Friday, December 17, 2010

The Potentially Alive, 6

This is the sixth post (out of six) in a short story about how the world ends, or begins. Click on the appropriate link for the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth post in the series.


The golden rays of a rising sun warmly embraced another morning. They skipped and danced across a lake. The lake, surrounded by lush, green grass, seemed to be composed of a million winks. It flashed continuously like a million cameras eager to record another splendid day. And a splendid day it was.

A tune could be heard now. It was a playfully happy tune, with notes that rose and fell, only to rise higher and higher yet again. It belonged to a girl named Phoenix—a girl who had had earned the right to listen to it—a girl it seems who was just waking up.

Her hands stretched to the sky as if they were being pulled up by the clouds, she looked down at the lake below, let it take a million pictures of a woman at peace with herself, and spoke aloud the first words that came to her mind. “The world began when I was born,” she said, “and the world is mine to win.”

She picked up the small device that was playing her tune. It had given her back her life she thought, and at the expense of no one. It was her latest invention, much better than the first model which had been taken from her, and it no doubt would come in handy now—at least for some.

Walking down the hill, the invention clutched in her hand, she had a big day ahead of her. She waved once more to the lake, took a left, and made her way to what was left of civilization.

The Potentially Alive, 5

This is the fifth post (out of six) in a short story about how the world ends, or begins. Click on the appropriate link for the first, second, third, or fourth post in the series.


The back of women’s heads surrounded the room, their shoulders sagged as their fingers pounded away slowly at the keyboards in front of them, and nobody at all said a word.

This was the place where history would change—where, according to their boss, metaphysical justice would be enacted. “Were not all men equal?” he had asked. “They would exist as such before long."

A phone rang. Shoulders straightened. Was this what they were waiting for? All they had been told was that “super life-savers” had been created by the world’s leaders and set up at strategic points in every city of every nation across the globe.

A woman stood up and turned military-style toward where the red phone sat on a cold aluminum desk in the middle of the room. As she walked toward the ringing phone her pace was measured—halting, even. But the clicks of her red high heels kept her moving forward, and in time with the last ring she picked it up.


“It’s a go,” said her boss.

“What should I do?”

“Flip the switch.”

You got it,” she replied.

The woman flipped the switch. Her hands let go of the phone. Her head sagged. And then, in time with the others, dropped. The room, like the world outside, was quiet.

Had men wanted peace—and referred to it as stillness? They had it now. Did they wish for all to be equally alive? The world’s leaders had granted that wish for those who wished it, and enforced it for those who did not. Everyone was now equally alive—and all were dead.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Acquire Ideas for Writing

I just finished reading Ayn Rand's The Art of Nonfiction for the second time this year. Although I don't have time to review it, I do have time to share some advice that Ayn Rand gives on the subject of acquiring ideas for writing:
Like everything else in the mind that seems automatic, this process must be started consciously. Once you condition your subconscious properly, it throws you ideas unexpectedly. It may feel as if the ideas come to you spontaneously, but to mention once again that good line from How to Think Creatively: accidents happen only to those who deserve them. So give yourself this standing order: "I am interested in certain subjects, and I am on the lookout for any relevant event, trend, statement, or theory--which I then want to understand and evaluate." Do this, and you will condition your mind in a truly productive way.
The abundance of such useful tips make The Art of Nonfiction one of my favorite books on writing. Have you read it yet? What is a useful tip you've discovered in its pages? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tuva or Bust!

Here's an interesting quote from Tuva or Bust!--a book by Ralph Leighton about his and Richard Feynman's dream to visit Tannu Tuva:
As we relaxed in the serenity of the baths overlooking the ocean, Richard suddenly cried, "Thank you, Dr. Morton!" The Chief never forgot that he was living on borrowed time, and often thanked the man most responsible for it in the same way that others would thank God for giving them another fine day.
Thanksgiving has just passed but I hope that, like Richard Feynman, you continue to thank those who most appropriately deserve it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Art Antidote for the Disappointed

Given recent news, I thought I'd share a poem that I love--and which is appropriate. Called "How did you Die?" it was written by Edmund Vance Cook.

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, trouble's a ton, or trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it.
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that?
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there - that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight and why?

And though you be done to death, what then?
If you battled the best you could;
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only, how did you die?

Update: Don't miss out on the other art antidotes here at The Nearby Pen--and be sure to also check out the 8 quotes from Mind Over Mood that I share elsewhere.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baby Toy Review: Logan the Lion

I remember the first time I heard Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor and I imagine it's the same way kids feel when they leave the world of black and white panda toys or board books and come face to face with Logan the Lion.

"This is what I'm talking about," they must think, their eyes greedily devouring the bright red mane and the explosion of colors that stream away from it. "I don't know what those blue and green circles are called," I imagine them saying, "but I'm going to eat them up--and that purple star too--even if it means I have to puke out a rainbow!"

Logan the Lion is that good. He's a sensorial blast of different textures and bright colors. He's cheerful. And he's an unforgettable introduction to the wonderful world of colors. "That black and white stuff is OK," they must think while raising Logan up in their hands, in sync with a rising smile, "but this is what life is all about."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baby Book Review: Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! provides the same thrill as watching a Rube Goldberg machine in action--or seeing a million dominoes falling consecutively from the push of a tiny finger.

