Two True Stories


Optimistic: This is a true story. In the early 2000s, a man was elected mayor of a town in Ukraine, in the former Soviet Union. The town was one of the worst in the country: a haven for drug trafficking and prostitution. It was once a factory town, now it was a desolate industrial place of concrete.

The man’s first act as mayor was to decree that the entire downtown would be painted in rainbow colors. These would not be harsh primary colors, but would be the gentle colors of a tub of rainbow sherbet: purples, blues. reds and greens, and creamsicle oranges and yellows. The cost of this project — to repaint the downtown — would be one hundred thousand dollars.

The townspeople were understandably outraged. We have elected a madman! they said. We are broke and you are spending this money on paint! Hire more policemen! they said. Get the junkies off the streets, fix the schools, the bridges!

He went ahead with the plan and painted the downtown the colors of a tub of rainbow sherbet, and it worked. It turns out that you can shoot a man and take his money in front of a row of desolate concrete buildings, but you cannot shoot a man and take his money in front of a row of freshly painted buildings in a cycle of creamy purples and oranges and blues and greens.

The townspeople started to band together, for the place where they lived was unique now. Their town improved. Crime went down. The people became happier. It was a plan and it worked.


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Pessimistic: This is also a true story. This story also takes place in Russia. It is a much shorter story.

In Russia, in the 1930s, there was a young girl who could turn tennis balls inside out with her mind. Government agents and scientists came to study her, this interesting and alarming child. They watched her do the psychic thing with tennis balls. Her parents were disturbed by the attention this was getting, and anyway, the whole thing was ridiculous.

Then, her parents had an idea. They told their little girl not to be so silly, that no one can turn tennis balls inside out with their mind. They told her this and she believed them — and she could never do it again. It was a plan and it worked.  

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