0881: "Probability"

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Samuron
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Samuron » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:28 pm UTC

Vash wrote:I'll be honest, the setup made me sad, but the stick figures were kind of dead. The lack of facial expressions made me wonder why they were there. The hugging also looks very awkward.


Which is precisely what it feels like to go through.

lly
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby lly » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:44 pm UTC

Comments on the Comic:

1) Stick figures with blank faces are probably not the best medium when attempting to communicate an emotion such as sadness or loss to the audience. Sure, it can work, but I do not believe this is a good example of that. Especially given the relatively minimalist approach surrounding it. Randall just doesn't seem to communicate these things all that well in the first place, and it feels that this comic is a particularly poor example of such.

2) I have increasingly thought that Randall would be better off doing the "illustrated picto-blag" concept that some of the detractors have advocated for some time. Some of these comics might even work if they were placed in a context. Comics such as Model Rail would be significantly better if they were completely separated trying to deliver a punchline and just went with a few random thoughts jotted down around them (think about if you strip the last two panels from 878, for example). This removes the "but it is a webcomic" criticism for the most part, gives Randall more freedom to talk about his reactions or personal life (see, for example Hyperbole and a Half), and also removes the 3-times-a-week-no-matter-how-good-or-bad problem.

3) When I read this comic and parsed what it was dealing with, the thing that immediately popped into my mind was The Median Isn't the Message.

4) My biggest problem, however, is that this comic comes across as, simply, wallowing. It reads "woe is me." Not "sympathy for the dying," not "sympathy for those in this circumstance." It reads as "I am hurt," which is probably part of why there has been such vehement criticism--given that it reads as "I am hurt" and given the nature of XKCD it comes across as, simply, pandering for sympathy. If Randall did not intend that, great, it is simply an observation about how it comes across given the string of recent posts and announcements and--rather than see how he is working through it or any context on the situation, such as what a blog can be used for--we simply get "I am hurting."

If that's all he is capable of generating about the situation, then he needs a therapist, not fans. Unfortunately, the history of XKCD and the nature of the webcomic tell me that we are probably going to see a lot more "I am hurting" comics, but no resolution and nothing will change. We will still see comics about how "it works bitches" or praising the supremacy of science in all things, we will still see comics about his "normal approach," but we won't see any development, change, or consideration. Just when he is sufficiently bothered by it we'll see him post another one, but nothing about how he actually handles the situation.

That's a weakness of webcomics of this nature--and that's fine for what they are--but it is also part of what makes it an extraordinarily poor medium for communicating these emotions.
Last edited by lly on Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:09 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Samuron
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Samuron » Thu Apr 07, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

lly wrote: Stick figures with blank faces are probably not the best medium when attempting to communicate an emotion such as sadness or loss to the audience.


Haveing been through it, I can say that, for me, it was exactly what it feels like.

All of a sudden, what was a full life is reduced to a simple, stark reality. There's no nuance, no depth, just an all-consuming sense of vulnerability and heplessness.

Save this comic; if you're ever in the situation, revisit it.

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Vash
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Vash » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:10 am UTC

Samuron wrote:
Vash wrote:I'll be honest, the setup made me sad, but the stick figures were kind of dead. The lack of facial expressions made me wonder why they were there. The hugging also looks very awkward.


Which is precisely what it feels like to go through.


That's obviously not what I mean.

MedPig
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby MedPig » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:46 am UTC

Samuron hits the nail on the head. My second wife died of cancer. The probability is the likelihood that he or she will be ALIVE at the end of either five or ten years.

Those are almost never right, either. From the day they finally diagnosed her, she lived just short of 5 years. So, she didn't even get to the first milestone. I know some people who aren't diagnosed until weeks, or days before it kills them.

:(

amacater
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby amacater » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:10 am UTC

Reference the lines - Doctors these days give you best guess options and percentages when discussing any surgical procedure for example. They're also obliged to give you the likelihood of what happens if they do nothing - and the better ones should also give you chances of failure of their procedure and of possible inadvertent consequences. It's good practice for gaining informed consent, working with a patient and getting the best outcome.

[I had a hip procedure last year and the final conversation before agreement to surgery went something like this: We need to reshape your hip joint. If we do nothing, the pain will get worse and you'll wear it out within two or three years. If we do this particular procedure - which we've done over about sixty years in certain cases - you stand about an 80% chance of success - and we can save your joint for up to 8 or 10 years when we can do a full hip joint replacement. If we fail, we replace the hip joint pretty much immediately. We reserve the right to do whatever's necessary when we get into the joint. The surgery itself may cause muscle damage and there's a possibility of minor nerve damage.]

And so it's proved in Real Life so far for me.

Black line is straight minimalist intervention / do nothing. Dashed line is intervention / procedures or whatever.

