Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 17 2014 9:03 AM

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. And Then I Found Myself With Someone Like Dad.

It’s no secret that James Brown had a dark side. This summer’s biopic Get On Up left out many of the weird, uncomfortable, and simply violent incidents that Brown instituted or participated in. But it wasn’t until now that we’ve been able to get a look at just how frightening the singer could be. Earlier this month, his daughter Yamma Brown published a memoir titled Cold Sweat: My Father James Brown and Me (co-written with Robin Gaby Fisher) that details her life growing up with her often volatile dad. In the excerpt below, Yamma flashes back to a moment when Brown beat her mother in front of her and her sister, then writes about how that violent legacy stayed with her into adulthood.

The beatings always begin the same way, with the same terrible sounds. My parents are in their bedroom, behind closed doors. First comes the boom of my father’s voice. “Dee Dee! Goddamn it, Dee Dee!” Then I hear what sounds like thunder rolling through the house. That’s Mom hitting the wall. I wait for her to scream, but she doesn’t. She whimpers. She must have learned long ago that screaming incites him.

I swear that during those fights, I could feel the whole house shake with my father’s crazy rage. Whenever he’d start, my sister Deanna and I would run for cover, usually in a closet or under our beds, and cry quietly into our cupped hands. I shook a lot as a kid. My hands. My face. My knees. A 5-year-old with tremors. As my grandma used to say, “Ain’t that just the saddest thing?” Sometimes the fights lasted only minutes. Sometimes longer. The monster would appear, wreaking havoc on our lives, and then the rumbling would stop and we’d hear our mother’s muffled cries. After that, the house would go completely quiet. The sound of the silence was the worst because that’s when Deanna and I would wonder if our mother were alive or dead and if we would be next.

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Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM

This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl

David Fincher will release his latest film, Gone Girl, in October. Conveniently, Daniel Silva has put together a comprehensive tribute to Fincher’s films, a 17-minute compilation of clips that illuminates the finer points of the director’s aesthetic.

Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM

Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason

Did you ever want to see Pedro Martinez mock Bryan Cranston while Cranston wears a singlet? You’re in luck.

This six-minute spot, made by TBS to advertise the upcoming MLB playoffs, also features Cranston as Carlton Fisk, Cranston as Derek Jeter, and Cranston as self-important actor impossibly devoted to his craft—a character that, happily, seems only half true.

Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM

One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project

Once for a college history course I huddled beneath blankets and watched Ken Burns’ nine-hour-longThe Civil War in one sitting. By hour one I had memorized the famed theme of the award-winning documentary, “Ashokan Farewell.” By hour six I had, I thought, heard every possible instrumental arrangement of “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Dixie” and seen every single way one could pan and zoom across photos. How wrong I was!

Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM

The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching

It’s been a good year for Veronica Mars fans. In the wake of the movie that launched a thousand Kickstarters, this morning brings the premiere of a spinoff Web series. The CW Seed—itself an offshoot of the CW network, which aired the final season of the show—has released the first episode of Play It Again, Dickand, at just under eight minutes, it’s just absurd enough to have Marshmallows coming back for more.

Sept. 16 2014 12:30 PM

How Steven Moffat Made the Best Doctor Who Episode in Years

No sooner had the most recent Doctor Who episode, “Listen,” finished broadcasting Saturday on BBC1 in the UK and BBC America here than many prominent criticsgeek sites, and high-profile fans were stepping forward to call it the best episode in years. The members-only forums at Gallifrey Base are notoriously hard to please, but 77 percent of users rated “Listen” 8 or higher (out of 10) in the weekly poll. Even avowed haters of Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, who wrote the episode, were proclaiming it a masterpiece.

What makes this broad acclaim particularly remarkable is that “Listen” is a surprising departure from typical Doctor Who

Sept. 16 2014 11:40 AM

How to Put Things in Your Fridge

If you are like me, when you get home from the grocery store, your instinct is to stuff food into the refrigerator wherever there’s space for it. This is an efficient method in the short term, but not in the long term. Not every spot in your fridge is the exact same temperature—since you have to open the door periodically to access your food, the areas near the door tend to be warmer, on average. And putting easily-spoiled foods in the warmer spots is just an invitation to mold, curdling, and other culinary woes.

Sept. 16 2014 10:52 AM

Bill Hader Explains Why Playing Stefon Made Him Laugh and Why LeBron James Is Funny

Bill Hader and Seth Meyers enjoyed several seasons together on Saturday Night Live, most memorably sharing the stage when Hader played Stefon opposite Meyers as the Weekend Update host. On Late Night Monday, they revisited those years, and Hader explained why he could never get through the sketch without laughing.

Sept. 16 2014 9:13 AM

Clive James, Terminally Ill, Has Written an Exquisitely Resigned Farewell Poem

The terminally ill Australian polymath Clive James, 74, has written the kind of poem that will bring your day to a standstill. “Japanese Maple” appears in the Sept. 15 issue of The New Yorker and it is heartbreakingly lovely, a concentrated infusion of truths about nature’s amplitude and the human condition.

Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM

Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”

Amidst another media uproar about another Kanye West controversy, it’s easy to forget that the man makes some pretty great music, and that his work exerts a powerful hold on up-and-coming artists everywhere. The latest to pay him homage is none other than Lorde, who at a recent concert in Philadelphia performed a short, thrilling rendition of Graduation single “Flashing Lights.”