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Now that Noughth Week has come to an end and the university Full Term is upon us, I thought it might be an appropriate time to investigate the arcane world of Oxford jargon — the University of Oxford, that is. New students, or freshers, do not arrive in Oxford but come up; at the end of term they go down (irrespective of where they live). If they misbehave they may find themselves being sent down by the proctors (a variant of the legal procurator), or — for less heinous crimes — merely rusticated, a form of suspension which, etymologically at least, involves being sent to the countryside (Latin rusticus). The formal beginning of a degree is known as matriculation, a ceremony held in the Sheldonian Theatre, in which membership of the university is conferred by being having one’s name entered on the register, or matricula.
Tutors, fellows, and readers
Being a student of the university involves membership of one of the colleges or private halls; despite their names, St Edmund (Teddy) Hall and Lady Margaret Hall are actually colleges; Regent’s Park College is neither a college nor a park. Christ Church should be referred to simply as Christ Church, rather than Christ Church College, although it is also known as ‘the House’. Magdalen is pronounced ‘maudlin’ and should never be confused with another college of the same name at Cambridge University (affectionately known as ‘The Other Place’, originally a euphemism for hell), which is pronounced the same but spelled Magdalene.
Each college has a head of house, referred to by a variety of terms: Principal, President, Dean, Master, Provost, Rector, or Warden. Teaching in college takes the form of tutorials (or tutes), overseen by Colleges tutors (from a Latin word for ‘protector’); the earliest tutors were responsible for a student’s general welfare — a post now known as moral tutor. Colleges are governed by a body of fellows (students at Christ Church), or dons, from Latin dominus ‘master’. The title reader, a medieval term for a teacher used to refer to a lecturer below the rank of professor, has recently been retired at Oxford in favour of the American title associate professor.
Mods and battels
At Oxford, students read rather than study a subject, a usage which goes back to the Middle Ages. Final examinations were originally known as Greats; this term is now used only of the degree of Literae Humaniores (‘more humane letters’) — Classics to everyone else. No longer in use is the equivalent term Smalls for the first year exams; these are now known as Moderations (or Mods) in the Humanities, or Preliminaries (or Prelims) in the Sciences. Sadly, the slang equivalents great go and little go have now fallen out of use. University examinations are sat in Schools, a forbidding edifice on the High Street (or ‘the High’) which gets its name from its original use for holding scholastic disputations. Students are required to wear formal academic dress to sit exams; this is known as subfusc, from Latin subfuscus ‘somewhat dark’.
College exams, rather less formal affairs, are known today as collections, from Latin collectiones, ‘gathering together’, so-called because they occurred at the end of term when fees were due for collection. Confusingly, the term collection is also used to refer to the end-of-term meeting where a progress report is read by a student’s tutor in the presence of the master of the college. As well as fees, students must pay their battels, a bill for food purchased from the College buttery — originally a wine store, from Latin butta ‘cask’, but now extended to include a range of student delicacies.
Lecturers dusting off their notes and preparing for the new term, for whom such usages are second-nature, may benefit from the salutary lesson of the wall-lecture –a term coined by their 17th-century forbears for a lecture delivered to an empty room. The term may be obsolete, but the prospect remains all too real.
The First World War has survived as part of our national memory in a way no previous war has ever done. Below is an extract from Full of Hope and Fear: The Great War Letters of an Oxford Family, a collection of letters which lay untouched for almost ninety years. They allow a unique glimpse into the war as experienced by one family at the time, transporting us back to an era which is now slipping tantalizingly out of living memory. The Slaters – the family at the heart of these letters – lived in Oxford, and afford a first-hand account of the war on the Home Front, on the Western Front, and in British India. Violet and Gilbert’s eldest son Owen, a schoolboy in 1914, was fighting in France by war’s end.
Violet to Gilbert, [mid-October 1917]
I am sorry to only write a few miserable words. Yesterday I had a truly dreadful headache which lasted longer than usual but today I am much better . . . I heard from Katie Barnes that their Leonard has been very dangerously wounded they are terribly anxious. But are not allowed to go to him. Poor things it is ghastly and cruel, and then you read of the ‘Peace Offensive’ articles in the New Statesman by men who seem to have no heart or imagination. I cannot understand it . . . You yourself said in a letter to Owen last time that [the Germans] had been driven back across the Aisne ‘We hope with great loss.’ Think what it means in agony and pain to the poor soldiers and agony and pain to the poor Mothers or Wives. It is useless to pretend it could not be prevented! We have never tried any other way . . . No other way but cruel war is left untried. I suppose that there will be a time when a more advanced human being will be evolved and we have learnt not to behave in this spirit individually towards each other. If we kept knives & pistols & clubs perhaps we should still use them. Yesterday Pat & I went blackberrying and then I went alone to Yarnton . . . the only ripe ones were up high so I valiantly mounted the hedges regardless of scratching as if I were 12 & I got nice ones. Then I went to the Food Control counter & at last got 5 lbs. of sugar . . . It was quite a victory we have to contend with this sort of sport & victory consists in contending with obstacles.
Gilbert to Owen, [9 February 1918]
I have been so glad to get your two letters of Dec. 7th & 18th and to hear of your success in passing the chemistry; and also that you got the extension of time & to know where you are . . . I am looking forward to your letters which I hope will make me realise how you are living. Well, my dear boy, I am thinking of you continually, and hoping for your happiness and welfare. I have some hope that your course may be longer than the 4 months. I fear now there is small chance of peace before there has been bitter fighting on the west front, and little chance of peace before you are on active service. I wonder what your feelings are. I don’t think I ever funked death for its own sake, though I do on other accounts, the missing a finish of my work, and the possible pain, and, very much more than these, the results to my wife & bairns. I don’t know whether at your age I should have felt that I was losing much in the enjoyment of life, not as much as I hope you do. I fear you will have to go into peril of wounds, disease and death, yet perhaps the greater chance is that you will escape all three actually; and, I hope, when you have come through, you will feel that you are not sorry to have played your part.
Second Lieutenant Owen Slater ready for service in France. Photo courtesy of Margaret Bonfiglioli. Do not reproduce without permission.
Owen to Mrs Grafflin, [3 November 1918]
This is just a very short note to thank you for the knitted helmet that Mother sent me from you some time ago. It is very comfortable & most useful as I wear it under my tin hat, a shrapnel helmet which is very large for me & it makes it a beautiful fit.
We are now out at rest & have been out of the line for several days & have been having quite a good time though we have not had any football matches & the whole company is feeling rather cut up because our O.C. [Officer Commanding] has died of wounds. He was an excellent [word indecipherable] father to his men & officers.
