Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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A charismatic, über-rich New York businessman and celebrity, derided by his political opponents as a con man and “crypto-fascist clown,” embarks on his first run for elected office. He electrifies his die-hard conservative followers with appeals to patriotism, family values, pride and wealth acquisition and a pledge to restore the promise of America.

What sounds uncannily like the narrative behind Donald Trump’s 2016 run for the U.S. presidency is in fact the plot of Bob Roberts, the 1992 political mockumentary about a crusading Pennsylvania Senate candidate and self-made millionaire/folk musician (played by Tim Robbins, who also wrote the screenplay and directed). Bob Roberts may not stand under a “Make America Great Again” banner, but the conservative rebel’s “Times Are Changin’ Back” outlook and album title managed to preview both the culture wars of the 1990s and the Trump phenomenon of the current election cycle.


The Palestinians opened a dazzling new museum Wednesday aimed at telling the tale of their history and culture, but the building is devoid of exhibits.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inaugurated the museum, the biggest project the Palestinians have undertaken in terms of scale, space and budget.

"This museum will tell the world, the whole world, that we have been here, and we are staying here, and we will stay here to establish our independent state," Abbas said at the ceremony….

But the museum's halls are empty as organizers decided to celebrate the building completion before they could arrange any exhibits. In addition, a dispute over different creative visions for the museum's opening led to the resignation of the previous director only six months ago.


KIEV, Ukraine — Crimean Tatars on Sunday celebrated Ukrainian singer Jamala’s win at Eurovision with a song that sheds light on their horrific deportations to Central Asia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin but also hints at their recent treatment under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many Russians, whose Eurovision Song Contest entry won the popular vote but finished third when the national juries’ votes were added, said they felt robbed of the win because of political bias.


- The area surrounding the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village is poised to become the first national monument dedicated to gay rights.

The monument would be located in public spaces around the city’s most famous gay bar on Christopher Street, possibly the small triangle of land called Christopher Park, across from the tavern.

But U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who’s been pushing for the designation for years, says nothing would force the Stonewall to remain a bar.



Ever since the announcement of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer and star of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” as this year’s Commencement speaker, Penn has been eager to embrace Alexander Hamilton’s legacy into the University’s history.

PennNews representative Amanda Mott wrote that Hamilton “evok[es] Penn’s own spirit, referencing rap lyrics such as ’I’m just like my country/I’m young, scrappy and hungry/And I’m not throwing away my shot.’”

While the city and Penn prepare to welcome Miranda, the Founding Father’s shadow looms in Philadelphia’shistory. Through Hamilton’s political career, the nation’s capital was traded away from Philadelphia. Also at the hands of Hamilton, Philadelphia played host to one of the country’s first sex scandal.


The 5-foot-tall warning sign in front of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Beijing is thorough: no instant noodles, no cameras, no soda cans, no handbags, no cigarette lighters, no meandering cats, no electric bikes, no wayward scooters, no open-toed shoes, no this, no that. Bring only your eternal love and crocodile tears for the Great Helmsman of China. You — and the dead Communist leader to your right — will be under close watch, but it’s also a prime spot to people watch.

While a mausoleum may not sound like a lively attraction, this particular one is a people-watching paradise. The embalmed corpse of Chairman Mao lies within a crystal coffin in the heart of Tiananmen Square, but I’m not here to ogle his sunken cheeks or his stygian aura. I’m here to observe his flock of fanatics, all elbowing to get into Mao’s final resting place, a multistory cinder-block building that’s kept under lock and key. All I have to do first is pass through three security checkpoints, a few pat-downs and a wall of stone-faced guards.


The turn of the century wrought many changes, and few took greater advantage than Elsie de Worlfe, the lesbian actress whose work in design and penchant for parties catapulted her to the top of world society.

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was no greater tastemaker than Elsie de Wolfe.

Credited with inventing the now thriving field of interior design, de Wolfe not only set the standard for the settees and sitting rooms of the elite, she also knew how to throw a seriously extravagant party. In 1939, de Wolfe hosted one of the last great costume balls in France before WWII ended the excesses of the 1930s.




On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, and in conjunction with HBO and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the LBJ Library hosted the Texas premiere and special preview screening of "All The Way." The film offers a riveting behind-the-scenes look at President Lyndon B. Johnson's tumultuous first year in office after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.


The other thing that “Hamilton” does really well (which historians will appreciate)

With a record-breaking sixteen Tony Award nominations for his hit musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda will soon have to clear some space on his trophy shelf next to his Grammy and Pulitzer. But there is something remarkable about the play that all the critical acclaim has missed entirely. Reviewers have rightfully celebrated Miranda for telling the life story of one of America’s greatest Founders using energetic numbers, a multiethnic cast, and a strong emphasis on hip-hop. Yet Miranda has not received due credit for an important and distinguishing characteristic of his musical: his unique approach to what is unknowable about the past. His script makes it clear that there are significant gaps in the historical record concerning Hamilton and his times. Of course, the play takes liberties, as any historical play must–and has a great deal of fun in the process. But in numerous places, Miranda shows us the limits of what we can know about the past.

