1048: "Emotion"

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fmayhar
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby fmayhar » Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:58 pm UTC

Replace "romance" with "being a good parent (of my four-year-old) and that's roughly mine, right there, only with the cancer mountain suddenly growing at the end of November 2010.

Definitely changes pretty much everything.

Those question-marks, by the way, are us trying to figure out what things will look like after cancer. Assuming there is such a thing (which is an apparently reasonably valid assumption in both cases; it appears I'm doing better than expected).

Hang in there folks. You're not alone, there are a lot of us out here.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby cstep » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:06 pm UTC

illinoiscentral wrote:I don't mean to come off as the grumpy person who just puts negativism everywhere until the darkness consumes him, but guess what - most people with cancer die.

Well, even if you didn't mean to "come off as the grumpy person who just puts negativism everywhere until the darkness consumes him," you absolutely did. I'll clue you in on something: Everybody with cancer dies. But everybody without cancer dies, too. You "know" someday you are going to die, but I bet you rarely if ever think about it. If you did, your life would be quite a bit harder. A cancer diagnosis forces you to stare death in the face, drives it right to the front of your consciousness. That was kinda the point of this comic. It's one thing to "know" that every time you go outside, there is a very small chance that you will get shot and killed. It's another to walk around all the time with a gun to your head and not knowing when or even if it will go off.

One thing that can help keep you grounded when dealing with something like this is empathy, knowing that you aren't alone, that there is someone else out there that knows where you are because they've been there themselves. The cool thing about it is that it works both ways. The person who is currently in the shit can look at someone who has come out the other side and say to themselves "Look, there is hope," but the person who has suffered through this and found some sort of peace can gain solace from the fact that they can help people who are suffering now; it gives their own ordeal a sort of purpose, rather than being some random shitty thing that happened and nothing good will ever come from.

Empathy is one of the best aspects of humanity. Please try to remember that when another fit of cynicism threatens to take hold. Otherwise, you are in for a sad, lonely existence.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby RabbitWho » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:16 pm UTC

Stop feeding the trolls guys.

The comic seems pretty accurate to me, the general lack of emotion as you saunter through every day and the little "oh goody!" moments when you see a good TV show or a funny tweet and little "oh crap" moments when you realize you can´t acquire or do something you need or what, the strong emotions do come from the things on that list. Then afterwards you realize how silly it was, you even knew how silly it was at the time but it passes the time I guess.
My interpretation was "wait, cancer is receding and now I have free emotional space? The hell do I do with myself now?"


Right! it is a little while before you start allowing yourself to care about stupid little things again.


It is not true anymore that most people with cancer die.
We've all lost people to cancer but we're all surrounded by cancer survivors all the time. Every single year they learn new things and the prognosis gets better and better. This is something they will figure out. This is why it's extra frustrating at the moment, if someone dies now it's in the back of your head "if this was even 5 years from now maybe everything would have been different". It's really incredible the progress they are making, don't forget there's more money going into this than any other disease or condition.

mikechorost34
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby mikechorost34 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:39 pm UTC

Dear Randall, Please ignore SirMustapha, who is WRONG on the Internet. His post is actually just random noise. I find your posts on cancer to be profound and moving. My best wishes to you and your wife.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:42 pm UTC

illinoiscentral wrote:I don't mean to come off as the grumpy person who just puts negativism everywhere until the darkness consumes him, but guess what - most people with cancer die.


That isn't true. More than half the time, people with cancer die of something else first before the cancer kills them.

Sometimes people can spend a lifetime with their cancer in remission before something else kills them.

Don't be so grumpy, it doesn't do you much good.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Steax » Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:49 pm UTC

Half. 50% odds is extremely high. (I'm going to just say "About half" because that's what wikipedia says.)

The point is that it's a hard moment on people's emotions when a person dear to them suddenly learns their time is now more limited than they thought it was. It might still be longer. It might not. Sure, they might die due to something else first. I could too. But getting the realization so profoundly - along with all the treatment that follows - is very, very painful. It's a psychological and emotional thing. "It doesn't do you much good" is a pretty weak way to deny that.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby vodka.cobra » Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:28 pm UTC

God Randall, could you be any more wrong on the internet with this graph? CLEARLY, the cyan "other" and the white "???" are redundant because an unknown could reasonably be filed under "other."

No but seriously, I'm glad to hear she's doing okay.
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Tokyoma
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Tokyoma » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:20 pm UTC

Most of those emotional causes "nowadays" are all related to computers..

http://www.google.com/insights/search/#q=computers%2Ccancer&cmpt=q

It's interesting switching the regional view of cancer search over computer search.

Elementalist
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Elementalist » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:05 pm UTC

What in the flying fuck are you apologizing for?!? the fact you are continuing to spread humor and thought provoking material is admirable. You should just be proud to have dealt with your issues in such a fantastic manner! I applaud you sir for doign what you have dine not just for its essence on the surface, but for doing it despite family hardships. Keep on keeping on <3

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby J Thomas » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:49 pm UTC

Steax wrote:Half. 50% odds is extremely high. (I'm going to just say "About half" because that's what wikipedia says.)

The point is that it's a hard moment on people's emotions when a person dear to them suddenly learns their time is now more limited than they thought it was.


It might not have come through, but I'm not being unsympathetic to you. I'm being unsympathetic to illinoiscentral who didn't mean to come off as grumpy but did. Now I feel like I ought to be sympathetic to everybody all the time, but sometimes it's just no fun.

It might still be longer. It might not. Sure, they might die due to something else first. I could too. But getting the realization so profoundly - along with all the treatment that follows - is very, very painful. It's a psychological and emotional thing. "It doesn't do you much good" is a pretty weak way to deny that.


I dunno. It sounds like you're saying it's fun to stay in denial, and then if suddenly you can't keep up the denial that's painful. What can I say except I'm sorry for your loss?