If it is, as others suggest, a cancer diagnosis/life expectancy versus mortality than that's really tough. Randall has said that he's had to deal with (family) illness a couple of months ago when the strips stopped coming / there were guest strips / minimalist ideas. Good thoughts / positive vibes may help or it may be that nothing can be done but the tool tip text is almost certainly very meaningful

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:50 am UTC

Interesting partial trope inversion in this thread. Lots of "My [loved one] died of [disease]! Not cool. Not funny. But a good comic."
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lly
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby lly » Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:09 am UTC

Samuron wrote:Haveing been through it, I can say that, for me, it was exactly what it feels like.

All of a sudden, what was a full life is reduced to a simple, stark reality. There's no nuance, no depth, just an all-consuming sense of vulnerability and heplessness.


People find meaning or are triggered by all sorts of things, but that does not mean that the art doing the triggering or providing meaning is particularly well executed. The interpretation reflects more on the interpreter than it does on the art itself.

In short: Just because you can personally relate or find perceived meaning to your situation does not mean that the comic is an effective means of communicating it. Especially when there are obvious emotional triggers involved.

Call me cynical: but to me it takes more than merely pointing out an emotion and a circumstance to make something effective, just as I have a tendency to believe that it takes more than merely subverting an expectation or making a pop culture reference to make worthwhile humor.

Nor does it remove my criticism that this essentially feels like a "woe is me" comic, and that we will never see the actual development of the character from here.

Samuron wrote:Save this comic; if you're ever in the situation, revisit it.


You are making an extremely odd assumption that I haven't. I find the argument along these lines roughly on par with the "you'll understand when you have children" crowd when their entire argument boils down to "won't somebody please think of the children."

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Samuron » Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:30 pm UTC

lly wrote:
Samuron wrote:Save this comic; if you're ever in the situation, revisit it.


You are making an extremely odd assumption that I haven't. I find the argument along these lines roughly on par with the "you'll understand when you have children" crowd when their entire argument boils down to "won't somebody please think of the children."

I made no such assumption; not knowing anything about you, I could not, so I made a conditional statement.

lly
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby lly » Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:41 pm UTC

Samuron wrote:I made no such assumption; not knowing anything about you, I could not, so I made a conditional statement.


I note the only conditional you had in your statement was in the future tense. With the statement of "save this comic" implying that further that you are talking about "if you are in this situation in the future, you will understand."

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SirMustapha
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:07 pm UTC

Samuron wrote:
lly wrote: Stick figures with blank faces are probably not the best medium when attempting to communicate an emotion such as sadness or loss to the audience.


Haveing been through it, I can say that, for me, it was exactly what it feels like.


You are confusing a blank expression with lack of expression! Representing such a "blank" or "dead" expression is about as difficult as representing any other expression, ranging from uproarious laughter to absolute despair.

If you are going through a rough situation, be it the worst situation you've ever been though, you will express something. You may not be acting or showing anything outside, but you're in full throttle inside, and that makes itself perceptible somehow. If you're not in any sort of action, be it physical or emotional, it's because you are dead. Or not even that: you don't exist, because even corpses somehow express something.

But yeah, if your drawing lacks any expression whatsoever, it's because it's not effective. This doesn't go just for drawing, but also, for example, for acting. Thank you, Stanislavski.

Samuron
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Samuron » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:16 pm UTC

lly wrote:
Samuron wrote:I made no such assumption; not knowing anything about you, I could not, so I made a conditional statement.


I note the only conditional you had in your statement was in the future tense. With the statement of "save this comic" implying that further that you are talking about "if you are in this situation in the future, you will understand."

True; I sacrificed accuracy for brevity. My mistake; my reaction to the callousness of the posts led to respond without completely think the grammar through.

My apologies.

lly
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby lly » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:20 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
Samuron wrote:Haveing been through it, I can say that, for me, it was exactly what it feels like.


You are confusing a blank expression with lack of expression! Representing such a "blank" or "dead" expression is about as difficult as representing any other expression, ranging from uproarious laughter to absolute despair.


I think that is an important point. It is also worth mentioning that it might be an effective technique in a comic where drawn faces are the norm or where it was a comic about things that cause a blank expression, but this is a stylistic point for XKCD that it is always like this. So if the character is happy? No face. If the character is sad? No face. If the character is laughing? No face. Character is mischievous? No face. Character is suicidal? No face.

That can even be made to work overall (e.g., Dinosaur Comics which just uses the same set of expressions), but it means that certain topics are more difficult to do well--or even effectively--in that style. This is one of those topics.

JBonline
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby JBonline » Fri Apr 08, 2011 6:00 pm UTC

My wife was an economist that also taught quantitative analysis. I was a network performance metrics analyst. When she was diagnosed Stage IIIc, we knew the 5yr survival rate was 55%. When she was diagnosed Stage IV, the oncologist didn't answer
the question in those terms (5yr %)...he said, "The average is two years."

Together, like we had rehearsed the line, we said, "What's the standard deviation?"

