Playpen

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.

at 00:33 on 25-02-2013, Michal
Not quite sure what to make of this article.

Of course, I'm not sure how seriously I should take someone who calls an essay an essai, complete with italics, but I am at last convinced that the term "literati" is best left to its original Latin meaning.
permalink
at 16:34 on 23-02-2013, Fishing in the Mud
I do sometimes find it uncomfortably easy to slip into "yeah, X totally sucks" just to agree with the group when in fact X isn't that bad and I'm hardly in a position to throw shit around myself. It's not usually a good environment to judge other people fairly, so I try to avoid it. If X really is a thief or a genuine snake or a rapist, I do want to know about that, so it's not a blanket rule.
permalink
at 15:56 on 22-02-2013, Arthur B
Speaking of talking shit about people behind their back, wooooow the number of internet forum cliches that crop up on the XKCD forum thread about the latest strip is incredible.

I particularly like the way the conversation assumes the comic is about unfounded gossip, when in fact there's plenty of ways of saying bad things about people outside of their presence which doesn't involve unverifiable hearsay. A lot of the more memorable "isn't X awful?" conversations I've had have involved a group of people who all know X sharing their experiences of X and noting common trends; that isn't unverifiable gossip, that's people comparing notes and realising that yes, actually X is kind of horrible to most people.
permalink
at 10:50 on 22-02-2013, Arthur B
Randy seems to spend an inordinate amount of time imagining put-downs he would have liked to have used on other people when he was, like, twelve. See also this one.

Also the putdowns in question show a fundamental misunderstanding of how that sort of exchange goes because in real life he'd have got about two sentences into that monologue at most before one of the bullies grabbed his hat off his head and ran away with it (or just punched him in the gut and stole his lunch money).

FITM's point about Randy only writing strawmen and self-inserts really sums XKCD up perfectly.
permalink
at 10:08 on 22-02-2013, Dan H
I kind of see both sides of the "jumped-off-a-bridge" strip. On the one hand, I find the "if everybody did BLAH" line infuriating (mostly because you tend to hear it from wanker nerdboys explaining why the fact that their hobbies are unpopular makes them smarter than everybody else) but on the other hand the specific implementation here pissed me the hell off.

Randy seems to spend an inordinate amount of time imagining put-downs he would have liked to have used on other people when he was, like, twelve. See also this one.
permalink
at 21:50 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
Really though the whole situation is stupid, Randall just set up a cliche parent-child interaction for himself to cleverly snark at in a thoroughly adult manner, without actually providing any relevant details. And really, of all of the criticisms in the world to level at a parent, I think "overuse of cliches" isn't exactly near the top of most people's lists.

Exactly. As the parody points out, there might actually be legitimately good reasons for a parent not to let their child go to a party (it's a school night).

"All of my friends will be there" is a reason why you want to go to a party, but it's not a reason why you should be allowed to go to a party - such a reason would require sussing out why the parent is objecting to you going and giving them reassurances. "All of my friends will be there" doesn't do that and if anything probably makes your parent less confident because when you are in high school a proportion of your friends are most likely dipshits you haven't realised are dipshits yet.
permalink
at 20:32 on 21-02-2013, Fishing in the Mud
Plus, Munroe is being completely disingenuous in the options he's decided to consider. Either his friends all went crazy at exactly the same time or they're all making the best possible decision? Those are the only two possibilities? It's not possible that one person could have "gone crazy" and made a bad decision and everyone else decided to follow suit, because that's what large crowds of people sometimes do, especially notorious followers like teenagers?

Maybe this is just an unreliable character talking and not Munroe himself, but from what I know about it xkcd doesn't appear to have characters that aren't strawmen or author stand-ins, so I don't know how likely that is.
permalink
at 20:21 on 21-02-2013, James D
Which would be fine if that's what the comic actually said, but the rebuttal in the comic is implying that the activity in question can't possibly be bad because the kid's friends are all smart people - which is really beside the point, considering it's immaturity and inexperience that pose the most danger to kids in those social situations, not necessarily stupidity. A group of high school kids got drunk, drove, crashed their car, and froze to death not far from here, despite all being good students. I don't care how "levelheaded" some kid thinks his friends are, kids make bad decisions all the time, that's one of the main reasons they need parents.