In so doing, Miranda captures something central to the experience of every historian. The actual record of the past is riddled with conspicuous silences. Digging through an archival collection, we may find a reply to a letter, but the original letter to which it is responding has been lost. We are left to wonder what was in it, and about the sensibility of the shadowy correspondent on the other side. Multiply such conundrums by a factor of several thousand and you have the working reality of the historian.


One home movie shows a telegenic group of men on a getaway at a shoreline cabin in the Bay Area town of Vallejo, in 1947. The friends sunbathe, laugh together, mug for the camera with more than a touch of theatricality. A man picks some orange flowers and tucks them behind his ear; another wears a grass skirt and dances the hula.

Another movie, from 1946, shows a house party where guests in suits and ties smoke cigarettes and drink from dainty glasses. Men dance in pairs, hands clasped, a head against a cheek. One giddily air-claps to music the viewer cannot hear.

Both of these films, and numerous others like them, are part of the private home-movie collection of Harold O’Neal, an amateur filmmaker who spent much of his adult life in San Francisco. Born in Stockton, California, in 1910, he was a reserved, somewhat shy man who worked as a rehabilitation officer for the Veterans Administration and later in personnel for the Army Corps of Engineers. Like many gay men and women of the time, he kept his sexuality closely guarded. But over the years O’Neal made dozens of home movies—of house parties, drag performances, skinny-dips, travels with his partner—many of which captured the rhythms and intimacies of gay social life long before it was allowed to flourish in the open.


He was the first American casualty against the Japanese, nine years before Pearl Harbor. Today he has a shrine dedicated to him in China.

Several times a week, school buses pull up in front of a single-level, pagoda-like building in Suzhou Industrial Park, a joint Chinese-Singaporean economic zone some 60 miles northwest of Shanghai. Built in the style of old China—its tiled and upturned roof supported by numerous red-painted columns—the pagoda looks decidedly out of place among the modern office blocks and manufacturing facilities that dominate the high-tech enclave on the banks of Lake Jinji.

Slavery on Film: Why Now? By Justene G. Hill

Over the past few years, several movies and television shows have delved into the history of slavery in the United States. From the dramatic (12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained) to the comedic (Key & Peele), slavery has been re-introduced as a theme in American popular culture. In January 2015, NBC announced that it would air an eight-hour miniseries called Freedom Run, based on Betty DeRamus’ 2005 book Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad. In May 2016, HISTORY, Lifetime, and A&E will air a remake of Alex Haley’s Roots. And WGN America premiered Underground, a 10-episode series about the lives of African American slaves on a southern plantation and their harrowing quests for freedom, on March 9.

Another addition to the list is the highly acclaimed and highly anticipated film by writer-director-star Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation. Though the film’s title harkens back to D.W. Griffith’s 1915 white supremacist movie of the same name, Parker’s drama offers a new interpretation of the August 1831 slave revolt in Southampton, Virginia, led by Nat Turner. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie won two major prizes and sparked a bidding war between top movie studios. Shortly after, Fox Searchlight paid a record $17.5 million for the film’s worldwide distribution rights, rivaling competitors such as Sony Pictures and Netflix. It will be released on October 7, 2016, and movie critics expect the film to be a strong contender for Oscar glory in 2017. It is worth noting that Fox Searchlight distributed 12 Years a Slave, which grossed over $187 million worldwide. Thus, it’s not surprising that Fox Searchlight outbid competitors to control distribution rights for Parker’s film.


NBC has officially put in a series order for the new time travel drama, “Timeless,” in their 2016-17 schedule, the network announced Friday.

Hailing from Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan, the new series will follow a scientist, soldier, and history professor after a criminal intent on destroying America steals a time travel device.

The trio must try and stop the fugitive by traveling back in time through critical events in history, while also making sure not to change anything along the way.


Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome

That orchard was real: a medley of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees tended by the Dickinson family during their lifetimes. Over the decades, subsequent owners of the Dickinson house, known as the Homestead, removed the orchard, replaced extensive flower and vegetable gardens with lawn, and even installed a tennis court; and a devastating hurricane in 1938damaged the grounds.

This spring, however, the Emily Dickinson Museum has brought the poet’s beloved orchard back to life, planting a small grove of heirloom apples and pears grown by the Dickinsons — BaldwinsWestfield Seek-No-FurthersWinter Nelis — on a sunny corner of the property near Triangle Street in Amherst, Mass.


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