If someone would care to step out of that denial, consider this: In the latter days of the USSR and the early days of the kleptocratic system that replaced it, a whole lot of Russians were basicly killed by the Russian economy. Maybe some of them would have been unhealthy anyway, but people tend to die when they can't meet their basic needs. Is there a chance that will happen where you are? Not the same, each collapsing economy collapses in its own way, but could your economy kill a lot of people? Yes, it could.

You don't know how long you have, like a person who doesn't know she has cancer. If it's easier for you to pretend that you have all the time in the world, that's a valid choice. But why not get ready for when it will hit you that you don't?

Larry Niven had a cantrip I liked. It goes, "I'm going to have to get over this sooner or later. Why not now?"
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby evanskaufman » Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:59 pm UTC

I feel for Randall (and his fiance!), as I'm going through a similar situation with someone very close to me. Everyone assumes that battling cancer takes a hell of an emotional toll, but being in a relationship with someone that's battling cancer takes a major toll as well.

Men have this inborn urge to "protect" their women, silly and testosterone-laden as it sounds...and when we find ourselves helpless against something like cancer, it leaves us feeling utterly useless and depressed as hell. Being in a something-less-than-declared-lifelong relationship doesn't help, either.

Like I said, my heart goes out to Randall and his fiance.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Invisiblemoose » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:50 am UTC

evanskaufman wrote:Like I said, my heart goes out to Randall and his fiance.

They're married now.

I'm sorta with Mustaphaさん on this one. If the intent of this comic was to offer new details on his wife's status by linking to a new blog post, it'd make sense. But it doesn't. It links to the same year-old cancer post from the last go-round. Why? What's the point? It does come across as weirdly exploitative. Especially seeing all these forum posts by people jumping blindly on the sympathy bandwagon without even keeping up with Randall's blog.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Tabasco » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:53 am UTC

After having had time to digest the comic itself, I also wondered why pre-cancer there was "other" and post-cancer there's "??". Very interesting. I like the theories so far as to what Randall is doing here:
  • Pregnant? Look at the bump (pun intended) in romance, followed by something which gets a sizeable chunk pretty fast. Yes, sizeable ... romance is the only thing besides cancer, and this mystery item is given pretty much equal weight compared to romance. Consider it this way: what type of major event would shock / seriously affect someone who's dealing / dealt with cancer? That's a short list, and "baby" would be up there.
  • Numbness/shock ... not great words, really, but the general idea is that after having fought (and still fighting) this battle, with so much emotional energy drained, the new "normal" existence has a fair bit of disorientedness, lacking even in common terms for its description: he can't even describe how he feels, because he now lives so far outside of his original frame of reference. Thus it's a placeholder for confusion.
  • Batman villain? He's in battle with The Riddler, of course. Though then it should be green, IMHO.

I'm going with # 1 ... and note, whatever this is, the item really grew (in emotional bandwidth, and yes another pun intended) in August or September, which is darn close to 9 months ago. On the other hand, it seems whatever this is seems to have started shortly after the cancer battle - late 2010. Did they decide so quickly into the cancer battle that they wanted kids? I wouldn't expect that, but then I don't know the details.

But if not pregnancy, it could be they were dealing with infertility. Come to think of it, infertility could be the mystery item itself, and the event last fall might have been a major setback. I can relate to that.

I suppose there's a door # 3 to this option: it's not pregnancy, and it's not infertility; it's another disease, or major life-complication / problem. I hope not.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Some questions in this thread regard Randall's attention to the fora. For years, I was convinced he didn't read them; he simply let them run on auto-pilot as a service to us. Or, if he read them, I was certain he never participated, as I never, ever saw evidence of it.

Then, one day, I found evidence in an unlikely place ... I found some (old) posts which were clearly Randall, and found his account seemed to post consistently, just not a lot. I even found what I'm pretty sure is his wife, starting before she was his girlfriend ... though I can't be sure.

So, as I'm pretty confident Randall will find this post, I have this message for you, Randall:

+1 to posting a link to a cancer-related charity.

Sure it's a cliche, but guess what: cliches, tropes, and conventions come about for good reason. I know you care about the fight. Many in your audience do, too. A nudge in the direction (of how to help fight) is entirely reasonable ... it could be as simple as a template link, or as bold as a (PayPal?) donation-button leading directly to the charity's accounts. I know picking good charity is hard: you want to ensure they're good stewards of your money, and that they accomplish results (rather than just fundraising for the sake of fundraising and maybe someday purchasing some token lab supplies for the appearance of legitimacy). You could rotate the link among multiple charities - after all, I can imagine one might feel selfish for concentrating on one which is closer to your family's experience (i.e. the specific type of cancer), but doesn't help with other, unrelated but equally worthy causes (i.e. lupus). Such a nudge would be a fine way to empower your audience to engage in the fight ... and as many posts in this thread attest, we* want to join you in the fight anyway.

That's my soapbox. I know it's your comic, and I ain't one to tell you what to do with it. All I can say is, +1 to that idea.

* well, a lot of us, trolls notwithstanding

lly
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby lly » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:21 am UTC

Invisiblemoose wrote:
evanskaufman wrote:Like I said, my heart goes out to Randall and his fiance.

They're married now.

I'm sorta with Mustaphaさん on this one. If the intent of this comic was to offer new details on his wife's status by linking to a new blog post, it'd make sense. But it doesn't. It links to the same year-old cancer post from the last go-round. Why? What's the point? It does come across as weirdly exploitative. Especially seeing all these forum posts by people jumping blindly on the sympathy bandwagon without even keeping up with Randall's blog.


This is sort of where I come down as well. I don't believe that Randall consciously thought of it that way, but it doesn't quite feel right either. I've maintained for a while that XKCD would work best if it were made officially a blog in the style of something like Hyperbole and a Half, in which case a graph like this would be perfectly fitting along with an update on how he is doing now.

