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An Awesome Book (veryawesomeworld.com)
409 points by djshah on Nov 18, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments

I can't help but notice this tends to paint 'ordinary' people as somewhat sad and deficient. Imagine the story was written in the same manner, but in praise of physical coordination/agility instead, and you can see what I mean. Perhaps it is an understandable reaction to the historical under-appreciation of imagination in society and educational environments. But I'm not sure how much sense it makes for a child that doesn't face this environment or is more practically minded. It does look pretty cool though.

> But I'm not sure how much sense it makes for a child that doesn't face this environment or is more practically minded.

Is there such a thing as an unimaginative child (or a practical one, for that matter)? As a child I seem to recall that all my friends and classmates were imaginative and creative, and my child and his friends are just the same in that way. Lego is universally popular, as is playing "pretend", and so on.

Obviously these traits are present in children to different degrees, but I think the point of this book is to emphasize that the lack of imagination and creativity in adults and its replacement by banality and commercialism is the product of socialization and choice.

> Imagine the story was written in the same manner, but in praise of physical coordination/agility instead

We'd probably be offended if, in that case, the uncoordinated people were drawn as obese (although the same effect could be achieved by simply displaying them as immobile). What's interesting, though, is that the book actually could be written that way. Children are far more active than adults and, because physical coordination and agility can be improved through practice, are often faster and more nimble than adults (I'm speaking anecdotally here, but if you visit a playground and watch a kid evade their parent and the point is made.)

Just as imagination and creativity are often lost or suppressed on the journey to adulthood, many people also shed their love of physical activity, with unfortunate results.

Perhaps the point, ultimately, is that there's lots we can learn from children, and much that is in them innately that we can help nourish.

it is my completely unproved belief that it is a reaction to the lack of more concrete problems (such as: how do I survive the winter). Not that lack of imagination is not a real problem, it's just that it was less important in earlier times.

I am quite sure the educational environment in the 19th century was _way_ less keen on letting imagination run wild than it is now (e.g. montessori's work was disruptive but looks "normal" nowadays), but we have Peter Pan and the Neverending Story only in the 20th.

I think your example is 100% wrong.

I think you've conjured the word 'ordinary' out of the air and made up an example that supports your made up word. This book like all children's books is a way for parents to put something into their child's mind. In this case it is a book that tells children and reminds parents that dreaming is great.

The 'ordinary' people you feel are getting portrayed so badly aren't 'unable' to dream or disadvantaged in any way they just don't dream of very impressive things.

Here is the author's blog:


Warning: contains awesome poetry.

It makes me happy that people like this exist.

Dallas is an inspiration to me, and I think his story would be inspirational to a many in the HN community.

Nobody gave him permission to be a children's book author. He decided to just go for it. He wrote the book, published it himself, and put it for sale on his website. He didn't seek a book deal. He bootstrapped.

He didn't buy advertising. He got in his car and drove around the country doing readings at schools, libraries, and hospitals, handing out free copies to lots of kids. He made a product that people wanted, put it in their hands, and those people evangelized the product for him. It reminds me of AirBnB's talk at Startup School this year, how they traveled from door to door, meeting their users face to face to promote their business.

I don't think he wrote the book with the hopes of selling a buttload of units, but rather because he wanted his son, and other kids, to read it. It's a happy accident that somehow he ended up selling a buttload of units. For every book he sells, he gives a copy away for free through the Awesome World Foundation.

> It makes me happy that people like this exist.

i find people like this extremely unnerving. this kind of oceanic "awesomeness" enthusiasm comes across as someone struggling to convince themselves that just the opposite isn't the case.

Do you have kids? The oceanic awesomeness of this book is no match for thhe boundless optimism and enthusiasm of my two-year old daughter or any child for that matter. I'm all for being a realist, but with children it pays off in spades to fill them up with hope, optimism, and fearlessness.

totally agree -- i have three: 6,5 and 1. The joy on a young one's face at the sight of a balloon ... or bubbles ... is simply mind boggling. If anything could make me that happy ... <sigh>. Kids come with hope, optimism, and fearlessness - its up to us not to ruin it.

I am a new father and totally agree. With parenthood comes plenty of new responsibilities that interfere with our ability to dream. Since children have far less responsibility and fear, they need to be the dreamers. Many recent college grads are too career focused or idealistic to start having big dreams, so you got to start 'em early.

The opposite being what? That things aren't awesome? Sure, the world has troubles, people struggle, and the world also has majesty and joy - that's acknowledging what's around you. But how we approach the world, that's entirely in our hands. Who wouldn't want to unlock their boundless enthusiasm, energy, and creativity? Three cheers to anyone who can. Let them inspire the rest of us, for whom it doesn't come easily.

