Sunday, February 24, 2008

xkcd fruit chart: not accurate enough

Pete pointed it out to me: the "Fuck Grapefruit" chart on xkcd is not especially accurate. So I made my own much-more accurate chart. And then Pete accused me of being inaccurate! Well, I can't wait to see his chart... ::scoff:: Please to note, in a bid for sympathy, I have colored the names of the delicious fruits to which I am allergic red.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thank you, Jeph Jacques, for character development!

First, a note: that title is not meant to be read sarcastically. I am totally sincere and it should be read cheerfully. Also, I'm not meaning to imply that there has never been character development in QC before. But the new stuff that's going on is all exciting and that's what I'm psyched about so that's the title.

So one of my complaints about comics (web or otherwise) is that the more people care about the characters, the harder it is for the author to have any character development. Or at least I assume it's due to reader complaint, that no author would want wooden, static characters. But I digress... One thing I love about Questionable Content is that the characters have changed and developed over time. I have enjoyed the story arcs as much as the one-offs and that is not usually the case. (Normally I get irritated when there's a non-story comic because I'm into the story, or when non-sequitur comics go all story on me because I'm like, "Why are we dwelling?") Recently I have been worried that the main female protagonist on QC was becoming a one note character, whose purpose was to act as the sadly-cynical counterpoint to an otherwise happily-cynical cast. I am really happy to see Jeph take her in a kind of new direction. (It's not totally new because he's been foreshadowing the improvements in her mental health for weeks; but he could have decided to go for drama and had her toe the same old "I'm too emotionally scarred to be anything by afraid" line.)

I think I've ranted about the relative merits of mono- and polyvocality before (probably many times, and no doubt to everyone's general chagrin), but comics offer a different set of challenges when it comes to authorial voice. Because the graphic style is (usually) consistent throughout, there's an inherent monovocality to any comic strip or graphic novel. All polyvocality must be character and dialog driven. In a book, an author might show each character's individual voice in first person or third person-limited descriptions of environment and events that evokes the character's independent perspective, as compared to third person-omniscient descriptions from the author's perspective. Sometimes the author's perspective is very subtle - it's in the way s/he gives you access to the characters thoughts and motivations, almost pleading with the reader to understand, to think: "Her reasoning is so flawed!" or "But he had such good intentions! Why can't he see how wrong he is?" But in a comic, options for separating out individual character voices are limited. (I actually think this is why so many web-comics are semi-autobiographical. But that's another post for another day.) In the beginning, as new characters were added to the QC cast, it seemed to me that they were really a parsing out of different characteristics of a particular lifestyle. Archetypes almost. And that was fine with me because it's funny and well-drawn and interesting stuff happens. But as the cast reached a stable level and Jacques started to flesh out their backstories, they really began to develop individual voices. Actually, I sometimes find it hard to distinguish Dora and Martin, or Dora and Faye, depending on who is in a scene. (Not visually, obviously; but those pairs are equally likely to make an obscure indie music reference, or threaten to pummel someone.) But most of the time I feel like I could tell you who was speaking without seeing the drawings. And that's without crazy accents!

Anyway, I've been so excited about this new story arc that I've been refreshing my QC tab every five minutes once the clock strikes 10. If Jeph posted a new comic three times a day, I would still be like, "Why do I have to wait??" So this is just to say, Thank you!, to Jeph Jacques and to prattle on about narrative voice for a bit, as I like to do. If you've read this far and are ready to kill me for being so damn boring (and such a disgusting fangirl), (and totally pretentious, all talking about literary criticism ideas she learned in a linguistics class like she knows anything), well, all I can say is: Dude. (I can't actually think of a better response that doesn't come off as trying-too-hard-to-be-clever or adversarial, so I stick with what I know.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sam Harris: You are a boob - Part 1?

Okay, as promised in the comments to my February 13 post, here are my complaints responses to the first 14-pages of Sam Harris' stupid thought-provoking book, The End of Faith. I've only been able to read one or two pages at a time because I've been filling the margins with notes and then getting too irritated to go on. I'll put my comments in order, with his section titles and page numbers. I have the 2004 Norton & Co. paperback version, which starts on page 11. Is there a foreword or an epigram? No. But the publisher is counting the title pages, table of contents, copyright page and the page of review pull-quotes in the page count. Maybe they always do this and I've just never noticed. But I thought those pages were supposed to be on some sort of other numbering system, using lowercase roman numerals.

"Reason in Exile" pgs 11-
11-12: I hate this first vignette. It provides this picture of a suicide bomber that is both callous and facile. Harris implies that the specifics are irrelevant because ultimately all suicide bombers are the same: they have no regard for life, no second thoughts, they're totally calm and devoid of personality. Oh, and they're Muslim. Through his generalized vignette, he intimates that the parents of suicide bombers are all proud of their children's actions and find them not just laudable, but cause for a neighborhood-wide celebration. While this may be true some of the time, it's certainly not true all of the time. The only reason to make such an intimation is to manipulate and inflame anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment.