Margaret Bonfiglioli was born in Oxford, where she also read English. Tutoring literature at many levels led to her involvement in innovative access courses, all while raising five children. In 2008 she began to re-discover the hoard of family letters that form the basis of Full of Hope and Fear. Her father, Owen Slater, is one of the central correspondents. After eleven years tutoring history in the University of Oxford, James Munson began researching and writing full-time. In 1985 he edited Echoes of the Great War, the diary of the First World War kept by the Revd. Andrew Clark. He also wrote some 50 historical documentaries for the BBC.
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...right in the heart of Oxford! I haven't been able to show off these pictures up to now, but they've just been released, so hurrah!
My Oliver and the Seawigs co-author Philip Reeve and I toured The Story Museum while the crew were in the midst of setting up their new exhibition, 26 Characters, and we wrote an article for Inis about it! I LOVE Inis (pronounced 'Ih-nish'), the super-stylish magazine published by Children's Books Ireland. Check out the lovely cover by Chris Haughton of this latest issue:
You'll need to read the article for more of our impressions about the exhibition, but the gist of it was that 26 authors were asked to pick a character from their favourite childhood book. Then The Story Museum helped them dress up as the character for portraits by photographer Cambridge Jones, and created a whole room in the museum that makes you, the visitor, feel like you're stepping into the world of that book. It's very impressive! Here's Neil Gaiman as Badger from The Wind in the Willows:
Last week I traveled to London and Oxford with my husband on a combined business/sightseeing trip. In Oxford I was busy doing research for an upcoming book, but I squeezed in a visit to a brand new Story Museum exhibit that I'd read about at Monica Edinger's excellent blog Educating Alice. The exhibit's curators asked a number of authors and performers (the majority will be more familiar to the British than those of us who reside on the other side of the pond) to pick their favorite childhood literary character. The chosen ones were then invited to dress up as their character and be photographed by Cambridge Jones in their new duds. Each story character was given his/her designated space or room that features the photograph as well as other props. Many include sounds that heighten the experience (the wind howls in the Mary Poppins room, for instance) or recordings of the authors and performers reading a story or being interviewed about their characters. The exhibit takes up the whole of the museum and is set up like a treasure hunt. Visitors search out all 26 characters and check them off. A completed list earns the museumgoer a prize, redeemable at the museum shop across the way.
The day I visited I was the only adult sans child, and I felt a bit conspicuous as I stalked the building clicking away with my camera. While I can't list all there was to see, here are some of my favorites. As for choosing my own childhood literary character, I have to go with Peter Pan (also chosen by author Cressida Cowell). My absolute favorite exhibit space, though, was the one dedicated to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Holly Smale selected Jadis, the White Witch as her character. To enter, you open an unmarked wardrobe and push past a row of fur coats. Then you're inside a magical darklit room dominated by a huge sled and a life-size photo of Smale dressed as the White Witch. Goosebumps will follow, I promise.
The entrance to the exhibit opens with a tower of cards referencing Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Another section features an assortment of costumes to dress up in.
And, once clad, a throne to sit on.
Neil Gaiman chose Badger from The Wind and the Willows as his favorite character.
Katherine Rundell picked Max from Where the Wild Things Are.
Here's Katrice Horsley sailing through the sky dressed as Mary Poppins.
Another childhood hero of mine--the Wicked Witch of the West, as portrayed by Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman.
The exhibit remains open until November so if you find yourself in the neighborhood, it is well worth a visit. And if a trip to Oxford isn't in the cards, why not dress up as your own childhood story hero? I'm getting out my green tights right now. Add a Comment
Thanks so much to everyone who came along, and a special thanks to the people who dressed up!
And who put up with my singing voice, which is as clear and melodic as Iris's:
Back in the festival Green Room, Horrid Henry's Francesca Simon asked to try on my Seawig:
And the daughter of our Oxford University Press publicist Harriet Bayly turned out to be a big fan of our upcoming book, Cakes in Space and we spent some time drawing Pilbeam the robot. (This book is the Uncorrected Proof copy, not the final version.)
I got to meet NYC-based writer Polly Shulman and her husband. Polly's written a book called The Wells Bequest, which I can't wait to read.
Oxford's always great fun to visit. Here I am, chucking Lewis Carroll under the chin, and the view from my bedroom in a hall of residence in Christ Church college.
Hogwarts breakfast! The Great Hall is pretty cool.
We met up with The Story Museum's Tom Donegan and Neill Cameron, Philip Ardagh, Nicolette Jones and Ted Dewan in the pub. We were raving about the amazing Storyloom that Ted's designed, and just as the last few us of were about to leave, he invited us back to The Story Museum and said he'd fire it up for us. It's just too awesome to contemplate. (You can read an earlier blog post I wrote about it here.) Here's Ardagh, hard at work on it:
And this photo of Reeve is just plain weird:
Big thanks to Oxford lit fest for hosting us, everyone who took part in our event, Nicolette for chairing, The Story Museum, Oxford University Press and everyone who made is such a fantastic weekend. If you missed us, keep an eye on my Events Page to see if we're coming somewhere near you!
Last week the Oxford World’s Classics team were at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford to witness the first Oxford World’s Classics debate. Over three days we invited seven academics who had each edited and written introductions and notes for books in the series to give a short, free talk in the shop. This then culminated in an evening event in Blackwell’s famous Norrington Room where we held a balloon debated, chaired by writer and academic Alexandra Harris.
For those unfamiliar with balloon debates, this is the premise: the seven books, represented by their editors, are in a hot air balloon, and the balloon is going down fast. In a bid to climb back up, we’re going to have to throw some books out of the balloon… but which ones? Each editor spoke for five minutes in passionate defence of their titles before the audience voted. The bottom three books were then “thrown overboard”. The remaining four speakers had another three minutes each to further convince the audience, before the final vote was taken.
...The Nicomachean Ethics! Well done Carolyne and Lesley!
Kirsty Doole is Publicity Manager for Oxford World’s Classics.
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.
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Image credits: All photos by Kirsty Doole
In the Autumn of 2011 I found myself at something of a loose end in the beautiful city of Tbilisi, Georgia, working with the Marjanishvili Theatre there on a production of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Unsure of what my next project might be, my attention turned to an old love, Shakespeare’s Henry V. Having long been intrigued by both the story and the title character, I set about reading the text afresh. For perhaps the first time, I realised I no longer sought to play the lead role myself, but found myself still driven to have the story told in a fresh, vibrant, immediate fashion.
