Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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Brooklyn and the True History of Irish Immigrants in 1950s New York City

As the star of the new movie Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan is tasked with portraying an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York City as a singular woman in a unique situation. But transatlantic love triangles aside, the experiences of the fictional Eilis Lacey would have been as common as Irish pubs are in today’s Midtown Manhattan.

In the novel on which the movie is based, a best-seller by Colm Tóibín, Eilis moves from small-town Ireland, where she struggles to find work, to Brooklyn. A priest facilitates the move, finds her a job at an Italian-run department store and lodging in an Irish women’s boarding house, and sets her up to take night classes in bookkeeping. Such a trajectory would have been typical for an Irish woman moving to New York at the time—but to fully understand Eilis’s ’50s experience, it’s necessary to back up to the first boom of Irish immigration to America, in the 1840s.

Magical Realism on Drugs: Colombian History in Netflix’s Narcos (Not Even Past — UT Austin)

Seen through the eyes of Steven Murphy, the DEA agent whose voice-over narrates the new Netflix series Narcos, Colombia appears to viewers all over the world as a land of sicarios (hired young assassins), putas(whores), and malparidos (the fucked-up). In short, Colombia becomes the quintessential Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez. The Colombian Nobel prize winner is renowned for introducing magical realism as narrative technique: the journalistic description of reality, in which the supernatural and the strange are woven together into matter-of-fact accounts. Narcos introduces the viewer to one of Macondo’s sons: Pablo Escobar, a savvy entrepreneur who was to become one of the most powerful drug lords in the history of the world, the leader of the Medellin cartel. In the early 70s, Escobar went from smuggling cigarettes and TV-sets to exporting cocaine into Miami. By the early 80s, Escobar was transporting one ton of cocaine per day

What "Narcos" Gets Wrong About the War on Drugs (New Republic)

Contrary to what Narcos would have you believe, Colombia is not supernatural; the forces that shape it are complicated but perfectly knowable. The dissociation comes from imposing outside narrative conventions on a reality that refuses to conform to them. “The ‘war on drugs’ is a misnomer,” writes investigative journalist Dawn Paley, not an actual policy that has ever been enacted. The very word ‘narcotics,’ writes historian Suzzana Reiss, is a “political and historical construction, rather than a neutral descriptive category.” The mere act of discussing the world in these terms creates distinctions that do not objectively exist—between peasant farmers and criminals, the people who move a product and the governments that supposedly oppose them. In Colombia, there have been wars fought for drugs and wars fought with drugs but never a war fought against drugs. That Narcos pretends otherwise is the only thing magical about it.

The Surprising Histories of the Coolest Streets in New York and Paris (New Republic)

 In The Only Street in Paris, Elaine Sciolino explores the rue des Martyrs, a quiet street that cuts through the French capital’s ninth arrondissement. Ada Calhoun goes even more micro, mapping out the history of just three blocks in New York’s Lower East Side in St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America's Hippest Street.

What Suffragette Can Teach Us About ‘Angry Feminism’ (Time)

Related Link Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Suffragette, the Movie By Lara Vapnek (HNN)

In the movie Suffragette, out Oct. 23, a clear-eyed band of working-class British women, frustrated by the failure of peaceful attempts to secure their right to vote, employ militaristic tactics in pursuit of their goal. They set off bombs in public trashcans, hurl rocks through shop windows and set fire to politicians’ homes. These were not, as screenwriter Abi Morgan told TIME in a recent interview alongside director Sarah Gavron, “middle-class ladies in bonnets bashing tambourines.” They were a group of very angry feminists.

Nuremberg Nazi Site Crumbles: What should be done with it? (NYT)

As Germany copes with mass migration and blows to its economy, like the Volkswagen scandal, and to its pride, like the allegations it paid bribes to secure its hosting of the 2006 World Cup, it also continues to deal with vestiges of its problematic past. In few places are those questions more vivid than in Nuremberg. Should public money be spent to preserve these crumbling sites? Is controlled decay an option for anything associated with the Nazis? Or have Hitler and his architect, Albert Speer, locked future generations into a devilish pact that compels Germans not only to teach the history of the Thousand Year Reich the Nazis proclaimed here but also to adapt it for each new era?

The Holocaust survivor whose account of the Sobibor revolt was made into a TV movie, has died (NYT)

Thomas Blatt, one of the few survivors of a rare revolt and mass escape from a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland during World War II, died on Saturday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 88. The cause was complications of dementia, his daughter Rena Smith said. Mr. Blatt was 16 on Oct. 14, 1943, when he and several hundred other prisoners staged an uprising against Nazi SS officers and the Ukrainian guards at the Sobibor extermination camp. His parents and younger brother had been gassed there six months earlier.

What the New Assassin's Creed Gets Wrong (and Right), According to a Historian (kotaku.com)

Bob Whitaker, a historian of modern Britain at Louisiana Tech and the host of the YouTube series History Respawned, recommends Assassin’s CreedSyndicate, the entertaining new Ubisoft game set in Victorian London. He likes the way it successfully captures the feel of the British capital in the 19th century, and he particularly likes the way the game depicts the Thames River as crowded with industrial traffic. But he still has some nits to pick.
“They decided to set the game in 1868,” Whitaker said. “This is the high point for the Victorian era. This is Britain coming into its own, dominating industrial production, particularly steel production and textile manufacturing. And also it’s beginning to dominate financial capitalism through the world.

“This economic prosperity has led to a better quality of life for not just the wealthy in Britain but also the lower classes. Between 1850 and 1870, the average pay for an industrial worker doubled in Britain. In this game, Ubisoft has depicted it as an era of class struggle, but really by 1868, a lot of the heavy class struggle, the sharp divisions between the classes based on economics, has actually subsided in Britain.

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