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Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

New film explores Jacqueline Kennedy’s hand in JFK’s legacy

How much of John F. Kennedy’s public persona was privately molded by his wife, Jacqueline?

Quite a bit, according to a new documentary, “JFK: Fact and Fable.” The film examines the role she played in reshaping the modern presidency by popularizing the Camelot image.

One little-known factoid: Jackie O. was behind the modern look of Air Force One. She persuaded the government to paint “United States of America” on the plane.

How Images Help Candidates Win, or Lose, the White House

When Donald Trump sets up a campaign rally right in front of his plane, which bears his name in large block letters, it’s no coincidence. For the supporters there in person, and for anyone who will see photos of Trump basking in the foreground of his very own aircraft, it’s a message.

“Trump always parks his plane with ‘Trump’ behind him for his speeches,” says Mark Lubell, executive director of the International Center of Photography, “to present this American dream” and signify the kind of financial success he loves to boast about (though his business acumen is significantly less stellar than his verbal and visual messaging would have people believe).

But Trump isn’t alone. Presidential candidates and their campaigns have long crafted events and photo ops with an eye toward highlighting certain characteristics or values. The past and present of this practice, and how photos and video footage influence elections more broadly, is the subject of ICP’s new exhibit, “Winning the White House: From Press Prints to Selfies.”

Ruins of an 1895 Broadway theatre found under Toys R Us in Times Square

According to reports at Playbill and Curbed New York, construction workers at the Times Square Toys R Us located at Broadway and 44th Street have unearthed the 121-year-old remains of the entertainment complex originally built there: the Olympia Theatre.

The trouble is the David’s ankles. They are cracked. Italians first discovered this weakness back in the 19th century, and modern scientists have mapped the cracks extensively, but until recently no one claimed to know just how enfeebled the ankles might be. This changed in 2014, when a team of Italian geoscientists published a paper called “Modeling the Failure Mechanisms of Michelangelo’s David Through Small-Scale Centrifuge Experiments.” That dry title concealed a terrifying story. The paper describes an experiment designed to measure, in a novel way, the weakness in the David’s ankles: by creating a small army of tiny David replicas and spinning them in a centrifuge, at various angles, to simulate different levels of real-world stress. What the researchers found was grim. If the David were to be tilted 15 degrees, his ankles would fail.

Forgotten documentary interview with  Israeli founder Ben-Gurion found

The rare, intimate and reflective interview with Israel’s founding prime minister was filmed nearly 50 years ago, but it never aired.

David Ben-Gurion, at 82 and five years out of office, spoke in the six-hour interview of state-building and the biblical prophets that guided him; the security imperative of his young nation and Israel’s quest for spiritual and moral superiority; his battle with lower back pain and his interest in Buddhism.

It was April 1968, and “The Old Man,” as Ben-Gurion was nicknamed for much of his life, had been largely abandoned by his own political protégés. Paula, his rather brusque and devoted wife, had died that January, leaving him in near isolation in his chosen retirement home in Sde Boker, a remote communal village in the Negev desert.

“The most important thing which I learned, I learned by living here,” he said. “I want to live in a place when I know that my friends, and myself, we did it. Everything. It’s our creation.”

Uncovering Gay History in San Francisco

[The]   National Park Service has started a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history initiative, mapping out dozens of hidden gems like Osento [a lesbian bathhouse] in San Francisco and other places with unacknowledged ties to gay culture. The study includes more than 500 sites nominated by community groups and preservationists.

New PBS film shows how the damage to the Pentagon on 9-11was a lot worse than it seemed

In our collective memory of 9/11, certain images predominate: Airliners slicing through a blue sky into the World Trade Center, people jumping from the uppermost floors and, of course, the immense buildings crumbling in a smoky heap of concrete, glass and steel with about 2,500 souls inside. In some of the most poignant images, rescue crews and medical teams wait vainly for survivors.

The nearly simultaneous attack on the Pentagon usually gets far less attention, for obvious reasons: the relatively few casualties (184, including the 54 passengers and crew of the hijacked airliner flown into the building) and the absence of comparatively dramatic TV footage that unfolded in real time from lower Manhattan.

