Fear, focus, and the future. Here, C.M. Humphries writes about whatever.
Maybe you've heard someone joke about sleeping on a textbook to "absorb" the information through their skull. Or perhaps you've come across a joke about listening to a foreign language while your sleep so you can wake up completely fluent. Many of us wish it could all be true - that we could pick up skills in our sleep. According to researchers are Northwestern University, it might be possible.
Slow-Wave Sleep + Music
During the Northwestern study, volunteers were taught how to create computer-generated music with precise key presses. Once they learned a portion of the tune, researchers then asked them to sleep for 90 minutes. This sort of sleep is referred to a "deep" or "slow-wave" sleep and is often associated with memory building.
During REM, the participants would dream and imagine situations based on their stored knowledge. During deep sleep, their minds would rummage through everything that just happened. If they were learning music, they would process information on music, though in an almost dreamlike state.
Researchers continued the music while the participants slept, playing soft, slow notes until the tune was over. When the participants woke up and continued playing the songs, there were less errors.
So how does this work?
Learning While You Sleep?
The age-old myth that you can learn a foreign language while you sleep is sure to come to mind, said Paul J. Reber, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern and a co-author of the study.
“The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,” Reber said. “Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”
There unfortunate news is you probably can't learn new things while you sleep. To summarize, if you were to practice a song and then listen to it in your sleep, you might wake up with the song memorized or with some sort of knowledge concerning how to play the song.
As far as the foreign language goes, it might be possible to spend a day studying it and then sleeping with an audio lesson playing softly. Let's hope so, because I always wanted to sleep during my Spanish courses and this would let me do both at once.
What's interesting is the idea of sound. While researchers suppose there are more ways to study during deep sleep, the concept of "playing" something keeps popping up.
Would an audio book work?
Reading In Your Sleep
Under the same theory, it might be possible to read during the day and sleep with an audio book playing at night to retain some knowledge. In fact, Ray Bradbury explores the theory in Fahrenheit 451, when Faber reads the Book of Job to Montag. In Auldous Huxley's Brave New World , humans are preconditioned through sleep-learning.
I would argue this would work more with nonfiction than fiction itself. You can probably fill in the blanks of a story based on factual information. Of course, if a fiction novel is realistic in terms of story and plot development, then the same notion might come to fruition.
For now, why don't you tell me if you've ever read or learned in your sleep? I once was in a sleepwalk-like state and wrote a story outline on the wall of my college dorm. What strange things have you accomplished in your sleep?
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Here's something that's pissing me off:
"It now seems clear that Zombies have firmly displaced vampires as this season's go-to monster." - James F. Broderick, The Huffington Post
When the estrogen-driven vampire craze arrived in literature and then in film (yep, where do you think cinema finds it's ideas?), I was a young college dweeb overwhelmed by the tintinnabulation of Ball State's Bell Tower and laughter coming from apartments and dormitories, which ultimately denied me the chance to stand against the blood-sucking invasion.
My fear at the time was that Bram Stoker would become so enraged with certain works that he would rise from the grave, undead, and come to devour all of mankind.
Now as an active writer, I want to lead the resistance. My initial approach was to write an intense new view on the zombie that would remind everyone why the creature is cool and should stay in the realm of the cult.
I mean, our parents were stoked after seeing Night of the Living Dead by George Romero in 1968, but you know what they did? They didn't go out and wear zombie-faced clothes, make memes about bath salts, or drag zombies into the sea of mainstream reruns. No, they went out and smoked some pot or dropped a little acid and became part of one of the greatest movements that lead into the next twenty years.
Since drugs are super-illegal now (although a bit more ubiquitous), I suggest we make sure the zombie doesn't lose whatever it is the zombie has. We actually learned about zombies in one of the earliest surviving works in literature.
Don't believe me?
from the epic of Gilgamesh:
Ishtar spoke to her father, Anu, saying:
"Father, give the Bull of Heaven,
so he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up and eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!"
So let's keep the zombie in tact.
Most Zombies Won't Kill You . . . ?