This comic hits close to home, but in a good way. Prayers and thoughts for all who find they have similar conversations.

fredfnord
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby fredfnord » Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:59 pm UTC

Wow. Tough crowd.

I've been through this (not myself, but a family member) with a much worse graph than that. (Think 'graph marked in months, not years'.) I found it somewhat touching, not 100% effective but not bad either. It would never have occurred to me to log in and comment, if I hadn't poked my head into this thread and found the ensuing 'discussion'. (And I don't mean the trolls, either.)

If I had people talking like this in the comments of my blog, I'd stop blogging.

philip1201
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby philip1201 » Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:31 am UTC

JBonline wrote:My wife was an economist that also taught quantitative analysis. I was a network performance metrics analyst. When she was diagnosed Stage IIIc, we knew the 5yr survival rate was 55%. When she was diagnosed Stage IV, the oncologist didn't answer
the question in those terms (5yr %)...he said, "The average is two years."

Together, like we had rehearsed the line, we said, "What's the standard deviation?"

This comic hits close to home, but in a good way. Prayers and thoughts for all who find they have similar conversations.


It's not a bell curve, so the standard deviation gets you nowhere. If it's a logarithmic decay, the average (given by x in the function e^(-t/x)) would be enough to plot the entire course of the disease, and would be the point where 1/e people are still alive. (2x being the point where 1/e^2 are still alive, etc). In fact, with most statistical decays, there is need for only one variable, which can be derived from the average.

kDycu
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby kDycu » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:31 am UTC

This one hit home.

All I have to offer is a simple word of thanks.

natey
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby natey » Sat Apr 09, 2011 11:12 am UTC

Hey guys the Y axis isn't labeled! it could not be nearly as bad as we're thinking!

in the case that it is I hope it's not based on real life.

in the case that it is based on real life I hope it's something that happened and not something that's happening

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Dauthi
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Dauthi » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:00 am UTC

lly wrote:Comments on the Comic:

1) Stick figures with blank faces are probably not the best medium when attempting to communicate an emotion such as sadness or loss to the audience. Sure, it can work, but I do not believe this is a good example of that. Especially given the relatively minimalist approach surrounding it. Randall just doesn't seem to communicate these things all that well in the first place, and it feels that this comic is a particularly poor example of such.

See, this is what makes art so difficult to talk about. Because this and the other comic have plenty of emotional significance for me. 383 especially is amazing to me. Maybe it's all about how much you can empathize with the situation or just in general, because I can read a whole story from both of them. I don't need any more indication of what they're feeling; there is enough already there for me.

lly wrote:This removes the "but it is a webcomic" criticism for the most part, gives Randall more freedom to talk about his reactions or personal life, and also removes the 3-times-a-week-no-matter-how-good-or-bad problem.

a) That sounds absurdly optimistic given the almost institutionalized nitpickery that xkcd is 'blessed' with.

b) If Randall wanted to talk about his feelings or personal life more overtly, he already has a blog attached to the comic. The lack of pertinent content there suggests to me that he doesn't. That doesn't preclude him from writing comics about situations that touch on his personal life (or not, whatever the case is).

c) He could just change the schedule to twice a week or once a week with the comic too, if that's what he wanted to do. I appreciate that you're just offering an option, but I (personally) really don't think that any of it is necessary. I don't like or 'get' every comic, but that goes for pretty much every webcomic out there. Penny Arcade has some fail comics sometimes too, and they talk about their personal lives a hell of a lot more---can't see that working in hyperboleandahalf style either.

lly wrote:4) My biggest problem, however, is that this comic comes across as, simply, wallowing. It reads "woe is me." Not "sympathy for the dying," not "sympathy for those in this circumstance." It reads as "I am hurt," which is probably part of why there has been such vehement criticism--given that it reads as "I am hurt" and given the nature of XKCD it comes across as, simply, pandering for sympathy. If Randall did not intend that, great, it is simply an observation about how it comes across given the string of recent posts and announcements and--rather than see how he is working through it or any context on the situation, such as what a blog can be used for--we simply get "I am hurting."

a) As people have pointed out, we don't know what the situation is. The data isn't labeled. So it'd be tough to get an overt "sympathy for the dying." People have also pointed out that we have absolutely no idea whether this is something going on in Randall's life or if it's just touched on it. So we, the readers, are projecting sympathy at the situation because we've put 1 and 1 together to get x. Maybe this is his attempt at expressing his empathy for someone else's pain... Would it still pandering for sympathy then?

b) I don't have the personal reaction that some do; I've never experienced this situation (in any of its possible inferences). That said, I still get more from it that "woe is me" or "I am/we are hurting." So, again, I don't know why people are so intent on speaking in absolutes here---you are not verbalizing an absolute. You are stating an opinion. This blatant pandering for sympathy obviously reached out to a lot of people, so is it really "I'm hurting" or is it "man, it fucking sucks to get news that you can't do anything about."

lly wrote:we won't see any development, change, or consideration. Just when he is sufficiently bothered by it we'll see him post another one, but nothing about how he actually handles the situation.