You might benefit from considering the stoic position on awesomeness. The logical conclusion of cynicism IS an embrace of the "oceanic awesomeness" in that you learn to appreciate all that is now because it will end/leave/die/fail. To disengage or lose hope because of this fact rather than to embrace and engage is a mistake.

Obviously the message is naive or delusional at face value (I would agree with you about a person that has this mentality wrt everthing) but it has a grain of truth—two, actually, that I can spot. I suspect the author realizes this.

Just as unnerving are adults that think it's too late for them to be taken with childlike wonder or enthusiasm, but there's no reason for that. It's a remarkable feat to convince yourself that the world is predictable and that some things are impossible. (Not saying that you're one of these people, but that extremes of both sides are bad.)

stop reading the words then, look at the awesome drawings

I would love to see his sales history after this stint on HN's front page.

devinfoley, you say this guy is your friend. Tell him to write a post-mortem on sales of the HN effect.

Also tell him, that will likely get him more sales :)

I was thinking the exact same thing.

He can at least count me down for one copy. Just bought it can't wait to show it to my little dreamer.

Same here. I have a six year old boy who will love the book. The first 5-7 pages will get him laughing and into it while the final bits will hopefully help him stay unique.

Thanks to the author and OP for posting this!

Yup same. Three boys (5, 3, 1) (and ? on the way) who will love this book.

I just bought the set of 10 (5 of each) once I read that they/he donates a book to libraries/school/hospitals for each book purchased. I am really excited to give these to my nieces and nephews!

I'll find out. It would be interesting. He'd never heard of HN before, but thought it was cool.

This book is made of win. Please pass along an encouragement to make it available on Amazon if possible. I'm sure he's thought of it, but please add a +1 to the thought. For better or worse, lots of people buy there because the checkout/CC/etc process is already set up.

Just to be a contrarian, why are we always encouraging kids to think ridiculous things? Shouldn't we be encouraging our kids to think about interesting things? Beige furniture and giant cars woven out of spaghetti are both pretty boring thoughts from my point of view.

Agreed. There's something slightly condescending about the book -- about an adult trying to think of awesome `childlike' things, and only coming up with outlandishness.

I've tried encouraging my children to remember and write down their dreams, and my impression (they might disagree!) is that the ones which struck them the most are those which were unlike reality in some small, but important way; not those which were simply bizarre.

I'm not a fan of kids, but this makes me want to have kids just so I can make them read it.

There are simpler ways: nieces and nephews for example

only child unfortunately.

There has been a continuous replication and mutation of your gene pool since the first prokaryotes came into existence several billion years ago. So you planning to put a halt to it?

There has been continuous suffering and pain since the first prokaryotes came into existence several billion years ago. I can't speak for the grandparent, but yes, I am planning to put a halt to it. There is all the reason to do so, and no reason not to.

I shouldn't have downvoted this. I apologize for that. This is something you believe in.

Though, I think it's misguided. I think a lifetime of extreme suffering would be worth it, just for the rare moments when you feel truly blessed to be alive. In the hardest times of my own life, there's been a few memories that have pushed me forwards. One of them was walking outside of a friends house after a light rainstorm, and seeing a ray of sun shine through water dripping off of a plant.

It was just so simply beautiful. I saw a green sunset once. I saw the Perseid meteors on top of a mountain.

This is before getting into all the triumphs and creation and science and business and trade and conversations and coffee and learning and teaching I've done.

Life's magnificent. The suffering is a very worthwhile price to pay for it. Actually, I actively enjoy the suffering to some extent, because it makes me stronger and able to live more, live stronger, do more.

Heck, I wrote an entry called "Give Me Strife and Suffering (but in manageable doses)" on my blog if you're interested in an alternative perspective -


I reject the notion that suffering is a bad thing. It's bad if you don't know what you're suffering for. But suffering for worthy causes, for knowledge, for life, for creation, for art, for beauty, for things like that... I wouldn't trade it for the world. As my ability increases, I actively increase the amount of suffering I go through - to grow stronger, to do more, to be more, to serve more, to build more, to create more...

I don't know. Have a think on that. I like suffering for what I believe in, so long as I'm doing it in an intelligent way that forces me to grow. I think it's a worthy thing, and actively chase it... and I think this attitude has served me well and helped me do a lot of great things. Perhaps it's a worthwhile frame of mind to experiment with for a while? You don't have to believe it, just ask, "If I accepted suffering for worthy causes, and came to enjoy the suffering, how would I feel and act here?" Try it for a week or two? You could always ditch that perspective if it doesn't suit you well.

