Saturday, January 26, 2013

Agression And Uniform Color

In 1988, researchers Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich from Cornell assessed the self- and social perception of wearing a black uniform in professional sports. In our culture we would all agree that the good guys always wear white, and the bad guys always wear black. A classic film from 1977 reflects this concept well:


Han solo, always the badass,
incorporates both black and white.





This is not to say film or media is responsible for such concepts, they simply mirror our cultural norms and values. The perception of white = pure, black = evil is heavily integrated into our western culture; all one has to do is inspect just about any Christian piece of artwork ever made. Previous research has shown that Caucasian subjects asked to make semantic differential ratings of colors associated black with evil, death, and sadness (Williams & McMurty, 1970).

Frank and Gilovich set off to see if professional hockey and football teams that wear black uniforms were more aggressive than their counterparts. The operational definition of "black uniform" meaning over half of the colored parts of the uniform being black,  and "aggressive" being how much the teams were penalized in their respective sport. Twenty-five subjects unfamiliar with hockey and football were outfitted with the task of differentiating each teams' uniform. Cues to outside references, such as the teams' hometowns were removed when necessary and\or possible. All of the black uniforms were rated to be much more "bad", "mean", and "aggressive" than other uniforms in the league. The black NFL uniforms were perceived as being "stronger" than their non-black counterparts, however this was not the case for black NHL uniforms!

From Wikipedia and NHLUniforms, here are the ten team uniforms that were used in the study. (As long as the current uniforms are similar to the 1988 uniforms, I did not seek out images of the exact original NFL designs. For example, the Bengals had solid stripes on their sleeves in 1988, instead of today's tiger stripes.)

Stealers


 
Saints



Raiders




Bengals




Bears (While technically dark-blue, The Bear's uniform is very often perceived as black.)



Canaucks




Penguins



Flyers


Blackhawks




Bruins





(Frank & Gilovich, 1970)
The researchers found that in record archives from 1970 to 1986, teams with uniforms which matched the definition of "black" were penalized more in penalty minutes (for hockey) and yards (for football) than average. 1970 being selected as the cut-off date as it was the year the NFL merged with the AFL. A significant difference in penalties was also recorded when teams switched over to black uniforms; the years teams in the NHL wore "non-black" uniforms were counted in the non-black sample. As the title suggests, there are two reasons given for this: 1) Social perception, referees making biased decisions against the "bad" teams.
2) Self-perception resulting in increased aggression on part of the players. The teams with black uniforms were also ranked highest on a malevolence scale (as part of the subjects' questionnaire)! The one exception being The New Jersey Devils being ranked fourth in the NHL. It is also interesting to note that the teams ranked the least malevolent by subjects were teams that had cool green or blue uniform colors: The Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitols (red, white, and blue), St. Louis Blues, The Miami Dolphins, Houston Oilers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Detroit Lions were the bottom five teams ranked on malevolence for the NHL and NFL, respectively.

However, the researchers also provide another explanation. Perhaps the management of teams want their teams to play more aggressively as a strategy to win, and therefore management specifically hired aggressive players; the bow on the team being the uniform the team is draped in, sporting a psychologically aggressive color... BLACK.  George Carlin's, "Baseball or Football" sketch comes to mind, and after all, football and hockey are both contact sports. Being aggressive and strong are both ideas you would want to communicate to the other players. This suggestion is certainly worth considering for the Raiders, who in the 1970s and 80s had a notoriously vicious defencive line.

In order to see if referees might have some sort of bias against teams in black uniforms, the researchers went on to form another study where subjects watched staged games of football with white and black uniformed teams. The subjects were asked to rate the defensive team in certain plays. At the end of the study, subjects were more likely to penalize a black uniformed defensive team than a white uniformed defensive team even though it was the exact same gameplay footage with altered color. In a final study presented in the paper, the researchers had male Cornell students compete in a set of games of their choosing, with the opposing teams given white and black uniforms. Those teams given black uniforms were more likely to select more aggressive games, such as chicken fights (as opposed to block stacking), however these results were not statistically significant.

