A story by Ricks, Fry, and A. R. Caldwell

He left me and I don’t know why.

I was in a place I didn’t recognize, although I knew it was a tomb. The gravestones spoke of centuries of death. Generations upon generations rested here. I thought of their bones, if they knew what we were doing, and what would become of us should we succeed.

It didn’t matter, when it came down to it, but it comforted me to think that I wasn’t the first to end their days here. I trudged forward, dragging my feet and sword in the dust beneath me. It seemed to swirl in the air and move before me, though the air around me was still.

And there it was, the stone I had been looking for, the stone of my Fathers. Here lay the remains of my bloodline. My cigarette began to taste bitter like plastic before I noticed it was nearly done. I padded it out in the dirt. Perhaps stamping it out wasn’t the best idea, but it was my typical move. The trap I activated with my foot made a stone wall tumble down to my right, and the ceiling crumbled down on my left.

I raised my sword, ready to fight. My handgun would be useless against these foes. The beat on my right was a lion mated with dragon, and the mechanism to my left was death made from stone. The dragon-lion ran two paces and lept into the air with a flap of its wings. I pulled myself behind a giant stone as it slid to a stop and turned to face me with the stone beast behind it.

I would have to fight one or the other, and I charged between them, slashing at the lion-dragon to distract him as I garnered the stone giant’s attention. I lit a certain substance and slid it between my lips and took a deep puff. I decided it’s better to use cold steel, my sword, against a dragon-lion than a rock being born of earth.
It raised tis claws, but I held my ground and my sword was steady. I brought it down from high guard and struck the beast in its muzzle. The stone contraption rushed from behind it and slashed its blade. I rolled out of the way, and just in time, for a chunk of ground raised up from behind me from the blow of the rock guardian.

The lion-dragon was quick on the counterattack. I was quicker to grab the stone, stuffing in my pocket while extracting my flask. I took a long pull from the flask and threw the empty husk at the lion-dragon. As it slashed at the flask I swung, and hacked its paw off with one clean cut. I steadied myself, and turned just in time to catch a wailing blow from a stone fist, sending me sliding across the floor into a wall.

Blood flowed from my lip. I slouched forward only to realize my sword, cigarettes and flask were flung from my body and spread across the room. As I scrambled for my sword, the lion-dragon roared, and drew itself upward, hesitating only a moment before folding its wings and diving directly for me.

I can only thank my ancestors that I had grabbed the stone of ym Fathers in time. I used its power to block the lion-dragon, sending it back against the wall. The stone machine was close behind, but not close enough. The stone of my Fathers brought my will against its own, and proved mine own the worthier.

With a burst of fury the stone projected an energy unknown to me at the time. I turned from the blinding flash only to witness molten earth. I tucked the stone away in a small pouch along my belt as I sensed a lions eyes and dragons heaving breath closing on my back. The stone guardian was gone, but I had neglected the beast.

“Fuck you, you piece of shit!” I shouted, for it had taken my partner so many years before. I thrust the stone of my Fathers at it, only to watch the light grow dim. I shook it. Nothing. The lion growl the filled the dark silence shivered my bones.

I sighed and raised my sword. “Come on, you piece of fuck shit.” It lurked still in the darkness. It was a youthful and tacky attempt to invoke fear in me. However, I knew my Fathers would not steer me wrong like my mate of past. I stayed fast with blade in hand. However, a cigarette lay on the ground stern right to my position. It would be dangerous to grab even attempt to grab it due to the fact that a serenaded tail could whip across my path any time.
I did not hesitate what-so-ever.
The cigarette rested between my lips before the beast could blink, and my flaks was but a jump away. The lion-dragon struck with its reamaining forepaw, and I with my sword. It was no match for me, for with the power of my ancestors, I crushed through its flesh as easily as a knife slices butter. I reached my flask in no time. “Fathers be with me,” I whispered as I touched ember to fuel.

But the beast did not explode with my intentions. The lion roared and dragon breathed fire, but neither at me nor blade or stone. A crushing blow of reality swept upon us from above and washed over my proper realm.
I was left abandoned in thought, wandering in the strange lands alone. Flask in hand. For nothing appeared to me now save the desert dunes.

The same old song: The power of familiarity in music choice

Hello there!

I recently heard about a study published this past May. Its title is the same as the title of this post. The study states that consumers prefer familiar music over unfamiliar music, although consumers will say that they prefer to hear new music (I believe that it should be noted that throughout the study, the authors refer to unfamiliar music as “novelty music”). If you want to read it before my analysis, which is a good idea, please follow this link: http://apps.olin.wustl.edu/faculty/goodman/same%20old%20song.pdf.

Done yet? Excellent. Reading below, you’ll find it no secret that I strongly disagree with the results.

First off, something I find very interesting is that the authors totally ignore variety, going instead for what is familiar. They, in fact, admit this in a footnote:

In this research, we concentrate on familiarity, and do not address variety or variety-seeking. Variety
refers to the number of different items in an assortment (Broniarczyk et al. 1998; McAlister and Pessemier
1982; Ratner et al. 1999), and variety-seeking refers to the desire to consume a diverse set of items. A very
diverse assortment could include all familiar or all unfamiliar goods, and a very homogenous assortment
could likewise vary a great deal in familiarity. In other words, high variety does not imply low familiarity
and vice versa.

