Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writerly Update: 3/14

Recently, I've taken a hiatus to devote more time to studying for this damn GRE in English Literature Subject test, which is quite hard, and which I need to pursue a PhD. You can stay updated with all things me by following me on Twitter, Liking my Facebook page, adding me to your circles on Google+, or subscribing to the blog.

On the plus side, a short story of mine (about early mistakes in writing, finding the muse, etc, really kind of depressing, actually) was lately accepted and should be published soon. More details later. Another story is being considered. I've got some new poems I'm tweaking. (I like to take my time. So many rush to publication!) And I've got a novel, or novella, I'm currently writing the fourth draft to.

Do not despair, my Noguerreros!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Knocked Out: Evolution Fail?

OK, this may seem a bit obscure, but I've been thinking, mostly subconsciously, over the past month or so about the evolutionary function of being knocked out. Yes, I think about stuff like this. I guess it all started for me during the whole knockout game scare, which gives you an idea of how long I've been thinking about this. (I even posted the question online, "What's the evolutionary function of being knocked out?" It got no responses.) I can't blame people. Being knocked out doesn't seem to have any evolutionary advantage at all. I mean, once you're incapacitated you are at the mercy of your assailant - you can be killed! It makes no sense for the brain to shut off like that and leave you helpless. Shouldn't the brain prolong consciousness to aid you as much as possible?

But I wasn't even sure if it was a valid question. What I mean is, what if it's more a question of biological limits than evolution? For instance, if you get stabbed in the heart, you'll die. Yes, it would be nice if there was some evolutionary thing whereby you could grow another heart or something else took on the work of the heart, but that's just not biologically possible. Maybe that's not the best example. Your heart is pretty protected by your ribcage, and your brain by your skull. But being knocked out, while being an injury to your brain, doesn't permanently damage your brain. Being repeatedly knocked out mostly likely does, but what I'm saying is that your brain is more or less fine afterward.

The answer I think came to me while watching the UFC. When someone is knocked out, the fight is over. When you are knocked out, the knockout game is over. And I've seen some videos of fights online, though not all are like these, when the attacker stops after knocking the victim unconscious. So being knocked unconscious is the human equivalent of those sheep that get all rigid when you scare them or playing possum. Aggression is primitive, instinctual. It is often connected with pride, as a recent Finnish study indicates. (Notice the similarities between anger and pride.) By playing dead, or in the case of humans by being unconscious, we negate the stimuli that resulted in the aggression - if that stimuli had to do with us, such as being defiant or insulting. We, the knocked out person, are no longer a threat. Therefore, violence is no longer necessary. It is no coincidence then that apparent death is so widespread a behavior in the animal kingdom.

Of course, the biological mechanism, as I'm saying it is, doesn't always work. Sometimes the assailant keeps going. I've seen videos of this too. Perhaps they're fighting for other reasons, are full of hate, or are sociopaths. But once a person is out, whether the initial fighting can be justified or not as self-defense, it is clearly wrong to continue to assault him/her. The person is no longer a threat and you are free to leave the scene.

This mechanism, and I could be wrong and this may just be biological as mentioned, at least gives the knocked out person a chance. That alone, I think, would be highly heritable. If you remain conscious and can move, the aggressor will have no signal to stop until you are seriously incapacitated, crippled, or dead.

I'd like also to take this time to emphasize the importance of not being knocked out in a fight. If you can avoid it, please do. Cover up. Don't take too many punches to the face, which soften you up. Bob and weave. There's no telling what could happen to you if you're knocked out. You're literally at the mercy of someone else. Of course, avoiding fights altogether is a much safer strategy, and something we should all strive to do.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

50 Must-Reads for English Majors

I was sort of inspired to do this list by Amazon's "100 Books to Read in a Lifetime." No doubt, a marketing ploy. Most of the books, I'd agree you should read before you die. Some reappear on this list. This list is rather similar but less ambitious. I've also been inspired by all the reading I've been doing in preparation for the GRE Literature in English test. The following list is made up of the books that I think all English majors should read by the time they finish college. (Note, there are some titles that I haven't read!) I'm sure I'll leave stuff out. But that's lit.