Prior to setting out for Georgia, I’d been involved with a five-man production of Doctor Faustus during which I had been struck by how well the classical verse seemed to lend itself to the more intimate company structure. In previous years I had also been a member of a small-cast version of Macbeth, which had likewise seemed to benefit from the experiment. These earlier experiences must have been in my mind when I started thinking about how I might stage Henry V.
Morgan Philpott in Creation Theatre’s production of Henry V
At first, I was curious to see if it might be possible to tell the story using only five actors, and was interested to see that it was. However, as I took another swing at it, I began to distil the idea further. It became apparent to me that in most key scenes there were three distinct ‘voices’. These, I thought later, might more often than not be termed the petitioner, the advocate, and the judge. The petitioner often seemed to pose ‘The Question’ at the top of the scene (such as The Archbishop of Canterbury in I.2), whilst the advocate rallies either for or against his or her cause (such as Exeter in the same scene). Finally, each key scene seemed to have a singular figure who would judge the outcome and lead the way onwards (Henry).
Obviously, it was not possible to achieve a wholesale three-man cut of the text without considerable and audacious changes to the original — mostly in the form of character amalgamations, slight re-ordering or outright edits — but I believe the integrity of the piece as a whole, and crucially the story, remain intact.
Having gladly agreed to an application of performance rights from Creation Theatre in Oxford, I then stood back completely from the process of production. What I was intrigued to find was how well the three-man format seemed to bring out the comedy of the piece. The pace, also, seemed more in tune with what I believe was Shakespeare’s intent. Of course, both these factors are entirely to the credit of the director, cast and creative team, but I was pleased to see them both used so effectively in a production in which I played a modest role.
Gus Gallagher trained at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After ten years as an actor, playing such roles as Romeo, Coriolanus, Mercutio, Macduff, and Dr. Faustus, he turned his attention to writing. The Creation Theatre adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Henry V is Gus’s first produced work. He is currently working on a piece about the life and times of King William IV, as well as a play about The Jarrow March of 1936. Oxford World’s Classics are sponsoring the production, which is on at Oxford Castle Unlocked until September 14.
For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog.
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Image credit: Morgan Philpott in Henry V. Image copyright Creation Theatre Company. Photography by Richard Budd. Do not reproduce without permission.
On the 15th of February 1944, Allied planes bombed the abbey at Monte Cassino as part of an extended campaign against the Italians. St. Benedict of Nursia established his first monastery, the source of the Benedictine Order, here around 529. Over four months, the Battle of Monte Cassino would inflict some 200,000 causalities and rank as one of the most horrific battles of World War Two. This excerpt from Peter Caddick-Adams’s Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell, recounts the bombing.
On the afternoon of 14 February, Allied artillery shells scattered leaflets containing a printed warning in Italian and English of the abbey’s impending destruction. These were produced by the same US Fifth Army propaganda unit that normally peddled surrender leaflets and devised psychological warfare messages. The monks negotiated a safe passage through the German lines for 16 February — too late, as it turned out. American Harold Bond, of the 36th Texan Division, remembered the texture of the ‘honey-coloured Travertine stone’ of the abbey that fine Tuesday morning, and how ‘the Germans seemed to sense that something important was about to happen for they were strangely quiet’. Journalist Christopher Buckley wrote of ‘the cold blue on that late winter morning’ as formations of Flying Fortresses ‘flew in perfect formation with that arrogant dignity which distinguishes bomber aircraft as they set out upon a sortie’. John Buckeridge of 1/Royal Sussex, up on Snakeshead, recalled his surprise as the air filled with the drone of engines and waves of silver bombers, the sun glinting off their bellies, hove into view. His surprise turned to concern when he saw their bomb doors open — as far as his battalion was concerned the raid was not due for at least another day.
Brigadier Lovett of 7th Indian Brigade was furious at the lack of warning: ‘I was called on the blower and told that the bombers would be over in fifteen minutes… even as I spoke the roar [of aircraft] drowned my voice as the first shower of eggs [bombs] came down.’ At the HQ of the 4/16th Punjabis, the adjutant wrote: ‘We went to the door of the command post and gazed up… There we saw the white trails of many high-level bombers. Our first thought was that they were the enemy. Then somebody said, “Flying Fortresses.” There followed the whistle, swish and blast as the first flights struck at the monastery.’ The first formation released their cargo over the abbey. ‘We could see them fall, looking at this distance like little black stones, and then the ground all around us shook with gigantic shocks as they exploded,’ wrote Harold Bond. ‘Where the abbey had been there was only a huge cloud of smoke and dust which concealed the entire hilltop.’
The aircraft which committed the deed came from the massive resources of the US Fifteenth and Twelfth Air Forces (3,876 planes, including transports and those of the RAF in theatre), whose heavy and medium bombardment wings were based predominantly on two dozen temporary airstrips around Foggia in southern Italy (by comparison, a Luftwaffe return of aircraft numbers in Italy on 31 January revealed 474 fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft in theatre, of which 224 were serviceable). Less than an hour’s flying time from Cassino, the Foggia airfields were primitive, mostly grass affairs, covered with Pierced Steel Planking runways, with all offices, accommodation and other facilities under canvas, or quickly constructed out of wood. In mid-winter the buildings and tents were wet and freezing, and often the runways were swamped with oceans of mud which inhibited flying. Among the personnel stationed there was Joseph Heller, whose famous novel Catch-22 was based on the surreal no-win-situation chaos of Heller’s 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, Twelfth Air Force, with whom he flew sixty combat missions as a bombardier (bomb-aimer) in B-25 Mitchells.
After the first wave of aircraft struck Cassino monastery, a Sikh company of 4/16th Punjabis fell back, understandably, and a German wireless message was heard to announce: ‘Indian troops with turbans are retiring’. Bond and his friends were astonished when, ‘now and again, between the waves of bombers, a wind would blow the smoke away, and to our surprise we saw the gigantic walls of the abbey still stood’. Captain Rupert Clarke, Alexander’s ADC, was watching with his boss. ‘Alex and I were lying out on the ground about 3,000 yards from Cassino. As I watched the bombers, I saw bomb doors open and bombs began to fall well short of the target.’ Back at the 4/16th Punjabis, ‘almost before the ground ceased to shake the telephones were ringing. One of our companies was within 300 yards of the target and the others within 800 yards; all had received a plastering and were asking questions with some asperity.’ Later, when a formation of B-25 medium bombers passed over, Buckley noticed, ‘a bright flame, such as a giant might have produced by striking titanic matches on the mountain-side, spurted swiftly upwards at half a dozen points. Then a pillar of smoke 500 feet high broke upwards into the blue. For nearly five minutes it hung around the building, thinning gradually upwards.’
