Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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The secret history of the Democratic Party — Trailer for a movie by Dinesh D’Souza that comes out this summer.

It looks like Angelica Schuyler might get her way if the new “Hamilton” cast decides to include women in the sequel. While the first cast of the smash-hit Broadway musical has all of the founding fathers traditionally played by men, the second cast — the one being chosen right now for the Philadelphia production — has released a casting call that will allow women to play Aaron Burr and George Washington, two major characters in the show.

John Leguizamo will return to the New York stage as part of the Public Theater’s 2016-17 season. John Leguizamo: Latin History for Dummies will receive its New York premiere off-Broadway next spring. Tony Taccone, who helmed Carrie Fisher’s Broadway solo show Wishful Drinking, will direct.

The show is inspired by Leguizamo’s observations of the absence of Latin American history in school curriculums. “Just imagine you’re a white kid and all of a sudden, everybody’s Latin and everything they’re teaching you is Latin and you don’t hear anything about yourself of about our contributions,” Leguizamo explained in a statement. The writer and performer will break down 3,000 years of history into 90 minutes.

While Zack Snyder’s newest film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is only a few weeks away, the director is already hard at work on the first part of the Justice League. Once he’s done with that, however, the director tells Bloomberg Businessthat he would like to do a movie about George Washington. However, as you may have guessed, his idea would be very stylized. Snyder has a painting in his office that depicts Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. An iconic moment. But to him, the painting harkens back to one of his previous films, and he would use that style for this movie.

In a 1975 interview with the New York TimesMAD Magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman recalled an illustration of a grinning boy he’d spotted on a postcard in the early fifties: a “bumpkin portrait,” “part leering wiseacre, part happy-go-lucky kid.” It was captioned “What, Me Worry?”

That bumpkin became Alfred E. Neuman, MAD’s mascot, who turns sixty this year—kind of. The impish, immutable redhead made his official debut in December 1956, when he appeared on the cover of MAD no. 30 as a write-in candidate for president. He’s appeared on almost every MAD cover since: possessing, spoofing, and spooking cultural icons with nothing more than a drowsy rictus. Though MAD gave him a purpose, a permanent home, his origin story remains elusive. It involves, among other things, a plum-pudding advertisement, a dubious lawsuit, and a traveling nineteenth-century farce. Neuman is forever synonymous with the magazine and its infinite irreverence, but the riddle of his real age may be the trickster’s trump card.

Stephen Colbert:  Campaign 2016 has sunk American politics to a new historic low

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David Greenberg not impressed with CNN’s Race for the White House series

Cited Links:  here (for LAT) and here (for Slate).

British illustrator Jacky Fleming is exploring the remarkable women left out of the history books, and has released a witty book of sarcastic cartoons about women in history.

The book pokes fun at some of our greatest thinkers' baffling theories about women, including Charles Darwin's belief that women had smaller brains than men, and therefore would never achieve anything of importance; and John Ruskin's belief that a woman's tiny intellect should be used in "praise" rather than invention or creation.

A supremely artful feature-length recording of the 1934 Nazi Party Congress, commissioned, according its credits, by order of the Führer, “Triumph of the Will” raises a host of moral and aesthetic questions. (The only real equivalent is D. W. Griffith’s white supremacist magnum opus, “The Birth of a Nation.”) Is “Triumph of the Will” a brilliantly innovative documentary? Is it a propaganda masterpiece? A work of art — or simply, as Zero Mostel says in “The Producers” of his calculated Broadway flop, “a love letter to Hitler”?Riefenstahl (1902-2003), who produced, directed and for a time distributed the film (reissued on Blu-ray by Synapse Films), denied political intent, claiming that the film was cinema vérité. In reality, it was a colossal photo op. The three-day congress and the movie were planned simultaneously. Riefenstahl had a small army of technicians, including 16 uniformed cameramen, at her disposal. The City of Nuremberg contributed constructions, some designed by Albert Speer, to facilitate her film’s dramatic low or overhead angles, strategic dolly shots and dynamic use of scale.

Since it was uploaded Tuesday morning, the video “History of Rock”—which attempts to tell the story of rock ’n’ roll through a mashup of 348 different rock stars and 64 different songs—has quickly been going viral, getting passed around by sites such as MashableFast Company, and Gizmodo, and being named a “Staff Pick” by Vimeo. Both Mashable and Laughing Squid praise the video for being “comprehensive,” while the Canadian music site Exclaim! exclaims, “This Video Will Make You a Rock Music History Expert in 15 Minutes.” ...

But what is surprising to me is that all of these outlets—including a music magazine!—could share this video approvingly without realizing or noting that it’s not only bad history but, frankly, offensive. We’re talking about a video that suggests that rock was pioneered exclusively by white artists. 

For years, Bob Dylan scholars have whispered about a tiny notebook, seen by only a few, in which the master labored over the lyrics to his classic 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks.” Rolling Stone once called it “the Maltese Falcon of Dylanology” for its promise as an interpretive key.

But that notebook, it turns out, is part of a trinity. Sitting in climate-controlled storage in a museum here are two more “Blood on the Tracks” notebooks — unknown to anyone outside of Mr. Dylan’s closest circle — whose pages of microscopic script reveal even more about how Mr. Dylan wrote some of his most famous songs.

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