One of the most famous real-life stories of zombism comes from 1982. This is a story of a man from Haiti named Clairvius Narcisse who was sold in 1962 to a zombie master by his brothers, buried, and unburied to work on a plantation as a zombie slave. Once his master died, he went on to wander around the sugar plantation for almost 20 years until the zombie spell wore off. One day in the market, he spotted his sister from the past and they reunited after sharing stories only they would know. It actually became a book (The Serpent and the Rainbow) and several movies, proving the entertainment industry will saturate anything.
Harvard enthnobiologist Dr. Wade Davis (author of The Serpent and the Rainbow) researched the story to see if there was any truth behind it. He discovered that puffer fish and toad skin can kill someone without killing them, so to speak. The idea is, victims are drugged with theses toxins to a point before death, and then after hallucinations can be so severe they create memory loss. If a skilled voodoo priest performed these tasks appropriately, the victim would know nothing else besides what the master has taught it. However, after awhile, the drugs wear off.
There's quite a bit of controversy behind this story, so the answers are left in question. Whether it's possible to create a zombie or not, it seems they won't kill you until you order them to. Of course, if the victim is alive once the drugs wear off, then you'll probably have one pissed off mad man who wants nothing more than your blood.
If you want to stop entertainment companies from over-saturating zombies like they did vampires, become a skilled voodoo priest and turn their friends into zombies. Once they see this, they'll either pale in fear or sell-out their friends for some quick cash.
Just because it rises from the grave doesn't make it a zombie. There's a notion, that, when people are buried, they stay buried. You know, because they're dead.
There are also numerous urban legends about being buried alived, which have been made into countless novels and movies for a cheap buck. What's really unfortunate is some of these legends aren't legends at all.
In the 19th Century, people were buried alive more often than anyone would care to admit. At the break of the 20th Century, William Tebb tried to collect every true story of premature burial that he could find. Tebb's main prerogative was to find out how such a phenomenon could happen and to find the right preventive measures. Nonetheless, he found far more cases than he expected. How many did he find, you ask?
There were 219 known cases of premature burial and 149 cases in which embalming and dissection began without the person actually being dead-dead. Lucky for us, our medical science has evolved to the point we can bring someone back from near-death or comas, as well as bring them to such states.
Maybe if we have more patients escaping the grave and rushing over to California, we could stop the zombie abuse. Then again, they'll probably accept death at the hands of pissed-off undeads as they film the entire scenario.
Call From the Grave
You know what's interesting? Zombies never make phone calls. It's more of a ghost thing to call from the grave, but since we're all pretty much slaves to technology - myself included - it seems to make sense that a barely functional individual could thumb a few buttons before their hand falls off.
Zombie spells and premature burials aren't the only true stories that lead us to encounters with the undead. In fact, in 2008, Charles Peck died during a tragic Metrolink derailment. After his family watched the dreadful news and were told he died in the wreck, they claimed they received around 30 calls from his cell phone. Once the destruction was cleaned up, a search crew found Peck's body. Indeed, he died during the wreck.
There's a couple theories I've come up with: A) He landed on his phone. This wouldn't explain the unique calls, however, unless they were assigned similarly in his contacts. B) He was alive for a short while after the wreck, but in bad shape. He might've made the calls for help before his body gave out.
Although this is surely in bad taste, if you ever find yourself in a near-death situation, call someone in the entertainment industry and threaten to haunt them if they make a zombie flick out of you.
(Another interesting aspect to this case is, that, a Metrolink engineer sent out texts mere seconds before the crash happened. It's not that the engineer knew death was imminent, but he sent out 50-plus texts during his shift. The timing of the texts hints that he missed a signal about the incoming freight-train due to looking down at a his phone.)
Apology for Any Bad Aftertastes
As the title conveys, I apologize for any witticisms made in poor taste. However, I aim to prove a point that there's a reason stories from the grave and of the undead are taken so seriously.
Zombie tales should not be romanticized in any sense and they shouldn't be funny. There's nothing funny about the aforementioned events, accept maybe the cheesy don't-text-while-driving ending to the train wreck. (Is God a hack horror writer too?) These tales should criticize social, medical, and scientific experimentation. They should refer to our society and provide precautions.
