In my 22 years of teaching and writing about Arabic and Islamic Studies, I have probably heard every kind of naive and uninformed comment that can possibly be made in the West about Islam and Muslims. Such remarks are not necessarily all due to ill will; most of the time, they express bewilderment and stem from an inability to find accessible, informed sources that might begin to address such widespread public incomprehension. Add that to the almost daily barrage of news and media commentary concerning violence in the Middle East and South Asia, two regions viscerally connected with Islam and Muslims.
Wednesday, 22 July 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of the OUPblog. In one decade our authors, staff, and friends have contributed over 8,000 blog posts, from articles and opinion pieces to Q&As in writing and on video, from quizzes and polls to podcasts and playlists, from infographics and slideshows to maps and timelines. Anatoly Liberman alone has written over 490 articles on etymology. Sorting through the finest writing and the most intriguing topics over the years seems a rather impossible task.
“When I went to the Iv’ry Coast, about thirty years ago, I remember coming off the plane and just being assaulted with not only the heat but the color.” These were the first words of the most moving story I have ever heard—but it wasn’t the story I was there to collect. For me, the best oral histories are the ones that sound a human chord, stories that blur the spaces between historically significant narrative and personal development.
How does a leader address a country on the brink of economic collapse? In the wake of Greece’s historic referendum, many people around the world have engaged in fierce debate, expressing very different perspectives over its highly controversial outcome. Earlier today on Twitter, Stathis Kalyvas, leading expert and author of Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know, swiftly responded to the political chorus, making a courageous foray into the world of social media. Here, he imagines his version of what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ speech would have been using the hashtag #fauxTsipras.
The recent news about charitable contributions in the United States has been encouraging. The Giving Pledge, sponsored by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Jr., recently announced that another group of billionaires committed to leave a majority of their wealth to charity. Among these new Giving Pledgers are Judith Faulkner, founder of Epic Systems; Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani Yogurt; and Brad Keywell, a co-founder of Groupon.
If you like your prophecies pin sharp then look away now. The 16th century celebrity seer Nostradamus excelled at the exact opposite, couching his predictions in terms so vague as to be largely meaningless. This has not, however, prevented his soothsayings attracting enormous and unending interest, and his book – Les Propheties – has rarely been out of print since it was first published 460 years ago. Uniquely, for a renaissance augur, the writings of Nostradamus are perhaps as popular today as they were four and a half centuries ago.
The latest incarnation (I chose that word advisedly!) of the Jurassic Park franchise has been breaking box-office records and garnering mixed reviews from the critics. On the positive side the film is regarded as scary, entertaining, and a bit comedic at times (isn’t that what most movies are supposed to be?). On the negative side the plot is described as rather ‘thin’, the human characters two-dimensional, and the scientific content (prehistoric animals) unreliable, inaccurate, or lacking entirely in credibility.
From the moment the news of the victory was announced in London, Waterloo was hailed as a victory of special significance, all the more precious for being won on land against England’s oldest rival, France. Press and politicians alike built Waterloo into something exceptional. Castlereagh in Parliament would claim, for instance, that Waterloo was Wellington’s victory over Napoleon and that ‘it was an achievement of such high merit, of such pre-eminent importance, as had never perhaps graced the annals of this or any other country till now’.
What does it mean to create an artwork? For centuries, we thought we knew the answer. In literature, an author recorded words on a page. In the visual arts, an artist put paint to canvas. In music, a composer jotted down notes and rhythms on a staff as the raw material for his/her creations.
In a letter addressed to President Obama, 26 members of the United States Senate expressed their support for the private sector retirement savings laws adopted in Illinois and California, and also being considered in other states. In particular, the senators asked that the United States Treasury and Labor Departments resolve three legal issues clouding the prospects of these adopted and proposed state laws.
Recent events in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other places have highlighted the explosive potential of discrimination and inequality. Much attention has been paid to police practices, the long-term effect of joblessness, and the trauma of the criminal justice system incarcerating large numbers of African-Americans. This focus on the present is understandable. It is also insufficient. There is a need to understand and address the huge disadvantages, and indeed disabilities, imposed on future generations by pre-natal conditions.
The factual backdrop to this affair is well-known. FIFA, world football’s governing body has, for a number of years, been the subject of allegations of corruption. Then, after a series of dawn raids on 27 May 2015, seven FIFA officials, of various nationalities, the most famous being Jack Warner, the Trinidadian former vice president of FIFA, were arrested in a luxury hotel in Zurich where they were staying prior to the FIFA Congress.
Descartes divided the mind up into two faculties: intellect and will. The intellect gathers up data from the world and presents the mind with various potential beliefs that it might endorse; the will then chooses which of them to endorse. We can look at the evidence for or against a particular belief, but the final choice about what to believe remains a matter of choice. This raises the question of the ‘ethics of belief,’ the title of an essay by the mathematician William K. Clifford, in which he argued that ‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.’
I used to climb trees when I was young (and I still, on occasion, do). As a boy in Iraq I had a favoured loquat tree, with branches that bore leathery, serrated leaves, shiny on the upper surface, and densely matted with fine hairs underneath. It seemed so big, though I now reflect it was probably rather small. I would haul myself up and over the lowest branch, making whatever use of the twists and folds of the trunk as provided purchase to my small feet.
The Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an organization devoted to innovative museum practice as well as to the study of historic American furniture, American and British ceramics, and American prints, doesn’t always collect what one might expect. Recently we acquired three peas said to have been served at Andersonville Prison, a swatch from bareknuckle boxer Joe Goss’s colors, splinters from the wreck of an ill-fated arctic expedition, and a feather collected from a Russian state bed.
DNA is the foundation of life. It codes the instructions for the creation of all life on Earth. Scientists are now reading the autobiographies of organisms across the Tree of Life and writing new words, paragraphs, chapters, and even books as synthetic genomics gains steam. Quite astonishingly, the beautiful design and special properties of DNA makes it capable of many other amazing feats. Here are five man-made functions of DNA, all of which are contributing to the growing “industrial-DNA” phenomenon.