Nila Kantan of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps was no longer driving trucks, as no vehicles could get up to the 4th Indian Division’s positions overlooking the abbey, so he found himself portering instead. ‘On our shoulders we carried all the things up the hill; the gradient was one in three, and we had to go almost on all fours. I was watching from our hill as all the bombers went in and unloaded their bombs; soon after, our guns blasted the hill, and ruined the monastery.’ For Harold Bond, the end was the strangest, ‘then nothing happened. The smoke and dust slowly drifted away, showing the crumbled masonry with fragments of walls still standing, and men in their foxholes talked with each other about the show they had just seen, but the battlefield remained relatively quiet.’
The abbey had been literally ruined, not obliterated as Freyberg had required, and was now one vast mountain of rubble with many walls still remaining up to a height of forty or more feet, resembling the ‘dead teeth’ General John K. Cannon of the USAAF wanted to remove; ironically those of the north-west corner (the future target of all ground assaults through the hills) remained intact. These the Germans, sheltering from the smaller bombs, immediately occupied and turned into excellent defensive positions, ready to slaughter the 4th Indian Division when they belatedly attacked. As Brigadier Kippenberger observed: ‘Whatever had been the position before, there was no doubt that the enemy was now entitled to garrison the ruins, the breaches in the fifteen-foot-thick walls were nowhere complete, and we wondered whether we had gained anything.’
Peter Caddick-Adams is a Lecturer in Military and Security Studies at the United Kingdom’s Defence Academy, and author of Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell and Monty and Rommel: Parallel Lives. He holds the rank of major in the British Territorial Army and has served with U.S. forces in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
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Subscribe to only history articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. Image credits: (1) Source: U.S. Air Force; (2) Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2005-0004 / Wittke / CC-BY-SA; (3) Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J26131 / Enz / CC-BY-SA
I didn’t do any of these things. I got distracted. As it turns out, searching the word “chocolate” (“It is not addictive like nicotine but some people, ‘chocoholics’, experience periodic cravings”) reveals a whole smorgasbord of suggested links to delectable food summaries and from my first glimpse at the makings of a meringue, I was gone—making mental notes for recipes, stomach rumbling, eyes-glazing over. Mmm glaze.
In the end, my “research” was actually quite fitting to the season. Because, really, when it comes to Valentine’s Day in the 21st century, only a handful of things are reliable and certain—and almost all of them are made with sugar.
→Snack was originally a verb, meaning ‘bite, snap’. It appears to have been borrowed, in the fourteenth century, from Middle Dutch snacken, which was probably onomatopoeic in origin, based on the sound of the snapping together of teeth… The modern verb snack, ‘eat a snack,’ mainly an American usage, is an early nineteenth-century creation.
Top 5 Favorite Random Food Facts
Attempts to can beer before 1930 were unsuccessful because a beer can has to withstand pressures of over eighty pounds per square inch.
Brownies are essentially the penicillin of the baking world.
→Vegetable products, esp. savoury cakes, were occasionally ‘sacrificed’ (the same vocabulary is used as for animal sacrifice) in lieu of animals or, much more commonly, in addition to them. But animal sacrifice was the standard type.
→Food is a form of communication that expresses the most deeply felt human experiences: love, fear, joy, anger, serenity, turmoil, passion, rage, pleasure, sorrow, happiness, and sadness.
Georgia Mierswa is a marketing assistant at Oxford University Press and reports to the Global Marketing Director for online products. She began working at OUP in September 2011.
The Oxford Index is a free search and discovery tool from Oxford University Press. It is designed to help you begin your research journey by providing a single, convenient search portal for trusted scholarship from Oxford and our partners, and then point you to the most relevant related materials — from journal articles to scholarly monographs. One search brings together top quality content and unlocks connections in a way not previously possible. Take a virtual tour of the Index to learn more.
Not long ago, I passed a roadside sign in New Mexico which read: “Es una frontera, no una barrera / It’s a border, not a barrier.” This got me thinking about the nature of the international boundary line separating the US from Mexico. The sign’s message seemed accurate, but what exactly did it mean?
On 2 February 1848, a ‘Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement’ was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus terminating the Mexican-American War. The conflict was ostensibly about securing the boundary of the recently-annexed state of Texas, but it was clear from the outset that US President Polk’s ambition was territorial expansion. As consequences of the Treaty, Mexico gained peace and $15 million, but eventually lost one-half of its territory; the US achieved the largest land grab in its history through a war that many (including Ulysses S. Grant) regarded as dishonorable.
In recent years, I’ve traveled the entire length of the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border many times, on both sides. There are so many unexpected and inspiring places! Mutual interdependence has always been the hallmark of cross-border communities. Border people are staunchly independent and composed of many cultures with mixed loyalties. They get along perfectly well with people on the other side, but remain distrustful of far-distant national capitals. The border states are among the fastest-growing regions in both countries — places of economic dynamism, teeming contradiction, and vibrant political and cultural change.
A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector.
Yet the border is also a place of enormous tension associated with undocumented migration and drug wars. Neither of these problems has its source in the borderlands, but border communities are where the burdens of enforcement are geographically concentrated. It’s because of our country’s obsession with security, immigration, and drugs that after 9/11 the US built massive fortifications between the two nations, and in so doing, threatened the well-being of cross-border communities.
I call the spaces between Mexico and the US a ‘third nation.’ It’s not a sovereign state, I realize, but it contains many of the elements that would otherwise warrant that title, such as a shared identity, common history, and joint traditions. Border dwellers on both sides readily assert that they have more in common with each other than with their host nations. People describe themselves as ‘transborder citizens.’ One man who crossed daily, living and working on both sides, told me: “I forget which side of the border I’m on.” The boundary line is a connective membrane, not a separation. It’s easy to reimagine these bi-national communities as a ‘third nation’ slotted snugly in the space between two countries. (The existing Tohono O’Odham Indian Nation already extends across the borderline in the states of Arizona and Sonora.)
But there is more to the third nation than a cognitive awareness. Both sides are also deeply connected through trade, family, leisure, shopping, culture, and legal connections. Border-dwellers’ lives are intimately connected by their everyday material lives, and buttressed by innumerable formal and informal institutional arrangements (NAFTA, for example, as well as water and environmental conservation agreements). Continuity and connectivity across the border line existed for centuries before the border was put in place, even back to the Spanish colonial era and prehistoric Mesoamerican times.
