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 23:24 on 28-01-2014, James D
In the last panel of that comic, it would've been way better if the other guy said something like "there's a reason you're still unemployed."

But of course that would be poking fun at Randall Munroe's worldview, so he'd never do it.
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at 20:45 on 28-01-2014, Tamara
I just spent fifteen minutes looking for a worse XKCD, and I am now willing to accept your premise. Very well, this one is the worst.
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at 20:30 on 28-01-2014, Dan H
That's the thing, I think the trace of absurdity just makes it *worse*. It's like a perfect storm of things that annoy me about XKCD. Self-consciously quirky non-humour, fetishisation of innocence and childishness, and delivering a poorly exposited smackdown to a faceless strawman who has the temerity to question the author's oh-so-quirky worldview.

At least the straight-up sentimental ones are just straight-up sentimental.
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at 20:23 on 28-01-2014, Tamara
Now obviously I can't think of a worse XKCD off of the top of my head, but you know, all those ones about finding love and enjoying nature and what have you. This one has some trace of absurdity, at least.
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at 20:06 on 28-01-2014, Tamara
I actually really like The Big Bang Theory. It takes quite a lot for television to wring actual *emotion* out of me, and this seemingly idiotic show somehow manages spades of sadness, pity, discomfort and more than a touch of awkward, wincing identification. I respect the hell out of that with no irony whatsoever.

And I can't stand that self-pitying, elitist streak in geek culture that you guys bring up, so maybe I also just tend to reflexively like what it doesn't. And there's the fact that people seem to be capable of loathing it with great passion for it being a way for the 'regular people' to trample the poor geeks, and other loathing it with equal passion for being a Nice-Guy wet dream about demeaning the pretty girl. The possibility of multiple, fervently held, totally contradictory readings? In a sitcom? Hm. I can't help it, that's just immediately interesting to me.

Good grief, talking about TBBT is like what I do on the internet now. Why do people care about it so much?
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at 20:00 on 28-01-2014, Dan H
I don't know, I kind of think Beret Guy dragged XKCD to all new heights of tweeness.

What would you count as tweeer? (Is that the correct comparative?) I suppose some of the really early ones like "none of the places I floated had mommies" and love math, but I don't think anything has quite managed to combine "twee" with "preachy" with "bullshit" in quite the same way.
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at 19:39 on 28-01-2014, Tamara
You can't possibly think *that's* the twee-est XKCD ever. (and I quite like XKCD a lot of the time.)
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at 18:05 on 28-01-2014, James D
At first I thought it was making a mildly amusing point about how language can be totally intelligible and descriptive while also being *totally wrong*, or perhaps how people get hung up on the form of communication in situations where the content is what's really important (see: internet Grammar Nazis), but then it took a hard left into quirky sentimentality even though the first part doesn't really set it up. It's like Munroe wants XKCD to be the Calvin & Hobbes of the hipster generation, but without half the talent.
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at 16:13 on 28-01-2014, Arthur B
Ah yes, because the best way to feel young and fresh and untouched by the grubby cynicism of the world is to talk in a juvenile made-up language that makes it difficult for other people to understand what you're talking about.
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at 03:27 on 24-01-2014, Rami
Dear lord I just saw the TV trailer for the Vampire Academy film. It looks hilariously bad.
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at 17:49 on 23-01-2014, Arthur B
I noticed that too! I blame ghosts.
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at 12:41 on 23-01-2014, Andy G
Ooh, did the font change here subtly? Or is my browser just displaying it differently?
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at 03:07 on 19-01-2014, Arthur B
It's totally not post-geek to identify yourself as being post-geek. The whole point is to not put yourself in any pigeonhole which implies that your hobbies are the core of your identity.
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at 01:44 on 19-01-2014, Daniel F
Well, it's not the only option. You might be post-geek.


I don't know, that sounds potentially even more self-conscious.

"I mean, I like geeky things, but I'm not a geek, yeah? I'm not one of those people."
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at 00:02 on 19-01-2014, Sonia Mitchell
but yeah it's that whole gatekeeping thing that confuses me the most about nerd subculture. As if "nerd" is some coveted identity that people have to earn


Yeah, this. It's like there's an entry exam to having fun.