If you think my comments were a little low-brow, just wait until some desperate writer teams up with a greedy movie-maker to create a zombie flick in the same vain of Twilight. When women are surrendering themselves as slaves to powerful, undead, shiny creatures, no one will be happy.
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In 1914, Rebecca West wrote about "The Duty of Harsh Criticism" in The New Republic, which by large, focused on the way reviewers were starting to cheer on authors rather than provide gut-checking feedback. Eight days ago, Ruth Franklin spoke on a similar topic after she received the 2012 Roger Shattuck in literary criticism from the Center of Fiction. While Franklin was surprised to earn an award she once never knew existed, she was even more surprised to discover the limited amount of book reviewers in 2012.
It's true: While the number of unique novels and authors is increasing, the number of book reviewers or critics is on a decline. It's not a bad gig to be paid to read all day and then submit what you thought about a certain work of fiction. In fact, for most writers, a book reviewer career can be tempting at times. How often do writers come across other people who like to talk about the craft of writing and what they thought of a certain book. If the job's so great, why aren't there more reviewers?
West's idea of the critic turning into more of a publicist than anything else pales in comparison to the 2012 book reviewer. As a matter of fact, you can even Tweet book reviewers today and they'll be happy to review your book. It's almost always positive feedback when they do.
In part, the positive feedback in an online article works to, not only draw more attention to your novel and personal website, but also its products and journal. The term circle-jerk comes to mind every time I think about certain aspects of the writing world.
However, I wouldn't mind some negative criticism from time to time, especially if it's constructive. A writer encounters far too much criticism in college, but then almost none when they finally publish a work. Maybe the difference is, in college, you're being reviewed by other egocentric aspiring writers, whereas in the real world you face readers and critics trying to solidify their opinion.
However, with the evolution of digital publishing, there are more and more books out there, which would lead you to think there would be more reviewers - more people calling you a terrible writer. But there aren't.
One of my goals in life is to have a book banned. How can a book become banned if none is calling it too controversial?
Many writers struggle with obtaining professional reviews. And let's face it, with the number of books out there, it's rather tough to find an established reviewer who isn't busy. Even with the lack of reviews today, I often hear when other authors receive feedback it comes with very few jeers. Seriously, one or two complains about your work isn't a lot considering the number of rejections that came before the book was even published.
Reviewers and novelists have a strange relationship. In Franklin's words, " . . . [S]ome parasites are essential."
Reviewers need great novelist to challenge their criticism and bring their name into public light. Likewise, novelist need reviewers to not only advertise their works but also make sure there's a gatekeeper, someone who decides what work of fiction exceeds the status quo.
Writers don't become professionals over night because they are simply good writers. The best writers come from those who say "no" and claim their dream is impossible. Likewise, they strive for a "yes" with reason.
Without someone to describe the Northern Lights, we can only assume it's beautiful. Beautiful without how or why, however, can describe almost anything.
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I don't know about you, but sometimes when I'm roaming the Internet for interesting blog topics, I inevitably stumble on some site about drugs. It might not be a bad idea to document psychedelic experiences, since in it is science after all. We're talking about changing the chemical composition of the human body and trying to identify the results.
The unfortunate part about such reports on these experiences is that sometimes the comments are from a bunch of burnouts and sound a lot like, "Man, I'm so high" or "I was trippin' balls." In order to figure out how the brain responds to psychedelics, Matthew Baggot (University of Chicago) and a few colleagues are working on a way for computer-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide a much more precise portrayal of each individual trip.
Making DMT Less Cool Sounding.
There are sites like Erowid that pride themselves on documenting the complexity of the human-to-drug relationship. Unlike many other sites, Erowid can boast it provides scientific information, general experience information, street knowledge, and warnings about the most popular drugs from tobacco to MDMA to DMT.
