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Seven fun facts about the ukulele

The ukulele, a small four-stringed instrument of Portuguese origin, was patented in Hawaii in 1917, deriving its name from the Hawaiian word for “leaping flea”. Immigrants from the island of Madeira first brought to Hawaii a pair of Portuguese instruments in the late 1870s from which the ukuleles eventually developed.

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On the Town, flashpoint for racial distress

When the first production of On the Town in 1944 featured the Japanese American ballerina Sono Osato as its star, as part of a cast that also included whites and blacks, it aimed for a realistic depiction of the diversity among US citizens during World War II.

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Coffee tasting with Aristotle

Imagine a possible world where you are having coffee with … Aristotle! You begin exchanging views on how you like the coffee; you examine its qualities – it is bitter, hot, aromatic etc. It tastes to you this way or this other way. But how do you make these perceptual judgments? It might seem obvious to say that it is via the senses we are endowed with. Which senses though? How many senses are involved in coffee tasting? And how many senses do we have in all?

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Playing Man: some modern consequences of Ancient sport

Playing Man (Homo Ludens), the trail-blazing work by Johan Huizinga, took sport seriously and showed how it was essential in the formation of civilizations. Adult playtime for many pre-industrial cultures served as the crucible in which conventions and boundaries were written for a culture. Actions were censured for being “beyond the pale”, a sports metaphor for being “out of bounds”.

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On the Town and the long march for civil rights in performance

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a significant aspect of the struggle for racial equality often gets ignored: racial activism in performance. Actors, singers, and dancers mobilized over the decades, pushing back against racial restrictions that shifted over time, and On the Town of 1944 marked an auspicious but little-recognized moment in that history.

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What good is photography?

We’re bombarded with images today as never before. Whether you’re an avid mealtime Instagrammer, snapchatting your risqué images, being photobombed by your pets, capturing appealing colour schemes for your Pinterest moodboard, or simply contributing to the 250,000 or so images added to Facebook every minute, chances are you have a camera about your person most of the time, and use it almost without thinking to document your day.

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Royal teeth and smiles

Much of the comment on the official photographic portrait of the Queen released in April this year to celebrate her 88th birthday focussed on her celebrity photographer, David Bailey, who seemed to have ‘infiltrated’ (his word) the bosom of the establishment. Less remarked on, but equally of note, is that the very informal pose that the queen adopted showed her smiling, and not only smiling but also showing her teeth.

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Dallas Cowboys: seven strategies that will guarantee a successful 2014 season

As a football team, the Dallas Cowboys are mired in mediocrity. In the 19 years since they last won the Super Bowl, their regular season record is a middling 146-142. The team made the playoffs seven times during that span, with only two wins to show for its efforts. The prognosis for the 2014 season is more of the same.

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The ubiquity of structure

Everything in the natural world has structure – from the very small, like the carbon 60 molecule, to the very large such as mountains and indeed the whole Universe. Structure is the connecting of parts to make a whole – and it occurs at many different levels. Atoms have structure. Structures of atoms make molecules, structures of molecules make tissue and materials, structures of materials make organs and equipment and so on up a hierarchy of different levels as shown in the figure. Within this hierarchy of structure, man-made objects vary from the very small, like a silicon chip to the very large like a jumbo jet.

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United Airlines and Rhapsody in Blue

As anyone who has flown United in the past quarter-century knows, the company has a long-standing history with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The piece appears in its television advertisements, its airport terminals, and even its pre-flight announcements. However, the history of United’s use of the piece is far from straight forward.

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Celebrating Julie Andrews

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Disney’s beloved film Mary Poppins, starring the legendary Julie Andrews. Although Andrews was only twenty-nine at the time of the film’s release, she had already established herself as a formidable star with numerous credits to her name and performances opposite Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, and other leading actors […]

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A Woman’s Iliad?

Browsing my parents’ bookshelves recently, in the dog days that followed sending Anna Karenina off to press, I found myself staring at a row of small hardback volumes all the same size. One in particular, with the words Romola and George Eliot embossed in gold on the dark green spine, caught my attention.

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Moral pluralism and the dismay of Amy Kane

There’s a scene in the movie High Noon that seems to me to capture an essential feature of our moral lives. Actually, it’s not the entire scene. It’s one moment really, two shots — a facial expression and a movement of the head of Grace Kelly.

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Dispatches from the Front: German Feldpostkarten in World War I

In the first autumn of World War I, a German infantryman from the 25th Reserve Division sent this pithy greeting to his children in Schwarzenberg, Saxony. He scrawled the message in looping script on the back of a Feldpostkarte, or field postcard, one that had been designed for the Bahlsen cookie company by the German artist and illustrator Änne Koken.

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An Oxford Companion to being the Doctor

If you share my jealousy of Peter Capaldi and his new guise as Doctor Who, then read on to discover how you could become the next Doctor. However, be warned: you can’t just pick up Matt Smith’s bow-tie from the floor, don Tom Baker’s scarf and expect to save planet Earth every Saturday at peak viewing time. You’re going to need training. This is where Oxford’s online products can help you. Think of us as your very own Tardis guiding you through the dimensions of time, only with a bit more sass.

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