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Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

Roundup
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Hamilton Impressions: 14 Celebrities in Under 2 Minutes



“Hamilton,” an improbable hip-hop musical about America’s first Treasury secretary, completed its rapturous march across America’s awards landscape on Sunday, picking up Broadway’s highest honor: the Tony Award for best new musical.

On Broadway, “Hamilton” is consistently selling out all 1,321 seats at the Richard Rodgers Theater and is currently grossing about $1.9 million a week in ticket sales. Simply by maintaining that pace, the show would bring in nearly $100 million a year (that’s grosses, not profits). But there is reason to expect that figure to rise. In a bid to blunt profiteering — the widespread scalping of tickets at highly marked-up prices — the show may soon raise prices above the current ceiling of $475 for premium seating.

At $100 million a year, the Broadway production of the show would pass the $1 billion mark in a decade. The show’s current pace will be tough to sustain, but not unimaginable — “Wicked” this year set a record by reaching the $1 billion mark on Broadwayin just over 12 years, and “Hamilton,” although running in a smaller theater, has higher ticket prices.


Faculty and students at Texas A&M University have created a video game designed to supplement a college-level art history course.

Students and faculty from the university's Learning Interactive Visualizations Experience (LIVE) Lab conceived the game and initiated its development under the leadership of André Thomas, a lecturer in the Department of Visualization. After the game was tested at Texas A&M, Triseum, a game development company also led by Thomas, prepared the game for release to other universities. Triseum employs current students and graduates from the Department of Visualization.

The game, called ARTé: Mecenas, is designed to teach "the interconnectedness of local and international economies in Renaissance Italy," and "how those economies influenced art and art patronage," according to information on Triseum's site.


With the confrontation between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton working its way toward its latest incarnation, what with Lin-Manuel Miranda (as Hamilton) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (as Burr), facing each other for Best Actor in a Musical at the Tonys, on Sunday—and let it be said that, while Miranda is a genius, Odom deserves the acting prize more—the ancient New York rivalry has taken on new life, and then some. The Burr-Hamilton rivalry had haunted the imagination of the city long before Miranda got to it, of course, occasioning in these pages James Thurber’s great story “A Friend to Alexander,” about an ordinary Thurber husband haunted by Burr’s imagined perfidy in the famous fatal duel. But other relics of this competition can be found in improbable New York places, and none more than at the New York Society Library.

The Society Library, as readers of Ron Chernow’s fine foundational biography of Hamilton know, played an outsize role in the run-up to the American Revolution, chiefly because it was one of the few educational institutions in New York that was outside the hold of the Crown or the Church. Formed as a kind of book co-op, in 1754, it blessedly persists as a lending library to this day, having long ago moved uptown, to the north side of Seventy-ninth Street, between Madison and Park, after a long stay on University Place.

Astonishingly, a little inquiry proves that the library not only still keeps records of all the books that Burr and Hamilton borrowed (and, mostly, returned) but also has many of the books themselves—not merely the same titles, but the exact same books that Hamilton and Burr handled and thumbed and read and learned from.


The funeral of Muhammad Ali, attended by a throng of 20,000, was the first national funeral for a national hero of the United States that was also a Muslim ceremony or janazah. Muhammad Ali crafted it as a interfaith event, but obviously Islam was central.

The transitions in life from one stage to another are marked in most societies by religious rituals, which are necessarily distinctive. Marriage has commonalities across the religions but the ceremony isn’t exactly the same (except where globalization has smoothed out differences). Muslim funerals have their own special attributes. Likely most Americans mainly paid attention to the speeches of celebrities and perhaps remained little aware of the funeral prayer that was said. Still, the Muslim funeral was in our living rooms, held for a person who helped define contemporary American society.


Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast. Some of you will require no further information, and in fact have already clicked over to iTunes (or another podcast downloading application of your choice), desperate to download the first episode. Allow me to inform those cooler heads who remain that Revisionist History won’t begin its ten-week run, with one episode out per week, until June 16th. But you can subscribe right now (iTunesStitcherRSS), and while you wait over the next few days, you can listen to the preview that Gladwell has already posted.






In the new film "Free State of Jones," Matthew McConaughey plays Confederate soldier Newton Knight, and depending on whom you ask, Knight was either a hero or a traitor.

"The deeds of the story, the context of that time, will be very relevant to today," he said.

Knight was a poor white farmer from Mississippi who in 1863 abandoned the Southern cause, and spent the rest of his life fighting against oppression. "I think his DNA was sort of written in the Bible and the Declaration of Independence," McConaughey said. "I mean, here's a guy who believed there were no kings on Earth above him. There is one king, and that's God. And so his faith trumped the dominant values of society at that time."


"The American West," which premieres Saturday on AMC, is an eight-part docudrama about America between the Missouri River and Pacific Ocean from the end of the Civil War to 1890.

It is not a new story, of course: Ken Burns already put his lavish, quasi-final documentary stamp on it in the 1996, nine-part "The West." And the characters highlighted in its opening credits – Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Gen. George Custer, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull – have been stars or bit players in countless other documentaries and dramas. They are the warring gods of our homegrown mythology.

What's fresh in this retelling, produced by Robert Redford, is the degree to which it has gone in for re-creation as opposed to documentation, and the fact that it has drafted movie cowboys, including Tom Selleck, Kiefer Sutherland, Danny Glover, Burt Reynolds and Redford himself, as talking-head commentators alongside the customary scholars. There is a smattering of period ephemera, but we never see a photograph of James or Custer or Sitting Bull, only the actors made up to play them.


Stunning in its scope, the five-part documentary somehow perfectly complements FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson

The five-part ESPN documentary is a rich, dense examination of over 50 years of American culture, one that uses the O.J. Simpson murder trial as a way to look at race and gender and class.

If that sounds a little like The People vs. O.J. Simpson, FX's dynamite fictional miniseries about the trial from earlier in the year, well, that's unavoidable. But it’s amazing how well the two projects complement each other, almost as if you couldn't get the full picture without watching both — even though they were produced completely independently.


The art dealer and billionaire David Nahmad says he is well aware of the scornful whispers that trail him when he travels to Brazil, to New York. He says he feels the disapproving stares when he enters his synagogue at home in Monaco.

“People say, ‘Oh, David stole it; he should give it back immediately,’” Mr. Nahmad said in a rare interview at a hotel here.

“It” is a valuable painting by Modigliani, an oil portrait of a dapper chocolate merchant in a hat and tie, seated and holding a cane. A Nahmad holding company bought the work at auction in 1996 and has owned it ever since. But the grandson of a Jewish antiques dealer says it is the same work that was confiscated from his relative’s Paris shop during the Nazi occupation and sold off more than 70 years ago.


It is very rare to see a Lenin toppled in Russia. A quarter-century after the end of the Soviet Union, thousands of Lenins large and small stand proudly in public squares or, as in this case, in quasi-private courtyards. Lenin himself — that is, his pickled body — still lies in a glass coffin in a granite mausoleum in Red Square. A 70-foot-tall statue of him in Kaluzhskaya Square is one of the largest monuments in the city (others include Peter the Great; Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space; a monument to World War II; and the famous Worker and Kolkhoz Woman). Moscow has generally preserved its Communist-era monuments: Even the few that were toppled in August 1991 have now been lovingly restored and are displayed in a sculpture garden in the city center.


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