Social Fabric of New York

Humans of New York: Stories
Brandon Stanton
Macmillan Australia
October 2015

HONYStories_smIf there’s one thing that Humans of New York: Stories makes clear, it’s that everyone is the hero of his or her own story. And while, yes, this is something that each of us knows, on an intellectual level, applies to every one of us, it can nevertheless cause a quiet unraveling in the confidence of self to read snippets of people’s stories, their everyman journey, and witness the illusion of gravitational pull they perceive of their own life. Because, once you see it, laid out on the page, you then become increasingly aware of the illusion that exists within your own perception, and gravity begins to loosen, and you begin to drift.

To go one step further, Humans of New York: Stories is, perhaps unintentionally, a fascinating glimpse into the construction of self that we all experience throughout our life. Continue reading

One Sheep, Two Sheep…zzz

Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad
Richard Stephens
Hachette Australia
July 2015

BlackSheep_smUnfortunately, Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad is a book entirely deserving of the shadowy mist of obscurity. It’s hard to think of another popular science book so disorganised. Richard Stephens is so enamoured to show us the hidden benefits of being bad, that he writes a book filled with flawed research, unsupported conclusions, referencing that wouldn’t get through a first year lab report, and dumbed down explanations of scientific concepts (“This is what we call replication”). No doubt he’s a man who can sell himself; it’s just a shame he seemingly can’t deliver. Being bad? ‘Bad’ has more than one meaning, and Richard Stephens may not have achieved the sort of bad he wanted to.

On the surface, Black Sheep pulls us in with the promise of vice justified. There’s a certain cool factor associated with bad behaviour; it embodies defiant rule breaking in opposition to social norms that try to constrain and define us. By being bad we signpost our independence. After all, don’t we know that those who break the rules are ultimately the ones who change the world? There’s something seductive about the idea; that small, everyday bad behaviour is simply a precursor to wider participation in the great waves of social, organisational and technological change. Continue reading

The World is Full of Lying Liars

HonestTruthAboutDishonestyTHE (HONEST) TRUTH ABOUT DISHONESTY: HOW WE LIE TO EVERYONE – ESPECIALLY OURSELVES
Dan Ariely
HarperCollins, July 2013, RRP $19.99

Look, don’t tell anyone. This is just between you and me. I have, on occasion, fudged my timesheets. There, I’ve said it. Of course, I only ever fudged a little. A smidgen, really. Imagine the fine thickness of my fingernail; that’s the degree to which I’ve fudged the occasional timesheet.

It can be that way with casual work. If you work a longer than your scheduled shift, you write down exactly, to the minute, when you finish. But perhaps, on a shift, you finish a tad early (just a little, right?). Well, you were expecting to be paid for a full shift, so it’s only fair to round up to include those final 5 minutes, right? Or 10? Or 15? Continue reading

Gorillas Everywhere

InvisibleGorillaTHE INVISIBLE GORILLA: AND OTHER WAYS OUR INTUITION DECEIVES US
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
First published 2010

If you’re the kind of person who tends to think you’re always right, then this is the book for you. The Invisible Gorilla takes us bit by bit through faulty processes within the mind. Think in terms of optical illusions, but instead of our perception of an object being distorted, it’s our perception of everyday experience that gets twisted through the activity of being interpreted into thought.

Continue reading

Keep On Shulgin’

myersbriggs

GIFTS DIFFERING: UNDERSTANDING PERSONALITY TYPE

Myers, Isabel Briggs & Myers, Peter B. (Davies-Black Publishing, 1980; ISBN 089106074X)

The clock showed three when the speeding person made his move. He’d stalked me since two, prowling around the edge of the conversation, waiting to detach me from the herd. The need to verbalise his jumbled thoughts to some listener beat like a fever behind his eyes.

I knew a carnivore when I saw one, but the room’s shadows made him almost invisible. I think the Goths who decorated the place must’ve concocted them on purpose. Draped in costume-shop gloom for the occasion, their apartment looked like a Tim Burton exhibit realised in eight dollars of black and purple crepe paper. When I looked away for a twinkling moment, he pounced out of the shadows. Continue reading