I'm completely okay with that. I'm also okay with movies & books with ambiguous endings. I recognize that being a fan of the comic doesn't give me the right to know all about his life; I only see however much he puts out there, and, again, I'm okay with that. If you see a piece of art in a museum that's obviously inspired by depression, do you get pissed off because there isn't an exposé under it detailing what the artist's state of mind before & after was? I doubt it. When you reduce everything, that's exactly what this is.

Randall actually keeps his life out of the public a lot more than most webcomic artists that I follow. He's obviously gone to fairly extensive lengths to do so, so I'm inclined to appreciate the rare times that he breaks that personal policy when he needs/wants to. If you don't like it, that's fine. If you want to say why it doesn't work for you, that's fine too. But none of us have the right to demand more than what the artist provides. Just because we "know" Randall more than we know the artist who painted the art hanging on the restaurant wall doesn't mean that he has an obligation to open his life to us.

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charolastra
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby charolastra » Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:55 am UTC

Sometimes I really wish XKCD had trigger warnings.

Those numbers are very, eerily close to my prognosis.

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby DavidRoss » Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:25 am UTC

gooley wrote:
Mahou wrote:
gooley wrote:Seriously, Randall. Nobody cares about your personal life, we just want entertaining comics. Please keep it professional.


Screw you, I care. And sometimes I like a serious comic.

Fingers crossed that it is just a comic?


You just like to pretend that you're friends with Randall, when in reality he wants nothing to do with you. Stop idolizing him.


I am with Mahou. I don't pretend that I am friends with Randall. I don't know him and he doesn't know me. I care about his personal life because it forms a context for his art. He doesn't have to be professional, because he's not my doctor, lawyer, or architect. He's a comic strip (and alt-strip) writer. I assume most here would agree with me, we come to this site to check out what Randall has to say. We come to his site as guests, not as clients or customers. What I want (and what you want) is not anything we have the right to demand.

[Someone may have already said this, but I am too lazy to read all the posts. Been away for a while and I am a few weeks behind.]

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Fixblor » Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:33 am UTC

bump.
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SirMustapha
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby SirMustapha » Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:14 pm UTC

DavidRoss wrote:We come to his site as guests, not as clients or customers.


If that is the view everyone has of the audience, then I don't see much future for art as a whole. You mean, the artist does his art entirely for himself, and the audience is just this passive, voiceless entity that, in the end, doesn't matter. Is that what is being said here?

As far as I know, art doesn't have any point if it has no audience. If the audience's complaints and requests fall on deaf ears, that's because Randall is closing himself away from his readers, so eventually the readers will stop caring and go away. And if Randall loses his audience completely, his comic has become pointless. Also, none of the readers signed any contract saying they were forbidden to complain: they are free to have opinions and express them, just as Randall is free to hear or ignore them. What I find silly is to expect the audience to care about Randall both as an artist and as a person, yet never say a negative word about him or his work. This isn't an artist-audience relationship: it's slavery, plain and simple.

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby charolastra » Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:52 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:We come to his site as guests, not as clients or customers.


If that is the view everyone has of the audience, then I don't see much future for art as a whole. You mean, the artist does his art entirely for himself, and the audience is just this passive, voiceless entity that, in the end, doesn't matter. Is that what is being said here?

As far as I know, art doesn't have any point if it has no audience. If the audience's complaints and requests fall on deaf ears, that's because Randall is closing himself away from his readers, so eventually the readers will stop caring and go away. And if Randall loses his audience completely, his comic has become pointless. Also, none of the readers signed any contract saying they were forbidden to complain: they are free to have opinions and express them, just as Randall is free to hear or ignore them. What I find silly is to expect the audience to care about Randall both as an artist and as a person, yet never say a negative word about him or his work. This isn't an artist-audience relationship: it's slavery, plain and simple.


The way I see it, the people complaining are lucky and it's unfortunate that they don't realize how lucky they are. If they can't relate, then they are leading incredibly lucky lives. Many of Randall's readers are not so lucky. I am a 23 year old with cancer with a similar prognosis chart. Life isn't always about love and hearts and nerdy jokes. Sometimes, life is tough. Randall captured that perfectly.

1 out of every 2 men will have cancer. 1 out of every 3 women will as well. If you don't relate yet, you will.

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby bigjeff5 » Sun Apr 17, 2011 6:45 pm UTC

Well, I had a nice long post that all went by-by since I hadn't realized I wasn't logged in. Oh well. Instead I'll go point by point.

lly wrote:In short: Just because you can personally relate or find perceived meaning to your situation does not mean that the comic is an effective means of communicating it. Especially when there are obvious emotional triggers involved.