If it had been a link to a new blog update then that would be more in keeping in that pattern and I don't feel that I would feel it as being at all "off"… but instead it just links to an old post. Possibly just as a reiteration of the previous explanation for why there have been cancer comics, but at least there could have been a more substantive update of some variety.

Again, I don't think Randall meant it that way, but there is sort of an off feel to the whole thing.
Last edited by lly on Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:50 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Retsam
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Retsam » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:31 am UTC

Invisiblemoose wrote:
evanskaufman wrote:Like I said, my heart goes out to Randall and his fiance.

They're married now.

I'm sorta with Mustaphaさん on this one. If the intent of this comic was to offer new details on his wife's status by linking to a new blog post, it'd make sense. But it doesn't. It links to the same year-old cancer post from the last go-round. Why? What's the point? It does come across as weirdly exploitative. Especially seeing all these forum posts by people jumping blindly on the sympathy bandwagon without even keeping up with Randall's blog.




It seems strange that a comic can come off as "exploitative". It doesn't cost you anything. I doubt it was a "stunt" to gain traffic; I don't think Randall needs to worry about traffic at all.

Yes, part of it might just be that the sympathy of others makes Randall feel better, knowing that others care. What's wrong with that? Even if it's just to make himself feel better, is it fair to feel cheated out of 30 seconds of your time, and being forced to feel sympathy for a fellow human being going through a hard time? Yes, I understand that this comic makes people uneasy; you came to the site looking for a quick laugh, not ... this. But, Randall has probably been feeling about the same way; having a wife with cancer probably wasn't what he was looking for in life either.
So even if this comic is nothing more than a selfish "sympathy grab", can you really begrudge someone that, if it doesn't cost you anything?

Besides; it's -not- just a selfish play for attention. Is it funny? No, it's not meant to be. But a comic doesn't have to simply be a cheap laugh every day. Some of the best Calvin and Hobbes strips weren't funny, either. Nowhere does Randall promise that every xkcd is going to be funny. A comic simply needs to communicate something meaningful to the reader. To people who are living "normal" lives right now, I think it's a message of perspective; things like politics and people being wrong on the internet are only important in the short term, and it's easy to lose sight of the things that really matter, like time spent with a loved one. To people who are struggling with similar issues, I think it's a message that they're not alone, which is simple, but can be deeply meaningful.

To sum up, I think the "problem" with this comic is that people like to think of xkcd as a "laugh machine", and on Friday the machine "broke", it didn't give us the laugh we were looking for. But it's important not to take for granted the human being "inside the machine".

[No offense meant to invisiblemoose who seems to be posting here in earnest. I'm avoiding replying to a certain other couple posts, because I don't trust myself to reply to those without saying something that I'd regret later. It would really contradict my message of "remember the human being" if I said some less than edifying things about another certain human being...]

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Brethren01 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:47 am UTC

To all,

I would like to thank Randall for putting into a picture exactly what I have been feeling for the past few weeks.

My mother was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Reading this comic and the associated stuff made me move forward.

Thank you.

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Karilyn
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Karilyn » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:54 am UTC

fernie wrote:Shameless blurb: apparently a lot of types of cancer (not all, sadly) can be avoided/prevented with a healthy diet consisting of unprocessed grains, mixed vegetables, and minimal red meat (or any meat, depending how extreme you get); but hey, I'm just an applied-science major focusing on dead buildings, eat all the McDonalds and monster drinks you want.

This just made my stomach crawl up inside itself and die. My partner has an extremely unhealthy diet, which is like, 70% meat, 10% salt and butter, and like, 20% processed grains. And, up until now, the only thing I had to worry about was her metabolism finally kicking the bucket, and her ballooning from 120 to 300+ pounds, and possibly becoming a diabetic or getting high blood pressure. Now I have to worry about this causing her to get cancer too? :(
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

Karilyn wrote:
fernie wrote:Shameless blurb: apparently a lot of types of cancer (not all, sadly) can be avoided/prevented with a healthy diet consisting of unprocessed grains, mixed vegetables, and minimal red meat (or any meat, depending how extreme you get); but hey, I'm just an applied-science major focusing on dead buildings, eat all the McDonalds and monster drinks you want.

This just made my stomach crawl up inside itself and die. My partner has an extremely unhealthy diet, which is like, 70% meat, 10% salt and butter, and like, 20% processed grains. And, up until now, the only thing I had to worry about was her metabolism finally kicking the bucket, and her ballooning from 120 to 300+ pounds, and possibly becoming a diabetic or getting high blood pressure. Now I have to worry about this causing her to get cancer too? :(


Are you interested in some data?

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/03March/Pag ... hrisk.aspx
This is a readable explanation. They looked at a lot of studies and tried to pool them. Some of the studies were probably badly done, but they weren't sure which ones and by putting lots of studies together they may have reduced the effect of the worst ones.

Code: Select all

The researchers used the death rates of 35 to 79-year-olds in Western Europe in the year 2000 to estimate the average reduction in lifespan. They estimated that average lifespan is reduced by up to one year for people who, by about age 60, reach a BMI of 25–27.5kg/m². Lifespan was cut by one to two years for those who reach 27.5–30kg/m², and by two to four years for those who become obese (30–35 kg/m²).

For people with a BMI above 35kg/m², they estimate an eight to 10-year reduction in lifespan, although this accuracy is limited because there is much less information for this BMI category.


That sounds pretty good, right? Only a 8-10 year reduction in lifespan, and they aren't particularly sure of it. However, someone who has gone from 120 to 300+ pounds is probably not representative of people with BMI above 35kg/m², unless she's something like six and a half feet tall. It's plausible her results might be worse.

Well OK, if you get a cat or a dog, you know ahead of time that they won't live all that long. If you had found a partner who was 20 years older than you, other things equal you'd expect they'd die 20 years before you, more or less. You have a partner who has an unhealthy diet, and chances are she'll have health problems, and she might die younger than some other people. Accept it. Comparing with other people is not very useful.