I don't believe for a second that you like suffering. Would you want to spend the rest of your life at the hands of a skilled torturer? I don't think so. Therefore, you don't like suffering.

What you do like is a combination of suffering with benefits. You like suffering when it makes you stronger. I call bullshit and say you like becoming stronger, and you'd do away with the suffering if you at all could.

And what good is the being stronger anyway? It serves only, maybe, to avoid or diminish future suffering.

I'd go so far as to say that what you like is short-term suffering if, and because, it helps you avoid long-term suffering. You "like" the pain you feel when you put your hand on a hot stove because you can use it to know you are about to burn your hand. The pain helps you avoid more pain.

How about if you could know you are about to burn your hand without feeling this pain? How about if you didn't need hands at all? You see my point? The benefit of "not burning your hand" is only a benefit because the alternative is worse. You can't win, you can only minimize your losses.

Don't get me wrong; I like life most of the time, and I have had these "simply beautiful" experiences you describe. But that is no justification for forcing other people to live. Because that is what my comment, though unclear on this, was ultimately about: no more kids. For anyone. Ever.

Once you are in life, you are guaranteed to suffer, and you need hands, and all this wisdom about not being able to have your cake and eat it too, learning to enjoy the simple things (i.e., be complacent), the world not owing you anything, et cetera. But these things are not relevant to the question of whether procreation is acceptable.

I will consider your suggestion. I like to believe I already suffer my fair share for worthy causes, but I may be wrong.

I don't think suffering by itself can really be enjoyed, but it can be a way to realize or learn things about yourself. Pain is a very subjective sensation, and severe pain can cause you to close up and recoil from or fear that sensation. But it can also be an opportunity for you to face the pain and feel it and all that in implies; it can bring up past suffering or traumatic incidences that bother you and in that context provide the opportunity to heal and move on.

Suffering in many ways is getting closer to death, and death provides the opportunity to be begin anew. It's an abstract concept but can be applied to everything you encounter as a living being.

In fact when you try to avoid suffering you close yourself off from so much experience. You could even say that to avoid suffering requires to live as a small subset of yourself, within a very confined sense of self. Expanding out from that will entail suffering but that's only a very small part of the story and it will lead to experiences you can't yet imagine.

Thanks sincerely for the advice, but I already know these things. As I said, they have no bearing on whether it is acceptable to create new persons.

Yep, I agree. That's a much bigger question.

I say let other people make the choice about living. Obviously lionhearted would not be happy if you limited his opportunity to live.

unfortunately other people choosing life leads to people like me being born just the same. so i'm going to have to kill all of you.

That's a more inefficient solution to your problem. I wouldn't say suicide is the simplest solution either. The easiest way is to just change your attitude.

You realize of course that the logical conclusion of your argument is suicide.

Yes. Possibly irrationally (reality is not that simple), I choose to stay alive. It is my life after all.

The problem is with creating new lives. Birth inflicts both a life sentence and a death sentence on the newborn, without their consent. That is simply wrong.

The conclusion again being it would be best if no sentient being existed at all?

Thought experiment: If you go outside right now with a gun in your hand and start asking random strangers "Would you like to die right now?" what do you think how many of them will answer "Yes, please."?

Yes, it would be best (in the sense of "least bad") if no sentient being existed at all.

Whether already existing people like life is like asking whether already addicted people like heroin. You can't use the result to justify forcibly addicting people to heroin.

So you rationally came to the conclusion that life is suffering, and rationally determined that suffering is bad and should be ended, but realize your own reluctance to end such suffering. What, then, do you think to be more likely: you are rational about all these things up until what, from this view, seems like an arbitrary point; or there's another piece to the puzzle - a sort of joy in realizing the absurdity of this existence and seeking contentment in spite of it?

Disclaimer: you're free to believe what you want, and it's neither my business nor my concern whether or not you pass on your particular genes, I just can't resist this discussion.

Related reading if you're interested: Albert Camus (The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus), Sartre (Nausea, Being and Nothingness)

The point is not arbitrary because it is my life and I get to choose what I do with it. I do seek contentment in spite of it, and I find it in "the zone". But this is irrelevant.

You say it's not your business whether or not I pass on my genes. Is it also not your business whether or not I murder somebody you do not know? Creating new persons is not something to be taken lightly, it's at least up there with murder because birth entails death.

By all means realize the absurdity and seek contentment, just don't force others into having to come the same long, stressful way to this revelation.

If it is the "forcing others" part that bothers you I can reassure you: you don't force anyone to live by procreating. Simply, because there is no one you could force. Before you were born (or conceived for that matter) you did not exist. So your parents did not force you to anything. By the time you existed and could be asked you “choose to stay alive” because it is your “life after all”.