Do the new fortifications built by the US government since 9/11 pose a threat to the well-being of borderland communities? Certainly there’s been interruptions to cross-border lives: crossing times have increased; the number of US Border Patrol ‘boots on ground’ has doubled; and a new ‘gulag’ of detention centers has been instituted to apprehend, prosecute and deport all undocumented migrants. But trade has continued to increase, and cross-border lives are undiminished. US governments are opening up new and expanded border crossing facilities (known as ports of entry) at record levels. Gas prices in Mexican border towns are tied to the cost of gasoline on the other side. The third nation is essential to the prosperity of both countries.
So yes, the roadside sign in New Mexico was correct. The line between Mexico and the US is a border in the geopolitical sense, but it is submerged by communities that do not regard it as a barrier to centuries-old cross-border intercourse. The international boundary line is only just over a century-and-a-half old. Historically, there was no barrier; and the border is not a barrier nowadays.
The walls between Mexico and the US will come down. Walls always do. The Berlin Wall was torn down virtually overnight, its fragments sold as souvenirs of a calamitous Cold War. The Great Wall of China was transformed into a global tourist attraction. Left untended, the US-Mexico Wall will collapse under the combined assault of avid recyclers, souvenir hunters, and local residents offended by its mere presence.
As the US prepares once again to consider immigration reform, let the focus this time be on immigration and integration. The framers of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo were charged with making the US-Mexico border, but on this anniversary of the Treaty’s signing, we may best honor the past by exploring a future when the border no longer exists. Learning from the lives of cross-border communities in the third nation would be an appropriate place to begin.
Marilyn Horne, world-renowned opera singer and recitalist, celebrated her 84th birthday on Wednesday. To acknowledge her work, not only as one of the finest singers in the world but as a mentor for young artists, I give you one of my favorite performances of hers:
Sesame Street has always been a powerful advocate for utilizing music in teaching. “C is for Cookie,” a number that really drives its message home, maintains its cultural relevance today despite being first performed by Cookie Monster more than 40 years ago. Ms. Horne’s version appeared about 20 years after the original, and is an excellent re-imagining of a classic (with great attention to detail—note the cookies sewn into her Aida regalia and covering the pyramids).
Horne’s performance shows kids that even a musician of the highest caliber can 1) be silly and 2) also like cookies—that is, it portrays her as a person with something in common with a young, broad audience. This is something that members of the classical music community often have a difficult time accomplishing; Horne achieves it here in less than three minutes.
Sesame Street produced these segments not only to expose children to distinguished music-making, but to teach them about matters like counting, spelling, working together, and respecting one another. This final clip features Itzhak Perlman, one of the world’s great violin soloists, who was left permanently disabled after having polio as a child. To demonstrate ability and disability more gracefully than this would be, I think, impossible:
American children’s music, as described in the new article on Grove Music Online[subscription required], has typically been produced through a tug of war between entertainment and educational objectives. The songs on Sesame Street succeed in both, while also showing kids something about classical music itself: it’s not just for grownups. It’s a part of life that belongs to everyone. After all, who doesn’t appreciate that the moon sometimes looks like a “C”? (Though, of course, you can’t eat that, so…)
Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
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With two of my three publishers based in Oxford, I forget how many times I've been up and down the rail line the last few years. But on Saturday, it was extra fun because Stuart came along with me. I wore a new hat for the occasion.
Ever since my trip up to Caption comics festival, when Di Cameron texted me, Come quick to the Story Museum! Ted Dewan's demonstrating the Storyloom! and I missed seeing it, I've been itching to get back there. And a party celebrating the 20th birthday of the Oxford Children's Book Group was the perfect excuse. Here he is, the magnificent Ted Dewan.
I hope if he ever pops his clogs, he will have written into his will that I can have his bicycle. But he probably won't, because the Story Museum will have hooked him up to all sorts of cogs and springs and whirling things and he will live forever. Or maybe he'll stick around like that guy in the Roald Dahl story William and Mary, with his brain in a bucket and a single eyeball sticking out. ...Sorry, I digress. What I'm trying to say is that I will probably never get his bicycle.
Every time I visit the Story Museum, I find new and exciting things. The museum isn't open to the public yet - it's a work in progress and still raising funds (yes, do donate!) - but they host amazing events in the meantime. And on this occasion we were met in the entrance by these awesome murals by Anita Klein.
I've been a big fan of Anita's printmaking work ever since I saw it in the Greenwich Printmakers shop gallery, and I didn't know she had any connection to the children's book illustration world. But the murals work perfectly here.
The inside of the Story Museum is unfinished, much of it looking like a mopped-up and dusted version of how it looked when the museum team moved in to the former Post Office sorting office and telephone exchange. (You can read more about the building's history here.) But there's a real charm to its imperfection - as a visitor, I also feel a bit like an explorer - and it's already dotted around with strange little curios.
Ted Dewan, master Loomkeeper, took us on a tour to visit Rochester's Extraordinary Storyloom. The Story Museum's a big place, with lots of strange nooks and crannies, and the museum team discovered many remarkable things while they were moving into the building.
Ted revealed to us the story behind this feat of Victorian engineering, a heart-rending story of one inventor's unrequited love and a sinister tale of child exploitation.
You'll have to go the Story Museum yourself to find out the whole story, but I'll give you some peeks.
And isn't this a fine piece of gadgetry? In its day, it rendered a writer's work obsolete. Stories could be written BY MACHINE.
'Twas a fearsome thing for people in the profession. Look at the stops on the control panel. So many storytelling options!
Of course, writers fought back. Who wants to be replaced by whirring springs and coils? Oh, but look how beautiful they are; no wonder publishers were swayed. A machine that will never argue, never miss a deadline...
And here, deep inside, you can catch a glimpse of the Storyloom's inner core. Why a rose? It all goes back to Barnaby Rochester's love for Felicity Blight, the daughter of wealthy mill-owner Albert Blight. But Felicity had no love for her father's dark factory, or Barnaby's metal roses...
Rochester discovered that orphan children were the perfect grist for his mill. Once he'd put them in the seat of the Storyloom and drained their imaginations, they became much more orderly, upright members of society. So it was a win-win situation.
Ted the Loomkeeper maintains the Storyloom in perfect working condition. So we thought we'd try it out.
Here's picture book writer and illustrator Layn Marlow warming up the engine and loosening the keys. Layn was quite skeptical, since Ted made no claims to the Storyloom having a picture generating function. (But at least it wouldn't put illustrators out of work.)