These results lead to some interesting questions. Will you be perceived as being "evil" or "aggressive" by your peers, or even yourself for wearing black clothing? Or perhaps you would be an aggressive person in general, and then as a result select more "intimidating" clothing. Such an issue is age old in psychology, the nature vs. nurture question. I am sure more research has been conducted in this area since this study from 1988. If any of you dear readers know of any follow up studies, please go to the contact page above or leave a comment. 

Article:
Frank, Mark G., and Gilovich, Thomas, "The Dark Side of Self- and SocialPerception: Black Uniforms and Aggression in Professional Sports",Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1988, 54:1:74-85

Perspectives on Inference


            The following paper was submitted by me as a final project for a Hampshire College cognitive science course. It has been edited into a second draft, and has also been edited and formatted significantly from its original version for pulication on this site.


            Numbers never lie is a phrase etched into our collective minds at a young age. Unfortunately this could not be further from the truth, especially in regards to statistics. In fact, one professor went as far to say that statistics is often classified as a subcategory of lying. (Moore 1985). As powerful tools of inference, statistical tests are able to give us insights from the data we collect about the world around us. However, these insights are generalizations and are open into interpretation; just as a translation can only ever be an interpretation, statistical results are also only interpretations of data and variables.
            Before this paper begins, it is important to start with a disclaimer. By no means am I stating that the statistical inferences we have today are the “begin and end all” of data assessment. If anything, they are just another perspective to assimilate data and makes the data easier to “work” with. For instance, the student’s T-test is much more conservative in terms of data analysis than the z test, although there is criterion for using each; even then this criterion can be vague. One textbook I have states that you should use the z-test when you have a sample size under 30 (Diez, 2012). But this is by no means a standardized rule, and can be up to the researcher’s discretion.  
            As a result of this amalgamation of what statistics can mean, different groups of people have different ways of perceiving their intended use and for the layperson, the media, students, and academics, statistics analysis have very different meanings. I would like to explore what these perceptions are. Before that, I would also like to present some ways in which statistics can be altered in malicious ways in order to suit the needs of a researcher. While not the only ways one can be dishonest in academic literate, doing so will demonstrate how easy such feats can be.            
            A very simply way one could change their statistically insignificant results to statistically significant results would be to change their one tailed test to a two tailed test. Doing so would lover the p-value (the probability of getting your result if the null hypothesis is true) of your result, possibly changing the outcome of your study. This is dishonest because you need to start off with a good reason as to why you are using a one or two-tailed test, One–tailed tests are for studies where we know that there will be no sort of adverse result, or studies where we are not interested in that result for a valid reason. For example, if we were testing the effects of meditation on blood pressure, we would not expect meditation to increase a subject’s blood pressure. As a result, your alpha level (where one’s p-value needs to fall in order to reject the null) is only on one side of a distribution and would be five percent. However, if we were to test some sort of new way for students to study, we would want to see if our independant variable increased or decreased subbects' scores Therefore we would 

(Different image used for online article, image from The heritiage foundation.)

