2016 January

Maya Angelou and I Still Rise

Distinctly referred to as “a redwood tree, with deep deep roots in American culture,” icon Maya Angelou gives people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. Angelou’s was a prolific life; as a singer, dancer, activist, poet, and writer she inspired generations with lyrical modern African American thought that pushed boundaries.

Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack’s unprecedented film celebrates Maya Angelou by weaving her words with rare and intimate archival photographs and videos, which paint hidden moments of her exuberant life during some of America’s most defining civil rights moments.

Skillfully crafted with heart and ease, this film reflects the vibrant spirit of an American legend who was determined to live her philosophies and fought for what she believed in her whole life.

Ellis Island of the South

The Syrian refugees – about 50 in all – have fled political brutality in their home country and settled in this working-class town that has become a new Ellis Island for immigrants in a state and region which, at least recently, have turned decidedly hostile to outsiders. Indeed, since 1983, the town has accepted and helped resettle about 60,000 refugees – most from Africa and many of whom were Muslim. The locals’ hospitality has turned the community into what is considered the most ethnically diverse square mile in the U.S. Now comes another wave of outsiders – a group of Syrians that so many other places in the U.S. have spurned.

“What you’re seeing in a little town [like Clarkston and others in the surrounding area] is both people being decent and at the same time exhibiting fear of some amorphous refugee jihadist,” says Sarah Lischer, a politics and international affairs professor.

Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” exposes flaws that go far beyond Steven Avery’s trial

Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” has, for many, led to just one question: Is Steven Avery innocent? This has been the focus of the discussion surrounding the documentary series, which follows a Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, man who was wrongly convicted of an attempted murder and rape he didn’t commit, exonerated after 18 years, and then tried for another crime – a murder – and sentenced to life in prison.

Yet when it’s time to hold prosecutors accountable, voters by and large don’t turn out, don’t have a choice, or vote for the incumbent. In nearly 1,000 elections between 1996 and 2006 analyzed by law professor Ronald Wright, 95 percent of incumbent prosecutors won reelection and 85 percent ran unopposed in general elections.

News Center Media Report for Jan. 16-22

The WFU News Center Media Report for Jan. 16-22 is now available online.

Why David Bowie was so loved: The science of nonconformity

In the aftermath of David Bowie’s death at age 69 from cancer, a re-occurring theme has appeared in tributes to the famously idiosyncratic performer: his importance to those who felt like misfits.

“He was so important for all of the people who felt different, who felt like outsiders, who felt like their identities, for whatever reason, weren’t recognized and loved,” said Angela Mazaris, the director of the LGBTQ Center at Wake Forest.

What’s really behind the Christie-Rubio fight in GOP prez race

While U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida have similar voting records, only Rubio threatens to peel away the support from establishment GOP voters and donors that Chris Christie needs to fulfill his presidential ambitions.

“Though his Senate voting record differs little from Senator Cruz’s, the key to being anointed the establishment’s candidate is support from the establishment,” said Rogan Kersh, a political science professor and provost at Wake Forest. “Rubio has lined up nearly as many endorsements from GOP heavy hitters as has Jeb Bush, and is increasingly the choice of the Republican donor class.”

How to win the lottery even if you lose

OPCD Executive Director Katharine Brooks writes, “The growing craziness of Powerball Fever inspired me to revisit a blog post I wrote several years ago. Creating what I called a ‘Lottery Experiment’ I encouraged readers to write a paragraph each day for a week about how they would spend their winnings.

The participants found that their dreams changed over the week and evolved from simple fantasies of escape and luxury into creating a life that had more meaning. After all, we don’t generally want to acquire money just to have lots of greenish pieces of paper around. We want what the money represents. So what does money represent to you? Your lottery fantasies might just help you create a better life based on what is important if you take the time to think about it.”

News Center Media Report for Jan. 9-15

The WFU News Center Media Report for Jan. 9-15 is now available online.

Clinging to guns

The nation’s vaunted “gun culture” is often blamed for the refusal by powerful pro-gun groups to accept any limits on the type of weapons allowed or the people who can have them. But experts say that culture has evolved, and has combined with a hyper-partisan political environment and other social trends to make the gun debate far more absolute than it once was.

“There has always been a gun culture in America,” says David Yamane, a Wake Forest sociology professor and author of the blog Gun Culture 2.0. But it has morphed from a rural, hunting-based one to being focused more on personal protection, he adds. “That’s a major shift that’s been changing in the culture,” Yamane says.

What Consumers Should Know About Dynamic Pricing

You’ve probably noticed it, even if you weren’t aware of its name. You see a shirt at a store. It’s a little pricey, so you decide not to buy it yet. The next day you return, and the shirt’s price has risen $20. Or maybe it’s cheaper. That’s the thing about dynamic pricing. It describes a price that is dynamic and doesn’t remain fixed for very long.

“The most common application is in pricing airline seats, hotel rooms, fashion and seasonal apparel, where supply is limited and demand is uncertain,” says Haresh Gurnani, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University School of Business.