Oxford-based illustrator and writer Mini Grey was a somewhat willing volunteer to be a source of imagination for the Storyloom. (I don't think she was listening when Ted was talking about the orphans.)
Gosh, it IS awfully fun operating complicated machinery like this.
While the machine was running, the visitors browsed some of the explanatory panels:
I got a bit carried away. The machine's Gyre widened slightly and it overheated, but the centre seemed to hold and nothing fell apart.
Unsurprisingly, it took a very long time to suck all the imagination and creativity out of Mini's brain...
...but wow, the stories that machine churned out! Those of us in the room made a pact that we would share the publishing proceeds and by this time next year, I'm sure I'll be able to buy A THOUSAND bicycles like Ted's. Mini didn't join us in making the pact, she was a bit wobbly by that point and couldn't quite envision how it might work.
Model citizen that she now is, Mini cast the deciding vote on whether the Storyloom is pure humbug or Victorian genius.
I'm aware that there was some cruelty involved in sucking Mini's brain empty, because the jar of humbugs sitting in front of her chair wasn't enough to keep her going throughout the entire procedure; she was quite hungry when she emerged. Fortunately the Oxford Children's Book Group provided her with a lovely cake to eat, and she generously shared it with us. Here's its leader, Moira Da Costa, who's stepping down from her post after a fine run. I can't imagine why, perhaps she's planning to take a more active role in feeding the Storyloom with Oxford's writers. Yes, that must be it, Oxford has such rich pickings. Look at that almost maniacal laugh. Gaze upon this woman and tremble.
Oh, a little plug for Mini Grey's top-quality books. You really ought to buy them, now that she won't be able to make any more. It's a good cause. Here's a small selection, you will spot them in the shops.
And if you want to support everything that is evil and exploitative, you can buy Ted Dewan's books. But I'd advise against it, I'm terribly concerned about that Bing Bunny chappie, I suspect he's going to take over the world. Or at least our televisions.
Marie-Louise Jensen, Layn Marlow, Michelle Harrison
I'm always posting photos and telling you the people's names, but sometimes you won't recognise the person, just the book covers you see in the shops. So here you go. Next time you buy one of these books, be aware that their creator took part in the Reformation of Mini Grey. They might have been good, well-intentioned people when they arrived at the Story Museum, but I doubt it.
Marie-Louise smuggled in an early, uncorrected version of her new book, going incognito.
And then we left. Don't be fooled by these angels at the doorway; this Story Museum, with its working Rochester Storyloom, is engaged in some of the most nefarious practices imaginable.
But in the meantime, Stuart, Layn and I went out to source more material for the machine. Mini came, too, and we spent some time discussing her new career options, possibly as a government advisor on national reading schemes. And at the Lamb & Flag pub, we found some top-quality Storyloom fodder! Two of Oxford's most imaginative storytellers, Sally Nicholls and Neill Cameron.
After she has been of assistance to the Story Museum, we will remember Sally fondly for these amazing novels:
And Neill Cameron, for these remarkable comics, including Mo-Bot High, Pirates of Pangaea and his regular feature in The Phoenix weekly comic about how to make comics. After he teams up with the Story Museum, please help him find a Proper Job, thank you.
And then Stuart and I were called away by Ted Dewan to his lair at Oxford Castle. (See? I told you the Storyloom can make us rich!)
Oxford Castle used to be a prison, and the Story Museum and Oxford Literary Festival regularly put up visiting writers there. Who are, oddly, never seen again.
And there in the courtyard, we found a BIG BANG! Or more accurately, a bucket full of perfect, steaming bangers! Ted's friend Max Mason has been running a wildly successful restaurant called The Big Bang and has just relocated next to Ted's castle, since that's where all the action is now. Thanks so Ted, we got to go along to its launch party.
Yup, there's Bing Bunny, he's making his mark everywhere. Well, then Vern and Lettuce can hold their own next to Bing. (Fortunately Max provides vegetarian options, since Vern and Lettuce don't actually eat meat.)
Max and The Big Bang source all their food locally, from farmers within a twenty-mile radius. And the menu looks amazing (and affordable), I'm definitely eating there on my next Oxford visit.
It's great to know we can trust in Good Food and in well-sourced restaurants like Max's. Because Oxford's full of Story Museum curators and writers and we all know we can't trust them.
Last Thursday, I gave my new-model pirate hat an outing, to Oxford Bookfeast at the Pitt Rivers Museum and University Museum of Natural History. Now, I've always wanted to visit the Pitt Rivers, ever since I heard it's where Philip Pullman based the scenes from His Dark Materials where Lyra examines the trepanned skulls. And then I started seeing friends' photos popping up of shrunken heads and, well, you can't really not look, can you?
But it somehow didn't happen; I must've gone to Oxford twenty times last year, but I was always catching later trains to miss rush hour rail ticket prices, and by the time my Oxford meetings were finished, it was always just about museum closing time. But, at last! there I was. And it was a flying visit, but look at the beautiful architecture in the Natural History Museum! The delicate ceiling structure almost looks like it's made of dinosaur bones, I felt like I was inside the rib cage of a wonderful prehistoric beast. I didn't have much time. And fortunately the guard didn't mind me running up to him and asking, Please, sir, can you tell me where to find the shrunken heads?
And the guard did better than that; he instantly sussed what kind of visitor I was and gave me a whirlwind tour of the weirder aspects of the museum. Running me past the trepanned skulls, he showed me the shrunken heads (assuring me that the people had died of natural causes first, not been killed for their heads). Then he whipped open these cabinets to show me all sorts of voodoo dolls. I think he said that the white one in the bottom shelf was a health doll, designed to help people remotely with medical conditions, not hurt them. Like acupuncture by proxy.
More shrunken heads. One of my Bookfeast helpers looked slighty wary when I mentioned these; she said that the museum is a bit sensitive about them and wants to see them repatriated and buried. But she also mentioned that illustrator Ted Dewan says they'll only get rid of them if they take his head, too. Hurrah! I want to watch the showdown. But I do hope they keep the heads.
Another wonderful curio: a witch in a bottle. The guide said that they're not sure if there really is a witch in there, but they're not going to open it to find out. I really need to spend a week looking and drawing in this museum, not just fifteen minutes running around. If I ever get stuck for story ideas, I know just where to go. What a marvelous place.
And here's my pirate event! Bookfeast really packed in the kids, I think there were at least six schools represented. I read them You Can't Scare a Princess! (with lots of communal ARRR-ing) and showed them how I go about turning three sheets of paper with typed-out words on it into an illustrated book. Then we all together drew a picture of Captain Waffle, and then I set the kids off designing their own pirates, who are looking for their own unique versions of treasure. I do hope they go away and make stories about their pirates.
