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Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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Amid the increasingly surreal scramble for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, one of the most bizarre promises of the primary season appears to have gone relatively unnoticed. During the dispiriting slog he endured before finally winning his home state’s primary, Ohio Governor John Kasich announced that if elected president, he would reunite the progressive rock band Pink Floyd.

Kasich’s tongue-in-cheek pledge, combined with his claims to be a big fan of Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy, calls our attention to a significant but overlooked dimension in current US politics. With mixed success, this year’s main contenders have all tried to align themselves with particular songs, artists and musical styles that they believe will increase their appeal.

Choosing the music for a presidential bid is a serious business. It dates back at least to the 1840 election when William Henry Harrison and his running mate John Tyler made it to the White House to the strains of Tip and Ty. Better known for its hook-line “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too", the song was written by Alexander Coffman Ross to celebrate Harrison’s role in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.



At least in part, the pleasures of CNN’s “Race for the White House,” a six-part series tracking some of the most acrimonious presidential match-ups in history, come from just how hilariously low-budget it is. It might not actually be low-budget, but it certainly feels that way. The miniseries’ heart and soul is in its sit-down interviews with academics, biographers, political advisers and, in some cases, the real-life candidates themselves. Political history buffs aren’t going to learn anything new from this miniseries. But for anyone wanting a beginner’s crash course of the unsightly ways elections have been won in American history, the CNN docuseries offers a good overview.

But in an understandable effort to keep things interesting, “Race for the White House” is punctuated with historical reenactment, from actors portraying Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the 1860 presidential race to a stand-in for a younger George H.W. Bush in the 1988 election. In this era of very high-quality historical reenactment on television, it’s easy to spot how limited those scenes are, from the at-times jarring physical dissimilarities between actor and candidate to the slightly too on-the-nose reconstruction of theorized events.


Okay has become one of the more versatile words in the English Language—as used today, it can mean everything from "just fantastic" to "out of bodily danger." But in its early days, the standby was just a dumb joke.

As Allan Metcalf details in OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word, okay made its first printed appearance in the March 23, 1839 issue of the Boston Morning Post, as part of a playful diatribe directed at a rival paper, the Providence Journal.


A documentary movie-in-progress, The Boys Who Said No!, aims to tell the story of Vietnam-era draft resisters who served time in prison rather than cooperate with the draft. It is being produced by Christopher Colorado Jones, a draft resister himself, and directed by Oscar-nominate Judith Ehrlich. The will start an Indiegogo fundraising campaign on April 2. Information is at www.boyswhosaidno.com.


There's a biopic coming that's focusing on Sam Cooke's violent death.

According to producer Romeo Antonio, Sam Cooke: The Truth is a "murder mystery" and will look into Cooke's 1964 death.

Cooke died after being shot by Bertha Franklin, a manager of a South Los Angeles motel. According to reports, Franklin was defending herself against Cooke and his death was deemed a justifiable homicide.


So, there is to be a fifth Indiana Jones film. Sadly, the much-loved movies don’t represent the average day at work for most archaeologists, but there is more truth to Indy’s swashbuckling adventures than you may think. Crystal skulls do exist, the Nazis really were (very) keen on archaeology, and the world’s museums are full of artefacts taken from unsuspecting tribal peoples. Here are some of the more surprising things the films got right.


There has always been lots of conjecture about the birth of American baseball, from assumptions that it evolved from colonial games like rounders or cricket, to claims that it was all due to the ingenuity of a Civil War general. But the truth is that it developed from a variety of influences and over a period of time — and, most likely, from the desire of a nation that had been at war with itself to find something to root for and share.

As for links to British cricket or rounders, George Kirsch, a history professor at Manhattan College and author of Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War, is fairly certain that the game did not evolve from cricket, because of different lineages and completely different rules. He also says it’s impossible to know the “exact rules” for early versions of rounders, because the game had “so much local variation.” But what is clear is that while a variety of bat and ball games were played, it was the need to boost morale during prolonged Civil War encampments, combined with the love for the “New York” version of the game, that helped it triumph as a national pastime.

The Story of the Real Winnie the Pooh (CBS)




NEXT month, the Temple of Baal will come to Times Square. Reproductions of the 50-foot arch that formed the temple’s entrance are to be installed in New York and in London, a tribute to the 2,000-year-old structure that the Islamic State destroyed last year in the Syrian town of Palmyra. The group’s rampage through Palmyra, a city that reached its peak in the second and third century A.D., enraged the world, spurring scholars and conservationists into action. Numerous nongovernmental organizations are now cataloging and mapping damaged cultural heritage sites in the region.



The Simpsons has been making audiences laugh since 1989, but a forward-looking episode from 2000 might make some fans cringe. An episode of the beloved American sitcom that aired almost exactly 16 years ago—on March 19, 2000—features Donald Trump as president of the United States, presiding over a broken economy.

In the episode, Bart Simpson gets a glimpse of his future only to find that he’s pretty much a loser, while his sister Lisa has become the president of the US. She calls a meeting in the Oval Office to assess the damage done by her predecessor, Trump; an advisor holds up an plummeting line chart and explains, “We’re broke!”


China is a bit of a bugaboo in the U.S. Americans are increasingly aware of China’s presence as a global power in the 21st century, but largely remain ignorant of the rich history behind one of the world’s oldest and most advanced cultures. Iceberg Interactive’s new 4X strategy game, Oriental Empires , aims to educate as much as entertain by delivering a robust tactical experience centered around authentic Chinese history.

“Civilization games have a light historical background,” said Bob Smith, Project director for Oriental Empires . “Everything in our game is based on 3,000 years of Chinese history.”


Russell Frederick’s pictures of Bedford-Stuyvesant show the neighborhood’s thrumming black culture, before the effects of gentrification almost extinguished it.

The photographer Russell Frederick began documenting life in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant 17 years ago.

His beautiful, sometimes moving, sometimes funny, sometimes meditative, always striking shots of the neighborhood's African-American and other ethnic minority residents are black-and-white.


"The authority of government... is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed."

Inspired by such lines from Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay "Civil Disobedience," a local timber-frame builder in Ashfield, Massachusetts, has constructed a replica of the author's Walden Pond cabin directly in the path of a proposed Kinder Morgan fracked gas pipeline, The Recorder reported this week.

"In relation to this pipeline, the will of the people is not really being listened to," explained the builder, Will Elwell, to the local newspaper. "We’re just getting bombarded and railroaded through without [officials] being empathetic to our concerns."


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