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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Finding ‘the weird’ in psychedelic art

The concepts of altered states and psychedelia creep in to a great deal of visual art. According to Lewis-Williams, some early forms of Palaeolithic rock art may have been shamanic in origin, and represent forms seen during visionary states. 18th Century works such as Fuseli’s The Nightmare (1781) depicted the ‘old hag’ phenomenon, a type of hypnagogic hallucination that is experienced on the threshold of sleep, during which a person feels as though a daemon or other supernatural entity is suffocating them.

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An oar in every man’s boat

Not too long ago, one of our constant correspondents proposed the etymology of Greek koupí “oar.” I do not know the origin of that word and will probably never know. Koupí did not show up in my most detailed dictionary of Classical Greek, and I suspect that we are dealing with a relative late coinage. By way of compensation, I decided to write something about the origin of Engl. oar and about some other words connected with it.

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Monteverdi turns 450

The year of 2017 has proved an exciting year for anniversaries. From the quincentennial of Martin Luther’s 95 theses of 1517, or the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 1867, to the centenary of the 1917 Russian revolutions, the historic events commemorated this year call us into celebration as much as they urge us into reflection and contemplation.

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In search of political prisoners: A dialogue with Padraic Kenney

States around the world imprison people for their beliefs or politically-motivated actions. Oppositional movements of all stripes celebrate their comrades behind bars. Yet they are more than symbols of repression and human rights. Padraic Kenney discusses his new book, Dance in Chains: Political Imprisonment in the Modern World, which seeks to find universal answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of imprisonment.

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A brief history of libel

At a Cambridge court hearing in 1584, Margery Johnson reported that she heard Thomas Wylkinson refer to “the said Jane Johnson thus ‘A pox of God on thee, bitch fox whore, that ever I knew thee.’” If Wylkinson indeed called down such a curse on Jane, he was guilty not of libel, but of slander, a verbal attack on another person. Libel, in contrast, is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

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Screen

Communist laughter

“History is thorough and passes through many stages while bearing an ancient form to its grave.” So wrote Karl Marx in 1843, as he reflected on the collapse of Germany’s old regime whilst looking toward a revolutionary horizon. “The last phase of a world-historical form,” he adds, “is its comedy.” According to Marx, comedy has revolutionary value in that it allows us to part happily with the superannuated ways of the past.

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Advance care planning: an illusion of choice?

Over the last decade or so, patients have been encouraged to think ahead, and make clear their wishes and plans for a time when illness may render them unable to makes decisions about their care for themselves. This process we know as Advance Care Planning (ACP). Intuitively, as a hospice physician trained in Palliative Medicine, ACP seems to me like a good thing to do, with those patients who are willing to do it.

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The changing nature of retirement

Whether you are approaching retirement, or are a few years or decades away from thinking about leaving the workforce, it is likely that you will be affected by the changing nature of retirement. Maybe it’s not your own retirement that is on the forefront of your mind, but your spouse or partner’s. Perhaps your parent or another family member is trying to navigate the complexities of their pension, all the while trying to decide whether and how to retire.

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Strangest things: The peculiar Byzantine Empire [quiz]

From stories of saints and relics to the (not-so) mundane traditions of daily life, Byzantium has long been regarded as one of history’s most curious civilizations. Rising from the rubble of the Roman Empire, this complex Christian society was a birthplace of literature, art, and architecture. How much do you know about Byzantine culture?

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Philosophy: Eternal topics, evolving questions

Philosophers are famous for disagreeing on the issues that interest them. Is morality objective? Is the mind identical to the body? Are our actions free or determined? Some professional philosophers will say no to these questions—but an almost equal number will say yes. Moreover, empirical data bears this out.

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10 fascinating facts about Lucha Libre

Over the course of the 20th century, Lucha Libre—or professional wrestling—has become a stable of urban Mexican culture. Dating back all the way to the 1800s, professional wrestling has become a distinctly national rendition of an imported product. Within the past 20 years, it has gained international acclaim for its distinctive style: an incredible acrobatic ring style and the highly recognizable masks.

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For the people, by the people: democracy in the US and India [excerpt]

India is the world’s largest democracy. However, despite its shared political system with the United States, India’s approach to human rights and foreign policy differs greatly from its Western counterparts.
The following excerpt from Our Time Has Come highlights the key differences between the American and Indian democratic systems.

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New NHS treatments: a real breakthrough for breast cancer?

In November last year, after much debate over cost, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved two new drugs for treatment of breast cancer for use on the NHS. Although first approval happened some time ago, this decision to make palbociclib and ribociclib available on the NHS, gives thousands more people access.

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Going back to instrumental lessons

Three existential questions are useful to all of us: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” The publication of The Integrated String Player got me thinking about these questions in regards to my trajectory as a cellist. I decided to go back to school, so to speak. This is my report.

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No-impunity as a global constitutional principle

One of the fundamental principles of global law is to prohibit the impunity of those responsible for serious violations of human rights. The no-impunity principle is part of the founding principles of the global community, norms of a public nature, protecting the supreme values of the world community as a whole, including the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples.

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Animal of the Month: Ten things you didn’t know about squirrels

Whether they’re gray or red, climbing a tree or scurrying on the ground, squirrels are one of the most ubiquitous mammals in the world. They are found in almost every habitat imaginable from tropical rainforests to deserts, avoiding only the most extreme conditions found in the high polar and arid desert regions. Different types of squirrels are indigenous to almost every continent including the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

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