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 01:00 on 22-12-2015, Ichneumon
Not surprising, though. Take any intelligent but overconfident and egotistical person and put them in a position where other people will hang on their every word (or appear to do so) and I can guarantee that you will, after a while, be witness to some truly spectacular bullshit. You don't even need a complete control freak like Hubbard. You just need someone who is smart, and knows it, but has a penchant to overestimate how smart they actually are and/or wants to appear more capable than they know that really are in order to convince others of their value.
at 01:22 on 21-12-2015, Melanie
Well, that's creepy.
at 00:53 on 20-12-2015, Arthur B
Hey, guess who else was into affirmations, considered himself an expert on every field he applied idle thought to regardless of a near-total lack of formal training in most of the areas he decided to stick his oar into, thought he could do office management and organisational structure better than anyone in history, and liked to tell his core fans that they were part of an elite inner circle of geniuses? It's that man again!
at 22:56 on 19-12-2015, Shim
*raises gnarled claw* I, too, enthusiastically read Dilbert as a wan and wayward youth - there was a Borders a few miles away, and occasionally walking there and buying a set of comic strips was one of the rare indulgences offered by my hometown. Alas, no longer.

I think part of the attraction was that the comics seemed a mixture of insightful, subversive, and very much in line with my teenaged views on how stupidly the world appeared to work. Lacking any personal perspective on office work, there was no "yes, but" angle getting in the way. Now, of course, my job involves box-ticking, bugging people to do things that aren't a priority for them, and being very prescriptive about finances, with quite good reasons for all of these. Also I regularly hassle the IT team about things they may well think are stupid. And I deal with senior people and realise that the strategic stuff they do is as baffling to me as what I do is to them, but nevertheless is not in fact an arbitrary and self-serving political struggle.

I distinctly remember the affirmations thing; it wrinkled my brow a lot because it wasn't really possible to reconcile with anything else he was writing outside of a huge, elaborate prank and that didn't smell right. After that, somehow, I didn't feel like buying any more (and I seem to remember the prose books were also a bit dull, despite all the attempted amusing metaphors and ranting - it's still talking about corporate policies after all). I'm now quite glad that I charitized my Dilbert collection a few years back.
at 22:55 on 18-12-2015, James D
Honestly though, is it really all THAT surprising? The Dilbert comic trip is primarily based around pointing out everything wrong in his business culture, right? Having worked in a variety of business cultures at a variety levels, and dealt with many pseudo-Dilbert types, I've found that most of them are more interested in pointing out the supposed idiocy they see all around them, rather than giving everyone else they work with the slightest benefit of the doubt and making the slightest effort to truly understand or fix the issues in a way that would actually benefit everyone (and not just their own little corner of the office).

Corporate culture is a gigantic organism that is often pulled in all sorts of different directions at the macro level, which can make things at the micro level seem absurd, especially to people who would rather make themselves feel superior by assuming no one else can see these supposed absurdities, and as a result that things remain the way they are because of that blindness, rather than a complex system of compromises which most likely involve people whose roles and duties the Dilbert type isn't even aware exists.

Not to say there isn't plenty of legitimate fodder for lampooning, but when we're talking about a guy whose entire career is essentially built on saying over and over that everyone he works with is stupid in ways only he notices, is it really that surprising that he'd apply that same arrogant condescension to other groups of people?
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.
at 21:42 on 17-12-2015, Arthur B
I think describing Dilbert as a "character" is being rather generous.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
at 22:36 on 28-11-2015, Robinson L
Sounds like you're having a great trip - good to hear. Have fun in London!
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.