Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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Will Ferrell has reportedly pulled out of a role in a controversial comedy about President Ronald Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The Reagan Foundation released a statement condemning the project this week, and Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis penned an open letter asking the actor to drop out. After all the backlash, the 48-year-old comedic actor announced Friday that he no longer had plans to go ahead with the film…. It depicts a second-term Reagan suffering from dementia and being assisted by an intrepid young intern who tricks him into thinking he’s still an actor and must perform his greatest role as a president.

While in Arkansas for a concert, Paul McCartney met with two of the women from the “Little Rock Nine” who inspired the Beatles’ song “Blackbird.”

According to Arkansas Times Blog, Thelma Mothershed Wair and Elizabeth Eckford stood with McCartney for a photo the Verizon Arena later posted on their Facebook page. They wrote that the “Little Rock Nine” helped introduce McCartney to the Civil Rights battles happening in the United States in the 1960s.

 A stellar cast has been locked for Felt, a political thriller that tells the story made famous in All the President’s Men, from the vantage point of the top FBI official the Washington Post called Deep Throat. Writer-director Peter Landesman, who previously landed Liam Neeson to play No. 2 FBI man Mark Felt and Diane Laneto play his wife Audrey, has just about set the complete cast, minus the actor who’ll play the pivotal role of Bob Woodward.

I’m writing a history of older women in America. It begins in the 1600s, when Colonial men were advertising for wives who were “civil and under 50 years of age.” Then in the 19th century, 20 was over the hill. And now girls want to grow up to be Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So I think it’s fair to say there’s a lot of territory to cover.

Kallstadt is an unassuming little place. Located in southwestern Germany’s wine country, this hamlet of twelve hundred souls counts among its biggest draws a pair of annual wine festivals and the fact that—as the local butcher proclaims—it is a “paradise” for pig stomach, a local delicacy. But growing up, the filmmaker Simone Wendel always knew that her home town was special. As she explains in the opening lines of “Kings of Kallstadt,” her documentary film, “Here the sun always shines, and the wine never runs out. But Kallstadt is not like other villages, because Donald Trump’s grandfather was born right here. In this house! Yes, exactly. The Donald Trump!”

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has asked the city of Cleveland to delay scheduled demolition of the gazebo where Cleveland police shot and killed the 12-year-old.

Not content with being the first active member of Congress to write a graphic novel, senator John Lewis is may become its first animation star, as his seminal memoir about the civil rights movement will be brought to television as an animated series.

Today Charleston Immersive & Interactive Media Studio has announced that they have optioned the animation rights to the graphic novel trilogy, published by Top Shelf.

Sure, you may have seen interactive history timelines before, but we’ve yet to see one as exhaustive or engaging as the one put together by Histography.io. Their cleverly crafted and intuitive timeline spans 14 billion years of history, with the website boasting that every entry “is a historic event from Wikipedia.”

In other words, the timeline allows you to quickly peruse through every noteworthy event over the last 14 billion years. Naturally, the first event listed is The Big Bang which took place 13.3 billion years ago.

What’s more, and decidedly more convenient as well, is that the website lets you view unique timelines associated with specific topics. So, for example, if you only want to see a timeline associated with political events, religion, or even assassinations, you can tailor the interactive timeline just to your liking.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a prime opportunity to educate children about the Shoah, but you’d be a wise parent to steer clear of these two apps.

One of the worst parts of the horror that was the Holocaust is that its echoes never cease to reverberate. You can blow up the gas chambers, you can burn down the camps, but that’s all—and that’s not enough. You can’t ever restore the 11 million lives that were lost. Just as painful for many survivors is the loss of the familial history that was annihilated along with the victims.

The great scattering of displaced people that followed the war years meant that parents lost track of children; wives lost track of husbands; siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents not only didn’t know which of their family members had died, but also which later ones had even been born. Survivors became free electrons, too often bonded to nothing, related to no one.

That’s why part of the work of Yad Vashem, the global Holocaust remembrance organization, is to help survivors and descendants reconstruct their genealogy. It’s the reason too that the new documentary Aida’s Secrets, which follows the story of one family that was blown apart by the Holocaust, is so powerful.

The author of The Jungle Book also wrote a lot of jingoistic trash, but judging him by the standards of our time, not his, serves him poorly and obscures his true genius.

During his lifetime, Rudyard Kipling seemed like a man who could do no wrong. Like his contemporary Mark Twain, he possessed the enviable ability to appeal to both children and adults. Critics loved him, too, and so did his fellow writers. Henry James said, “Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known.” In 1907, at the age of 41, he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Kipling, though, made one big mistake. He was an unabashed fan of colonialism, and that enthusiasm put him on the wrong side of history and tarnished his reputation beyond repair. Today he is known as the man who coined the phrase “the white man’s burden,” and that, sadly, is all most people know of him.

“Hamilton,” the groundbreaking hip-hop musical about the nation’s founding fathers, has been nominated for 16 Tony Awards, the most in Broadway history.

The show is already the biggest success Broadway has seen in years, and has become the rare piece of theater to cross over into popular culture. The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has won the Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, and many other prizes; its sold-out audiences are packed with dignitaries who are showering it with praise — Michelle Obama called the show “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.”

In 1858, when Walt Whitman sat down to write a manifesto on healthy living, he came up with advice that might not seem out of place in an infomercial today.

“Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else,” Whitman wrote, sounding more than a little paleo.

As for the feet, he recommended that the comfortable shoes “now specially worn by base-ball players” — sneakers, if you will — be “introduced for general use,” and he offered warnings about the dangers of inactivity that could have been issued from a 19th-century standing desk.

“To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice,” he declared. “Up!”

Whitman’s words, part of a nearly 47,000-word journalistic series called “Manly Health and Training,” were lost for more than 150 years, buried in an obscure newspaper that survived only in a handful of libraries. The series was uncovered last summer by a graduate student, who came across a fleeting reference to it in a digitized newspaper database and then tracked down the full text on microfilm.

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