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Popol Vuh

Lives of the K'iche People
"This is the Account, here it is: Now it still ripples, now it still murmurs, ripples, it still sighs, still hums, and it is empty under the sky...There is not yet one person, one animal, bird, fish, crab, tree, rock, hollow, canyon, meadow, forest. Only the sky alone is there..." (Popol Vuh, Book I)

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Lesser Known Giants

Women of the Beat Generation
"[A] woman from the audience asks; 'Why are there so few women on this panel? Why are there so few women in this whole week's program? Why were there so few women among the Beat writers?' and [Gregory] Corso, suddenly utterly serious, leans forward and says: 'There were women, they were there, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given electric shock. In the '50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families had you locked up. There were cases, I knew them, someday someone will write about them.'"

—from Stephen Scobie's account of the Naropa Institute tribute to Ginsberg, July 1994 (Women of the Beat Generation p. 141)
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Rhythm and Words

Jazz Poetry
In a June 23, 1926, essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” published in The Nation, Langston Hughes, perhaps the first true jazz poet wrote, 

... jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.

In its origin, jazz was much more than music to enjoy in leisure time. To many African-Americans, it was a bastion against the ills of a country mired in racism and the residue of slavery.

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The Land Belongs to Those Who Work it

Emiliano Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
By 1911, Mexican President Porfirio Diaz had ruled Mexico for three decades. According to members of the business class, foreign investors, and his close allies, Diaz had ruled Mexico well. He maintained general peace in a turbulent time, and he had succeeded in industrializing Mexico, garnering more money for the wealthy. But the working class and farmers led lives of worsening strife with lower wages, famines due to poor land reforms, and increased oppression from the Diaz regime.

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In the Spirit

Shinto and Animism
For thousands of years, people have taken comfort in various forms of a higher power. In many religions, these superior powers revolve around the ideas of worship, purity, and morality.

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Broadening Horizons

History of the U.S. Peace Corps
“Indeed, we’re strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun, but also a diplomat negotiating peace,” said former United States National Security Advisor, Colin Powell about the positive impact U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have on people worldwide. 

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In Focus

Ansel Adams
Decades after his dramatic black and white landscape photographs emerged, American photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams’ compelling images continue to be widely reproduced. They appear on art prints, tabletop books, posters, calendars, and other items. 

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History by Design

Arts & Crafts Movement
The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in decorative and fine arts. Although the period lasted from 1880 to 1920, its influence continues today with artists, craft makers, designers, and other visionaries creating architecture, furniture, and home furnishings in this aesthetic. 

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Cowboys and Indians

False Histories of American Folklore
Early film, folklore, and certainly literature romanticize and fictionalize the histories of cowboys and (the incorrectly named) Indians. Charming and bold, or, uncivilized and dangerous, the early idea of the cowboy and the early idea of the Indian create concepts of what should be and what isn’t genuinely American.   

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Ballads

Parallels in Old and Contemporary Narratives
When we consider the ballad, we imagine slick-haired crooners wooing concert attendees as the spotlight shines brightly about their performances. From historic pop sensations like The Beatles and Elvis Presley to more contemporary artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, the ballad transfixes audiences as it bares the souls of the singers, lyricists, and musicians who share them.

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Swimming

Recreations and Competitions
From picturesque white sand beaches and their crystal waters to the Olympic pools used by some of the world’s top athletes, swimming combines elegant recreation with demanding competition. 

Stone Age pictures from 10,000 years ago depict swimming as do early literary texts, including The Odyssey, written by Homer and Beowulf, in which the protagonist disputes claims that he was bested in a swimming match by his friend Breca. 

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Odes to Sexuality

Erotic Literature
Author E. L. James’ now-ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey brought erotica and sexual kink into the mainstream; however, that by no means indicates that erotic literature is a 20th or 21st century phenomenon. Odes to sexuality and human sexual relationships date back thousands of years, even occupying the highest rungs of poetic verse.

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Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls o’ Fire!

Historic Fires
Jerry Lee Lewis’ rollicking tune notwithstanding, fire shapes human history. Having learned to create and control fire over 400,000 years ago, humankind embarked upon the painstaking process of building civilizations and all the wonders and ills that attend human gatherings. We still use fire to distill water, melt and solder metals, produce steam to run turbines for electricity, incinerate trash, and heat our homes.

Fire is unpredictable, both master and slave to human demand. Nature, however, has played with fire for longer than humankind: Discover Magazine noted in its October 7, 2011, issue that “A coal seam about 140 miles north of Sydney, Australia, has been burning by some estimates for 500,000 years.” When fire burns out of control, the event inspires terror and awe and it changes lives for a long, long time. Following are some of the most memorable fires in history.

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Literature for Adolescents

Coming of Age
Articles discussing children’s literature tend to focus on the under-12 crowd, which leaves a vast swath of teenagers searching for something suitable to read. Writing literature that caters to a teenager’s growing independence yet doesn’t cross the line into adult literature involves a tricky balancing act for authors and those who recommend literature. Treat teens as naive or innocent and they’ll think you’re patronizing and out of touch; however, in most instances those same teens aren’t yet ready for the burdens and complex moral quandaries of adulthood.

Nineteenth century Western society saw a shift away from a tradition of marrying off girls in their early teen years, giving those girls a chance to mature. The burgeoning field of psychology and observant physicians eventually recognized mental and emotional differences between adolescent and mature bodies and brains in both boys and girls. These new discoveries precipitated adolescent literature.

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Pumpkins Sweet & Savory

The Quintessential Fall Flavor
Immigrants to the New World brought with them an ancient Irish tradition of carving turnips and transferred it to a uniquely American fruit: the pumpkin. In modern times, society’s fascination with all things pumpkin goes beyond jack-o-lanterns to coffee, ice cream, and just about everything else flavored with “pumpkin spice” (a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) which is used to flavor pumpkin pie.

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Scent of Decadence

Perfume and The Decadence Movement
"Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul," Lord Henry says to Dorian Gray (p. 30, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde) as he drinks in the perfume of a lilac blossom. Perhaps too dramatic a sentiment for some people, Wilde was a Decadence writer through and through. The Decadents meant to experience life through all the senses with discriminate, hully-gully passion, reaching for the maximalist versions of art for art’s sake, artificiality, satire, sexuality, and ennui. 

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Metaphysical Hot Air Balloons

Baroque Poets
The Metaphysical poets were a loose group of poets coined as a movement after the fact by their common love for analyzing feeling rather than expressing it, their use of irony, paradox, obliqueness that forces the reader to confront consciousness itself, and the use of conceits through sometimes strained, extended metaphors.

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Making Up for Lost Time

Julian to Gregorian Calendar
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar proposed reforms to the Roman calendar, which took effect the beginning of 45 BC, and became the predominant calendar throughout the Roman world, Europe, and European settlements including the Americas.

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Cuban Missile Crisis

Escalation
On October 22, 1962, American President John F. Kennedy addressed the world with beginning remarks: 

Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on [Cuba]. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the western hemisphere. 
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