This is a self-contradictory statement. The goal of art is generally to an evoke emotion. Triggering emotions is entirely the point. The litmus test of effective communication in a piece of art is whether or not people can personally relate and find meaning to their own situations when experiencing your work. Comedians aren't funny if the audience can't relate. Action movies aren't exciting if the audience doesn't feel like they are in the thick of it with the hero. Music isn't beautiful if it doesn't evoke feeling*. The greatest works of art in history are those that evoke intense feelings in those who can relate to them. Those that fail to do this, regardless of how technically correct it is, are not considered great works of art.

Randall's work isn't anywhere near the level of the artistic juggernauts of the past, but it is certainly effective.

Illy wrote:Call me cynical: but to me it takes more than merely pointing out an emotion and a circumstance to make something effective, just as I have a tendency to believe that it takes more than merely subverting an expectation or making a pop culture reference to make worthwhile humor.


You are cynical - often the simplest depictions of an experience are the most effective. Had the comic been more complicated I doubt it would have touched the number of people that it did. This is another common theme with art that communicates well.

Illy wrote:Nor does it remove my criticism that this essentially feels like a "woe is me" comic, and that we will never see the actual development of the character from here.


I disagree that "I hurt" and "woe is me" are the same thing. Randall has never complained about his situation via his comic, but that does not mean he does not hurt, and it does not mean he should not express that hurt occasionally. Another colloquial term for the "woe is me" behavior is "bellyaching". Two or three posts out of almost 900 is not what I would consider bellyaching.

Illy wrote:You are making an extremely odd assumption that I haven't. I find the argument along these lines roughly on par with the "you'll understand when you have children" crowd when their entire argument boils down to "won't somebody please think of the children."


It's not odd at all - it's a pretty safe bet. You clearly don't empathize with the situation. If I were a betting man, I'd be surprised if I lost money betting that you haven't experienced this feeling, since people who have can usually empathize. I'd also be confident that you don't have children either. The "think of the children" argument may be irrational, but that does not mean it is easy to ignore once you have children. The experience changes your reaction to things relating to children.

Since this is comic is not making an argument, but expressing a feeling, "revisit after you have experienced this" is very helpful advice. Since obviously that requires time and bad luck - instead pick someone who empathized with the comic, and try to imagine yourself in their shoes. You may or may not be able to get an inkling of the feeling - if you do, understand that the real thing is far more intense. From that perspective then try to see why so many people appreciated it. It's not easy to do, but it is still a useful exercise, I feel (and will help you empathize with and then get past those pesky "but think of the children!" arguments).

*This is probably why SirMustapha's music is bland and not particularly memorable. He does not believe emotion can be expressed through music, despite hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary.

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:06 am UTC

charolastra wrote:The way I see it, the people complaining are lucky and it's unfortunate that they don't realize how lucky they are. (...) 1 out of every 2 men will have cancer. 1 out of every 3 women will as well. If you don't relate yet, you will.


This is a discussion on artistic merit, not on personal dramas. If you want to sabotage the conversation by melting it down into "you're a bad person and you should feel bad", you should at least know that not everyone here wants that. Also, stop making false assumptions about people you haven't even talked to. I lost my father to cancer in 2004, and I already feel pathetic for feeling the need of sharing such an irrelevant and distracting fact in this thread.

bigjeff5 wrote:The goal of art is generally to an evoke emotion.


Who said that? Oh, wait, I know that one: you did. This is your personal definition, and as far as I am aware, there is no universally accepted and unarguable statement on the "goal of art". Personally, I think the goal of art is to express something. This "something" isn't necessarily emotion: it can be an opinion, a view on life, a personal feeling or sensation, something vague or something deep. If you state that art should "evoke emotion", you're already narrowing down the possibilities of art into a small, rigid box, and to me that's awfully undesirable.

Art can evoke emotion. It cannot, by any means, transmit emotion. Emotion isn't a substance or a radiation carried out by air or anything: it's something that happens within each one. Art can trigger things in people that, in their turn, will lead to emotions, but nobody will ever be 100% sure if those emotions were intended by the artist, and it's impossible to know if what people see in art correspond exactly to what the artist intended. That's precisely what's beautiful in art: the uncertainty of results and the plurality of possibilities. If we want to state something exact and precise, we don't use art, we use language. We use art for doing anything -- nothing is forbidden. And your attitude of determining what art should do only imposes shackles and obstacles for the audience and for the artist.

I read books not to cry or laugh, but to share my mind with the mind of another person. I listen to music not to cry or laugh, but to have fun and stimulate my mind with the infinite possibilities of sound, rhythm, texture, timbre and melody. I watch films not to cry or laugh, but to immerse myself into visions, sounds and experiences that reality would never offer me otherwise. Emotions are a collateral effect of all that: they are an added bonus, and I am fully aware that whatever emotions I feel come from inside me. They're not the writer's emotions, or the musician's emotions, or the director's emotions, but my own emotions unearthed by my contact with art. The goal of art for me, in short, is to affect people somehow and express something, and I think it's terribly sorry for a person not to admire the beauty of the meaning of the words "somehow" and "something".

bigjeff5 wrote:*This is probably why SirMustapha's music is bland and not particularly memorable. He does not believe emotion can be expressed through music, despite hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary.


