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Peek Into the Future

The winter solstice in late December commonly gives rise to thoughts of lengthening days thereafter and one’s future. Indeed, a popular New Year’s Day tradition is the setting of resolutions to improve one’s future, the most ubiquitous being related to losing weight. Humanity, however, doesn’t confine its longing to know what’s coming and to determining some way to manipulate the future in its favor to the new year. Around the planet, the desire remains the same; the method for telling the future varies.

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Famous First Lines

The best books hook readers from the very first line, which inspires the reader to read further. Great opening lines go beyond the fairy tale beginning of “Once upon a time” to evoke emotion and grab attention. The opening line sets the stage and establishes the tone of the narrative. In some books, like Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen, the first line establishes the tenor for an entire genre: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

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Temptation, Sin & Knowledge

The Apple in Literature
Since ancient times, apples have symbolized the best and worst of human traits. They lure and tempt, they imbue knowledge and shame, they confer love and fertility. Although an apple a day may keep the doctor away, the fruit has been a point of contention for ages.

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Imagist Poets

You gotta love reactionary poetry. A movement or style develops on one side of the spectrum, and then another group of poets come along and create an aesthetic that aims to free itself of the other. The opposing side isn’t inspired just to complain; instead they are forced to action through creation.

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When Tigers Smoked

Korean Tales
Myth and folklore transfuse our histories into our life blood, and are one of the main defining traits of humans. From our old stories stem adages and epithets that, over the years, become ingrained into our cultural dialogue (and finally, worn down into clichés). With just one line, we can recall or reference an entire body of stories.

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Leprosy

Hansen's Disease
“Like the other patients, they caught me at school. It was on the Big Island. I was twelve then. I cried like the dickens for my mother and for my family. But the Board of Health didn’t waste no time in those days. They sent me to Honolulu, to Kalihi Receiving Station, real fast. Then they sent me to Kalaupapa. That’s where they sent most of us. Most came to die.” These were the words of a man who contracted leprosy, and was sent to the remote peninsula of Molokai, Hawaii, to live out his days in exile.

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On the Destruction of Libraries

One of the favorite moves of any invading military force, occupying power, or totalitarian dictator is to destroy libraries. While it has often happened on accident or as a byproduct of fighting in and around the city, time and again repressive regimes destroy repositories of information, literature, and history purposefully in order to rein in knowledge and annihilate cultural identity that run counter to the false narratives or ideologies of the regimes in power.

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and Albert Camus

Absurdism
Albert Camus, the French Algerian writer and philosopher born on November 7th, 1913, made his mark on philosophy with his ideas of absurdity. Absurdity speaks of humanity’s quest for clarity in a world where there is none. The idea pervades all writing and is the crux of his essay The Myth of Sisyphus, which compares existence to Sisyphus’ plight of eternally rolling a stone up a hill.

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Sun Worshiping in Winter

Winter Solstice
Thursday, December 21st marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight and the longest duration of darkness. After the 21st, the days slowly get longer.

Throughout history, many cultures celebrated the winter solstice, specifically the return of the sun and darkness turning into light. Worldwide, interpretations vary, but many regard this as a time of rebirth, marking it with festivals, holidays, rituals, and gatherings. Agrarian cultures relied on the power of the sun to nurture their crops.
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Paper Magic

Origami
Origami is a traditional paper folding process associated with the Japanese culture. The word arises from the Japanese words “ori” meaning to fold and “kami,” which means paper. A person who creates origami is called an origamist.

It’s a magical and entertaining experience to witness an artist fashion an ordinary piece of paper into a colorful crane, frog, or dragon. 

According to PBS Hawaii, the history of Japanese origami began in the sixth century after Buddhist monks brought paper to Japan. Due to the exorbitant cost of paper, origami was reserved for religious purposes.
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Shop 'til You Drop

With the holidays quickly approaching, many look forward to to fulfilling the wish lists of their loved ones. A critical time for retailers, the National Retail Federation (NRF) says holiday season shopping represents 20 to 30 percent of annual sales.

When we hear the term “Black Friday,” most of us think about the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday, when big box retailers such as Walmart offer extensive bargains. The origins of the term actually go back to 1869.

