Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
I just wanted to mention that Thea James and Ana Grilo, the two ladies behind The Book Smugglers review blog, have announced that they're putting together Speculative Fiction 2013, collecting some of the best online nonfiction writing about genre from the past year.
The lineup they've got is pretty varied. There's Joe Abercrombie, N. K. Jemisen, Abigail Nussbaum...and Alasdair Czyrnyj.
My Prometheus article is in there. Something I've written is actually gonna get published. It's the first time anything I've written has been published.
*small excited voice* Yaaaaaaaaaaay.
(Oh, and to segue back into comic chat, after discovering condescending misogynistic fug that is Least I Could Do, I find Randall Munroe slightly more tolerable.)
It's kind of ironic because Munroe's making fun of a canned clever response, but he's using his patented canned cleverness to do so.And it isn't even that clever. "You know what happens..." is typically not used as an actual statement of fact so much as a rhetorical slap (the implication being that the person being addressed bloody well should know even if they don't actually know). This is something people generally pick up if they have conversations with actual human beings who use that particular idiom so whilst the comic thinks it is presenting Generico McCoolguy giving a wicked zinger, really it just depicts ol' Generico as someone whose grasp of context and tone and idiom and other such things appears to be slightly lacking.
I can muse on about the way stale sitcoms, terrible movies, repetitive webcomics or sexist bodice rippers do what they do happily for days, with much more interest than I have for analyzing Booker nominee list, regardless of the fact that I think the latter is probably better art. (Maybe because the latter is better.) It's not so much that I have a strong opinion on XKCD, as I find anyone having opinions on XKCD really interesting.
Or, arguable, I just have really bad taste and like to revel in it.
I'm a little curious why Ferretbrainers seem to be so down on it.
I suspect this is a mixture of confirmation bias and in-group stuff. A handful of commenters talk about XKCD occasionally, but it's only noticable when they do that, not the many occasions when they don't. Also, talking about XKCD on Ferretbrain has been done enough that it's now a thing to do if you have Opinions about that comic, and perhaps Ferretbrainers are now more likely to read it with previous Opinions in mind.
With a small group of regular commenters that kind of thing starts to look very prominent. But for example, I only read XKCD when people mention it here, because as you say it's one of many mediocre webcomics and I read other stuff instead.
Also possible that people look at XKCD who may not read many webcomics, and so aren't likely to talk about those? It has enough geek momentum built up that maybe people are still reading along who haven't got into other webcomics. But they'd have to tell us, I dunno.
Any opinions on today's XKCD?
It's pretty bad. The "zing" hinges entirely on the specific way it's set up, and that setup is only really technically an assumption anyway. She could easily have just left out the "you know what happens" and started with "when you assume..." in which case the smug coolguy would've been left without his oh-so-clever response. It's kind of ironic because Munroe's making fun of a canned clever response, but he's using his patented canned cleverness to do so. That's my two cents, anyway.
I think it's the combination of intense mediocrity, occasional diversions into genuinely being infuriating/bad, and excessive prominence.
On top of that Munroe has developed this smug, I'm-so-clever tone, without actually being clever at all. His comics often try for pithy, short zingers, like he thinks he's a modern-day Oscar Wilde, but they just fall flat most of the time.
I'm a little curious why Ferretbrainers seem to be so down on it. You could fill a very large pool with the world's mediocre webcomics. What makes XKCD so remarkable?
Running around with a man on your back, like a train in the night...
I might never sleep again.
Giant snowball batters Reed dorm.
My favorite part of the whole thing is the comment by Frederic Bahnson at the end:
Am I really the first person to point out that the math majors' trajectory prediction probably started with the assumption that the snowball was a perfect sphere? That never works in the real world. At Old Reed, the physics majors would have been on hand to help with the application of all that math theory. That said, that's an impressive snowball.
Friends of Campbell are making very, very worried sounds and aren't able to get in touch so it's very alarming, I find the tone of the latest update veers uncomfortably between "I am not coping well currently" and "I am making an inflammatory political statement and I refuse to even apologise for not honouring a commitment I entered into with you completely voluntarily".
(Incidentally, I note that the Kickstarter doesn't include money for postage and reading the titles of the backer-only updates it sounds to me like Campbell simply couldn't afford to post the books to people.)
@Tamara: How's the sound quality on the underwater MP3?
@Adrienne: Which novella? I looked around and Amazon has copies of all of them.
The mechanism of this is interesting too. As the minimum income is not enough for people to make a living, those working these jobs are dependent on food stamps and other public help to make ends meet. At the same time the industries depending on minimum wage workers are making great profits, for example Walmart. So, in effect, the help for those who need it come from taxes, the taxes are mostly paid by the middle class and instead of helping those who need it to get forward, they are subsidizing those who own the companies.
So the 99% protesters might not be protesting just the right things and might be oblivious and privileged idiots, I still feel that they are still on the right side of the issue. In addition, the wealthiest in the US don't even have to pay taxes as much either, or such is my understanding. Warren Buffet has remarked that his tax rate is actually lower than his secretary's and I assume he knows what he is talking about.
On the UK politics, I of course do not know how it works, but if the situation truly is so that the politicians are doing things so that the wealthiest benefit the most or solely, then it might give reason to suspect that something is amiss. That perhaps those with greater degree of means and the associated power are able to influence politics though outer-parliamentary views, for example through control of the public opinion. The middle class is a large portion of the population and a big part of the electorate. And while the voters can always be blamed for how they vote, large masses of people are in some circumstances manipulated. And of course this might be even easier with the middle class, who are usually only shaken out of their complacency and apathy by fear against themselves or their property. But still, wealth does exchange into power at some rate, although social status and privilege are a significant part of it.
Generally, societies lacking a powerful middle class are not very thriving societies precisely for the reason that the few wealthy and powerful, which go hand in hand really are able to dominate the politics. This is the situation in Russia for example, which is further exacerbated by the brain leak going on, where young people seeking a better life are leaving to study and work abroad. And of course the middle class holds the doctors, engineers, scientists, educators, accountants, lawyers, dedicated bureaucrats and small to medium business owners, whose existence is a sign of a functioning society. So while I do understand this dislike of the petit bourgeoisie and their conservative narrowmindedness, when and if the imbalances in the world start to change, this will lead to more middle class people everywhere, which unfortunately, might be unavoidable. The nordic welfare states were born out of an alliance between the moderate right and the moderate left, so there's that at least. Aren't most people in Ferretbrain middle class though? At least by level of education?
Of course, I don't presume to know more about the US or the UK than you all living there, but living in a small fish in a big pond where the US is the giant fish, one usually tries to have some picture of what is going on.
On what I was trying to say with the differences between the rich and the rest, I have no real idea now. It's not like they're vampires or anything. Or perhaps they are? Anyways, perhaps the point was that most middle class people still get their income through working a job or selling their skills, even if it is paid better and most are dependent on public schools and public services for which they mostly are happy to pay taxes. At least here they are. Whereas rich people are able to to live a rarefied existence in separation from the rest, where they really can just live off the dividends to their existing capital. Of course many of them work hard, but still, if the wealth disparity is moving more into the hands of the view than surely it is bad news for the rest, unless oligarchy(even a greater than now) would somehow improve on things. Hmm... I don't think I abbreviated anything at all. Too bad this is so late into the discussion. It is an interesting one, though.
@Adrienne: I'm in Yellow Springs; looks like I'm practically on the other side of the state.
Do you still have my e-mail address?