Baggot and crew have decided to take information from each site and run it through their algorithms. For instance, DMT and Savlia are different substances with different effects, but information describing the experiences of both have very familiar descriptions. If both drugs were to be smoked, the AI would see similarities since they both hit the bloodstream at a fast rate. While the information from the AI is still in progress, it seems to be that the AI could accurately describe psychedelic experiences, point out similarities and differences, and perhaps figure out what thoughts derived while or after using a certain drug.
Figuring Out How Bath Salts Turn Humans Into Zombies.
Although it's not the main intent behind the robo-tripping experiment, the information gathered could explain why people think what they do under the influence. In another words, they could hypothesize why bath salts have lead to over 15 stories of crime. My argument is that bath salts are more like PCP than cocaine or marijuana, but I only know what I've been taught in psychology courses and really dramatic Just-Say-No videos from the 1980s. Besides, Patrick Bateman snorted some coke in American Psycho and ended up murdering dozens of women in his thoughts, right?
I guess the most interesting part of this topic to me centers around artists. Believe it or not, a lot of artists have been known to experiment a time or two in their lives. I'm just wondering if this science will be able to determined where certain painters obtained their ideas, or where writers like Poe, King, or Huxley found their inspiration.
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The more you learn, the more you obfuscate.
Ever have one of those ha-I-got-you moments with someone of incredible intelligence, only to lose an argument? For instance, someone who is generally right all of the time messes up and you call them out. You point out the flaws in their argument, but then they rationalize their claims to such depths the any other human being would drown in thought. This is just one of the many ways a smart person, who is wrong, can make themselves sound right.
In this recent The New Yorker Post, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, discovered most smart people are actually pretty stupid.
For years, he's been asking very simple questions that require a minute portion of analysis and arithmetic. In the article, they ask:
In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
You're probably tempted to just divide the end of the data in half, which would mean it takes 24 days for the patch to cover the entire lake. However, it's kind of like the doubling-penny scenario they teach you in grade school (if you gave 1 penny on day 1 and 2pennies on day 2, etc). We're talking about doubling each day, which means it would take 47 days for the lily pads to cover half the lake.
In short, the more you know, the more bullshit you can use to take shortcuts. Instead of looking at the facts and doing some basic math, you might try to take a shortcut and then rationalize your answer with everything else you know.
4. In with the new, in with the old.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concludes that more intelligent people find difficulty in overcoming their biases. It's rather easy for them to point out everyone else's flaws, but mostly because they've made similar mistakes.
If you're the sports-minded type, you've probably had that coach who gave you hell. I know I've had one. It's because they had a shortcoming in their athletic career and it pains them to see the same mistake happening again before their eyes. In essence, they want you to achieve what they couldn't. They feel, if they punish you for mistakes they even made, it will make you the best performer possible.
Unfortunately, with the more intellectually inclined, you're less likely to admit you're correcting someone for their benefit. What happens is smarter people can consume so much information and apply it day after day. If you were to hold a bias while in college, but then you learned how to correct your fallacies, then you're more likely to explore new solutions and drop your bias. In the end, though, you might end up losing your cool with someone making the same mistake. How stupid of them, right?
On the other hand, if there's a certain thought process that's part of your code, it stays there. All the new information you encounter will become ammo for your weapon of justification. In articles related to this study, some suggest this is the very reason people with high IQs favor creationism, but I don't write about religion. You'll have to find these debates and draw conclusions for yourself.
The big idea behind this centers around the idea of biases before your "became smart". If it was at the core of your thinking and personality, you're likely to argue it with far-fetched concepts that you can piece together in a narrative ever so eloquently.
3. The Great Narrator
For this argument, you have to assume someone who is smart is also a great communicator.
The reason an intelligent person can out-argue anyone - even when they're wrong - is because they can take an set of abstract points and string together in such away you'd think they're the best writer, actor, or president ever.
The ability to sound smart, however, does not mean you're always right. You just think you're right.
2. Recognising errors
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< Here's a quick link to Gazzaniga's Who's In Charge, which is definitely an intriguing read on how our minds work, especially with topics related to this blog post.
I recommend checking it out. It might even give you some great ideas for your next story. Fiction may be strange, but nothing is stranger than reality. Likewise, nothing makes for a better fiction story than reality.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.