Nietzsche and Casablanca

In this month's Brainpickings, there's an interesting article about the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, who was a rather clever bloke but not particularly modest, as shown in these quotes from one of his letters:

“It is my fate to have to be the first decent human being. I have a terrible fear that I shall one day be pronounced holy.”

“It seems to me that for a person to take a book of mine into his hands is one of the rarest distinctions that anyone can confer upon himself. I even assume that he removes his shoes when he does so — not to speak of boots.”

In between making statements about his own incredible importance, Nietzsche did make some interesting comments about life, people, morals and society. One point he made was that he thought it was vital that people's lives contained hardship. This wasn't because of some streak of sadism. Instead, Nietzsche said the whole point of life was to face and overcome difficulties. Each and every one of us, he believed, has to encounter difficult challenges, agonising decisions, trial and tribulations throughout our lives. That is the only way that we can truly achieve and succeed. Nietzsche writes:

Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms; whether misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the favourable conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible.

The philosopher Schopenhauer, who Nietzsche admired, thought that life's difficulties should be avoided. Schopenhauer recommended people hide away. Nietzsche had the opposite view. He said; 'take the challenges on! You need them! They'll make you a better person!'

Nietzsche is saying a very similar thing to my article suggesting that life is really like Casablanca, which is cool, as it means that a famous philosopher agrees with me. Yes! Unfortunately, it's also clear what I thought was an exciting new idea has actually been around for nearly a century and it isn't new at all. Hey ho.

Blank on blank animation: John and Yoko

Here's something fun from Brainpickings:

The makers - Blank on Blank - have created a series of animations, using audio recorded interviews with famous people. Their YouTube home page is here and includes some great example of how to create an engaging animation without the massive effort of drawing every frame from scratch.

If you liked that, you might like this. It's from the people at RSA animate. Their animations are another way to make an audio explanation visually engaging through animation. In their case, they've focussed on academic lectures rather than famous people.

April's nearly at an end and I'll write my monthly news report in the next day-or-so. I hope everyone's having a great Spring! :-)

Science fiction predictions

In my last blog post, I talked about science fiction ideas and how they can come about. As a follow-on, here's a video on the same topic from PBS digital studios project called 'It's Okay to be Smart'. I found out about it from a recent Brainpickings article:

The video is lots of fun and it does a good job of celebrating how many predictions such science-fiction authors as H.G.Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Douglas Adams got right about our modern world. As the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Nils Bohr once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." :-)

August news

I got paid some money! Hooray! The Hope & Glory PR company have very promptly paid me for the article I mentioned in my July news. I’m extremely pleased as I was half expecting that, being a relatively unknown freelance writer, I would have trouble getting paid for a commission because I don’t have a gang of legal people to chase up bills. Fortunately, Hope & Glory have been faultless in their approach to the commission, for which I am extremely grateful. The cheque reminded me of a wonderfully informative article in with the writer Ray Bradbury. Here’s Ray talking about the first decade of his life as a full-time writer: Read More...

Advice from Bill (Calvin & Hobbs) Watterson

I heartily recommend this article from in which Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbs, talks about his experiences and gives advice on what it means to pursue a creative life. Along with Ray Bradbury’s thoughts, I think they do a brilliant job of bringing across the life of someone wishing to be a full-time creative person.

I’ve popped a cartoon from the article here as a taster. Hopefully, they won’t mind. Enjoy! Read More...

Ray Bradbury on rejections

Here’s another gem from the Brainpickings website. This one’s from an article about writing tips and includes a quote from Ray Bradbury about getting rejections. It’s succinct, personal and very encouraging:

The amazing Blackstone came to town when I was seven, and I saw how he came alive onstage and thought, God, I want to grow up to be like that! And I ran up to help him vanish an elephant. To this day I don’t know where the elephant went. One moment it was there, the next — abracadabra — with a wave of the wand it was gone!

In 1929 Buck Rogers came into the world, and on that day in October a single panel of Buck Rogers comic strip hurled me into the future. I never came back.

It was only natural when I was twelve that I decided to become a writer and laid out a huge roll of butcher paper to begin scribbling an endless tale that scrolled right on up to Now, never guessing that the butcher paper would run forever.

Snoopy has written me on many occasions from his miniature typewriter, asking me to explain what happened to me in the great blizzard of rejection slips of 1935. Then there was the snowstorm of rejection slips in ’37 and ’38 and an even worse winter snowstorm of rejections when I was twenty-one and twenty-two. That almost tells it, doesn’t it, that starting when I was fifteen I began to send short stories to magazines like Esquire, and they, very promptly, sent them back two days before they got them! I have several walls in several rooms of my house covered with the snowstorm of rejections, but they didn’t realize what a strong person I was; I persevered and wrote a thousand more dreadful short stories, which were rejected in turn. Then, during the late forties, I actually began to sell short stories and accomplished some sort of deliverance from snowstorms in my fourth decade. But even today, my latest books of short stories contain at least seven stories that were rejected by every magazine in the United States and also in Sweden! So, dear Snoopy, take heart from this. The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

Bertrand Russell's ten principles for creating and communicating new ideas

blogEntryThumbnailHere's another gem from Brainpickings weekly. I've mentioned Bertrand Russell recently, with regard to the excellent graphic novel Logicomix that centres around Russell and other mathematicians' search for logical truth. Here he is again with a profound list of recommendations for anyone wanting to investigate the world and explain what they've found; it's from the December 16, 1951 issue of The New York Times Magazine, at the end of the article “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism.”. You can find the brainpickings article here. Personally, I found the line 'Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric' particularly appealing. ;)


Complaints made in the margins of illuminated manuscripts

blogEntryThumbnailHere's another gem of an article from This one's a list of comments, well, grumblings mainly, left in the margins of illuminated manuscripts. I liked the last one in the list most of all. Clicking on the image will take you to the original brainpickings entry.