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Herman Melville

There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.

The Gin Craze

In 18th-century London, an unprecedented rise in the popularity of gin led to a decades-long epidemic of extreme public drunkenness known as the Gin Craze. Moral outrage and legislative action ensued. Between 1729 and 1751, a series of laws were passed to control gin consumption. Often, such laws resulted in mass law-breaking. Lower wages, rising…

Nobel Prize Ceremony

Nobel Prizes are awarded each year to people, regardless of nationality, deemed to have made the most significant practical efforts toward the well-being of the human race. In his will, the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) directed that the income from his estate be used to fund five annual prizes. The first Nobel Prizes were…

The Brown Dog Affair: Rioting Peaks in London (1907)

In 1903, anti-vivisectionists enrolled as medical students at University College London and published an eyewitness account of a brown dog that had endured months of surgical experimentation while allegedly conscious. A professor named in the story sued for defamation and won. After the trial, anti-vivisectionists put up a statue of the dog as a monument…

Nelly Sachs (1891)

Sachs was a German poet, translator, and dramatist. Born to a prosperous family, Sachs wrote poems mainly for fun until the advent of Nazism darkened her work and forced her to flee on one of the last flights to Sweden. Her lyrics from those years combine lean simplicity with intense imagery. Collections of her poetry…

greensward

Definition: (noun) Surface layer of ground containing a mat of grass and grass roots.

Synonyms: sod, turf.

Usage: There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717)

The son of a German cobbler, Winckelmann overcame years of hardship to pursue his love of ancient Greek art, becoming a renowned scholar and one of the founders of scientific archaeology and art history. He spent much of his later life studying in the vast Vatican Library, and his writings reawakened the popular taste for…

inexpugnable

Definition: (adjective) Incapable of being overcome, challenged, or refuted. Synonyms: impregnable. Usage: I felt the inexpugnable strength of common sense being insidiously menaced by this gruesome, by this insane, delusion. Discuss

Clovis I

Traditionally regarded as the founder of the French monarchy, Clovis was born in the 5th century to a Frankish tribal leader. He became the sole ruler of the Salian Franks by force of perseverance—and by murdering a number of relatives. He defeated the last Roman ruler of Gaul, united the Frankish tribes to become ruler…

Francis Bacon

Pyrrhus, when his friends congratulated to him his victory over the Romans under Fabricius, but with great slaughter of his own side, said to them again, “Yes; but if we have such another victory, we are undone.” Discuss

Tanzania Independence Day

Tanzania Independence Day is a celebration of independence from the British in 1961 of Tanganyika, which merged with Zanzibar in 1964 to become Tanzania. The day is a national holiday celebrated with parades, youth leagues marching before the president at the stadium in Dar es Salaam, school games, cultural dances, and aerobatics by the air…

Eradication of Smallpox Is Certified (1979)

One of the deadliest diseases in history by sheer loss of life, smallpox was the target of a concerted, worldwide eradication campaign in the 20th century, and it became the first disease to have been successfully wiped out. Efforts focused on vaccination and quickly responding to and curtailing outbreaks. The last person to die from…

The Kofun Period in Japan

Perhaps the oldest era in the recorded history of Japan, the Kofun period began in the 3rd century. Though Japanese tribal leaders remained in close economic and political contact with Korea during this period, they also increasingly consolidated their power. It was a critical stage in the evolution of a unified Japanese state. The introduction…

Willa Cather

Every artist makes himself born. It is very much harder than the other time, and longer. Discuss

Diego Rivera (1886)

Rivera was a Mexican mural painter. In Europe, he was influenced by the paintings of El Greco and Goya and closely associated with Cézanne and Picasso. Convinced that his art belonged to the populace and should be displayed in public spaces, he returned to Mexico in 1921 and painted, with the assistance of younger artists,…

gewgaw

Definition: (noun) Cheap showy jewelry or ornament on clothing. Synonyms: fallal, gaud, trinket, bangle, bauble, novelty. Usage: "Trim off these gewgaws," said his father, plucking the scraps of ribbon and the feathers from his hat, "and over your own dress wear my cloak." Discuss

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty Is Signed (1987)

Signed by US President Ronald Reagan and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty represented a historic shift in superpower relations. The first treaty to mandate a reduction in stockpiled weapons rather than just a limit on them, it required the destruction of 1,752 Soviet and 859 US missiles. Though the agreement…

Wheelies

A wheelie is an acrobatic stunt in which a vehicle’s front wheel—or wheels—is lifted off the ground so that the vehicle is momentarily balanced on its rear wheel or wheels. Wheelies can be performed on bicycles or motorcycles, or even in cars. In mountain biking, the move helps racers navigate large obstacles. Due to the…

Armenia Earthquake Memorial Day

On December 7, 1988, a severe earthquake struck in Armenia, causing catastrophic damage to the entire country’s infrastructure and virtually destroying the cities of Spitak, Leninakan (now Gyumri), Kirovakan (now Vanadzor), and Stepanavan. More than 25,000 people were killed in the disaster, with another 140,000 injured and more than one million left homeless, in a…

Recording Industry Association of American Sues Napster (1999)

Shortly after Napster was founded in 1999, the popular file-sharing service was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The trial gave Napster so much publicity that usage of the service increased, despite RIAA’s claim that Napster users were breaking the law by downloading copyrighted music for…

Willa Sibert Cather (1873)

Cather moved with her family to Nebraska at the age of nine, and though she later settled in New York, her prairie upbringing deeply influenced her writing. Her novels, which include O Pioneers!, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and My Ántonia, celebrate the spirit and courage of pioneer life. Her works include several independent heroines…

drivel

Definition: (noun) Foolish or senseless talk. Synonyms: nonsense, rubbish, garbage. Usage: I was hoping my teacher would not actually listen to my presentation, because I knew it was absolute drivel, but the "F" on my transcript was proof that I had not fooled anyone. Discuss

Virginia Woolf

So the days pass, and I ask myself sometimes whether one is not hypnotized, as a child by a silver globe, by life, and whether this is living.

The Azusa Street Revival

Despite its brief heyday, the Azusa Street Revival is thought to have been a catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism. The religious meeting, which was racially integrated, began in 1906 and was held in a run-down Los Angeles building that had once been used as a stable. At its height, it attracted hundreds of people…