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The Blues

From Margins to Stardom
While the United States of America is relatively new nation (there are hundreds of societies that have enjoyed artistic, linguistic, and musical accomplishment centuries before America was established), the proliferation of American music across the globe is clear in the style, attitude, and culture seen and heard in international news, radio, and television.

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Scouting Across the Pond

Girl scouts and Boyscouts
American politicians, international dignitaries, celebrities, artists, and world-renowned athletes share a common distinction: they acknowledge that their successes are in part due to the transformative youth groups of which they were once, and always, members. More than tying knots, pitching tents, selling cookies, and rowing kayaks, The Boy Scouts of America and The Girl Scouts of the United States provide millions of children with the necessary tools and practicality to become world leaders.

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Basketball

From Passing the Time to an International Pastime
The season of March Madness is starting in the U.S.. One can already hear the drumming of leather against wooden floors, the squeaking of sneakers stopping on a dime, the heartbreaking rattle of missed shots as the clock winds down. Brackets are filled and refilled, buzzers sound, and millions of students, fans, and general spectators watch and cheer college and university teams.

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A Quick Fix

Vintage Cocktails
When ordering a cocktail, the bartender may ask you to “pick your poison.” Ironically, the origins of many alcoholic beverages are rooted in medicine rather than toxic substances.

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Animal Magnetism

Pets in the Arts and Sciences
People have enjoyed the companionship of animals since ancient times. In the earliest days, humans kept animals strictly for utility. The word “pet” was first used in 1508 to describe an animal kept for pleasure. Linguistics experts believe that it emerged from the word “petty” (small).

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Coming of Age

Cultural Traditions
Many cultures around the globe have coming-of-age ceremonies, which mark a person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. The ages, rituals, and ceremonies vary from culture to culture.  

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Democratic Design

In recent years, architects, fashion designers, interior designers, and retailers have used the term “democratic design” to define quality designs that are affordable and accessible to mainstream consumers. 

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Tea Time

Having a cup of tea is a daily ritual for many people around the world. This soothing beverage can be enjoyed solo or shared with friends over conversation. Setting aside some leisure time for tea can be like going into an adult “time out.” Relaxation reigns—even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.

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A Modern Look at Primitive Art

"The dust of bones, primitive weapons, coal, and buried wood—the old human as well as solar energy—come down to us tangled like roots in the fermentation of the dampness under the earth." So begins Elie Faure's epic five-part translation of the History of Art from ancient times to the early 20th century.

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Three Important War Correspondents

Natural diamonds are formed under high pressure and temperature. In the same regard, great expression and acts of human courage and talent often emerge from desperate, high pressure situations. A look back at some of the first female war correspondents shows they formed their own diamond-like sheen under some of the roughest pressures.

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Best Witches of All Time

In the good old days of serfdom, papal supremacy, the waning black plague, unhinged superstitions, and blood-letting, there were witches. They were women—perhaps devil worshippers or maybe just misunderstood gardeners with a penchant for herb cultivation—who were hunted, persecuted, and burned at the stake by the thousands all across Europe and America up until as late as the 18th century.

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Timeless Drama of Love Poems

Love. Does it change over time, over country borderlines, across generations and cultures? Or is it the one all-encompassing trait of humanity? If it doesn't change, is there a simple cipher we can use to access old love poetry?

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Emma Goldman

Grace in Anarchy
She was once called "the most dangerous woman in America." Detractors claimed that she was strictly a proponent of politically-charged violence and revolution. Others might know her by her 1970's sloganized phrase, "If I can't dance, then I don't want this revolution." Still others know little more about her than vague, anarchist stereotypes or by her relationship with Alexander Berkman, a contemporary anarchist who attempted to assassinate President William McKinley.

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History of Birthstones

Many people have heard of birthstones, the gemstones correlating to the month of one’s birth date. Most people don’t know where the custom originated. As with many ancient customs, birthstones align with religious traditions.

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Impressions of India

Accounts from Missionaries
The conquering and subjugation of any nation by another takes place on three fronts: military, religious, and cultural. India’s importance to the British Empire hinged on British rule of the country. Not only did England overpower the country by means of warfare, but it imposed laws and its religion upon India.

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Asian Cookery

India and China
The Silk Road introduced Europeans to exotic, new flavors and launched them upon a culinary adventure as they developed trade and exercised imperialistic determination to conquer and rule. From Indian curry to General Tsao’s chicken, the spices, flavors, and textures of the Orient made their home in the Western world and began a subtle campaign to conquer the conquerors. 

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Porcelain

The Most Enduring Chinese Export
The discovery of China by Marco Polo opened western countries to a wealth of new products that Europeans soon coveted and China soon manufactured in great quantities to meet that lucrative demand. Porcelain, a ceramic material that transcends mere crockery in terms of strength and translucent white color, was not the least of these fine products. Polo’s record of his journey, Il Milione (volume 1 and volume 2) contain the first mention by a European of this fine pottery.

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Baba Yaga

The Not-So-Wicked Witch of the East
Forget pointed black hats, black cats, and riding on brooms. Well, maybe not the broom. Slavic folklore brings to children a much more frightening witch than anything dreamed up by Western Europeans. Native to Eastern European and Russian cultures, Baba Yaga blows through legend like a force of nature. Sometimes kind, sometimes cruel, and usually portrayed as a hideous, old hag living in a hut standing on chicken legs and surrounded by fence made of human bones, she wields a mortar and pestle and either a broom or mop, but she’s never predictable.

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Rap and its Griot Roots

Rappers wandered the Earth long ago. They were entertainers, but also advisors and diplomats adept at synthesizing histories with the present. Both scorned and lauded, lavished with jewels and praise and well-travelled, they rapped their tales for slaves and kings alike. Cultural writer Lafcadio Hearn relates in a letter to Henry Edward Krehbiel:

... through the yellow desert northward into the Maghreb country, often a solitary wandering … they play old Congo airs for the great black population of Stamboul, whom no laws or force can keep within doors when the sound of griot music is heard in the street ... [griots] carry their music with them to Persia and even to mysterious Hadramant, where their voices are held in high esteem by Arab masters...the transplantation of negro melody to the Antilles and the two Americas, where its strangest black flowers are gathered by the alchemists of musical science and the perfume thereof extracted by magicians like Gottschalk. (Afro American Folksongs by Henry Edward Krehbiel, 38)

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Tower of Babel

Extrapolations on the Myth
Genesis 11, a book of the Bible, tells the story of the Tower of Babel, the origin myth of language. The people of the great city of Babylon shared a common tongue and a common intention to build a tower that might reflect both their city and its accomplishments. “Come, let us build ourselves a city," they said to one another, "with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

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