It probably wouldn't help for you to nag her about her diet. If she was open to changing it, she already would have. Accept that too.

I feel kind of silly saying a lot about your partner based only on what you said, but I will anyway. Very likely there is an identity issue involved. She feels like her diet choice is part of "who she is". Anything you do to encourage her to change that, she would interpret as you rejecting her personally. You want her to be healthy and live a long time; she considers that less important than being herself. When you accept her completely as she is, you still might do her some good if you can avoid any implied criticism. For example, you like it when she's adventurous and kind of daring in reasonably safe ways. If she shows any sign of being adventurous about food, you could approve of that. She might possibly start to eat small quantities of "adventure" food which could include something healthy. That might be good for her.

Your approval probably matters a lot to her, and could be much more effective at excruciatingly slow behavior change than your disapproval. When you worry about what her bad habits will do to her, it likely gets in her way. And it gets in your way. So if you want to be the best partner you can for her, you could look for ways to put that aside. Of course it's hard for you to stop worrying about her, whether it does any good or not, because that's who you are. Would you be willing to change who you are -- for her? If you want to do it, you might find a way. If you don't want to, or if you are sure it's impossible, then you probably won't find any way to do it.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby QuantumSheep » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:25 pm UTC

First of all, Randall, I don't know if you ever read these; this is my first posting. A lot of people have replied to this particular comic to tell you of their (or their loved ones') experiences with cancer and I suppose this is no different. I am a young adult survivor of testicular cancer and rather than go into my own story I just wanted to point you towards a fantastic organization called SupidCancer.org (i.e. the "I'm Too Young For This!" Young Adult Cancer Foundation). They do amazing work in the realm of young adult cancer and advocacy and where they are different is that they know that there's no such thing as "You're cured, go home" -- in fact, a lot of the struggles for young adults are just beginning when the treatment ends. They are wonderfully irreverent and a great resource for your (I'm assuming by now) wife if she is still dealing with the "WTF" left over from her ordeal.

Second of all, I just couldn't write without replying to SirMustapha's amazingly obtuse post. He seems genuinely perplexed that XKCD never showed up as "taking up" any of Randall's emotions, and even goes so far as to accuse Randall of exploiting the cancer (?). If you were at all paying attention, Randall DIDN'T exactly "keep on making comics"; he had a few guest artists along the way. Also, if you had any power of deduction at all, you would realize that XKCD is the common thread among each and every one of the causes in the comic -- in other words, XKCD is the RELEASE of those emotions. If you don't believe me, try to find some XKCD comics that AREN'T about politics, or romance, or code that doesn't work, or people being wrong on the internet, or yes, cancer.

So of COURSE it's a form of therapy. When cancer or some other trauma hits your life, yes, you do everything you can to deal with the problem, you think about it 110% of the time, and you get very emotional. But if you're also not trying to in some way or another live with some modicum of NORMALCY, you would go absolutely insane.

Maybe you should think before pointing fingers at someone else's so-called "sympathy whoring," as you so eloquently put it.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:14 pm UTC

lly wrote:I've maintained for a while that XKCD would work best if it were made officially a blog in the style of something like <a href="http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/">Hyperbole and a Half</a>, in which case a graph like this would be perfectly fitting along with an update on how he is doing now.
Firstly: You've been here almost two years and still haven't figured out that html tags don't work?

Secondly: it would work best for whom, exactly? For you? Do you think Randall makes these comics for you? Near as I can tell, he pretty much still just makes them for himself, but since tons of other people tend to generally enjoy them, he also tries to come out with three new ones a week and gives folks the opportunity to give him money in exchange for comic-related things.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:40 pm UTC

Retsam wrote: ....

To sum up, I think the "problem" with this comic is that people like to think of xkcd as a "laugh machine", and on Friday the machine "broke", it didn't give us the laugh we were looking for. But it's important not to take for granted the human being "inside the machine".


It's never been just a laugh machine.

http://xkcd.com/13/
http://xkcd.com/14/
http://xkcd.com/17/
http://xkcd.com/19/
etc.

Dilbert is a laugh machine. He comes up with funny things about office drones and their bosses. The author talks like office drones who realize the ultimate futility of being an office drone are superior to the rest of humanity, and they can and should take over the world and arrange it so they get special perqs. After awhile I found it so sad it wasn't funny any more.

xkcd is not just funny. The author shares whatever he wants to share, and people keep coming back.

I think sometimes some people get bothered by the thoughts it inspires, and some of them post something negative in the forums as part of helping them restore their equilibrium.

This is not such a bad thing in itself. If they get off balance they need a way to calm down. The trouble is that when they criticize Randall they upset other people who post something negative about them to get over it.

And so it goes....
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby lly » Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:46 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Firstly: You've been here almost two years and still haven't figured out that html tags don't work?


Ah yes, the petty irrelevancy as a mechanism of undermining someone.

I've been here two years, but I have a grand total of 45 posts, averaging 0.07 posts per day, which should tell you how little time I actually spend coming to these forums. Sad to say posts like yours are part of the reason why. Yes, I failed to proofread it. Mea culpa, it's an easy fix.

Meanwhile, see also Why I Do Not Attend Case Conferences.

Secondly: it would work best for whom, exactly? For you? Do you think Randall makes these comics for you?


I frankly don't care who Randall "makes these comics" for. No more than I care who Anne Bishop or Stephanie Meyers writes "for." I don't care if they are writing to get it "out of their head" or "for teenage girls" or "for a general audience."

I can comment on form and function and whether I feel that it works in its current format, even given the audience. Just "writing for oneself" doesn't make what you write good. It doesn't mean that it works artistically or as a mechanism for conveying anything, nor does it mean that there might not be better formats to say the same thing. Maybe Randall doesn't care about whether it is any good, which is fine in its own right, but that doesn't invalidate criticism based around the assumption of an artist caring about their work.