You're smart for using this thread to attack my music, as this thread is a terribly inappropriate place for me to defend myself. But I will do it anyway, as I believe I've had enough of it here. You think my music is bland? That's fine, that's your own opinion and you must treasure it dearly. What could I do? Call you names? Say you're wrong? No, that would be childish and stupid. I'm an adult, I don't freak out with criticism, I'm not petty enough to let my ego be hurt by that. And you're right, I don't make music expecting people to "receive" my emotions: I make music expecting people to experience their own emotions, using the music as a mere catalyst. I don't think the listener should be waiting for the artist's emotions to come enclosed in a nice, neat package, which he just has to pull out the lid and receive, and that's certainly not what he's going to get from me. Why should I try to give my own emotions, when everyone has his own unimaginable wealth of unexplored emotions to feel? Next time you listen to music (not my own, and you've certainly have heard enough of it in order to make such judgement), try taking it merely as a road to your own soul, not as a gift-wrapped packaged of pre-processed and pre-digested emotions. It's just a suggestion, and you're free to take it; after all, my art is just one in an infinite universe of possibilities.

DavidRoss
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby DavidRoss » Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:52 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:We come to his site as guests, not as clients or customers.


If that is the view everyone has of the audience, then I don't see much future for art as a whole. You mean, the artist does his art entirely for himself, and the audience is just this passive, voiceless entity that, in the end, doesn't matter. Is that what is being said here?

As far as I know, art doesn't have any point if it has no audience. If the audience's complaints and requests fall on deaf ears, that's because Randall is closing himself away from his readers, so eventually the readers will stop caring and go away. And if Randall loses his audience completely, his comic has become pointless. Also, none of the readers signed any contract saying they were forbidden to complain: they are free to have opinions and express them, just as Randall is free to hear or ignore them. What I find silly is to expect the audience to care about Randall both as an artist and as a person, yet never say a negative word about him or his work. This isn't an artist-audience relationship: it's slavery, plain and simple.


Well said, but I differ.

Artists can choose to be driven by what the audience wants. That works. Artists even without an audience is not entirely pointless, as it changes the artist. Of course, by some measure (including mine), the better artists have better audiences. In this case, perhaps I stated my point inartfully. We can comment on the art, but in this context, none of us is entitled to take a "this sucks, I want my money back" position. I am not suggesting that the artist ignore the audience, just that we understand what we are entitled to demand.

webgiant
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby webgiant » Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

gooley wrote:Seriously, Randall. Nobody cares about your personal life, we just want entertaining comics. Please keep it professional.

Seriously, speak for yourself, not the rest of us.

If Randal tells us about his personal life in an extraordinarily (A) entertaining, (β) nerdy, (©) artistic, or (√ 2) weird way, that's just fine by me. So far, he has never failed to please in this regard.

loverlyrandom
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby loverlyrandom » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:04 pm UTC

I seem to be the only person (read: idiot) that related this to marriage first (after reading the hover text. I love the comic in reference). It seemed like the graph they were looking at was figurative, they were in the hospital because she had just given birth and they were hugging out of happiness not sadness.

Then going to the forum, I realized how far off I was. . .

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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby bigjeff5 » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:20 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
bigjeff5 wrote:The goal of art is generally to an evoke emotion.


Who said that? Oh, wait, I know that one: you did. This is your personal definition, and as far as I am aware, there is no universally accepted and unarguable statement on the "goal of art". Personally, I think the goal of art is to express something. This "something" isn't necessarily emotion: it can be an opinion, a view on life, a personal feeling or sensation, something vague or something deep. If you state that art should "evoke emotion", you're already narrowing down the possibilities of art into a small, rigid box, and to me that's awfully undesirable.


I never said that was the only goal of art, I said it was generally the goal. As in, usually when an artist expresses something, it's an emotion they are trying to express, or an emotion that they want to evoke in others. It's certainly not the only goal of art, but even when art has other goals, its means of achieving them is usually by evoking an emotional response in the audience. There are too many examples of this to count, and frankly I challenge you to produce a great piece of art that does not evoke an emotion.

SirMustapha wrote:Art can evoke emotion. It cannot, by any means, transmit emotion. Emotion isn't a substance or a radiation carried out by air or anything: it's something that happens within each one. Art can trigger things in people that, in their turn, will lead to emotions, but nobody will ever be 100% sure if those emotions were intended by the artist, and it's impossible to know if what people see in art correspond exactly to what the artist intended. That's precisely what's beautiful in art: the uncertainty of results and the plurality of possibilities. If we want to state something exact and precise, we don't use art, we use language. We use art for doing anything -- nothing is forbidden. And your attitude of determining what art should do only imposes shackles and obstacles for the audience and for the artist.


