Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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History professor Paul Sonnino at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says he's solved the centuries-old mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask.

In Search for the Man in the Iron Mask: A Historical Detective Story, published in January, Sonnino details decades of research into the enigma of the French prisoner who was jailed from 1669 until his death in 1703, during which he concealed his identity with a mask. Sonnino argues the prisoner had been the valet of a very rich, very corrupt Cardinal — and knew one too many secrets.


Every year at the Kentucky Derby, crazy hat-wearing, mint julep-guzzling horse-gazers break into a passionate rendition of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." As tradition goes, the University of Louisville Cardinal Marching Band accompanies the crowd as they croon a ballad that seems to be about people who miss their happy home. "The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home/'Tis summer and the people are gay," begins one version.

But Frank X Walker, Kentucky's former poet laureate, suspects that most people are missing the point.

"I'm a Kentuckian, and I love my state," Walker says. "But at the same time, you know, the memories, the history this conjures up, I think people sing it and are totally disconnected from the history, from the truth."


"It started with an album, called the Kamerun album, it was given to him by the Grandmother of his wife, they found it in the attic."

Lynhan Balatbat works for Colonial Neighbours , a Berlin-based art project that collects objects and stories related to Germany's controversial colonial past. Lynhan is referring to the travel journal of a colonial soldier who was based in German Cameroon. Each photo from the journal provides an unsettling insight into the world that this soldier saw and took part in colonizing.

Finding this album began a journey into the homes of many other families in Germany. Colonial Neighbours is run by Savvy Contemporary, a Berlin art space initiated by Bonaventure Ndikung, whose relative the album belonged to. The project's endeavour is to bring Germany's imperial past into the open by making people think about how it affects their daily lives and how it has lived on in the present.


The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, which occurred last month, sparked a host of celebrations, commemorations, and commentaries. Here, Brandon Ambrosino considers the legacy of The Merchant of Venice, the work that some consider Shakespeare's most notorious play.

The Merchant of Venice, with its celebrated and moving passages, remains one of Shakespeare’s most beautiful plays. Depending on whom you ask, it also remains one of his most repulsive.

"One would have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to recognise that Shakespeare's grand, equivocal comedy The Merchant of Venice is nevertheless a profoundly anti-semitic work,” wrote literary critic Harold Bloom in his 1998 book Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human. In spite of his “Bardolatry,” Bloom admitted elsewhere that he’s pained to think the play has done “real harm … to the Jews for some four centuries now.”


Fans have been waiting for the first black superhero in comic book history to make his big screen debut since the character was introduced in 1966. A half-century later, Black Panther is finally stepping into the spotlight.

The character got a big profile boost just before Civil War hit theaters. Marvel Comics (which operates separately from Marvel Studios, though Disney owns both) recruited Ta-Nehisi Coates—National Book Award Winner, MacArthur genius grant recipient and a leading voice on issues of race in America—to write a new Black Panther comic series. His first issue, released in April, has already sold a record-breaking 300,000 copies. (Comic best-sellers usually top out at 200,000.) His popularity will only build with his pivotal role in the newest Marvel film. And in 2018, Black Panther will become the first black superhero to get his own Marvel Studios film. Directed by Creed filmmaker Ryan Coogler, it will beat Marvel rival DC Comics’ Cyborg to cinemas by two years.


He was the defining figure of the Renaissance, an artist, scientist and inventor who is widely credited with helping lead Europe out of the Dark Ages. Now, a multi-disciplinary group of specialists from a host of universities hope to provide even greater insight into the life of Leonardo Da Vinci by, among other things, analysing his DNA.

One of the project’s many aims is to verify Da Vinci’s final resting place. His remains are presumed to be located in the chapel Saint-Hubert at the Château d’Amboise in France, but this has never been confirmed. The team hope to answer this question through DNA analyses, if permission is granted to examine the remains.


When she applied to Harvard, Malia Obama was clearly ignoring the advice of her father, who told People last fall that he was trying to steer her away from “some name-brand, fancy school.” What she clearly wasn’t ignoring were the odds: Over the past 225 years, the numbers show that being that child of a president is a very, very good way to boost your shot at admission.

In that time there have been 44 presidents, eight of whom went to Harvard. But no fewer than 22 first children have attended “the world’s greatest university.” In this particular university sweepstakes—landing the children of the most powerful official on earth—Yale and Columbia both come in a distant second, with seven presidential kids each….

For Malia, the story of first children at Harvard carries something of a warning: Getting in appears to be the easy part. It’s staying in that’s hard.


'Him,' a statue of Hitler by Maurizio Cattelan, is on display during the press preview of 'Bound to Fail' at Christie's auction house in New York.


While Hitler was named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year", that isn't necessarily proof that the "liberal media" is unreliable.

CLAIM: Hitler was named "Man Of The Year" by Time Magazine in 1938.

ORIGIN: A meme claiming that Adolf Hitler was named "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine was frequently shared on social media in 2016 as "proof" that the "mainstream media is not always reliable."

It is undeniably true that the Nazi leader was given this title in 1938.  However, this meme is based on the false assumption that the "Man of the Year" awards are only granted to people who have had positive effects on the world:

"TIME's choices for Person of the Year are often controversial. Editors are asked to choose the person or thing that had the greatest impact on the news, for good or ill — guidelines that leave them no choice but to select a newsworthy — not necessarily praiseworthy — cover subject."


Rumors have been rife of late that History Channel’s Vikings will return to our screens with the second half of Season 4 from as early as May. Yes, it’s May now. But, what is the official word on this rumor?

As of yet, there has been no official press release from the History Channel in regard to when Season 4 of Vikings will return. All we know is that Season 4 will return in 2016 and that Vikings has been renewed for Season 5, which is set to air in 2017.


It's true, things are not pretty in Rio de Janeiro, even as the Olympic torch arrived Tuesday in Brazil, with three months until the opening ceremony of the Games….

But let's pause a moment. It has become tradition to sound alarm bells in the months leading up to an Olympic Games. Before the last go-round, Sochi for example, cries of crisis came often: Venues built on protected lands. Swollen budgets tied to crime syndicates. Illegal dumping and contaminated water. Anti-gay legislation and hate crimes. Pussy Riot. And stray dogs, everywhere. But good luck finding an example of a truly noble Olympics. Politics take a toll because the Olympics are never free and clear of their political moment.


While today we flush or urine away without giving it a second thought, in ancient times it was considered a valuable commodity. Urine contains a wide array of important minerals and chemicals such as phosphorus and potassium. The Romans believed that urine would make their teeth whiter and keep them from decaying so they used it as a mouthwash and mixed it with pummis to make toothpaste. In fact, urine was so effective that it was used in toothpastes and mouthwashes up until the 1700s. - See more at: http://www.ancient-origins.net/comment/19132#sthash.fkTxaCdi.dpuf


Gordon "Nick" Mueller, the National World War II Museum's director, and two of its best-known supporters, Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks, will receive France's highest honor on May 20 in Paris in recognition of the museum-related work they have done to keep alive interest in that conflict and the importance of France's role in it.


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