Retsam wrote:To sum up, I think the "problem" with this comic is that people like to think of xkcd as a "laugh machine", and on Friday the machine "broke", it didn't give us the laugh we were looking for. But it's important not to take for granted the human being "inside the machine".


I have never thought of XKCD as a "laugh machine," even going back to the earliest days. Certain formats, however, are more or less conducive to communicating different things. Shakespeare used the written word very effectively, while Jackson Pollock used a different medium. Some things that work great in the form of a sonnet work very poorly in the form of abstract expressionism, and vice-versa.

XKCD has a format that is very conducive to being pithy. It works well for certain forms of humor, it works very well for certain forms of serious expression, or for some things that are simply "clever and interesting." The problem that has been observed is that, while it is great for some of this, it frequently gets used for a lot of things that the format is simply not as good at. There's nothing wrong with working within a restrictive framework (e.g., Dinosaur Comics), but sometimes that format just doesn't work for what you are trying to express.

Check out Adventures in Depression and Psychiatric Tales: Schizophrenia for two "comics" that have radically different formats and approaches and for which the format is conducive to different style of storytelling. Some story types work better with personal context, others work better without it. Some work best with everything confined within an in-comic narrative, others work best if there's a story or an update to go with it, and some work best if there's virtually nothing there at all.

This isn't to say that XKCD must absolutely be something it is not, but frequently the format doesn't seem to fit the content. Or certain aspects (e.g., the alt text) come across as seriously forced. It doesn't mean that we expect it to be a "laugh machine" or even be particularly funny, it just means that the format or the tone just feels off. This is simply because the content or isn't well suited to the medium, and that result can come across as jarring or off.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby babble » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:42 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Secondly: it would work best for whom, exactly? For you? Do you think Randall makes these comics for you? Near as I can tell, he pretty much still just makes them for himself, but since tons of other people tend to generally enjoy them, he also tries to come out with three new ones a week and gives folks the opportunity to give him money in exchange for comic-related things.


Genuinely supportive fans wouldn't expect or demand such a rigid schedule, and I'm sure no one here would insist on it, especially since they understand that the comics are created to express personal stuff, and not to fulfil some kind of contractual obligation. It can't be that no one would buy t-shirts if xkcd were to switch to a format and schedule that fit its content much better (the blog approach suggested would allow much more creative freedom, and who knows, maybe quite frequent updates anyway, without the pressure to churn out something/anything to meet a deadline.)

genuine fans should encourage this, especially since they know the writer of xkcd has terrible personal problems to cope with. Tons of people love Allie Brosh's work, as suggested - while it's disappointing on a selfish 'moar-content-now' level that she hasn't posted for a while, and also worrying - hope she is OK - she's also on record as saying she'd rather post high-quality stuff she's satisfied with, however long it takes rather than any old crap just to keep the content flowing. It's an approach that it wouldn't hurt xkcd to consider.

In the long term, this approach has to lead to something better and more worthy of her as an artist. If it meant fewer people buy t-shirts - well, then the question is, has xkcd felt forced to stick to a schedule out of fear of losing money? do supportive fans really want their message to come across as 'keep updating or we'll stop buying t-shirts'? There's a lot of back catalogue stuff that hasn't been turned into shirts yet that could take up some of the slack, if there's financial pressure.

(Could there be financial pressure? One thing I would be interested in finding out more about is how in a country without free healthcare, people manage when faced with a seriously expensive disease. That would make an excellent subject for a blog with pictures.)

Many people here talk about 'Randall' by first name, as if he were a personal friend. It's strange because of the widely held assertion that he doesn't read the threads here, so it happens in the third person rather than as an address, which would make more sense (yes, this thread is rather more full of addresses than most, but it's even weirder when a lot of them are qualified by 'although I've heard he doesn't read the threads').

And this means there's a weird mixture that comes across in the way people here talk about 'Randall' - the 'he is my friend and someone like me who speaks for me' thing mixes really really oddly with the 'he is in charge! he can do whatever he wants! don't you dare criticise him!' thing. It's a very strange effect - you don't see this happen that often. There is an extreme defensiveness in fans of xkcd that seems related to this attitude that 'Randall' is someone they can talk about like this.

This isn't a complaint or a criticism as much as a 'that's an odd phenomenon' observation btw, but it matters because it's tied up with the way many people here react to criticism of the comics - they seem to equate it with criticism of 'Randall', to take negative opinions on comic content as personal attacks on him. So 'this comic would have been funnier if x' becomes, for some, equivalent to 'Randall is a bad artist and you are an idiot for liking him.' and the substance of the actual criticism is ignored.

Sir Mustapha's posts don't usually fit the accepted definition of trolling, yet everyone here dismisses them as such out of hand. For every person that does engage with the argument he makes, 15 others say 'just go away' and 'don't feed the troll'. Making articulate comments in the hope of sparking constructive critical discussion isn't trolling. But all this means there's no chance for discussion of the content in the comic itself, only in the abstract.

And maybe that's what individual comics threads is about. Maybe it isn't for discussion of the comics themselves qua comics, only for discussions about the topics they reference and for praise of 'Randall'. That's cool but it should say that somewhere in the rules. If this forum is a place where nothing can be said that can be read as negative, then just say that. But until that's stated, reacting as if is 'trolling' and getting upset by it reads as terribly insecure.

finally, I hope that it's clear that this post is about the culture on this particular forum. I think xkcd has every right to dictate its own content, and that while this particular comic is probably nothing more than a reaching out for sympathy, in the circumstances that is fair enough. Personally I think if I was doing it, I would feel that linking to an old post and merely adding 'she's doing well' is a little unfair on fans that care, because naturally while that is good to hear, it's human nature to want more information, and by making it public domain like this, it would feel like I owed people a little more detail, but that's just an opinion and not one that can be defended against the 'it's his comic he can write what he wants' argument. If the comic was like the Lanes one, attempting to educate, that aim would be better served by more discussion, maybe.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:08 pm UTC

babble wrote:Many people here talk about 'Randall' by first name, as if he were a personal friend. It's strange because of the widely held assertion that he doesn't read the threads here, so it happens in the third person rather than as an address, which would make more sense (yes, this thread is rather more full of addresses than most, but it's even weirder when a lot of them are qualified by 'although I've heard he doesn't read the threads').