split the 0.05 alpha level between the two tails of the distribution, so that it is now 0.025. If we were to run our "new study method" experiment, and at the end we get a p-value of 0.033; if we decided that we wanted to change our study to a one-tail experiment, this would be dishonest.
            One of a more obvious way to misinterpret statistics is to literally change the perspective of the visual representation of your data. In the following example, the samples closest to us would be considered larger, because they appear larger.
(Chartingcontrol.com)
A verbal example of the same phenomena would be how you expressed your figure. Would you like to say that you had a one percent return on sales, a fifteen percent return on investment, a ten-million dollar profit, or a sixty percent decrease from last year (Huff, 1954)? This topic alone could be covered in volumes (such as the one just cited), however I am trying to show that there are many different ways one can misrepresent, and misinterpret statistical information. One could write multiple papers as well on each of these subjects (performing logical fallacies, such as asking loaded questions, throwing out data, manipulating data, have biased samples, etcetera). I just wanted to show how one can present data in such a way that it would appear to be justified to an uninformed reader.
            There are many real world examples of studies that misrepresent their data or have had their data misrepresented by others, whether it was an accident or just a simple mistake. Duncan MacDougall’s attempt to find the weight of the human soul in the twentieth century is something that has entered Americans’ minds as a faucet of pop-science. While MacDougall reported that the human soul might have an average weight of about twenty-one grams. The truth is that his methodology was seriously lacking. MacDougall only had a sample size of six, two of which were discarded, with the rest there was trouble with determining the exact time of death. The weight of subjects often fluctuated after death, and contemporaries of the time provided a laundry list of physiologically plausable alternitive reasons as to why the subjects would have lost weight (Evans, 1947). Never the less, MacDougall continued his research and his results found no difference in weight with dying dogs.
            Still today, MacDougall’s research is something I have been told by others with conviction is a scientific fact. I personally have had a high-school history teacher relate this faux factoid to us. “A scientist once measured the human soul” she began. A few students backed her up, they too had heard about the doctor who was able to weigh the human soul and that because he was a scientist, there was some validity to the point being made. While this example is mostly harmless, being confined to everyday “did you know?” situations, misinterpreted studies can become toxic in the realm of news media.
Take the television show Ancient Aliens as another example many should be familiar with. While there is virtually no manipulation of statistics in the show, there is vast falsifying of information and misinterpretation of current archeologist evidence making such absurd claims such as the pyramids were carved out of lasers, and ancient peoples having the ability to build aircrafts (Heiser, 2012). An example more related to Neuroscience and statistics would the studies on average brain size often distributed by ignorant racists to support their beliefs that certain races of people are more intelligent. With the cited papers (an example would be: Witelson, 2005), these racists claim that other races have smaller brains, and then insinuate that this somehow means they must be less intelligent. Besides the fact that the results of the study provided; many others like it are almost always either insignificant or too vague to come to a solid conclusion, it is still a red herring to say that brain size is related to or correlated with intelligence. However, this is not an inference that an average layperson may make, and they could be led to believe that certain bigoted viewpoints have some sort of validity. Here is a different example from May of this year (2012 at the time of submission), CNBC reported a story with the headline “The Inflation of Life, The Cost of Raising a Child Has Soared" (CNBC). The article states that the cost of raising a child has raised 25%. What they don’t state is that this can be reflected in ten years of inflation (Olitsky, 2012).
Students are also prone to these mistakes. Any person who spends some time in a psychology class is eventually bound to hear something along the lines of “Therefore this study proved X”. I am not accusing these students of being malicious, and it would be unfair to hold them to the same standard that we should the media, specifically news outlets and a television channel that claims to have history as the primary subject matter. This may partially be due to the fact that statistics are rarely taught outside of higher education, and even then statistics may not be offered or required outside of certain programs. One may argue as to why a high-school student or English major would need to take statistics, but when statistics are used every day, it is important for a more general understanding of what they mean, and how they are used.
We can take a step further and examine who exactly are teaching these statistics course. The author of the book Sense and Nonsense of Statistical Inference, Chamont Wang, claims that many researchers do not even understand the statistical methods they are applying. He cites a paper that approximated half of the articles published in medical journals at the time used statistical methods incorrectly (Wang, 1993. Glantz, 1980). And at this level of academic research, a major problem is conflict of interest. Many professors are in a situation where they are pressured to publish significant research in order to keep their jobs. Deemed “publish or perish” this environment  is lethal for the integrity of science as it puts many academics in situations where they can easily manipulate their data in order to just keep their jobs, or to continue funding. A simple Google search of “scientific misconduct” will yield thousands of studies that have been deemed invalid or fraudulent in the last decade alone.
In closing, there are an exhausting number of ways to misrepresent data, and what has been presented here is a brief overview that does not even being to scratch the surface of misinterpreting statistics. I would have liked to expanded more and more on each one of these subjects provided, but I don’t know if I would have known when to stop. While this paper has been rather bleak, I would like to note that one of the beautiful things about science is that it is always open for discussion and criticism, and with due time we may hopfully be able to cast out instances of bad research as examples of what is naught to be done.