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Free Money

Exploring the Concept of Basic Income
In the recent decade, salaries that lag behind the cost of living increases and inflation make paying for necessities even more challenging than ever.

A 2017 Global Salary Forecast by management consulting firm Korn Ferry Hay Group predicts a 3 percent salary increase in the U.S. Adjusted for 1.1 percent inflation, the real wage increase is only 1.9 percent. Canadian salaries are forecast to rise by 2.5 percent, but with inflation, real growth stands at 0.9 percent. In the UK, predicted raises will remain flat at 2.5 percent. Adjusted for inflation, real wages are to increase by 1.9 percent.
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Celebrating Dad

Trevlig farsdag! Several countries including Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Finland, Norway, and Indonesia celebrate Father’s Day in November. Like other Father’s Day holidays worldwide, this day recognizes the contribution that dads and father figures make to the lives of their children.

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An Islamic Happy Birthday

Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, although Christ’s actual day of birth remains shrouded in mystery. Muslims, particularly adherents to the Sufi order, celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah in the third month of the Muslim calendar. The celebrations of the birth of Christ and the birth of Muhammad have much in common: poetry and songs and references to sacred texts. The Qur’anic injunction that Sufis invoke is “O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation.” [33:56]

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Alien Life

Guide to Alien Literature
The possibility of alien life fascinates humankind. The earliest recorded references to extraterrestrials occur mainly in religious terms. The earliest known record of alien life in literature can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 B.C.). In these tales, the King of Uruk (Gilgamesh) and Enkidu (originally Gilgamesh’s adversary) defeat occult monsters on epic quests either in defiance or obedience to an assortment of gods and goddesses. In the 2nd century B.C., Assyrian satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote True History, a parody of Greek mythology that involved traveling to outer space, alien life forms, and interplanetary warfare. 

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Nations on a Small Scale

Micronations
When asked about past lives, no one claims to have been a tax collector or a scullery maid.  No, so-called psychics flatter their customers with glittering visions of past lives as royalty--or at least aristocracy. Royalty populates the legends, myths, and popular literature of every culture. Can it be a surprise that some people with delusions of grandeur and a penchant for making their own rules grew the gumption to start their own countries with themselves as the rulers?

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In Celebration of Water

One thing connects all humanity above tradition, religion, or climate. That one thing is critical to all human life: water. Used for hydration, for power, for spiritual and physical cleansing, for cooling, for transportation, and for myriad other purposes, water fills a multitude of human needs, desires, and goals. One can have no doubt that festivals celebrating water must then be magnificent and always apropos. If you’re looking to find a celebration that focuses on water itself, take a look at these events worldwide.

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The Golden Legend of St. George

Dragons
Blame Miguel de Cervantes’ epic poem Don QuixoteJ. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon, myriad fairy tales, and an entire sub-genre of paranormal romance: dragons are here to stay. Mystical, magical, mythic, dragons capture our imagination. The titan of dragon lore throughout Western civilization, however, is St. George, a Roman soldier of Greek heritage who died a martyr for the Christian faith under Emperor Diocletian and was then christened as Great Britain’s patron saint. Like many Christian saints, St. George comes with a fantastic story, such as related in Saints’ Legends by Gordon Hall Gerould (1916).

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On the Divisions of Columbus Day

Time has a habit of sifting through the many facts of history and leaving only a few stark facts. Of Christopher Columbus' landing in the Americas in 1492, common teaching as of the 1970s was that he, in search of the East Indies, instead found the Americas. It was the common rhyme taught in many schools:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain.
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

Most salient of these points is that Columbus Day represents the spread of Western European culture and politics. The rhyme continues to present Columbus as a great explorer, the Native Americans as benevolent and generous hosts, and a great communion of Western Europeans into the New World.
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H. P. Lovecraft

The Birth of Cosmicism
H. P. Lovecraft crafted a genre of horror that’s more than horror; it’s science and philosophy. It may seem pedantic to say, but imagine, if you will, the stars--all the stars we cannot see with their own pretty, feebleness amid 46 billion light years of a universe. Then see that same universe filled with approximately 99 percent vacuum. Nothing.

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