If someone hasn't seen/read something you enjoyed the nice reaction is to recommend it if you think they might enjoy it. The 'nerd culture' reaction seems to be to try to make them feel bad for their ignorance, which may explain the lack of party invites.

Whereas when people actually talk/write sincerely about their passions it can be interesting even if they don't overlap with your own at all. I've enjoyed many an SFX article on sixties TV shows or bizarre horror tropes that I never intend to see, because the enthusiasm shines through. It doesn't have to be a gated community.

Surely I qualify as a nerd or geek in most other respects – I’m writing this message on this site, for a start

Well, it's not the only option. You might be post-geek.
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at 22:10 on 16-01-2014, James D
This guy is an example, for instance, where he implies in the comic that he was only a geek into geek hobbies to begin with because it was "never an option" to be and do anything else.

I kind of want to be charitable and believe that the author of that particular comic doesn't actually believe the "Tr00 Nerd" rant he wrote and it was just an elaborate setup for the punchline - but yeah it's that whole gatekeeping thing that confuses me the most about nerd subculture. As if "nerd" is some coveted identity that people have to earn. Maybe it's just the fact that most actual nerds I knew in college had really shallow understandings of supposed nerd mainstays like sci-fi and fantasy - LOTR and Dune and Ender's Game being about the extent of their reading - that makes me not really give a shit about the shallowness of so-called fake geek girls. Assuming the chick in the comic has actually read all of her 50 X-Men comics, that already puts her ahead of quite a few supposed male nerds I personally knew.

But replace "50 X-Men comics" with a massive comic book collection and D&D games every weekend and frequent con attendance and Star Trek costumes in her closet - is she still not allowed to be a nerd because she didn't get bullied in high school 10 years ago?
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at 20:19 on 16-01-2014, Melanie
Or if not a shared experience, at least a shared mythology of ostracism. I can easily imagine that there’s something very appealing about claiming the benefits of victimhood. Just, you know, without having to undergo any genuine victimisation.

I'm also inclined to think this. "Nerd culture" from BBT to Fanboys often seems to involve this kind of Nietzschean ressentiment - the nerds are better than the jocks *because* they're victims and thus deserve the girl, even though this superiority is not shown to actually be grounded in any positive qualities.


I think this explains a lot of... martyr complex stuff. Victimhood = moral high ground from which one can make demands. Not getting whatever it is you demanded, however unreasonably = further victimization or at least evidence of such. Actually getting it can also be treated as evidence of victimhood (because if you got it you must have deserved it). It's a self-perpetrating mess.
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at 13:49 on 16-01-2014, Shimmin
I'm inclined to suspect a mixture of confirmation bias and the brain's tendency to labelling.

Everyone gets mocked at school on occasion on some pretext or other, be it hair colour, opinions, clothing, diet, TV preference, football team, weight, timing of puberty, deviation from acceptable norms of academic ability or having a name that lends itself to "amusing" alterations.

In the case of stuff deemed nerdy, there's an overlap between a class of pretexts and a vague subculture, such that Nerds are very likely to have been mocked, and in some cases genuinely bullied, on the pretext of things deemed Nerdy. As such, there's very likely to be a shared sense that Being Nerdy is a thing that gets you bullied. This isn't really the case with things like being an Everton fan: while there is something like an Evertonian subculture, football-preference mockery is likely to be distributed fairly evenly and there's probably not a sense of group persecution. Similarly, it's not quite like having unfortunate names or ginger hair because those aren't associated with a subculture, so individuals may have that feeling but it doesn't necessarily spread.

There is also some limited overlap between Nerds and other pretexts: people who are not good at sports seem more likely to gravitate towards nerd-classed activities and may be mocked for both, while there is some correlation between being bad at sports, focusing on (indoor, unathletic) academic and nerdy activities, and being overweight. This may result in people who are nerds also being people who get mocked more than usual.

The confirmation bias bit is, I suspect, that because it's widely held that nerdy people get bullied, and because everyone gets mocked sometimes for arbitrary reasons, it seems likely that people identified as nerdy will register mockery as being a result of nerdiness, and will attach greater significance to incidents of being mocked for liking D&D than being mocked for having a bad haircut.
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at 13:01 on 16-01-2014, Arthur B
Or if not a shared experience, at least a shared mythology of ostracism.