The project will make some 1.5 million digitized pages freely available online from the two institutions' collections of Greek manuscripts, 15th-century incunabula, Hebrew manuscripts and early printed books.
By Stanley Wells
In 1979 Oxford University Press appointed me as the founding head of a Shakespeare department. The Oxford Shakespeare, first published in 1891, had been rendered seriously out of date by advances in scholarship.
This past weekend saw Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day take place, featuring lots of Alice in Wonderland themed events and exhibitions. With that in mind, today we bring you two videos of Simon Winchester talking about Charles Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll) and both his love of photography and his relationship with Alice Liddell and her family. You can read an excerpt from his book, The Alice Behind Wonderland, here.
Simon Winchester is the author of the bestselling books The Surgeon of Crowthorne, The Meaning of Everything, The Map that Changed the World, Krakatoa, Atlantic, and The Man Who Loved China. In recognition of his accomplished body of work, he was awarded the OBE in 2006. He lives in Massachusettes and in the Western Isles of Scotland.
Last week we received a message from Miki Matoba, Director of Global Academic Business at OUP Tokyo, confirming that her staff is safe and well. This was a relief to hear, and also a reminder that although many of us are tied to the people of Japan in some way, our perspective of the human impact is relatively small. So I asked Miki if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her experiences, and she kindly agreed. When she responded to my questions she wrote: “Hope my answers reflect a part of how we view the incidents as Japanese.”
1.) Where were you, and what were your thoughts as the earthquake hit?
I was in a meeting room with a visitor from OUP Oxford and my staff having a meeting when the earthquake started. You may find this weird but we all are very much living with earthquakes from a young age. So little shakes here and there are just a part of our lives. But not the one we had last Friday as that was the biggest one in some hundreds of years. What I normally think when earthquakes start is when shall I get up to secure the exit and go under the desk. Most of the time, you do not have to do either as it does not last long. But not this time. As the building started to shake for a while I opened the door of the meeting room thinking that this is a big one but should stop soon. But it did not. So we put ourselves under the table hoping for the shaking to cease. When it did not, I thought then that this is a serious one and something really severe will happen as a result.
Then we saw some white stuff coming down in the office (it was not fire – just some dust coming down from the ceiling) and someone shouted that we should leave NOW. So we did. I did not take anything. Just myself and those who were meeting with me, running down from 8th floor to the ground. Even when we were running down the stairs, it was still shaking. After a while, we went back to the office to get things as the decision was made very quickly to close the office for that day. Almost everything on my desk had either fallen over or was on the floor, and it was still shaking.
2.) Was anyone prepared?
Yes and no. As Japanese, we all are prepared for earthquakes but not for something of this size and the aftermath of it.
3.) How do you continue to manage your group at such a difficult time? Is it possible to work?
Try to communicate well. We email and also have set up an internal Twitter account that we tweet to, including who will go into the office and what they are doing as we are still mainly working from home. The situation is still very unsettling making it difficult to concentrate on work (power rationing, aftershocks and the nuclear power plant situation) but we try to process day-to-day things as usual.
4.) How would you describe the city right now (the business activity, the state of mind)?
Interesting question. I think Tokyo is normally one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Now the city is very quiet compared to normal. The weather has been clear and nice after Friday so it feels odd to be in this peaceful, quiet Tokyo under the sun after all that.
5.) I’ve heard radiation levels are higher than normal – is everyone staying inside?
We have lots of information going around including rumors. We live almost as normal – just listening to TV and radio all the time, watching the progress of the nuclear plant situation. I do not go out if that can be avoided.
A Bibliography of English Etymology: An Aftermath
I would like to thank all those who congratulated me on the appearance of A Bibliography of English Etymology. In connection with this publication I have been asked two questions. 1) What practical results do I expect from it? The answer is obvious. Now everyone who is interested in the origin of an English word can at once begin reading the relevant literature. The same holds, though to a lesser extent, for the cognates of English words in other languages. My lists are not exhaustive (because no bibliographical list is) but sufficiently representative. Since all kinds of obscure periodicals have been looked through in the preparation of the volume, many titles may enjoy the light of day for the first time. However, this bibliography is not a pot from a fairy tale to which one has to say: “Little pot, cook,” for sweet porridge to begin flowing into the plate and even down the streets. I have copies of all the articles in my office, but no one else does. Obtaining them takes time. Also, one has to read everything written about the chosen word (another time consuming procedure), and this brings me to the second question. 2) How many articles featured in the bibliography contain trivial and even nonsensical information? Very many of them do. But I could not be choosy. I felt like the compiler of a telephone book. Some people use their telephone all the time but never say anything worth hearing, let alone repeating. (A lot should even have been left unsaid.) Some others use the telephone for plotting against their neighbors and the rest of the world, and still others have a telephone and do very well without it. Yet a telephone book cannot pass judgment on the character and habits of the company’s customers. Although a foolish article on etymology is not murderous, triviality and self-admiring ignorance are the curse of scholarship, and a bibliography cannot aspire to remedy this situation. I have been working on a new etymological dictionary of English for over twenty years, and if I had had such a bibliography in the mid-eighties, by now, instead of being “the proud author” of An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction, I would have had all the work behind me. This is the greatest justification of the bibliography now published I can think of.
Etymology as a Profession
I regularly receive questions from young people who would like to become etymologists but do not know how to go about it. I can only repeat what I have said before. Someone who is interested in the history of recent slang should try to discover the earliest known citations and meaning of the word in question (which is hard: compare buzzword, below) and find out who used the word and why. Such a project can probably be completed without formal linguistic training, though the lack of training is a great handicap even in this area. For all other purposes, one has to study the history of several languages (the more, the better) and the methods of linguistic reconstruction, that is, take special courses from knowledgeable teachers. Reading popular books about the “fascinating” history of words and being “passionate” about the subject won’t do.
Etymology Husk. The word almost certainly contains the diminutive suffix -k, whereas the vowel of hus- goes back to u, as in put, and ultimately to “long u,” that is, the sound we now hear in hoo. Hus (with a long vowel) is the earlier form of house, so that the original meaning of husk emerges as “little house.” In some oth
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The title is from The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (wash-up is the way one of the characters pronounces worship), but I owe the idea of this post to two questions. I decided not to wait for the next set of “gleanings,” because my summer schedule will prevent me from answering questions and responding to comments with the regularity one could wish for. Both questions concern Engl. r.