I don't believe I ever implied that there was some actual emotional substance being radiated from works of art. The idea is ludicrous, of course that doesn't happen. I also never said that the emotion evoked was the specific emotion intended, or that a specific emotion was even intended.

SirMustapha wrote:
bigjeff5 wrote:*This is probably why SirMustapha's music is bland and not particularly memorable. He does not believe emotion can be expressed through music, despite hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary.


You're smart for using this thread to attack my music, as this thread is a terribly inappropriate place for me to defend myself. But I will do it anyway, as I believe I've had enough of it here. You think my music is bland? That's fine, that's your own opinion and you must treasure it dearly. What could I do? Call you names? Say you're wrong? No, that would be childish and stupid. I'm an adult, I don't freak out with criticism, I'm not petty enough to let my ego be hurt by that. And you're right, I don't make music expecting people to "receive" my emotions: I make music expecting people to experience their own emotions, using the music as a mere catalyst. I don't think the listener should be waiting for the artist's emotions to come enclosed in a nice, neat package, which he just has to pull out the lid and receive, and that's certainly not what he's going to get from me. Why should I try to give my own emotions, when everyone has his own unimaginable wealth of unexplored emotions to feel? Next time you listen to music (not my own, and you've certainly have heard enough of it in order to make such judgement), try taking it merely as a road to your own soul, not as a gift-wrapped packaged of pre-processed and pre-digested emotions. It's just a suggestion, and you're free to take it; after all, my art is just one in an infinite universe of possibilities.



You are absolutely right. My statement about your music was inappropriate, and I apologize.

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SirMustapha
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:54 pm UTC

bigjeff5 wrote:I never said that was the only goal of art, I said it was generally the goal. As in, usually when an artist expresses something, it's an emotion they are trying to express, or an emotion that they want to evoke in others. It's certainly not the only goal of art, but even when art has other goals, its means of achieving them is usually by evoking an emotional response in the audience.


I don't understand, though, why you said Illy's point was self-contradictory. Illy said "just because Randall's comic provoked an emotional response in many doesn't mean it was successful". You said that was contradictory, implying that provoking an emotional response is a sufficient condition for the comic having worked. Reading it that way, you're saying a little more than "art generally intends to evoke emotion" and "it's hard to make a work of art that doesn't evoke emotion": you're saying that, if it evokes emotion, then it worked, period.

I think it goes beyond that. I am arguing that "evoking emotion" can happen, but that's not a sufficient condition for creating good art: a person can respond emotionally to basically ANYTHING, especially if he conditions himself to that (say, if a person needs desperately to affirm his geekiness, he may jump with joy at anything remotely geeky). What I say is that, yes, bad pieces of art (if such thing objectively exists) will probably, if not certainly, provoke an emotional response in someone, for whatever cause.

To me, saying that "if it evokes emotion then it works" is extremely vague and shaky, while saying "it has to evoke emotion to work" is restrictive and terribly limiting. I'm not arguing that emotion and art are not related; just not in those terms. And as such, I think that Illy has a perfectly valid point.

vargr1
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby vargr1 » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:27 pm UTC

Yeah, I get this one. I understand.

Last July, my wife was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. The 5-year survival rate is 17.5%

She and I have been together 20 years, and we played a lot of RPGs. When I told her the odds, she smiled and said, "I'll take 'em. You know how often I roll a 20 - and that's only a 5% chance!"

She died last October, three months after diagnosis. She was 49 years old.

She told me once that if something were to happen to her that I should live the life of the merry bachelor. I continue to live, but only because she wanted me to.

bigjeff5
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby bigjeff5 » Fri Apr 22, 2011 5:15 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:To me, saying that "if it evokes emotion then it works" is extremely vague and shaky, while saying "it has to evoke emotion to work" is restrictive and terribly limiting. I'm not arguing that emotion and art are not related; just not in those terms. And as such, I think that Illy has a perfectly valid point.


I see your point. I don't really agree with it, but I understand it. To me the evocation of emotion is all that really matters. So when I see a work that didn't evoke any sort of emotion out of me I am at the very least apathetic towards it.

This is one of the reasons discussions on the subject of "what is art" and similar matters tend to be fruitless. Art is very personal for both the creator and the consumer, so as soon as you start going too far beyond "I like this" or "I don't like this" people will see things differently and disagree. Looking back I realize that I used to only care about the technical skill that went in to a piece of art, and cared for little else. If I'd seen this then I probably would have thought it was dumb.

