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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

What is Thanksgiving? A Brit’s guide to the holiday

Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays in the US calendar. However for those who have never lived in America, the celebration can seem perplexing and often down-right bewildering. Here in the Oxford offices at Oxford University Press, we thought we may have understood the basics, but on researching more into the holiday, we have been left with many more questions than answers. For instance, what is a “Turkey Trot” or sweet potato pie, and if television is to be believed – do people actually go around the table saying what they’re thankful for?

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5 tips for teaching social media

How can instructors equip students with the skills and knowledge to become effective social media professionals? Three years ago, I left my position as a social media director and transitioned back to academia to focus on this critical question. Since then I have experimented with a variety of pedagogical approaches. Here are a few tips that I have found to be consistently helpful in the classroom.

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What’s going on in the shadows? A visual arts timeline

Although cast shadows lurk almost everywhere in the visual arts, they often slip by audiences unnoticed. That’s unfortunate, since every shadow tells a story. Whether painted, filmed, photographed, or generated in real time, shadows provide vital information that makes a representation engaging to the eye. Shadows speak about the shape, volume, location, and texture of objects, as well as about the source of light, the time of day or season, the quality of the atmosphere, and so on.

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Fake facts and favourite sayings

When the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations was first published in 1941, it all seemed so simple. It was taken for granted that a quotation was a familiar line from a great poet or a famous figure in history, and the source could easily be found in standard literary works or history books. Those early compilers of quotations did not think of fake facts and the internet. “Fake facts”, or perhaps more accurately misunderstandings, have been around in the world of quotations for a long time.

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Horror films reinforce our fear instincts: Q&A with John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s classic suspense film Halloween from 1978 launched the slasher subgenre into the mainstream. The low-budget horror picture introduced iconic Michael Myers as an almost otherworldly force of evil, stalking and killing babysitters in otherwise peaceful Haddonfield. It featured a bare-bones plot, a simple, haunting musical score composed by Carpenter himself, some truly nerve-wracking editing and cinematography

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From segregation to the Supreme Court: the life and work of Thurgood Marshall

Marshall (2017) recounts one of the most contentious Supreme Court cases in American history, represented by Thurgood Marshall, who would later serve as the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, with Chadwick Boseman playing the title role, the film establishes Marshall’s greatest legal triumph, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the Court declared the laws allowing for separate but equal public facilities (including public schools) inherently unconstitutional. The case, handed down on 17 May 1954, signalled the end of racial segregation in America and the beginning of the American civil rights movement. In 2013, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Editor in Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, spoke with Larry S. Gibson, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, whose book Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice recounts the personal and public events that shaped Marshall’s work.

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Would you survive the zombie apocalypse? [quiz]

The zombie apocalypse presents many challenges – for both the prepared and unprepared. As if dodging an aggressive and cannibalistic undead horde constantly in pursuit of brains isn’t enough, you must also forage for food, find shelter, and brave the elements in a world growing more inhospitable by the minute. Technology is no longer reliable, the creature comforts that we take for granted are no longer guaranteed, and our sense of safety is completely compromised.

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How Twitter enhances conventional practices of diplomacy

The attention given to each “unpresidential”tweet by US President Donald Trump illustrates the political power of Twitter. Policymakers and analysts continue to raise numerous concerns about the potential political fall-out of Trump’s prolific tweeting. Six months after the inauguration, such apprehensions have become amplified. Take for instance Trump’s tweet in March 2017 that “North Korea is behaving very badly.

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Love, Madness, and Scandalous Women in Politics [timeline]

In Love, Madness, and Scandal, author Johanna Luthman chronicles the life of Frances Coke Villiers, Viscountess of Purbeck. Forced by her father into marrying Sir John Villiers; the elder brother of royal favorite, the Duke of Buckingham; Frances then fell for another man, Sir Robert Howard. While her husband succumbed to mental illness, she gave birth to Robert’s child.

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From Saviors to Scandal: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker [timeline]

The history of American televangelism is incomplete without the Bakker family, hosts of the popular television show the PTL Club. From their humble beginnings to becoming leaders of a ministry empire that included their own satellite network, a theme park, and millions of adoring fans. Then they saw it all come falling down amidst a federal investigation into financial mishandling, charges of fraud, and a sex scandal with a church worker.

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Banned, burned, and now rebuilding: Comics collections in libraries

Comics is both a medium—although some would say it’s an art form—as well as the texts produced in that medium. Publication formats and production modes differ: for instance, comics can be short-form or long-form, serialized or stand-alone, single panel or sequential panels, and released as hardcovers, trade paperbacks, floppies, ‘zines, or in various digital formats. […]

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George Romero, Game of Thrones, and the zombie apocalypse

When George Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead, died on 16 July, the world was gearing up for the season opener of Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones owes its central storyline—the conflict between the Night’s Watch and the White Walkers—and a great measure of its success to Romero, as do other popular and critically-acclaimed versions of the story, whether television, film, fiction, or comics.

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What’s in the message?

Once upon a time, it could be believed that each advance in communications technology brought with it the probability, if not the certainty, of increased global harmony. The more that messages could be sent and received, the more the peoples of the world would understand each other. Innovators have not been slow to advance comprehensive claims for their achievements. Marconi, for example, selected 1912 as a year in which to suggest that radio, in apparently making war ridiculous, made it impossible.

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The long history of political social media

One of the key stories of the last US presidential election was the battle of words and images fought by supporters of the candidates on social media, or what one journalist has called “The Great Meme War” of 2016. From hashtag slogans like #FeelTheBern and #MakeAmericaGreatAgain to jokey internet memes like “Nasty Women”, public participation in political advocacy and promotion has reached a fever pitch in the age of networked digital technologies.

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Did branding predict Brexit?

Branding predicted Brexit. This bald assertion points to a fascinating truth about the art of branding. Because branding feeds on, and feeds into, popular culture, it’s often a leading indicator of bigger, political phenomena. Where branding leads, the rest of us follow. Let me explain. 2016 was the year of populism. Among other things, the phenomenon of Brexit and Trump was a popular backlash against the globalisation.

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The news media: are you an expert? [Quiz]

The news media has long shaped the way that we see the world. But with the rise of social media and citizen journalism, it can be difficult to determine which stories are fake news and which are simply the product of the evolving media. Inspired by The Death of Expertise, in which Tom Nichols explores the dangers of the public rejection of expertise, we’ve created a series of quizzes to test your knowledge.

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