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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

14764989 political analysis

Tips from a journal editor: being a good reviewer

Peer review is one of the foundations of science. To have research scrutinized, criticized, and evaluated by other experts in the field helps to make sure that a study is well-designed, appropriately analyzed, and well-documented. It helps to make sure that other scholars can readily understand, appreciate, and build upon that work.

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Selfies in black abayas

Today, when worlds collide with equal force and consequence as speeding cars on a California highway, can we imagine escaping the impact of even a single collision? Is the option of being miraculously air-lifted out of the interminable traffic log-jams available for us, even if we are spared physical injury? Just as avoiding California highways is an impossibility (given the systemic destruction of public transportation system), meeting head-on forces of neoliberal globalization with its unique technological, financial, and ideological structures is an inevitability.

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Devising data structures for scholarly works

For over 100 years, Oxford University Press has been publishing scholarly editions of major works. Prominent scholars reviewed and delivered authoritative versions of authors’ work with notes on citations, textual variations, references, and commentary added line by line—from alternate titles for John Donne’s poetry to biographical information on recipients of Adam Smith’s correspondence.

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Rihanna, the Court of Appeal, and a Topshop t-shirt

Can a fashion retailer take a photograph of a celebrity, print it on a t-shirt and sell it without the celebrity’s approval? Yes, but sometimes no – not when the retailer has previously gone out of its way to draw a connection between its products and that celebrity, in this case Robyn Fenty, aka Rihanna. How did this begin?

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What marriage (equality) means

Like many, I’m still digesting the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision—not just its text, but its personal and social significance. When I wrote Debating Same-Sex Marriage with Maggie Gallagher (Oxford University Press, 2012), only a handful of states permitted same-sex couples to marry. In the three years since, that handful grew to dozens; last Friday’s decision grows it to all 50. One striking thing about the decision itself is the importance of the definitional question: What is marriage?

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“Deflategate,” Fox News, and frats: this year in public apologies

Since publishing Sorry About That a year ago, I’ve been trying to keep track of apologies in the news. Google sends me a handful of news items every day. Some are curious (“J.K. Rowling issues apology over slain ‘Harry Potter’ character”), some are cute (“Blizzard 2015: Meteorologist apologizes for ‘big forecast miss’”), and some are sad (“An open apology to my kids on the subject of my divorce”).

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The real world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were ‘Friends of English Magic’, to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.

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How can we reconstruct history on the silver screen?

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.

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What if printed books went by ebook rules?

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.

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Who was the first great Shakespearean actress?

The first female Juliet appears to have been Mary Saunderson, to Henry Harris’s Romeo in 1662 when her future husband, Thomas Betterton, played Mercutio. Later she acted admirably as Ophelia and Lady Macbeth but nothing I have read characterizes her as great. Elizabeth Barry (c.1658–1713) succeeded her as Betterton’s leading lady, excelling in pathetic roles and achieving her greatest successes in the heroic tragedies of her own time.

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Dogs in digital cinema

Supplementing real dogs with digital animation produces performances that have benefits on many different levels. Firstly, they are much more effective dramatically because they can become more anthropomorphically expressive to suit the needs of the story. Economically they are less time-consuming and therefore less expensive because the performance is no longer determined by the unpredictable or intractable volition of real animals, however ‘well-trained’. The problems that arise even when working with ‘professional’ dog actors can be exasperating.

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From news journalism to academic publishing

“I think I’ve just got an exclusive interview with the new Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester.” These were the words I told my editor after a couple of years in the newspaper game. He was obviously pleased. This is the kind of thing editors constantly want from reporters: an ability to dig out a story or to see something not everyone else will spot.

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Is privacy dead?

In the 1960s British comedy radio show, Beyond Our Ken, an old codger would, in answer to various questions wheel out his catchphrase—in a weary, tremulous groan—‘Thirty Five Years!’ I was reminded of this today when I realized that it is exactly 35 years ago that my first book on privacy was published. And how the world has changed since then!

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Country music and the press

At least a decade prior to the recording of the first “hillbilly” records in the 1920s, journalists were writing about rural music-making in the United States, often treating the music heard at barn dances, quilting bees, and other rural social events as curious markers of local color. Since the emergence of country music as a recorded popular music in the 1920s, though, the press’s fascination with the genre has not waned.

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Reading on-screen versus on paper

If over the holidays you received a book, was it digital or printed on paper? E-books (and devices on which to read them) are multiplying like rabbits, as are the numbers of eReading devotees. It’s easy to assume, particularly in the United States, with the highest level of eBook sales worldwide, that the only way this trend can go is up. Yes, there was triple-digit eBook growth in 2009, 2010, and 2011, though by 2014 those figures had settled down into the single digits.

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Charlie Hebdo and the end of the French exception

Today many are asking why Parisians have been attacked in their own city, and by their own people. But for many years the question for those following the issues of foreign policy and religion was why France had suffered so little terrorism in comparison to other European states.

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