Starting with the sneeze of a little bug, a chain of events takes place that ends in a chaotic parade. The realization that each action is causing something progressively larger builds excitement for the satisfying conclusion (which shows, though doesn't state, that small actions can have big consequences).

I wonder: How many millions of kids will get to hear this exhilerating story because a loving parent with a soft voice read it to their little kid a long, long time ago?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Girl (and the Billionaire) in the Glass

An interesting post by Kelly at the always interesting Reepicheep's Coracle stated the following:

Rational people who are trying to be happy should think about themselves first. "What do I want to do today?" should be the primary question we are asking ourselves.
That made me instantly recall one of the (many) sayings by Warren Buffett that I like:

"I have this complicated procedure I go through every morning which is to look in the mirror and decide what I'm going to do. And I feel at that point, everybody's had their say."

I agree with both that this is the right attitude to have. If you do too, you should love this poem--which ties both quotes together nicely.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Morning, Merry Sunshine

In the comments section of my post reviewing Goodnight Moon, I mentioned a poem for the mornings that goes perfectly well. It's called "Good Morning, Merry Sunshine" and, without further ado, here it is:

Good morning, merry sunshine,
How did you wake so soon?
You chased away the little stars,
And shone away the moon!

I saw you go to sleep last night
Before I ceased my play.
How did you get back overhead
To shine on me today?

I did not go to sleep, dear child,
I just went round to see
The little children of the world
Who watch and wait for me.

I shine upon the little birds
And flowers on my way,
And then I come back overhead
To shine on you today.

This poem seems to be a variant of a song by G. Ambrose written at the turn of the century. A variant of it, found here, doesn't sound as pleasing--but it does provide a pleasing tweak to the original:

Good morning merry sunshine,
How did you wake so soon?
You scared away the little stars
And shone away the moon.

I saw you go to sleep last night
Before I ceased my playing.
How did you get way over there?
And where have you been staying?

I did not go to sleep, dear child,
I've been shining all the while.
But as you're world keeps turning 'round
It hides me from your sight.

But as it turns you back again
You'll find me waiting here
To shine a bright "good morning" down
On all the children dear.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Baby Book Review: The Very Busy Spider

The Very Busy Spider starts when a strong wind blows a spider from her web on a tree to a barnyard fence. The hard-working spider does not complain about bad luck, or ask other animals to catch flies for her. Instead, she immediately starts spinning a new web.

Then, animal after animal come by asking her to do something else. In each case, however, the spider doesn't reply. "She was very busy spinning her web," the story explains. By book's end, the spider has caught a fly and is sleeping soundly after a long day's work.

In working hard to achieve again what was lost, despite persistent pleas to do other things, the industrious spider is both enjoyable to read about and educational--without being preachy. Anyone looking for a children's book that shows the value of being virtuous should enjoy this book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Baby Book Review: Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon is a short poem meant to be read to a child before going to bed. It begins by naming all the things in a room, from “two little kittens and a pair of mittens” to “a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush.” Following this, “good night” wishes are granted to everything previously named.

The illustrations match the book’s purpose wonderfully. For example, a bright green room greets the child at book’s start and then gets progressively darker.

Goodnight Moon is not the only bed-time storybook, but it is one of the most highly recommended for a good reason. The book prepares a child for bed in the best way possible: it gives him the comforting reassurance that everything is in its place and all is well—in his room and in the world outside.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Main Event Recap of Prager vs Reality

Last June it was my pleasure to interview Burgess Laughlin for the first installment of One Question, One Answer.

Mr. Laughlin's response to my question--asking what makes a biography good (or bad)--zeroed in on the proper standards for judging a biography, presented a well-chosen example to clarify one of the most important qualities a good biography has, and gave a remarkably concise one-sentence answer that I have since found helpful (in my work for The Objective Standard).

I was reminded of this recently after reading another interview--with Stephen Bourque. Bourque, of One Reality, presented a detailed response to a column by Dennis Prager (which argued that without God there can be no morality).

The interview with Bourque focuses on two points: "(1) His experience, as an activist, in thoroughly analyzing a sample of Prager's work; and (2) his reflections on Prager as an advocate of mysticism, including the general nature of Prager's arguments, their implications, and style of advocacy."

The interviewer? None other than Mr. Laughlin himself! Anybody who enjoyed his answers in my interview with him should enjoy this one. The questions are well-chosen and the answers by Bourque well-thought out. See for yourself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Play With Your Food!

In an earlier post, covering three ways to teach your kids to lie, I concluded that "for all the parents searching for the reason their kids lie, here's a possible answer: you taught them to."

While eating soup with my wife tonight, I pretended the soup was a train boom-chug-a-chuggin' up a hill and then choo-chooing before it is supposed to enter the tunnel. And then I made the connection that a lot of parents do this, along with the one where the spoon is a plane about a year before yelling at their kids for playing with their food.

I'm not complaining that my parents played these games--in fact, I think I remember enjoying them. Like before, however, I'm saying: if you're wondering why your kids always want to play with their food, here's a possible answer: you taught them to."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Twitter Motto

I think the new Twitter motto should be the following quote by Victor Hugo, from (one of my favorite books) The Man Who Laughs: "To speak with oneself aloud is to carry on a conversation with the god within."