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 21:58 on 17-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
He is "a" character, but does not have "character".

Matt Groening drew the Simpsons family deliberately in a way that they could easily be recognized by their caricatures. Hence the spiky hair and all. Adams did that but went further. Too far. Dilbert might not have character, but he has outlines, which are so grotesquely formed that they engrave themselves to the mind of the viewer and never go away.
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at 21:42 on 17-12-2015, Arthur B
I think describing Dilbert as a "character" is being rather generous.
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at 21:14 on 17-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
Dilbert was the most boring character of his comic, in those early 90s daysandwas the brunt of the joke. But really what I liked was stuff like the dinosaurs and Ratberet. And of course Dogbert was the most annoyingly rational, but it usually led to him taking over the world or whacking people with a scepter whilst wearing a funny hat. And him being a dog made it funny and cute. And the office stuff seemed to have more funny weirdness. What I've seen around since I actively liked it is always some office stuff with some words that together might appear to be a joke like the constellations appear to be what their names are. In other words, it leaves most of the effort to the imagination of the reader/stargazer. But then, it was twenty years ago when I liked it.
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at 20:28 on 17-12-2015, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Repetitiveness is a problem for any long-running comic, but I do wonder if the strip is still relevant in any way. I mean, Adams was finally able to leave the office world in the early-mid 1990s, and while he was one of the first cartoonists to embrace online communication with his audience, that's not the same as being in the trenches. I'm wondering if it's like Penny Arcade these days, in that it could be shut down with little fuss and the ancillary projects that grew from it would provide a steady income instead.

I must admit I was into the comic perhaps a little too deep when I was younger, but when I look at it nowadays I can't stop thinking about how Dilbert himself is kind of an asshole. I mean, he was always condescending towards people who weren't "rational," but that was leavened by the fact that he was a technology-obsessed nerdlinger. It may be the sample I was reading, but I don't think the newer strips bother to take the piss out of Dilbert, which makes him that much harder to enjoy.

As for parodies, and as an occasional fan of industrial/electronica, I can't get enough of Harsh Noise Wally.

In conclusion, Bill Watterson was the wisest man of them all, and we shall not see his like again in our lifetimes.
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at 18:08 on 17-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
I think the thing with Adams's funniness, though, is that at least when I was reading it, it was pleasantly absurd and the shoddy art sort of supported the weirdness. But it quickly became repetitive and the artwork became a bigger problem. But the art does seem to work as a comic strip in a paper. I wonder how many actual adults who actually work in offices are the sort of true fans that lurk around on his blog?
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at 18:00 on 17-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
Gah. That article is just a huge disappointment. In that someone, who I considered funny and sort of insightful in my youth turns out to be all sorts of wrong. The oxymoronic thinking he repeatedly uses is always mystifying to encounter. Like with the Bell curve thing, it is ironic that his claim that he and his followers are less prone to emotional distortion because of their position on an imaginary Bell curve, is nothing but a rhetorical trick to build clan thinking and differentiate the in-crowd from the stupid outsiders, inoculating them at the same time to ward them from dangerous ideas. But this is accomplished by a pathetic argument, appealing to the readers arrogance and need to feel special and better than others. So subscribing to his idea of the Bell curve of rational thinking, he is actually decreasing their capability for rational thought and increasing emotional distortion.

How does the Bell curve work though in this circumstance, though? One would surmise that rational thinking would be a combination of several attributes and perhaps a lack of some (like emotional thinking, but surely that is a non-linear attribute as well; what could someone without emotions even do?) so it would be a combination of normal distributions and not necessarily be itself normal at all. Perhaps chi squared? I'm not so sure and will not get into it here.

Bell curves are a cool thing and nicely visualize a truly interesting phenomenon, but obviously they are to be used in proper circumstances and with appropriate care. I haven't stumbled upon Murray's book before this, but it sounds typical of its genre.
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at 11:15 on 17-12-2015, Arthur B
As I alluded to in my recent comment in the Adam Nevill article, I think if you dedicate yourself to a prank so deeply that nobody can tell whether it's a prank and there doesn't seem to be any punchline where it all unravels, it's effectively the same thing as if you were sincere about it all along.
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at 07:05 on 17-12-2015, Melanie
...In a weird coincidence(?), this highly relevant article just came up on my feed. Side note, apparently the "affirmations" thing was very sincere[1] and went even further than I realized, if he was asking subscribers to "use" them on behalf of the show.

[1]Or an elaborate prank he's very committed to?
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at 11:47 on 16-12-2015, Ronan Wills
Man, Scott Adams. I used to be a huge fan of both the Dilbert comics and books like The Dilbert Principle as a teen.

I've heard his "philosophical" book God's Debris is unintentionally hilarious, but I've never taken the plunge of actually trying to read it.
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at 23:12 on 15-12-2015, Melanie
Yeah, I dunno. I used to really like the comic strip, so the books interested me and of course I had crappy taste as a teenager. And the affirmations thing was especially memorable because it was just enticing enough to make me go "ooooo... but what if" but not believable enough for me to actually bother trying it, I mean come on.

Also that is either some sickeningly blatant ass-kissing or... he really sincerely thinks that... reading his newsletter is an indicator for being extra smart?
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at 04:56 on 15-12-2015, Michal
Who'd of thunk two more people on Ferretbrain have encountered The Dilbert Principle? I read it in elementary school, back when the only comic books available in the public library were collected newspaper strips and I read them all on principle.

I remember being really disappointed by the book's almost complete lack of humour.

