoped it would die.”

W. Eugene Smith: The Art of History at Silverstein Photography through Aug 1.