It occurs to me that nerds seem to claim that they were bullied because they were nerds about as often as they claim they were nerds because they were bullied - in other words, some will say that because they were bullied at school, they were attracted to insular hobbies shared by uncool kids and shunned by their persecutors.

This guy is an example, for instance, where he implies in the comic that he was only a geek into geek hobbies to begin with because it was "never an option" to be and do anything else.
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at 11:53 on 16-01-2014, Andy G
Or if not a shared experience, at least a shared mythology of ostracism. I can easily imagine that there’s something very appealing about claiming the benefits of victimhood. Just, you know, without having to undergo any genuine victimisation.

I'm also inclined to think this. "Nerd culture" from BBT to Fanboys often seems to involve this kind of Nietzschean ressentiment - the nerds are better than the jocks *because* they're victims and thus deserve the girl, even though this superiority is not shown to actually be grounded in any positive qualities. And there's a sneering contempt for "ordinary" girls especially - bit reminiscent of Wes Bentley in American Beauty (a film that hasn't dated well since my adolescence).

I absolutely agree about separating offence from oppression, but as a fairly geeky person I don't even really find BBT offensive or hurtful, just a bit hackneyed and off-the-mark, which also mars my enjoyment of it.
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at 11:08 on 16-01-2014, Daniel F
The strong focus of nerd culture on being persecuted, and particularly on being bullied at school is something that’s both really fascinating and really alien to me, because I never had that experience at all. Surely I qualify as a nerd or geek in most other respects – I’m writing this message on this site, for a start – but I never had that sense of being an outsider just because I spent every lunch break on the stairs reading fantasy novels. But I read about people being systematically bullied for playing D&D at school in the 80s or whatever, and it explains a lot about why nerd culture is so defensive today.

Er, where ‘nerd culture’ means people who play RPGs or are obsessed with video games or read lots of genre fiction or what have you. The more I go on in life the more it seems to me like these are just normal hobbies, and I can’t see why, say, LARPing is nerdy whereas being in a bikie gang is not. Still, some hobbies are still perceived as nerdy, and I wonder how much of that label has to do with this shared experience of ostracism.

Or if not a shared experience, at least a shared mythology of ostracism. I can easily imagine that there’s something very appealing about claiming the benefits of victimhood. Just, you know, without having to undergo any genuine victimisation.

(Disclaimer: I’ve never seen so much as a trailer or an ad for The Big Bang Theory, so I’m not jumping into that.)
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at 08:27 on 16-01-2014, Arthur B
Actually, I think the tendency of geek culture to dwell on being teased at school is sort of revealing. People are bullied for all sorts of reasons in school - often, indeed, for reasons which don't make a lick of sense - and more or less any form of prejudice which is common in the wider world is present in school bullying. There's a lot that's been done and a lot still to do to counteract racist and homophobic bullying in schools, which is of course a huge problem, but equally I don't see discussions of racism and homophobia going to the "bullying in school" well nearly as consistently as discussions of prejudice against nerds do, mostly because people dealing with racism or homophobia can cite much more recent examples whereas for nerds "It Gets Better" kicks in more or less as soon as you leave school.

Indeed, in my experience if people were actually committed to bullying you they'd escalate to racism or homophobia fairly quickly rather than harping on your hobbies. Nerds at my school tended to be hit with "You're perceived as being good at academic subjects, therefore you are totally gay and therefore fair game for bullying", an attitude which is really more homophobic than it is nerd-hating. A popular enough kid at my school could get away with unfashionable hobbies, but I honestly don't think they'd have gotten away with being openly gay.

And yet nerds like to claim they were at the bottom of the school pecking order anyway.
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at 01:38 on 16-01-2014, James D
I think to some extent nerds can also be sensitive to ridicule as a result of being bullied in school for being nerds - getting even the faintest whiff of bullying as an adult probably dredges up all sorts of unpleasant memories. Bullying is definitely a real problem in school, but at the same time, I haven't really seen or heard of nerd bullying carrying over into the adult world to any significant degree, and I've certainly never heard of, say, a landlord not wanting to rent a nerd an apartment because their name or voice sounds "too nerdy".
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