Huh, I even read The Dilbert Future now that I think about it, though I can't remember much about it at all. I believe that was shortly before I grew personally offended by how poor Scott Adams's artwork was.
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at 22:46 on 14-12-2015, Bill
Bell Curves themselves are perfectly OK, but the use of the phrase "Bell Curve" in the US is a dog whistle for the infamous 1994 Charles Murray book, "The Bell Curve," an attempt to put forth a hard version of the inheritability of intelligence as the "scientific" truth. It was liked by the sort of people you would expect to like the idea that everyone in society is in their proper place.
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at 19:00 on 14-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
What in the name of hell cats is the Bell curve of rational thought supposed to mean anyways? Sounds smart I guess. But a cooler cat who would like to impress people with their knowledge of statistics could do better with the Gauss curve or normal distribution.
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at 18:57 on 14-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
I've tried to avoid Adams's prattlings, but I guess I'm a sucker for "educational" comics. So he actually said: "... regular readers of the Dilbert blog are pretty far along the Bell curve of rational thought, and relatively immune to emotional distortion."

Wow. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that a guy that's made a career of engineer themed office humour and for some inexplicable reason, of books on management based on the deep wisdom of said humour, could be so arrogant, but it is exactly the sort of delusional intellectual posturing and bias, that stops him from questioning his own thinking. Ironically, such arrogance and lack of humility are as much emotions as the ones he so quickly ascribes to others to explain away their complaints toward his scribblings. Someone claiming to be relatively immune to emotional distortion sounds a bit like someone claiming that they are perfectly sober while trying to start a car from the passenger side. I men, why does he even think the scientific method even exists, if not for the fact that even the most gifted scientists are not immune to emotional distortions, even if they would claim to be.

When I was 12 or so I remember buying The Dilbert Principle to my dad, because I thought Dilbert was very funny and since my dad was an engineer, who wored in an office, he would find it funny as well. He was polite about it, but after he read some of it, you could sense his disapproval towards Adams and his theories. Principle was about how management is always the incompetent people wasn't it?
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at 00:28 on 14-12-2015, Melanie
I'm going to bring up that "Mister Rational" there wrote a book[1] with an entire chapter devoted to "affirmations", i.e. where you write a sentence a certain number of times a day and then the thing happens, somehow. So, basically The Secret. I mean, I can't prove that wasn't a huge joke but it sure seemed sincere. He had this whole bit about how he used it to pick stocks and it totally worked.

[1]I think it was The Dilbert Principle... maybe The Dilbert Future. I don't know, it's been a while.
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at 21:06 on 13-12-2015, Arthur B
So, Dilbert's Scott Adams says some ragingly MRA-ish shit these days. How to make Dilbert funny again? Answer: put Adams' nasty MRA talking points into the comics.
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at 21:20 on 30-11-2015, Craverguy
Today was a good day. We went to Churchill's War Cabinet Rooms, toured Westminster Abbey, and watched about 40 minutes of debate in the Commons and another 20 in the Lords.
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at 22:36 on 28-11-2015, Robinson L
Sounds like you're having a great trip - good to hear. Have fun in London!
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at 18:50 on 28-11-2015, Craverguy
So, we punted the Cam with a guide, visited the Wren Library (where we saw, among other things, a Shakespeare First Folio, a page from the Gutenberg Bible, and an alleged lock of Isaac Newton's hair), and saw most of the ground floor of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Tomorrow, we travel to London.
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at 07:15 on 28-11-2015, Craverguy
We arrived in England on Thursday and spent the rest of the day riding the Tube to King's Cross, hustling to find and catch the train to Cambridge, and sleeping off the jet lag.

Yesterday, we did a walking tour that included the Eagle Pub, Cavendish Laboratories, Queens' College, and the King's College Chapel.

Today, we plan to punt the Cam and see either the Fitzwilliam Museum or the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.
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at 09:10 on 24-11-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
Oh, and next to St. Pancras is the British Library. There's usually something interesting there and the building is nice. And the St. Pancras and Euston station area is very interesting. It is such a Victorian neighbourhood, even if it is kinda busy traffic-wise.
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at 09:07 on 24-11-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
I'm not a Londoner, but I've spent a lot of time there, so: If you are at all into art, Tate Britain is right on the other side of the river from the MI6. It has a lot of 19th century British art like Turner, Millais and other pre-raphaelites. Also Tate Modern and the National Gallery are wonderful. There're several famous Van Goghs and Monets in the National Gallery. I've always been partial to Camden and Brick Lane markets, plus from Brick Lane, it's a nice walk to the City, where lot's of nice churches can be found, or then towards the Tower where on the way there are lots of interesting buildings, like the erotic gherkin and Lloyd's of London. If you're into architecture, that is. And I suppose markets. I don't know if Camden town is pásse for a native, but I guess a tourist doesn't have to mind that sort of stuff.

If you're going to the British Museum, it might be worth your while to walk from the Museum to St. Pancras via Russel Street station and Russel Square, where the Senate House is. Nowadays it's the HQ of the Uni. of London, but it was also the building chosen by Albert Speer for the headquarters if the Nazis had ever occupied the UK as well as a model for the Ministry of truth in Orwell's 1984.

The nicest place I can think of in London is Greenwich and the Royal Observatory(through which the Greenwich meridian goes), Queen's House and Naval College there, with a nice view to the Isle of Dogs(which whether one likes it or not is quite a significant development) on the other side of the River. It's a bit further away, and now is probably not the nicest time to be there, but it's nice, still.

I kinda hope I was going to London as well.
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at 01:38 on 24-11-2015, Arthur B
If you go to see Parliament make time to see Westminster Abbey too, it's right next door and stuffed to the rafters with history.
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at 22:00 on 23-11-2015, Craverguy
Whereabouts in London are you likely to go? It's a big place so don't want to recommend anywhere too out of your way.

We're staying near the MI6 building, and we're definitely planning to go see Parliament and Buckingham Palace, and probably also the Tower of London.
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