Truth and Beauty in Texas


I recently read this excerpt from “Truth and Beauty” by Robert Flynn in Trinity University Press’ Art at Our Doorstep: San Antonio Writers and Artists.

That was when I first got the notion of being a writer. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t go in much for writing at the country school I attended. We studied penmanship. But we knew what a writer was. A writer was somebody who was dead. And if he was any good he had been dead a long time. If he was real good, people killed him. They killed him with hemlock. Hemlock was the Greek word for Freshman Composition.

The country school I attended was closed, and we were bused to Chillicothe. Chillicothe, Texas is small. Chillicothe is so small there’s only one Baptist Church. Chillicothe is so small you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence. For a good coincidence, you have to go to Vernon. Chillicothe was fairly bursting with truth and beauty, and my teacher encouraged me to write something that had an epiphany. For an epiphany, you had to go all the way to Wichita Falls.

Read the full excerpt at Robert Flynn’s website

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Why, On Earth, Would Aliens Invade Earth?


In Hollywood movies, when aliens invade our innocuous little blue planet, they usually have a ludicrous motivation. Sometimes they’re after our water or want to colonise us or are just being plain nasty. Space travel is incredibly difficult and expensive — so why would aliens actually bother to come and invade us? Today’s Needull is an interesting book-excerpt that will give you a more logical perspective on alien attacks.

As an astrobiologist I spend a lot of my time working in the lab with samples from some of the most extreme places on Earth, investigating how life might survive on other worlds in our solar system and what signs of their existence we could detect. If there is biology beyond the Earth, the vast majority of life in the Galaxy will be microbial—hardy single-celled life forms that tolerate a much greater range of conditions than more complex organisms can. To be honest, my own point of view is pretty pessimistic. Don’t get me wrong—if the Earth received an alien tweet tomorrow, or some other text message beamed at us by radio or laser pulse, then I’d be absolutely thrilled. So far, though, we’ve seen no convincing evidence of other civilizations among the stars in our skies.

But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that there are one or more star-faring alien civilizations in the Milky Way. We’re all familiar with Hollywood’s darker depictions of what aliens might do when they come to the Earth: zapping the White House, harvesting humanity for food like a herd of cattle, or sucking our oceans dry. These scenarios make great films, but don’t really stand up to rational scrutiny. So let’s run through a thought experiment on what reasons aliens might possibly have to visit the Earth, not because I reckon we need to ready our defenses or assemble a welcoming party, but because I think considering these possibilities is a great way of exploring many of the core themes of the science of astrobiology.

Full Book-Excerpt Here

LIT HUB – Lewis Dartnell

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When Breath Becomes Air


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Paul Kalanithi died at the age of 37 but not before penning down his book – When Breath Becomes Air. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Vintage) is shortlisted for the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize. The book talks about life in the face of near imminent death and has been a huge success.

But, today’s needull talks about his wife, Lucy Kalanithi and how has she been dealing with Paul’s loss.

Paul’s memoir ends with a particularly poignant message to Cady that is now framed in her bedroom at home: “When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

The complete article

Radhika Sanghani — The Telegraph

The New York Times book review of When Breath Becomes Air

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It Is Known


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This is an anecdote. The writer is very clear about where his support lies in the French election. Good short read.

I asked him where he was from and he said Corsica. The Corsicans, he explained, were “the most dangerous people in the world,” and he showed me the tiny knives tattooed on his shoulder. I can’t be sure, but I believe each represented someone he had killed. I asked him if he had enjoyed his time in India and he said, “I hate it.” He was “too sensitive,” he explained: the poverty hurt his feelings. I asked if he had liked the food, at least, and he replied, “French food is the best in the world.” When I suggested this was a matter of opinion, he banged his fist on the pullout tray and said: “NO. IT IS KNOWN.”

The complete article

Rajeev Balasubramanyam — the Paris Review

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How Rand made US selfish?


“Capitalism and altruism are incompatible….The choice is clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its consequences of freedom, justice, progress and man’s happiness on earth—or the primordial morality of altruism, with its consequences of slavery, brute force, stagnant terror and sacrificial furnaces.”

~Ayn Rand

You might disagree to what Ayn, one of the most controversial novelist – cum -philosopher of modern times, says but you just can’t deny the power this statement holds. Ayn Rand’s philosophy has influenced not just individuals but nations and made them successful yet selfish. In today’s eye-opening Needull, we read about a clinical psychologist’s analysis of Rand’s influence on bright and young Americans, who in turn influenced US’s policy to turn it into the ‘selfish nation’ it is today.

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Full Article Here

Raw Story – Bruce Levine

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Mysterious Minds


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How did Sherlock Holmes become one of the most enduring characters that has ever been created? Today’s needull is a book review of — Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes | Michael Sims | Bloomsbury. Arthur Conan Doyle’s life experiences were instrumental in shaping up Sherlock.

To be able to create a scientific detective ‘who solved cases on his own merits, and not through the folly of the criminal’, one has to understand science, and what was revered as a scientific method in Arthur’s period. As Joseph Hoffman in Philosophies of Crime Fiction points out, the age of science and technology began in the late 19th century, and with that the expectation that there would be greater social and humanitarian progress. The world expected greater insight and more justice from its scientists. Sims allows us to glimpse the spirit of those times through the experience of a particular person, Arthur. We learn that the University of Edinburgh’s medical department, where Arthur enrolled in 1876, brimmed with eccentric and brilliant professors who excelled in induction—reasoning from the particular to the general (example: these footprints are very far apart, only tall persons can manage such a stride; ergo, this person is tall).

The complete article

Shylashri Shankar — OPEN

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In Search of Islam


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“Among the Believers” was written by Naipaul in 1981. Today’s needull is a a review of the book. Many do not agree with Naipaul’s views but almost all agree that he is a great writer.

All four of them, like so many others they stand for, bring to their religion and tradition modern demands and anxieties. This creates pressures, for today’s needs are great. The outside world at once tempts and threatens Moslems. Many of them enter that world, but they can enter it only partly. When they fail to deal with it, they retreat into their shell. When they surrender to it, guilt seizes them. In Naipaul’s words: ”In the fundamentalist scheme the world constantly decays and has constantly to be re-created. The only function of intellect is to assist that re-creation. It reinterprets the texts; it re-establishes divine precedent. So history has to serve theology, law is separated from the idea of equity. …”

This theme comes close to being Naipaul’s central theme, and in dealing with it he lets his personal feelings get in the way of his presentation. He chides Moslems for being ”made” by the Western world they reject. Instead of trying to understand these people, Naipaul is ready to judge them. In his desire to discover their hidden vulnerabilities and point out their contradictions, their need for outside goods and outside approval, he tends to miss the drama and the real meaning of their situation. He forgets that it is part of the painful process of history that people are always made by the world they reject and that the rage at it they express is in large measure rage at themselves.

The complete article

Fouad Ajami — The New York Times

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