No, you have it precisely the wrong way around. The harm done by birth is harm because the victim is still around to suffer it. Compare this to the harm done by death, where there is no such victim anymore.

As I said before, the question of whether I should stay alive even if I don't think it is worth it is way more complicated than the question of whether new lives should be begun. One complication is that suicide causes non-negligible stress for both the suicide and their surroundings.

I think your reasoning is flawed both on a practical and on the philosophical level.

Let me first tackle the philosophical level: First, you insist on the impractical notion that it is only the suffering that counts and must be reduced no matter what. Being a intelligent fella you realize that the consequence would be the annihilation of all sentient life including your own. Since presumably you realize the absurd notion of this consequence you try to reclaim the validity of your argument by arguing that “not forcing others” is another crucial prerequisite in your ethic. (Regarding your own suffering and the ending of it you simply declare that “life is complicated”. Aha, so much for consistency. (By all means: be inconsistent in that case.)) But strictly speaking, you cannot force life on someone because that someone does not exist before she is alive. You can see it in your own comments. You talk about “forcing life on newborns”. But this is not true. Before they were alive they simply were not there. By definition you cannot force something that does not exist. Again: I can force you to give me your money but I cannot force something nonexistent to do anything. So you are back to square one: total annihilation of all life.

The same reasoning applies to your heroin addiction analogy by the way: The alternatives are not heroin vs. no heroin but heroin addiction vs. death. You see, you can without a doubt compare a person that is heroin addicted to one that is not and conclude the the non-addict is for some reasonable metric better off. But you cannot compare a person who is alive with something that does not exist. It doesn’t make any sense.

The philosophical nitpicking aside, what really strikes me as odd is your sole focus on suffering. In your picture you also “force the newborn” with high probability to having two legs, in- and exhaling air, and opening a bank account before her 30th birthday. And who likes that? But wouldn’t it be much more reasonable, as other commenters have pointed out, to account for more than just the suffering in the calculation whether a life is worth living? When you are in need for something, lets say food, do you only take into account the costs or do you compare the benefit you get from the food vs. its costs (the costs being the suffering in this analogy)? I mean, as a “life addict” yourself you realize that the suffering is sometimes not everything that counts especially when it is outweighed by the benefits you have by being alive. Don’t get me wrong: of course suffering is bad. But as you said yourself “life is complicated” and often you have to take more into account than just one single variable like suffering or the opening of a bank account.

It is of course your choice whether you procreate or not. But your argument against it might not be as conclusive as you might think.

You say that I want to reduce suffering at all costs. This is misleading because there is no significant cost. The cost might be unfulfilled childwishes or no one to take care of the elderly. What is not a cost is the happiness these unborn miss out on. There is no one to experience the "missing out on happiness" (which is really just another form of suffering).

Regarding "forcing" someone into being: you have a problem with my words, not with my reasoning. As I said, birth can be a harm because the victim is still around to suffer its consequences. Death or "never being born" cannot.

Most people disagree that people can't be harmed by birth. Women are rather sternly discouraged to use alcohol during pregnancy. It is frowned upon for people with any significant genetic problems to reproduce. Incest is also taboo. Many people would think it better if the poor would not have kids. This has no bearing on the truth, of course, but I would be surprised if you didn't make similar judgments. It is clear that there are at least some cases where pre-existent beings' future well-being is taken into consideration.

The question then becomes "where do you draw the line?", and reason would draw it where I do (at "nobody should procreate"). The idea is simple, if you're willing to suppress your inner pedant: those who are never born do not suffer and they do not miss out on anything. This is the bottom line, and all the pedantry in the world won't change this fact.

The only case that could -- MAYBE -- be made is that if the kid's life turns out just fine, it wasn't too bad to create him. Just like an attempted murderer could say, of his surviving victim, "sure I tried to murder him, but look -- the dude's doing fine!". Things may have turned out alright, but I wouldn't say that attempting to murder a person is acceptable (beyond the intentions involved).

If I gave you a wheelchair, you might ask me what the hell you need a wheelchair for. Only after I have gnawed off your legs will it make sense. Before this, you had no need for a wheelchair. Similarly, the unborn have no need for a life that turns out just fine.

Procreation is never in the interest of the newborn. Suffering is guaranteed. Happiness cannot be used as a justification. It's all there, isn't it?

So, you're one of those folks who proposes the extinction of all life on ethical grounds?

That's a strange kind of ethics, to me.

You are confusing the right to continue one's own life with the right to create someone else's life. If individual beings want to continue their lives, then that is just fine. It is unethical, though, to create new lives. Where is the problem?