Works Cited

Ancient Aliens Debunked. Dir. Mike Heiser. N.p., 30 Sept. 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2012.

Diez, David M., Christopher D. Barr, and Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel. OpenIntro Statistics. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2012. Print.

Evans, Bergen. The Natural History of Nonsense,. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1947. Print.

Glantz, S. A. (1980). Biostatistics: How to Detect, Correct and Prevent Errors in The Medical Literature. Vol. 61, 1-7.

Huff, Darrell, and Irving Geis. How to Lie with Statistics. New York: Norton, 1954. Print.

Introduction to SAS.  UCLA: Statistical Consulting Group. (accessed December 5, 2012).

Moore, David S. Statistics: Concepts and Controversies. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1985. Print.

Olitsky, Morris. "Misuse of Statistics a National Problem. Amstat News, 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. .

Pie3d. N.d. Photograph. Charting Control. Chartin Control. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

"The Inflation of Life - Cost of Raising a Child Has Soared." Yahoo! Finance. CNBC, 7 May 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Wang, Chamont. Sense and Nonsense of Statistical Inference: Controversy, Misuse, and Subtlety. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1993. Print.

Witelson, S. F. "Intelligence and Brain Size in 100 Postmortem Brains: Sex, Lateralization and Age Factors." Brain 129.2 (2005): 386-98. Print.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Can Cats Play Three Card Monte?


What may seem as a testament to animal cognition, this video boils down to a simple three-card monte game; as such it is an employer of misdirection and slight of hand. The commentors to the video state that the cat "understands what is happening and can play the game", or "he is finding the ball" both are false. Let us take into consideration the following:

1. There is a bell inside the cups, the cat never even needs to see what's inside. A misdirection in a sense that you think the cat is playing three card monte, when all it is doing is listening for a sound that can be heard anytime the cup is touched.

2. You never see the inside of the cups. There could simply be cat-nip or food taped on the inside. A form of slight of hand could be taking place.

3. Multiple takes were probably done until the desired results occurred.

4. The cat could have simply been conditioned to tap the "correct" shell.

5. Domesticated animals take cues from their owners and humans in general. For all the viewer knows, the owner is looking right at the correct cup, or giving off another subtle cue without even realizing she is doing it!

This video is a little more impressive as it challenges the previous criteria a little more, however the cat completes the task two out of three times. Also, the skeptic in me wants to know once again what is in that paper ball, as at the end of the video the cat knocks it down and goes for it. It all seems reminiscent of the tic-tac-toe chicken.

People tend to stare longer at things they find interesting. For example, a child without established object permanence will stare longer when an object "appears" (peek-a-boo). It would be interesting to see if when slight of hand is applied against a cat, whether or not the cat would stare longer (or at all for that matter). I just wonder which shelter would let me play three card monte with their cats for hours on end, never mind which shelters have cats well trained enough to watch. So, can cats play three card monte? I am skeptical of it, but not dismissive. A study in a controlled environment with many cats would yield an answer. If anyone  knows of studies that tested similar criteria, don't hesitate to drop a line.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hating America


Bruce Bawer's 2004 piece for the Hudson Review entitled Hating America is a must read for anyone in the "I need to leave America as soon as possible" mindset. On the coat-tails of yesterday's post the article supports my argument that while it may be a stereotype that Europeans reject American culture, they in fact eat it up. I find this quote quite compelling:
I’d always taken for granted, or even disdained—among them a lack of self-seriousness, a grasp of irony and self-deprecating humor, a friendly informality with strangers, an unashamed curiosity, an openness to new experience, an innate optimism, a willingness to think for oneself and speak one’s mind and question the accepted way of doing things. (One reason why Euro- peans view Americans as ignorant is that when we don’t know something, we’re more likely to admit it freely and ask questions.)
I recall one time at Sunday lunch with my German host family when the topic of the French language came up. I asked why the French represent large numbers by grouping certain numbers together. My host-mother's boyfriend snapped back "Well why do Americans count a different way"? I admitted I did not know. Later I learned that the French use a different sort of base number system for larger numbers. Still, the incident stuck out as an example of what openly asking questions could get me in return. At times in Germany, I felt asking inquisitive questions about my environment could get a browbeat response reminiscent of a school-yard child's opportunity to put own another in front of the other students.

