No Small Tales: 70th Birthday

When I teach my fiction classes, I always tell my students: Write what you know. Of course, I didn't make this up; it's a cliché by this point, but one that makes sense. Even if you're a 55-year-old male who grew up in Spain and you're writing a story about a 93-year-old woman who spent her entire life in Alaska, you've got to bring what you know about life, your own experiences, to the character if you want your reader to be able to connect.

Carolyn Sun knows a lot about Korean families. She's Korean, 1st generation, and has spent a lot of time writing about her experiences growing up in what she calls a "crazy, neurotic family."

She also knows a lot about Korean customs, like special birthdays. For instance, a 60th birthday in Korea is cause for a major celebration. Every 60 years, the Chinese Zodiac cycle repeats, so if you're born in the year of the Tiger, when you hit 60, it's the year of the Tiger all over again. Koreans call it the gahngee cycle.

In Carolyn's touching and hilarious story, "70th Birthday," a girl is asked by her father on the occasion of his 70th birthday (also a big one in the Korean tradition), to write a 10-page letter filled with all the best memories she has of her childhood. But what's a girl to do if she can't recall a one?

Give "70th Birthday" a read and find out. And for more great short stories, head on over to, our partners in this feature.

70th Birthday

by Carolyn Sun

It's a few days before my father's 70th birthday.

I'm on the phone with my younger sister, Jenny.

"Have you written yours?" Jenny already knows what I'm talking about.

"No," she responds, "have you?"

"No," I say, glumly. "I'll come up with something."

We're both silent. We've been having this same conversation for the past eight months. The fact that we're having that same, boring conversation in the first place is my fault, too. I shouldn't have asked my father THE QUESTION. Here I thought I was being a good daughter at the time.

You see, eight months ago, I'd been feeling pretty flush, financially. I didn't own a pimp cup with my name in diamonds, but still, I had a steady, full-time job teaching English, and for the first time in my life, I'd actually seen money in my bank account that wasn't a gift from my family. I'd felt proud of myself.

It then occurred to me: I could actually buy my father's love for the first time in my life for his birthday! He was turning 70, a big deal in a Korean's lifetime. Like the Jews, Koreans have set aside big deal birthdays that are expensive and require elaborate parties and expensive gifts.
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Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]


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