A perpetual lament of historians is that so many people get their historical knowledge from either Hollywood or the BBC. The controversies that surrounded Lincoln and Selma will no doubt reappear, in other guises, with the release of Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s popular historical novel. Historical films play an outsize role in collective historical knowledge, and historians rightly bemoan the inaccuracies and misleading emphases of popular film and television: no doubt a generation of viewers believe that the Roman Republic was restored by a dying gladiator.
I love ebooks. Despite their unimaginative page design, monotonous fonts, curious approach to hyphenation, and clunky annotation utilities, they’re convenient and easy on my aging eyes. But I wish they didn’t come wrapped in legalese. Whenever I read a book on my iPad, for example, I have tacitly agreed to the 15,000-word statement of terms and conditions for the iTunes store. It’s written by lawyers in language so dense and tedious it seems designed not to be read, except by other lawyers, and that’s odd, since these Terms of Service agreements (TOS) concern the use of books that are designed to be read.
Since 1873, Grove Music has expanded from one piece of hardbound reference detailing the work and lives of musicians to becoming a powerful online encyclopedic database that serves to educate the world about music. George Grove, founder of the Grove dictionaries, was motivated by the lack of music reference works available to scholars and music professionals.
As 2.6 million men and women return home from war, the prevalence of veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress is something that is frequently discussed by civilians, politicians, and the media, but seldom understood. These changes extend beyond psychological readjustment, physical handicap, and even loss of life. The greatest wounds, in fact, may not even be visible to the naked eye. While the traditional dialogue concerning veteran assistance typically involves the availability of institutional services, military hospitals, and other resources, there is an increasing need to address what many call the “moral injuries” sustained by soldiers during combat.
Does coffee enhance marijuana? A study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience (Vol 34 (19):6480-6484, 2014) by neuroscientists from the Integrative Neurobiology Section of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, has finally provided a definitive answer: Yes, No, and it depends.
Today, 6 May 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orson Welles in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to concert pianist Beatrice Welles and inventor Richard Head Welles. Widely recognized as a child prodigy, Welles exhibited musical talent, a fascination with magic, and the ability to recite Shakespeare all before the age of ten. At age sixteen, he traveled to Ireland, where he seized the opportunity to appear on the professional stage in a production of Jew Süss at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
The infrequency of two high-profile songsters or their representatives going all the way to trial over claims of copyright infringement means that such a case usually receives heightened public scrutiny. This is especially so when mere sampling of the plaintiff’s song is not at issue. In recent years, few cases have drawn more public attention than the dispute between the Marvin Gaye estate and singer/songwriter Robin Thicke and song producer Pharrell Williams, over whether the song “Blurred Lines” infringed Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got to Give It Up.”
May the Fourth be with you! Playing off a pun on one of the movie’s most famous quotes, May the 4th is the unofficial holiday in which Star Wars fans across the globe celebrate the beloved blockbuster series. The original Star Wars movie, now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was released on 25 May 1977, but to those of us who waited in line after line to see it again and again in theaters, it will always be just Star Wars.
My first encounter with M.H. Abrams involved a bicycle. In a Beckettian scene in Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell, I stopped a gentleman in shorts one spring morning with a bicycle. “Excuse me, do you know a Professor Abrams?” Removing a pipe from his mouth, he smiled and said “Follow me.” I did, and he stopped at an office door, asked me to hold the bike, fished out a key, and directed me to bring the bike in and sit down. “But what about Professor Abrams? I’m to be his new assistant,” I added nervously. The cyclist sat down among the piles of books, relit his pipe, and said through a grin, “Let’s get started.”
After three inconclusive rounds in the preceding days, in which nobody secured the two-thirds majority needed to win, on the morning of 31 January 2015 a fourth round of voting was held in the Italian Parliament to elect the country’s President. This time, a simple majority of the 1,009 eligible voters (the members of both Chambers of the Parliament plus some delegates from the Regions) was enough to decide the election.
The release of Brett Morgen’s documentary Montage of Heck has inspired new discussions of the legacy of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who upended popular music before committing suicide in 1994. Few artists have straddled the line between nonconformity and commercialism like Cobain. Consider the three-album arc of his band’s life: though Nirvana boasted of producing its debut album Bleach for $600, Cobain became a Generation X icon by releasing its follow-up, Nevermind, on a major label, and by having a hit single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” that dominated MTV.
Inspired by Stanley Wells’ recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked Oxford University Pressstaff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of OUP employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.
First of all, gratitude. Gratitude to Opera Parallèle for its consistently high quality productions of contemporary works, and for their extensive educational outreach program; more specifically, for its new production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, featuring revised scoring for smaller orchestral ensembles—a revision that loses nothing and makes the piece more accessible for smaller companies.
A peppy beat and bassline. Cowbell. An ecstatic whoop in the background. Make a note, because all these elements now belong to family of Marvin Gaye. Or do they? The recent verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the ‘Blurred Lines’ case has perplexed followers of the music industry. One might think the ruling was a vindication of the rights of artists, but composers like Bonnie McKee see it differently.
Nathaniel Hawthorne famously commented that Anthony Trollope’s quintessentially English novels were written on the “strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale … these books are just as English as a beef-steak.” In like mode, Irish critic Stephen Gwynn said Trollope was “as English as John Bull.” But unlike the other great Victorian English writers, Trollope became Trollope by leaving his homeland and making his life across the water in Ireland, and achieving there his first successes there in both his post office and his literary careers.
Philosophers love thought experiments. Many of us deploy them as our version of the scientific method: They isolate some feature of our experience and evoke intuitions about it, and these revealed verdicts enable us to adjust relevant theories in light of what we find. Sometimes we appeal to these science fiction cases too quickly when there are plenty of real life cases all around us that are potentially more fruitful.