Expanding into anti-Americanism after making comparisons between Europe and the U.S., Bawer got me thinking furthermore. How many people had I met that while criticized the U.S. had never set foot in it, or had bothered to learn enough about the country to know that New York City was not the capital, or that George Bush had not won the popular vote? They had not gone one to think critically outside of the taling points they learned. Futhermore, America's culture being perhaps it's major export, there is simply not one thing in Western Culture, perhaps the world, that somebody does not like about American cultre. Even Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden had Mars bars, and Coca Cola in their hideouts, respectively. Outside of the movies, television, food, drink, clothing, candy, products, guns, sports, universities and research, computers, and pornography, is there anybody left that feels excluded?

Bawer waxes on just about every point with excellent arguments. HE expands on education, food, the war in Iraq, television, anti-intellectualism, bi-bilingualism, and more. If you consider yourself a disenfranchised American, the article is a must-read.

Der Schwarzfahrer



Schwarzfahrer means 'black rider' which can be taken literally, or to mean one who is riding without a ticket. The question this video poses is 'who is the real Schwarzfahrer? The black guy? The lady who was arrested for riding black? Or.... the scooter guy, notice he never paid either? Racism is always a problem with uneducated people - no matter which skin color.

Three Weeks in France

Bart: So basically, I met one good French person.
(The Simpsons, S01E07 The Crepes of Wrath)

Previously, my only experience with France was a one day trip to Strasbourg to visit one of the capitals of the European Union. The European Union, trademarked as indecisive, decided to split the capital between Brussels and Strasbourg, costing millions of euros a year for taxpayers. Conveniently, this made one of the capitals close enough to where I was studying to warrant the teacher to have our whole class spend the day on a bus. This is the only thing I remembered from the trip, other than that I fell asleep in the front row of a presentation and woke up to a German politician taking questions from our class. My stay in the city for the day was pleasant, everyone was very friendly, despite my comprehensive knowledge of the French language being "Merci", "Je suis la jeune fille", and "Omelette du fromage".

A three day stay in Paris and the rest of the time in Tours has been more encompassing. By no means am I an expert in French culture, but to get an idea of a country you have to immerse yourself in it for a while. Endlessly entertaining are those that tell you how culturally enriching their seven day trip to London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Pompeii, and Barcelona was. That is not to say, three weeks is not a very long time either. As I mentioned before, my lackluster knowledge of the language and culture makes me think everyone is always talking about cheese, because it stands out as one of the words I know. In all fairness here is all I know about French history:
  • German and French people are terrified that one of them is gonna swim across the Rhine and kill the other.
  • Some drunk dude in a bar writes a song that becomes the national anthem.

  • Napoleon swims across the Rhine and there's a party under the Brandenburger Tor.

  • Napoleon sits in the snow outside of Moscow and then someone puts him on an island.

  • A bunch of people break into the Bastille and set free all the political prisoners and prisoners.

  • France sends troops and the Statue of Liberty to America, meanwhile Thomas Jefferson chats up some 'demoiselles. Five years later Americans forget either event happened, or that our politicians use to speak more than one language.
  • Germans swim across the Rhine and kill a bunch of French people. 
  • Germans swim across the Rhine again and kill a bunch of French people and Jews, then they take pictures at the Eiffel Tower. 

  • Tom Hanks leads a small group of American soldiers through war torn Europe in search of Matt Damon, along the way single handly winning the war in a decisive battle in some small European town or something.
  • The first McDonald's opens in France.