The first was about the status of r. Some people say that r is not a real consonant. Is it true? Yes, partly. In rate, late, mate, and Nate, the sounds r, l, m, and n, known in the phonetic nomenclature as resonants, are consonants like any other (compare Kate, pate, fate, date, etc.), but word finally they can form the crest of the syllable and thus display a feature characteristic of vowels. For example, each of the words—Peter, bottle, bottom, and button—pronounced as Pet’r, botl, botm, and butn, has two syllables, and the peak (crest) of the second syllable is r, l, m, and n. It follows that resonants sometimes behave as consonants and sometimes as vowels.
The second question requires a much more elaborate answer. Why do so many people pronounce wash as warsh? It will be easily seen that the title of today’s post was inspired by this question. In my recent discussion of wh-spelling, I referred to the weakening of Engl. h, s, f, and th, a process that has been going on for at least two millennia. Resonants are also prone to weakening. One can observe this change with a naked eye (with a naked ear?). British English is “r-less” (that is, r is not pronounced in far, for, fur, cart, horse, bird, and their likes), while in most varieties of American speech they are sounded. Obviously, the loss of r after vowels occurred in British English after the colonization of the New World by English-speakers, who preserved the traditional pronunciation of ar, or, ir, and so forth (colonial languages are always more conservative than the language of the metropolis). In similar fashion, l was lost in some positions, but that happened before the 17th century, so that here British and American English share a common cause: compare balk, talk, walk, chalk, balm, calm, alms, and salmon (in which mute l is still spelled) with bilk, whelk, and bulk (in which l is pronounced). The weakening was capricious: for instance, in Dutch a similar process took place, but the Dutch for holt “wood” (obsolete except as a last name) and salt is hout and zout: l is neither pronounced nor (providentially) spelled in them. In Scotland, golf used to rhyme with loaf (I don’t think anything has changed in the last fifty years).
After vowels, especially word finally, r disappeared not only in British English but also in some varieties of German. Occasionally other sounds, when weakened, find their last refuge in r. The name of the Greek letter that designated the sound of r is rho. Hence the term rhotacism “a change of any consonant to r.” Long ago, z was weakened to r. This is the most ancient case of Germanic rhotacism. The difference between was and were, raiAdd a Comment
A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending BEA2010 (no not the BEA that happened last week) which was part of the 2010NAB conference. I was there to celebrate the launch of the BBC College of Journalism Website (COJO) a collaboration between OUP and the BBC. The site allows citizens outside of the UK access to the online learning and development materials created for BBC journalists. It is a vast resource filled to the brim with videos, audio clips, discussion pages, interactive modules and text pages covering every aspect of TV, radio, and online journalism. At the conference I had a chance to talk with Kevin Marsh, the Executive Editor of COJO, and I will be sharing clips from our conversation for the next few weeks. This week I have posted a clip which emphasizes the true hard work that journalism involves. Read Kevin’s blog here. Watch last week’s video here.
It’s a place that seems to be on the brink of collapse, and even as we prepared to make this announcement, Yemen again emerged as a home base for terrorist plots. The stakes are high and the future is unclear for Oxford’s 2010 Place of the Year.
According to geographer Harm de Blij, author of The Power of Place and Why Geography Matters, “In the modern world of terrorist cells and jihadist movements, Yemen’s weakness spells opportunity.” Regional conflicts like the Houthi rebellion in the north and revival of the southern secessionist movement diminish the power of the government. Terrorist bases now reside in the remote countryside, posing a familiar dilemma for the United States: Is shoring up the country’s army and police worth the risk of increasing Al Qaeda protection and loyalty? At the same time Yemen stands to be the poorest country in the Arab world, nearly depleted of its leading export, oil, while facing a water shortage experts say is heighten by the country’s addiction to qat, a mildly narcotic leaf.
Once a promising experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy, Western opinion now recognizes Yemen to have all the features of a failed state. Obscured by the attention of the political geography, is what de Blij calls “a Yemen that might have been.”
To hear more from de Blij on Place of the Year be sure to check in tomorrow!
Yemen at a glance:
Government: Multiparty Republic
Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Arab
Currency: Yemeni rial= 100 fils
Cash crops: coffee and cotton
President: Ali Abdullah Saleh
And now for the runners-up…
Gulf Coast (of the United States)
the Eyjafjallajokull volcano
Seaside Heights, NJ
Rio de Janeiro
The Gulf of Aden (“Pirate Alley”)
OUP Employee Votes:
“I’d go with Mexico. A fascinating failing state in which our stake couldn’t be greater, and compelling for all the reasons the other places mentioned might be interesting (or in crisis) individually–you have natural disaster (or the ongoing potential thereof), man-made disaster, social unrest, crime (and how), political chaos and corruption, etc. Whatever you do, don’t pick Seaside Heights, N.J., though I’ve nothing whatever against the place.” -Tim Bent, Executive Editor, Trade History
“Haiti—so we don’t forget the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their families and homes and way of life.” -Jessica Ryan, Copyediting Lead
“Eyjafjallajokull. It’s perfect in that it had a world-wide impact, or close to it; it was hard to pronounce; and it was the proverbial flash-in-the-pan issue.” -Niko Pfund, VP and Publisher
In Spring 2010, Michelle Rafferty and Lauren Appelwick (you can read their bios here) decided it was time Oxford University Press got a podcast, and by September, The Oxford Comment was born. Reporting at special events, live on the street, and from the “studio,” each episode features commentary from Oxford authors and friends of the Press.
How can I hear more of that super groovy background music?
Most of the music you hear is by The Ben Daniels Band. You can check them out here.
How can I get ya’ll on my iPod, or Zune, or whatever?
- “The Icon” – Duane Roller discusses the ongoing influence of Cleopatra’s beauty (although we don’t really know what she looked like!)
- “The Beauty Bias” – Deborah Rhode discusses the pervasiveness of appearance discrimination.
- “The Fat-o-sphere” – Margitte Kristjansson and Jessica Jarchow talk body politics, “headless fatties,” s-heroes, and Glee!
- “The Safety Pin” – Fashionistas at FIT discuss whether or not clothing makes you beautiful.
When did the commander-in-chief become a sex icon? That was the question I decided to pursue this Presidents’ Day. And of course the more people I spoke with, the more complex the question became. By the end of the investigation I learned some Americans continue to preserve a “pure” image of presidents past, while many find their sex lives highly relevant to our political history. Check out the slideshow below to see exactly what Oxford’s presidential experts had to say!
(To see a full image, click on the center of each slide.)