Would I be incorrect to assume you're a Peter Singer-esque utilitarian ethicist?

Seems more like a neo-schopenhauer serotonin deplete-ist.

I challenge you to back up your implicit assertion that this is all in my head with an actual argument. Show me that I'm wrong.

I don't know much about philosophy. Negative utilitarianism (minimizing harm) seems to fit me fairly well, but I would call myself a philantropic antinatalist.

"The deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain." -- Kahlil Gibran

The need for joy is a fact of life. Joy, no matter how plentiful, cannot justify imposing on someone the need for joy, just like heroin, no matter how plentiful, cannot justify imposing on someone the need for heroin. Surely everyone agrees with the latter, why not with the former?

Heroin restricts your range. Joy increases it.


i post a comment with this sentiment a few days ago, and predictably it got down-voted below -4: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1902911

we live in a world full of tremendous suffering. our attachment to survival is the result of a mindless and meaningless processes of selection.

no one can do better for their children than to take a stand against this nonsense and never subject them to this world to begin with.

I saw that post and was going to ask why people were downvoting it, but then I figured it was borderline offtopic, so I didn't bother. If you're looking for some rarely like-minded people, come live the good life at http://www.antinatalism.net/. :-)

If your philosophy is so good you should subject yourself to it first.

Obviously this is a little biased - you're not asking your own non-existent younger brother the same thing, are you?

good point

You do that every time you have a cold, too. Or smack a mosquito :)

So marry someone with lots of siblings.

I inherit 42 in one month from the 11th :)

The simplest message in the most creative manner. I thought it was perfect to post to HN!

I really enjoyed the illustrations. Really brought back memories of the picture books I loved as a kid.

Weird to see this on HN. My friend wrote it and published it himself.

He also has a new one out if anybody is interested. http://veryawesomeworld.com/awesomebookofthanks/inside.html

They are well made and a good purchase for anybody has has or knows kids.

Limiting this to people that have kids seems to be missing the point :)

Grown up kids count too ;)

Thought it was squarely aimed at adults. We age and sometimes our dreams get jaded or our friends and family shatter and ridicule them.

This book is even more awesome than the first one IMO.

I would buy it for my niece, but shipping overseas double the price of the book...

I'm a skater & love theberrics.com - he's been on there often, heres the backstory: http://theberrics.com/dailyopspost.php?postid=2440

warning: an ad will roll before you see the real content.

I want my future children to read this.

I want mine to not have too.

and a man who has a Million dreams that Roar is called an artist or an Entrepreneur.


Thanks for posting this on Hacker News. Both of Dallas's books are simply wonderful and his blog is amazing.

My pleasure!

Obviously a great read for kids and adults alike. The only thing to add is that I love its message of cultivating that sort of mental playfulness, which allows you to explore the fantastic, unknown territory where great ideas can be found.

I will read this to my kids on the iPad tomorrow night (they are already asleep)

Oooooh i get it. Right don't have an iPad and haven't spent more than 5 minutes on one so didn't recognize the formating.


I just bought it. They nailed the title! It's probably the most awesome book I've ever read. My daughter needs it in her library.

I share a washing machine with this dude; Way to go Dallas!

Y'all [the HN community] have great taste.

I would really like to have this in a Swedish translation, so I can read it to my kid.

img { display: block; }

Or remove the

  <DIV style=" width:32000px;...
Goofy markup aside, it's a beautiful book. :)

Thank you Dallas.

error: aren't (midway through)

Yes, very Quirky. "Do what you want - not what you're told".


Sometimes, I wonder what spammers dreamed of as children.

Click the little "link" button next to the comment header then click "flag".


So? How is this different from any other person posting their creation here? Both the illustrations and story are great. Thanks for posting.

The book has an implicit anti-commercial message:

Instead they dream of furniture

of buying a new hat

of owning matching silverware

could you imagine that?

Instead they lay awake at night

wishing for a car

not one that runs on jellybeans

but one that's reg-u-lar

etc. I just thought it was a bit (too) ironic to end with a big BUY NOW link.

A man's still gotta make a living.

Also, for every book sold he's giving away a copy to a child somewhere in the world: http://veryawesomeworld.com/foundation.html which seems like a pretty decent thing to me.

I didn't read that as anti-commercial, but rather as anti-humdrum.

I'd say you're painting with a rather broad brush there - decrying pop music says nothing about the value of music in general.

He doesn't say "or wishing for an awesome book", so he is fine.

Actually, you'd have to dig a bit to find a way to purchase from this link. It's the entire book online for free.

I guess you didn't read all the way to the end.

You are right. I sincerely apologize!

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