  • French people publicly mock fast food, while privately soliciting McDonald's three times a week.

  • France elects a socialist president. A French political science major in my political science class mistakenly admits that she does not know who which party the president of France belongs to. Americans who have never left the country complaining about Socialist France are accidentally a little bit correct.
  • As you can see, I am not well versed in the subject. Born in the 90's, growing up we were told that the French were snooty cowards that hated Americans, specifically after the invasion of Afghanistan. In high school, the well off children at the Catholic school I attended would complain about how rude the French people were. Between these off hand remarks, and Fox news telling us how we needed to boycott French cheese and wine, one would get the impression that it is not a nice place to go to.

    Fortunately, I have been staying with my girlfriend, who besides speaking French nearly fluently, has also lived here for some time as a teacher. The very first observation one will make is that there is an understandably very different reaction to speaking French and yelling in English. In line at a Christmas market vendor, the body language of the workers was photogenic in the worst way possible when an eastern European man tried yelling an order in English. We were right after, and as my girlfriend told the man what she wanted in French, the laborer handed her the order and said "C'est pour la Madamoiselle". And once again, that has been my experience for the most part, nice helpful people.

    On the other hand my girlfriend's outlook is comparable to Bart's. She has had to deal with mountains of paperwork, finding an apartment, and working in the school system here. One of the problems with getting out of the U.S (or anywhere) is that you're an outsider, and if you don't speak the language fluently (learned it before age seven) the other fluent speakers know almost immediately. My favorite story of hers was when she asked her French friend what he didn't like about America and he said "Your religion, your president (Bush), and McDonald's". And when she retorted "doesn't your roommate eat there"? He replied "Yeah, he goes there every Sunday"!

    This is sort of something that rings dissonant. I have heard Europeans state that they go great lengths to make sure that restaurants like McDonald's stay away from their monuments, and do not exist every five kilometers like in the U.S. ; this simply is not true: 

    Martins Tor in the very center of Freiburg Germany.
    Note the McDonald's restaurant underneath. Some
    children refer to it as the McDonald's Tor.
    McDonald's at Berlin Alexanderplatz
    McDonald's at the center of Tours France

    In all fairness of the last two pictures, one is in a train station and the other one is near a train station. A quick place to grab a quick bite to eat. What I cannot deny is the frequency at which I see these restaurants in European countries. Freiburg, which touts itself as being a green, student city has two McDonald's, three Starbucks, and a Burger King in the city center. I have also known the same amount of Americans and Europeans that have worked at McDonald's (two each). The truth is that there are some things people ubiquitously love. As unhealthy and greasy as it is, who is going to truthfully state there's nothing at McDonald's they don't like? I can also state from being from a Springfield that Europeans LOVE The Simpsons. "Where are you from? ... Springfield! *gasp* Like The Simpsons!" It's inevitable. My girlfriend, when teaching her students the states, they exclaimed "Les Simpsons" at the mention of Springfield, Illinois. A group of friends relayed to me that when on a school trip to Italy, the people in the restaurant started singing the theme song to the show when they learned which city they were from. The only way I can explain such behavior is that of insecurity which is focused across the Atlantic. At root an American and European have different cultural values, perhaps indulging in something like McDonald's creates a form of dissonance?

    Xenophobic is a word that I have seen tied in with French. In public online discussions however, I find that French people take an offense to being portrayed satirically. (No more, I'm sure than any person on the Internet would protest being satirised.) While in Tours, out of the ten or more Turkish run Kebab shops I have seen, seven have had their front windows broken! A recent survey of French people yielded a surprising result that one in seven French people admitted to being racist at some level. All in all, every country has a problem like this, and all across Europe politicians are saying that "maybe letting all these immigrants in was a problem". Just like Americans complaining about "illegals", not many people were saying anything when they needed hard labour at a low price. Of course, these results could mean a lot of things, for example maybe they are more willing to admit they are racist? What I want to highlight here is that as much as America gets lambasted for shitty things, France has no clean record either. For example, an anti-gay protest is scheduled in Paris today. Keep that in mind for your next angst ridden "I can't wait to graduate and move to Paris!" huff.