But there’s another reason, as 9/11 Inside the Pentagon, a dramatic new PBS documentary marking the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, suggests: With a belly full of jet fuel, American Airlines Flight 77 penetrated three rings deep into the Pentagon offices. Most of the damage–and ensuing drama–was inside the building, out of view. The long-distance TV shots of a large, fiery cavity and clouds of thick black smoke billowing out of and over the iconic building only hinted at the scope of the carnage. “When people are looking at the building on television cameras, that gash looks quite small,” Steve Vogel, a Washington Post reporter who rushed to the scene, recalls in the fast-moving one-hour film. “Looks almost like a pinprick,” he says. In reality, the swath of destruction inside was “equivalent to a large shopping mall.”

Rape Case Swirls Around Nate Parker and His Film ‘The Birth of a Nation’

“The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the Nat Turner slave rebellion, upended the Sundance Film Festival, selling for a record $17.5 million and instantly vaulting to front-runner of next year’s Oscar race.

Scheduled to be released Oct. 7, the film is now attracting unwanted attention because of renewed interest in a 17-year-old case in which the film’s director, writer and star, Nate Parker, was accused — and later acquitted — of rape when he was a student at Penn State.

Michael Phelps’s 13th Individual Gold Breaks an Ancient Record

The 200-meter individual medley field was chasing Michael Phelps, who was busy powering past Leonidas of Rhodes.

Leonidas won 12 individual events over four Olympics. At 36, five years older than Phelps, he won his last three events in 152 B.C, in races of about 200 and 400 meters, and in a shield-carrying race. Phelps surpassed Leonidas, winning his 13th individual gold (and 22nd gold overall and 26th medal). With the victory, Phelps also joined the track and field Olympians Al Oerter and Carl Lewis as the only Americans to win an individual event four times.

Why Does Van Gogh’s ‘Poppy Flowers’ Keep Getting Stolen?

One museum in Egypt has faced the indignity of having the same Van Gogh painting stolen not once, but twice, and ‘Poppy Flowers’ (1887) remains missing to this day.

Sometime following the artist’s death, “Poppy Flowers” made its way from Paris to Cairo, where it was installed as one of the prized works in the impressive collection that made up the Mohamed Khalil Museum. It was here that the luck of the poppy first took a turn for the worse.

On June 4, 1977, “Poppy Flowers” went missing. It is impossible to discover what actually happened given that the Egyptian government has never disclosed details of this feat, but it is thought that the painting went missing sometime during the museum’s move between two palaces.

While the government has kept mum to this day, they have suggested that the culprits were a trio of Egyptians. Whoever these bandits might have been, the painting was eventually found and recovered from a non-disclosed location in Kuwait.

[It was stolen again in 2010.]

Donald Trump's eerie likeness to Thomas Mann's Mussolini parable

“He had very ugly hair” and “small hard eyes, with flabby pouches beneath them.” He “talked without stopping—but only in vague, boastful, self-advertising phrases.” He was “cocksure” and “irritable,” and he dealt sarcastically with those who crossed him. Billed as an “entertainer” and “magician,” he turned out to be a powerful hypnotist, and he embarrassed and humiliated people while the audience applauded him and laughed at his victims. He was, in short, a “dreadful” person of mysterious abilities, yet he also embodied “all the peculiar evilness of the situation as a whole.”

This character may sound familiar to Americans today, but the descriptions above appear in Thomas Mann’s prophetic tale “Mario and the Magician.”

Ben-Hur: why classical movies are no longer truly epic

The new Ben-Hur film, soon to be released, is described by Jack Huston, who plays Judah Ben-Hur, as “an epic in every sense of the word”. For some younger audience members the term “epic” might mean that the film is going to be “great” or “awesome”. Others might think of the ancient mythological epic poems, such as the Odyssey or the Argonautica, the story of Jason and the Argonauts. And as classicist Kirsten Day has recently argued, to some the Western is seen as the modern incarnation of the ancient epic.

But generally the term tends to denote films set in the ancient world, true to the classical origins of epic, such as an earlier Ben-Hur (1959), starring Charlton Heston, or Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). These films, with their large casts and long running time, have come to define the epic film genre.

An “epic” movie must satisfy certain audience expectations. There must be some distance set between the present day and the story presented on screen. There must be visual spectacle. And there must be a hero (in this case Judah Ben-Hur) whose journey both physical and spiritual is central to the film. This journey could take the form of a quest narrative – such as Jason’s voyage to find the golden fleece – or a narrative based on the wish for revenge, such as Maximus’s revenge for the death of his wife and child in Gladiator (2000).