Really though the whole situation is stupid, Randall just set up a cliche parent-child interaction for himself to cleverly snark at in a thoroughly adult manner, without actually providing any relevant details. And really, of all of the criticisms in the world to level at a parent, I think "overuse of cliches" isn't exactly near the top of most people's lists.
permalink
at 20:01 on 21-02-2013, Melanie
Probably, but in that case, their friends being there is probably the actual, literal reason they want to go. Parties are inherently social activities that only have value because other people are there, so it's not odd, unreasonable, or specific to teenagers, to want to go to one because your friends will be there.

So, despite being a cliche, it can survive nitpicking because it's an honest reason. Whereas "if all your friends jumped off a bridge etc." is basically just an extra-patronizing way of saying "your friends are stupid and you are stupid for wanting to do things with them" while pretending to offer some kind of insight (and also while pretending that "because other people are doing it" is never a valid reason to do something--which I guess is fine if you're a hermit).
permalink
at 18:45 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
I would argue the protagonist of that comic started deploying cliches with "all of my friends will be there"...
permalink
at 17:46 on 21-02-2013, Melanie
Actually, I think that if you're going to just reach for the first obnoxious, tired little cliche that comes to mind, and then pretend that it's some kind of cogent argument, you deserve to have it picked apart.
permalink
at 13:09 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
In other XKCD news, someone made a glorious rebuttal to this XKCD.
permalink
at 12:23 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
Keep going, guys, the more we diss him the more powerful our Randy-shield becomes.
permalink
at 12:17 on 21-02-2013, Wardog
*carefully edges away from the webcomic*
permalink
at 11:14 on 21-02-2013, Guy
...and of course, making webcomics about 'em doesn't count as "saying something negative about a person who's not in the room". See, he's not saying, just writing!
permalink
at 10:57 on 21-02-2013, Wardog
Gosh, I feel so humbled to think that this guy is such a superlative human being that he never for a moment says anything mildly negative about anyone he knows ever.
permalink
at 10:06 on 21-02-2013, James D
Did you know that sometimes people say bad things about other people? Randy does, and he's super sad about it.

Yeah, don't tell your friends how a mutual acquaintance not present never pays his debts, or is a reckless driver, or sexually assaulted you, because a webcomic author might disapprove for some ill-defined reason.
permalink
at 00:52 on 21-02-2013, Arthur B
I dunno, I feel curiously relieved to know that Randy will naturally eject himself from my presence. Saves throwing him out myself.
permalink
at 19:30 on 20-02-2013, Dan H
Just when I thought XKCD couldn't get any more self-congratulatory-slash-patronising.

Did you know that sometimes people say bad things about other people? Randy does, and he's super sad about it.
permalink
at 12:57 on 20-02-2013, Wardog permalink
at 10:30 on 20-02-2013, Robinson L
Kyra-Wardog: I was sort of borderline bored throughout.

Yeah, that was how I felt about Dust, as well. I haven't really tried to figure out why, though I think I'm mostly just apathetic towards the characters, Perceval's awesomeness notwithstanding.

Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead also features an explicitly asexual young man as one of the major supporting characters during the first half of the book; the first person narrator has to have it explained to her, but fortunately, she catches on quick.

Overall, I found the story ... adequate. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it that I could discern (well, aside from the narrator occasionally exoticizing a Chinese supporting character), but it didn't greatly thrill me. I didn't love it, but I liked it well enough.
permalink
at 10:03 on 20-02-2013, Dan H
I notice Cameron has weighed in on Kategate, again completely missing the point by insisting that Kate is a "perfect ambassador for Britain" which is ... umm ... sort of what Mantel was saying that Kate was being reduced to in the first place.
permalink
at 08:17 on 20-02-2013, Adrienne
That should be 'eir sexuality' in the last post; Sparrow is agender as well as asexual.
permalink
at 08:14 on 20-02-2013, Adrienne
@Cheriola - You might still give Bone Dance a chance; that Wikipedia description is TERRIBLE. Sparrow is in no way "not a full human being" over the whole course of the novel, and her asexuality isn't played as something that makes her silly or strange. YMMV, of course, but that description is really, really not representative of the book.

Also argh, Wikipedia, the part about Sparrow being bioengineered is a SPOILER, bleh.
permalink