Certain works are important because of when they were created or for signaling the start or end of a movement, even if they might not stand up to today's standards - though most of these do! These are our literary accomplishments as a species - be proud and cherish them. (Including shorter works would have forced me to create an exhaustive list, which I don't really care for right now.)  So, in (possibly erroneous) chronological order:

  1. Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. Bible by God
  3. Iliad by Homer
  4. Odyssey by Homer
  5. Aeneid (like near year 1) by Virgil
  6. Beowulf (c. late-700s)
  7. The Divine Comedy (early-1300s) by Dante
  8. Piers Plowman (c. 1360) by Langland
  9. Canterbury Tales (late-1300s) by Chaucer
  10. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (late-1300s) by Pearl Poet
  11. Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595) by Shakespeare
  12. Henry IV, Part 1 (c. 1597) by Shakespeare
  13. Julius Caesar (c. 1599) by Shakespeare
  14. Hamlet (c. 1600) by Shakespeare
  15. Othello (c. 1603) by Shakespeare
  16. King Lear (c. 1604) by Shakespeare
  17. Macbeth (c. 1606) by Shakespeare
  18. Paradise Lost (1667) by Milton
  19. Pilgrim's Progress (1678) by Bunyan
  20. 1,001 Nights (1706 in English)
  21. Robinson Crusoe (1719) by Defoe
  22. Tristram Shandy (1759-67) by Sterne
  23. Lyrical Ballads (1798) by Coleridge and Wordsworth
  24. Frankenstein (1818) by Shelley
  25. The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Hawthorne
  26. Moby-Dick (1851) by Melville
  27. Great Expectations (1861) by Dickens
  28. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Carroll
  29. Anna Karenina (1877 in English) by Tolstoy
  30. The Decameron (1886 in English) by Boccaccio
  31. Jude the Obscure (1895) by Hardy
  32. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) by Wilde
  33. Heart of Darkness (1899) by Conrad
  34. Course in General Linguistics (1916) by Saussure
  35. Winesburg, Ohio (1919) by Anderson
  36. Ulysses (1922) by Joyce
  37. The Great Gatsby (1925) by Fitzgerald
  38. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Woolf
  39. The Sun Also Rises (1926) by Hemingway
  40. The Sound and the Fury (1929) by Faulkner
  41. Grapes of Wrath (1939) by Steinbeck
  42. The Stranger (1942) by Camus
  43. The Diary of Anne Frank (1947)
  44. Nineteen-Eighty Four (1949) by Orwell
  45. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by Salinger
  46. The Old Man and the Sea (1951) by Hemingway
  47. Waiting for Godot (1953) by Beckett
  48. Lolita (1955) by Nabokov 
  49. Ficciones (1962 in English) by Borges
  50. The Pleasure of the Text (1973) by Barthes
And some heavily recommended books (in no particular order):
  • Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Diaz
  • Norwegian Wood by Murakami
  • To the Lighthouse by Woolf
  • Tess of the D'urbervilles by Hardy
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
  • The Trial by Kafka
  • Wuthering Heights by E. Bronte
  • Jane Eyre by C. Bronte
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
  • No Exit by Camus
  • The Time Machine by Wells
  • The Interpreter of Maladies by Lahiri
  • On the Road by Kerouac 
  • Things Fall Apart by Achebe
  • A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway
  • Nausea by Sartre
  • Silence by Endo
  • Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami
  • Nature by Emerson
  • As I Lay Dying by Faulkner
  • Light in August by Faulkner
  • Tender Is the Night by Fitzgerald
  • Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Hardy
  • All or most of Shakespeare, Dickens, Hemingway, Faulkner
I know there are other important books for English majors. (Some other works I was considering including but decided against were long poems, such as The Waste Land or The Rape of the Lock.) But I'm tired now.