    As for my French cultural experience I find things for the most part similar to when I was in Germany. There are lots of baguettes, and everyone seems to dress their best every single day. This is really all that is different. With Freiburg being so close to France there is a lot of French influence in the city. French wine, cheese, and people are all close at hand, and relatively inexpensive. A long time ago I came to the realization that everyone is the same everywhere. There are cultural, geographic, and environmental differences, but for the most part people like the same things. Societies have the same types of people: there's racists, smart people, fat people, athletic people, thrill seekers, reclusives, etceteria, etceteria, and they all get defined by the political borders that hold them, or something like that...

    If A Tree Falls...


    If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Cognitive psychologists would overwhelmingly resound "no"! For a sound to exist one would have to perceive it, and with no perception, there are only unsuspecting molecules being moved. The movement of said molecules could theoretically be perceived in any way. With sound being the sensation excited in the ear itself. If there are no ears or sort of input to take in the vibration of air, there is no sound.

    While another argument deal with if an tree cannot exist without a being perceived, this does not not help with our problem at all, and we would not ever say that a particular tree behind us no longer exists because it is now outside our field of view. The falling tree existent or not, produces vibration of air.

    Friday, January 11, 2013

    Short Stories

    Inundated with science-fiction, the first draft of this post was flooded with entries by Ray Bradbury. My preoccupation with his short stories are parallel with this young woman's love for him. This list, assembled in ascending order, are recommended short stories for you. Some come from renowned authors, others from pseudo-anonymous Internet authors. I hope you find them as fascinating, thought provoking, and impactful as I have. If you have any recommendations of your own, feel free to post them in the comments.

    Ambrose Bierce - Haita The Shepard
    - A sort of dark satirist, Bierce writes on seeking happiness.

    'RICHH' - Sagan's Pizza - True or false, an interesting account of a pizza delivery to Carl Sagan.

    'Isis' - Wackers: The Secret Life of a 'Fantasy Maker' - Buried along with other such gems as "Mail Fraud" and "My Life as Santa's Rubber Clad Love Slave" in the Cult of The Dead Cow Publications are the experiences this author had as a phone sex worker.

    Ray Bradbury - Pillar of Fire - When his grave is disturbed, a man who died four centuries earlier rises from his tomb to infiltrate a utopia. On my own, I do not know if this story exists to serve any sort of metaphorical purpose. It is simply bad ass, and I daydream musical interpretations of it. Unable to find a file of it on the Internet, it is the second entry in Bradbury's science-fiction anthology S is for Space, and it follows an equally amazing story Chrysalis (reminiscent of Johnny Got His Gun, now come to think of it).

    Harlan Ellison - I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - The only survivors in the world are tortured endlessly by a sentient machine which brought on a apocalypse.

    David Sedaris - The Santaland Diaries - Now a tradition for NPR's This American Life to play every Christmas time, this story cannot be found online, however audio transcripts read by Sedaris himself are plentiful. The actual text can be found in the back of Barrel Fever.


    Ambrose Beirce - An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge - Made into a Twilight Zone episode, this classic short story is set during the Civil War, where a man is about to hang for being a Confederate sympathizer.

    George Orwell - Shooting An Elephant - A metaphor for imperialism, Orwell's essay is an account of an experience he (probably) had while being stationed in Burma.

    Ray Bradbury - The Pedestrian - Originally I wanted to post The Tonybee Convector, but I have a penchant for dystopias instead utopias. Perhaps the two stories belong together, as together they display Bradbury's love and disdain of what the future could be.

    A random entry from the ASSTR - The Alt.Sex.Stories Text Repository is an archive of virtually every adult story posted on the Internet, dating back to the aforementioned Usenet group, Alt.Sex.Stories. One cannot possibly imagine the bizarre "erotic" fantasises posted here. To say that Freud would have had a field day here is a gross understatement.