There is a vast difference between the desire for new music and a desire for a variety in music. Turn on DC101 (for us in the WMA) for a couple hours, and you’ll hear at least two of the most popular songs played at least two times each. Beside that, you’ll hear the same songs within that two hour period repeated multiple times throughout the day. What this shows shows is a strong lack of variety. When consumers say they want to hear new music, it is quite possible that they mean is that they want to hear a larger variety. There are many independent artists that play familiar-sounding music, but the bands themselves would be considered new to anyone who hasn’t heard them. The study did not address this.

Another problem with the study is that the participants did not actually listen to the songs that they chose! They were presented with a list of 48 songs and band names that the authors believed the participants would be familiar with. This list was broken down into 24 songs that are played more on the radio, and 24 that are played less. These were then paired, so that participants would see a familiar song paired with a less familiar (although not necessarily new; something the study neglects to mention) song. The participants were asked to choose which one they prefer, after they had stated whether they like new music or familiar music. Based on this information, the authors determined that participants prefer familiar music.

The authors did not take into account factors such as social acceptance, whether participants were just going along with what was popular, or the “cool factor.” I find the lack of information there very troubling, considering all of the participants were undergraduates, who as well all know are very susceptible to peer pressure. It would be very interesting to see this same study done on a wider age group.

That’s just a couple things wrong with this study. I must be off to work my novel.

In closing, it is very important, not just for personal entertainment but for enrichment of our culture as well, to listen to wide variety of music, both familiar and unfamiliar.

 

Thanks for reading! Please share with me your own thoughts on this study, should you have them :)

Scene: middle of the street

 

It’s night and I can hear people dreaming. See their thoughts float up into empty space? Out of all these houses, a thousand images drift upward. I can grab one and make it dark, or make it bright, depending on my mood.

I want to scare someone. Why? I’m fucked up like that.

In this man’s dream is a woman, one of the most beautiful that you have ever seen. I make her ugly, turning her skin to ash and her hair to webs. He wakes and the image is gone and he goes on with his night. He will not sleep again.

I have never slept, for fear of dreaming. So small am I, but look what I can do. Imagine the others in the night and what they may do to me.

Over there, a few houses down, you can see a dream of aliens, and the dreamer herself can jump ten feet high. I make the aliens evil. They rise into their ships and give her such a feeling of terror as she has never known. She stands clutching her heart to her chest, too frightened to wake.

We’ll leave it at that.

Don’t look behind you…

Excerpt from yesterday’s writing:

 “Our current mission involves the targeting of a serial killer, who has so far kept his activities within the borders of this mega-structure. He has evaded the action squads, the police investigators, and ourselves. I want to show you a video.” The major looked at the wall behind Mary. The wall became a hallway in one of the middle levels of the building. Mary recognized the scene; it was outside one of the largest shopping centers in the entire city.

The time must have been late at night or early in the morning. The holographic sky was black and littered with stars. A few people milled about, mostly homeless and hobos coughing in corners against the walls. Trash was everywhere, as was normally the case in any popular section of any building.

A man wearing a hooded cloak entered the scene. He walked down the hallway at a quick pace. Mary noticed that the shadows of objects and other individuals were faint, the streetlights casting them in several different directions. The cloaked man had a shadow that was solid black.

He had yet to pass near another person. When he did, his shadow, like pure night, reached out to cover an old man who had passed out against a wall. When the shadow returned to the shape of the man’s figure, the old man was gone. No sign of him remained.

“What the hell?” Mary said, unable to hold the curse back. “What happened? And how did you get this video? Is this real?”

“Please, just watch for now,” Mike said. Major Tom was intent on the content of the holographic screen.

Mary hesitated before turning around to watch. The hooded man continued his walk without even a turn of his head toward where his victim had lain. When he passed the people in the hallway, the shadow reached out toward its prey, seeming to erase them from existence. Ten, maybe twelve people, gone into nothing, not even dust, before the cloaked man walked out of the view of the camera. The wall returned to its normal concrete face.

Major Tom sighed. “I’ll answer your last question first. Yes, this is real. For your first question, we don’t know. As to your second, there are cameras planted all over Friendship City. Some of them are ours. The others are privately owned surveillance cameras that we have the legal authority to tap into.”

“You just watch us for fun?” Mary said. Her eyes burned into Major Tom’s.

“We do what is necessary to protect this city. The last thing I wanted was to take you in on this mission. Specifically you is who my superiors asked for. I understand their reasoning, but my attempts to show them why they are wrong have failed. So, here we are. Either you can listen up or you can walk out to an uncertain fate.”

“That’s a threat.”

“It’s a true statement. Listen to what we have to say, or you will go back to just being a gladiator, a tool of entertainment to control the populace.”

Just being, Mary thought. She calmed herself and heard her heart beating in her eardrums. A cold feeling formed in her stomach. Just being…