An example is a friend of mine who is an artist - most of her pieces she labors over, spending hours and hours working in the most minute details, getting everything exactly the way she wants them. They are exquisite, and very personal. One day, though, she threw together a wolf picture done in charcoal in something like a half an hour, just to test out a new style. Her fans went nuts over it, becoming far more popular than most of her more detailed work, and she absolutely hated it. It wasn't nearly as good, from her point of view, as most of her other works. She hadn't spent any real effort into it, so the fact that it became one of her most popular pieces she took almost as though it were an insult.

People appreciate things for different reasons. Personally, I thought my friend's 30-minute piece was beautiful, but she did not agree, and she drew the damn thing.

philip1201
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby philip1201 » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:17 pm UTC

bigjeff5 wrote:An example is a friend of mine who is an artist - most of her pieces she labors over, spending hours and hours working in the most minute details, getting everything exactly the way she wants them. They are exquisite, and very personal. One day, though, she threw together a wolf picture done in charcoal in something like a half an hour, just to test out a new style. Her fans went nuts over it, becoming far more popular than most of her more detailed work, and she absolutely hated it. It wasn't nearly as good, from her point of view, as most of her other works. She hadn't spent any real effort into it, so the fact that it became one of her most popular pieces she took almost as though it were an insult.

People appreciate things for different reasons. Personally, I thought my friend's 30-minute piece was beautiful, but she did not agree, and she drew the damn thing.


She needs to learn to murder her darlings.

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TGARCH-M
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby TGARCH-M » Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:05 am UTC

It's not a bell curve, so the standard deviation gets you nowhere. If it's a logarithmic decay, the average (given by x in the function e^(-t/x)) would be enough to plot the entire course of the disease, and would be the point where 1/e people are still alive. (2x being the point where 1/e^2 are still alive, etc). In fact, with most statistical decays, there is need for only one variable, which can be derived from the average.


Philip, are you sure that the average time left at stage-X of a disease would follow a log-decay and not some variant of a bell curve? I would really expect that some live longer and some live shorter in a way that isn't monotonically decaying. I think that the probability of dying like TOMORROW in a certain stage is going to be less than dying in the population mean time-to-death.

Though I could see actually if there excess kurtosis and positive skew due to people who totally beat the disease and live until a natural death, actually...so it probably isn't normal. (In which case the stdev DOES mean nothing without a more granular look at the distribution.)

Bobbert
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Bobbert » Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:32 am UTC

fredfnord wrote:Wow. Tough crowd.

I've been through this (not myself, but a family member) with a much worse graph than that. (Think 'graph marked in months, not years'.) I found it somewhat touching, not 100% effective but not bad either. It would never have occurred to me to log in and comment, if I hadn't poked my head into this thread and found the ensuing 'discussion'. (And I don't mean the trolls, either.)

If I had people talking like this in the comments of my blog, I'd stop blogging.


If this was a blog it wouldn't have the same sort of responses, but it's a comic.

EDIT: Also

charolastra wrote:The way I see it, the people complaining are lucky and it's unfortunate that they don't realize how lucky they are. If they can't relate, then they are leading incredibly lucky lives. Many of Randall's readers are not so lucky. I am a 23 year old with cancer with a similar prognosis chart. Life isn't always about love and hearts and nerdy jokes. Sometimes, life is tough. Randall captured that perfectly.

1 out of every 2 men will have cancer. 1 out of every 3 women will as well. If you don't relate yet, you will.


I can "relate" as I've been in situations where doctors have told me that my chances of living through the WEEK are less than 10%, and have had to sit down and comfort loved ones as they read charts showing just how low the chances of them living another 5 years was, but I still don't think it's a good comic.

And the fact that Randall apparently sustains himself on revenue generated by this comic and merchandise does make the audience customers.

grovewd
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby grovewd » Sat Apr 23, 2011 3:56 pm UTC

I just wanted to say I send my prayers to you and your family as you continue to walk through this; I empathize with you severely.

I also greatly appreciate the mouseover text as a loooooong time reader.

Smile and be strong :)

grovewd
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby grovewd » Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:47 pm UTC

Having read through all the comments now, I just wanted to also say:

1) I actually RE-registered to post for this comment (it's been so long since I posted that one time that I forgot every detail of the account)

2) I (again) personally understand how this might be upsetting to some readers, but this is actually the xkcd I first fell in love with years ago - raw emotion. I like the humorous comics too, and the ones that poke fun at current internet trends and sociality, but if you go back and read the first comics - the beginnings of xkcd - almost all of them were just thoughts and reflections from a nerd wanting to truly connect to people...just like how I felt. Pure, raw, unbridled emotion.

Reality.

Daggoth
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby Daggoth » Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:02 pm UTC

This comic captures the fragility of life, if you can not see the artistic merit, then that reflects your own lack of capacity for appreciating art.

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SirMustapha
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Re: 0881: "Probability"

Postby SirMustapha » Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:00 pm UTC

Daggoth wrote:This comic captures the fragility of life, if you can not see the artistic merit, then that reflects your own lack of capacity for appreciating art.


And I am the troll, huh?


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