And this means there's a weird mixture that comes across in the way people here talk about 'Randall' - the 'he is my friend and someone like me who speaks for me' thing mixes really really oddly with the 'he is in charge! he can do whatever he wants! don't you dare criticise him!' thing. It's a very strange effect - you don't see this happen that often. There is an extreme defensiveness in fans of xkcd that seems related to this attitude that 'Randall' is someone they can talk about like this.
While it's obviously not true for most of the people posting, some of us *have* hung out with him (and his wife) in social situations. So the odd phenomenon for those of us who have actually talked with both of them about cancer is to see folks like you and Mustapha and such ascribing various goals and motivations to someone you've never met.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Steax » Sun Apr 29, 2012 9:32 pm UTC

It's also pretty useful to throw in some context here. SirMustapha has been doing (arguably fair/unfair) criticism on a majority of comic threads for quite a while there. Most of the xkcd forumites take the comic as conversation material, random peeks into the Great Unified Force, or just something to think about. It's not often you see people come here and defend things. It's not some sort of "extreme defensiveness". People give bad feedback all the time. We usually don't care. This, however, had two issues: it was ridiculing people suffering the emotional challenges of cancer, and the prescriptive feedback.

On the emotional challenges of cancer: Yeah, you can show the odds of people dying by it. Yeah, everyone's gonna die. That's not the point. It's an emotional issue, which is exactly what the comic was about.

On prescriptive feedback: I'd say that, if anything, xkcd has a good track record as an internet destination. Its format and model works, considering where it is now. Yes, Hyperbole and a Half works too, but it follows a completely different model. It's erratic, has long posts with a story and discussion each time, and people visit while driven by the psychology of having a new reward (post) on the site. It works great for them, but xkcd is also pretty well known for being consistent. It has a good schedule it sticks to, which is important in web publishing. While not every comic is going to be brilliant for everyone, it'll make some people like it. And to me, that's better than never letting it see the light of day. Yes, maybe removing the store link from this comic would be nice, or replacing it. But some people do want to support Randal, and buying merchandise is a better way of doing that than using a "donate" button of some sort.

It's extremely odd to see people challenging someone else's self-placed work schedule, compare it to another blog/comic with a totally different model, and then prescribe changes that "Randall should do". Maybe, just maybe, he's sticking to schedule so he can share things with his fans and readers, and not raking in cash. Maybe.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby J L » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:11 pm UTC

People criticizing because the comic was just there to offer old readers an update.
Or to offer new readers some background on what it's all about.
Other people criticizing because it didn't give enough updates. Just old news.
Or the hint that they might buy some of his stuff if they like his work.
But then again, his work isn't like other stuff they like more.
Or this comic just failed to make them laugh.
And they think it should be more like the stuff they like better or make them laugh before it asks them to buy something or even feel sympathy.
Less personal, or more informative, and by all means more like the other stuff, just different.
Criticizing the author.
Criticizing the work.
Criticizing the fans.
Criticizing ...

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby SirMustapha » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:45 pm UTC

poxic wrote:Y'know, SirM, your undying obsession with nitpicking xkcd comics (and using pop psychology on its author) is starting to get kind of creepy.


Creepy?

Image

THAT is creepy.

Also, creepy is the fact that the focus of the whole thread seems to have shifted from "Cancer sucks" to "SirMustapha sucks". Apparently I am a bigger disease then cancer. Y'know, I could almost feel proud of that.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:24 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Also, creepy is the fact that the focus of the whole thread seems to have shifted from "Cancer sucks" to "SirMustapha sucks".
Don't flatter yourself. The fact that your name is mentioned in a number of posts does not make the discussion entirely about you.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby musicgeek » Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:57 am UTC

Y'know, against all better judgment, I'm going to say this, because it's been a long damn day, and I'm cranky.

SirMustapha, the sheer size of the brass balls you must possess... it boggles the mind. I mean, to criticize the creator of a webcomic for using his own creation to discuss a loved one's struggles with cancer while simultaneously using a thread created for discussion of said comic (in which several other individuals are discussing their own personal cancer stories) to promote your own vapid, navel-gazing musical noodlings is pretty crass to begin with. (After all, out of respect for the issue at hand you should remove the self-promoting links in your signature if you want to be taken seriously, no?)

To criticize the creator of the comic for pandering to people's emotional responses while promoting your own work with shamelessly sentimental dreck like "My deepest thanks to the people who inspired these works — people who, incidentally, have provided me some of the finest, most rewarding and unforgettable moments of my life. This is a humble offering which I hope you will carry fondly through your life." or "With sincere thanks to Isis Porto, my parents and all the people who gave me good memories along my life." - now that's really special. So, no problems name-dropping or injecting your own personal emotional experiences into your art that you freely provide on a publicly available webpage? But that's taboo for others? Man, I can't even bother to be angry at your attitude because it's so pitiful. Pretentious musicians with their heads up their own rectums are a dime a dozen, and their album dedications are usually the first place that the attitude shows. Clearly, your case is special. Those unforgettable moments and those special people that you allude to in such nonspecific terms - obviously those sentiments will just captivate the hell out of every single person who stumbles across your webpage.

I've got no problem with anyone criticizing an artist or commenter on any topic, but to be either so completely emotionally tone-deaf or so completely self-absorbed as to interrupt a thread dominated by discussion of the impact of cancer on posters' lives just to bitch and moan because the comic doesn't strike you personally in the same way - that's sad. That's not a dismissive "sad," by the way - I mean that, because it means that you're going to miss a lot of truly "unforgettable moments" and "wonderful people" in life simply because you aren't at the center of them and can't be bothered to have any feeling if not.

Or, it could just be that you're a trolling douchebag, and I'm spinning my wheels for nothing. Screw it, it felt good to type it.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:47 am UTC

The music is gratis
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby babble » Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:47 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:While it's obviously not true for most of the people posting, some of us *have* hung out with him (and his wife) in social situations. So the odd phenomenon for those of us who have actually talked with both of them about cancer is to see folks like you and Mustapha and such ascribing various goals and motivations to someone you've never met.


Presumably this means ascribing them to posters on here? Their goals and motivations was not what I thought I was addressing at all; I thought I was talking about how the way people post on here comes across on reading. Nothing posted on here gives the impression of being motivated by anything other than well-wishing; whether that is expressed as simple sympathy or attempts at constructive criticism.

Steax wrote:It's extremely odd to see people challenging someone else's self-placed work schedule, compare it to another blog/comic with a totally different model, and then prescribe changes that "Randall should do". Maybe, just maybe, he's sticking to schedule so he can share things with his fans and readers, and not raking in cash. Maybe.


This is sort of an example of what I mean by the defensiveness combined with the use of the author's first name. The statement reads to me as saying that the suggestion 'xkcd's content might work better if presented differently' is actually a demand for change, being made on a personal friend who is also a higher authority and who for some reason can't speak for himself. (It also reads as ascribing goals and motivations to him, which we are told is an odd thing to do.) I do think it would be more natural to say 'xkcd' or 'the author' in most cases rather than speaking of 'Randall' as if the author is indistinguishable from his webiste. 'xkcd should do such-and-such' is a statement about the comic and its content, which for those of us not personal friends of the author is a much more appropriate way to talk about it, and much less creepy, and might solve a lot of these problems of perception of what 'criticism' means. but this forum doesn't look like it's ever going to stop doing that.

No, I don't agree that it's weird to make the suggestion. People challenge stuff all the time. People criticise the formats of newspapers, tv programmes, novels, films. It's weird to dismiss suggestions out of hand based on the imagined feelings of an author that aren't even consistent with resistance to said suggestions.

What the picto-blog people are saying isn't about wanting xkcd to stop, or to update infrequently. it's about wishing that it could live up to its potential and strengths. Maybe, just maybe, xkcd could update every day when there's more to say, or on thursdays when something isn't polished enough by the wednesday deadline. Maybe, just maybe, this suggestion is motivated by the same feeling - that it would be nice for the author to be able to 'share things with his fans and readers' - with the additional feeling that the self imposed schedule is actually hampering that. Many comics have a rushed air, many could benefit from rethinking. Btw, also, I don't think it's fair to suggest that I accused anyone of wanting to rake in cash. I was responding to a suggestion that the schedule had to continue in order to keep sales going - I don't think it's fair of customers to expect that. If people want to buy t-shirts, they should buy them without demanding content updates in return.

Of course it's the author's decision. Of course he is under no obligation to do anything at all. It's somewhat disappointing to know that he doesn't read these threads, because personally I think that is part of his actual job, and neglecting to read them is harmful to the content, but my personal view has nothing to do with it, and evidently few others on here agree. And duties of authors wrt levels of engagement with fans is something that everyone's going to feel very differently about, it's one of those kinds of arguments. If the author were to come on here and say 'sorry folks, I thought about it but if I didn't have the deadline I'd find it impossible to work' then people would have to respect that, although there are ways around that feeling. personally I still think hiring an editor would be a way to make the comic better, given the kinds of things that so often go wrong with it, and again, I'd like to hear the author himself explain why he doesn't do that rather than a lot of 'how dare you!' stuff. (written work benefits from editing. that is true practically all the time. it's not a criticism of any writer to say that). but, whatever. xkcd used to be a good read, it would be great if it could be again.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby rara_bb » Mon Apr 30, 2012 9:24 am UTC

Dave wrote:
rara_bb wrote:
Dave wrote:I know he doesn't read the forums


Is that an established fact? I'm pretty sure he'd peak in every once in a while.


Errr. I don't have any evidence, other than hearsay, to back it up, so I can't claim it to be fact. Perhaps I should have said "I am under the impression he doesnt read these forums..." - but to be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting anyone to pull me up on that, so I didn't think too much on whether the claim was watertight.



Well that's alright then. :wink: I don't have any evidence to the contrary either, but it's an interesting question nonetheless. I know that he used to read the forums because he used to reply to comic threads sometimes. But since you said "I know he doesn't...", it sounded like it's somehow established, as in an official announcement or something. So I was just curious when I read your statement.

The thing is, he must get feedback for his work somewhere, because he does this full-time. Everyone needs feedback. If he doesn't read what people post here (and I often hope he doesn't), where does he get feedback? Does he show the comics to his wife to get her opinion? Does he count page hits? Is he getting feedback from something like an in-group of family and friends? It's an interesting question to ponder.

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:20 am UTC

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Apr 30, 2012 12:09 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Don't flatter yourself. The fact that your name is mentioned in a number of posts does not make the discussion entirely about you.


Come on, I know this thread is about me (I'm so vain). You doubt it? Look at the post I'm going to reply.

-------

musicgeek wrote:I mean, to criticize the creator of a webcomic for using his own creation to discuss a loved one's struggles with cancer while simultaneously using a thread created for discussion of said comic (in which several other individuals are discussing their own personal cancer stories) to promote your own vapid, navel-gazing musical noodlings is pretty crass to begin with.


Oh, that? I created this sig back when I was a raving stupid fan (pleonasm) of xkcd. After I managed to remove my head from my anus, I neglected the sig entirely, and didn't even bother to update it. But then, I decided to keep it updated as a joke.

musicgeek wrote:(After all, out of respect for the issue at hand you should remove the self-promoting links in your signature if you want to be taken seriously, no?)


Respect for what issue? Randall having an abhorrent, self-pitying attitude at the expense of someone else's suffering? I don't respect that.

musicgeek wrote:So, no problems name-dropping or injecting your own personal emotional experiences into your art that you freely provide on a publicly available webpage?


For one, I'm not "injecting" anything; anything I produce will be invariably, inevitably linked with my own feelings somehow, and I'm merely acknowledging that. But you can listen to all of my music, and it will not be expected that you understand exactly where it's all coming from, even though there is a background to all of it... like pretty much EVERY PIECE OF ART EVER. Besides, it's pretty ridiculous to compare music with webcomics -- especially a webcomic such as xkcd, that is so textual and always so explicit.

musicgeek wrote:Man, I can't even bother to be angry at your attitude because it's so pitiful.


That's ok, I pity you as well.

musicgeek wrote:Those unforgettable moments and those special people that you allude to in such nonspecific terms - obviously those sentiments will just captivate the hell out of every single person who stumbles across your webpage.


Wait a minute, there... I was pretty sure that the dedication is only supposed to mean anything to the dedicatees themselves! What the fuck are you talking about? Man, I now want to have some of what you're having, and I'll probably start plucking hairs out of eggs.

musicgeek wrote:I've got no problem with anyone criticizing an artist or commenter on any topic, but to be either so completely emotionally tone-deaf or so completely self-absorbed as to interrupt a thread dominated by discussion of the impact of cancer on posters' lives just to bitch and moan because the comic doesn't strike you personally in the same way - that's sad.


Well, this thread is about the comic. I was commenting on the comic. If anything, using this thread to talk about one's personal cancer cases is far more disruptive than what I did. Wouldn't it be better to create a thread specifically for discussing that, then? In my opinion, "tone-deaf" is to come here just to post "Oh me yarm cancer I am so sad!". What good is THAT going to make? Showing sympathy to Randall? Is he even the one with cancer?

Otherwise, I was unaware that having a negative opinion on something was such a crime. Yeah, okay. Remind me not to question any charity or the purpose behind it, ever.

musicgeek wrote:That's not a dismissive "sad," by the way - I mean that, because it means that you're going to miss a lot of truly "unforgettable moments" and "wonderful people" in life simply because you aren't at the center of them and can't be bothered to have any feeling if not.


Thank you, person who never met me in real life! Your advice is certainly 100% accurate and consistent with everything I do away from this forum![/quote]

-------

So, see? I'm so vain, I definitely think this thread is about me, shouldn't I? Shouldn't I?

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby eran_rathan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:09 pm UTC

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:The music is gratis mostly terrible


ftfy. And of course, YMMV.
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:36 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:
The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:The music is gratis mostly terrible


ftfy. And of course, YMMV.


Which amounts to "The music may or may not be mostly terrible". Except that you used TV Tropes lingo, therefore making you automatically wrong.

Gee, thank you! All my music ceased to exist thanks to that logical impossibility. How can I possibly demonstrate my gratitude?

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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:44 pm UTC

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:The music is gratis
So was the comic, last I checked.

SirMustapha wrote:self-pitying attitude at the expense of someone else's suffering
No, this comic was about his own emotions as a result of his wife's cancer. You know, exactly like the caption says? What I find abhorrent is that you allegedly feel no emotional effects from the suffering of a loved one.

And how is it at anyone's expense?
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby eran_rathan » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:58 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
eran_rathan wrote:
The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:The music is gratis mostly terrible


ftfy. And of course, YMMV.


Which amounts to "The music may or may not be mostly terrible". Except that you used TV Tropes lingo, therefore making you automatically wrong.

Gee, thank you! All my music ceased to exist thanks to that logical impossibility. How can I possibly demonstrate my gratitude?


Because "your mileage may vary" and "fixed that for you" did not exist pre-Tv Tropes?

Just because I personally think that your music is mostly terrible does not mean that everyone does. And there is no logical impossibility in that, since I was merely stating an opinion. However, given that fact that some opinions can in fact be wrong, I am forced to conclude that you, sir, are the one in error.

I do, on the other hand, generally enjoy your endless tirades against Randall and the xkcd fanbase. While I still consider you wrong, your questions that are posed to the fora are generally thought-provoking and well written. Carry on, good sir, carry on!
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby Felstaff » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:12 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:And how is it at anyone's expense?

Many Bothans died bringing Randall the information he needed to make the comic.
Away, you scullion! you rampallion! You fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe.

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SirMustapha
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Re: 1048: "Emotion"

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:30 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
SirMustapha wrote:self-pitying attitude at the expense of someone else's suffering
No, this comic was about his own emotions as a result of his wife's cancer.


I see no contradiction there.

gmalivuk wrote:What I find abhorrent is that you allegedly feel no emotional effects from the suffering of a loved one.


How did you come to that bizarre conclusion? I don't feel effects from the suffering of someone I love? Is that what you really said? So that means that, if I don't make a webcomic about it, it's because I didn't feel it?

eran_rathan wrote:Because "your mileage may vary" and "fixed that for you" did not exist pre-Tv Tropes?


I'm pretty sure that "YMMV" is a TV Tropes invention.

eran_rathan wrote:Just because I personally think that your music is mostly terrible does not mean that everyone does. And there is no logical impossibility in that, since I was merely stating an opinion. However, given that fact that some opinions can in fact be wrong, I am forced to conclude that you, sir, are the one in error.


Okay, it was just a joke, that's all. What I meant is, indeed you were stating just an opinion, but you said it as if it was more than that. Whether you like my music or not doesn't add anything to the discussion at hand. It was more like you were saying "your music is bad, therefore you're wrong", and I couldn't help turning that into a joke.

eran_rathan wrote:I do, on the other hand, generally enjoy your endless tirades against Randall and the xkcd fanbase. While I still consider you wrong, your questions that are posed to the fora are generally thought-provoking and well written. Carry on, good sir, carry on!


Thanks. That is refreshing to hear.


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