12: He equates "belief" in science with belief in religion, aliens and politics. So let's see here: that's science=culture, science=crazy, and science=personal preferences for cultural products.

13: Here is a fun syllogism. Most people in the world believe that the creator of the universe has written a book of some kind. Each such book claims to be infallible. THEREFORE all people who believe in sacred texts believe that those texts are infallible.

13: All of these texts agree on one point: God does not endorse respect for other religions, their values, their believers or the views of those believers. "Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed." Next to this I wrote, "You are a boob." The implication is, of course, that if you believe in a religion, you must also be intolerant. He follows up the previous quote with "Once a person believes - really believes - that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one." Why is this an absolute statement? By stating this as an absolute, I am forced to think, "Not all the time." And then I thought, "Wait, so you're telling me that adherents who don't try to convert everyone they know don't really believe?" I mean, it's just disrespectful to everyone.

13: He actually says, "...criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture." Yes, because Mormonism and Scientology aren't real faiths. And depending on what part of the country you're in, neither is Catholicism.

13: "...religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse." My note reads, "That's because they're not rational! What are you? A Vulcan?" Seriously: anyone who has ever gone through an uebermensch phase in high school knows how irrational emotions are and how difficult they are to ignore. This was the first clue that Sam Harris has not matured past the 10th grade.

13: Okay, here is a link between my problem from page 12 and the above problem also from page 13: "Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not." That's because someone who believes gravity is one of the unappreciated "sticky" forces is a buffoon. Physics is objective. And history is really meant to be an interpretation of objective data. You can ask someone to explain their interpretation, to back it up with evidence. You can't do that with religion because it's a different kind of thing. It's silly to compare them. You might as well say, "Criticizing a person's personal taste in clothing and food is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about addition or what his name is are not."

13: "And so it is that when a Muslim suicide bomber obliterates himself along with a score of innocents on a Jerusalem street, the role that faith played in his actions is invariably discounted." Whaaa? Are we reading different newspapers? Are we watching different tv stations? Because from where I sit it's far from discounted: it's so obvious, it's taken for granted. There is the second sign that Sam Harris has a 10th grade perspective on the world: he can't tell the difference between taking something for granted and discounting it. He follows this up with, "Faith itself is always, and everywhere, exonerated." That is just not true. What he sees as exoneration is, in my opinion, respect for complexity. If every suicide bomber were touted as Muslim Faithful Kills Dozens, it would leave no room in the discourse for the millions of Muslims who have not and would not blow themselves up. We talk about political alliance and economic state not because we're saying, "Faith is never dangerous," but because we want to say that faith isn't always dangerous, isn't usually dangerous.

Okay, that is just three pages and this is already really long. I'll post more later. There's fun stuff to respond to: Harris believes beauty is objective! He uses bad examples! He assumes a null hypothesis of "God doesn't exist" instead of "God does exist"! It's fun fun fun!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Royal Challenge

Have you read "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris? If you have, post your OUTRAGE here! I've only read the first five pages but I am so filled with ire at his absolutist hypocrisy I'm not sure I can go on.

And so I issue this, My Royal Challenge: I dare you to go into any bookstore and read more than the first five pages without feeling disgust, anxiety, sadness or just pure, unadulterated homicidal rage. If you can do this, than you are a better dude than I.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Notice my links!

I've recently added two new webcomic links to that bar thing on the side. With the links. You know: it's over there ----->
Anyway, you should check them out; they are awesome! Kate Beaton is Canadian and does historical comics as well as comics about her life. She is from Cape Breton and claims to have a crazy accent; I would enjoy to hear it because I love a good accent. (Why is it so much fun to hear one's own language spoken in a way that makes it almost unintelligible? I don't know!)
Anders ::hearts:: Maria is drawn by a Swedish lady, and now I know that "puss" is Swedish for "kiss." My whole Swedish vocabulary now consists of "Swedish," "girl" and "kiss." Oh, and "pant," as in the "I ran so fast I was panting," but I learned that from Anders ::symbol:: Maria as well. I recommend starting this one from the beginning otherwise it is confusing as it is in a flashback right now.
If you are not already reading Achewood, I swear to God.... Do not make me stab you with a fork. Also, Overcompensating has had some really hilarious political comics lately. They're so funny, I almost used "really" twice! And I love Scary Go Round, but Pete's hatred for it grows and grows. I would be interested to know: do any dudes like Scary Go Round or is it just the ladies? If so, kudos to John Allison (the artist) for coming up with the ultimate strategy for gettin' the ladies and gettin' rid of the dudes! (Now I am imagining the Emcee in "Cabaret" inviting people in, saying, "Meinen Damen und Herren, Madames et Monsieurs, Ladies and Dudes...") Or maybe he is gay. I used to totally love the band Moxy Fruvous (which Pete tried very desperately to ruin for me, because he hates all male, Canadian a cappella groups more than Dick Cheney eating the piece of the world's chocolate, thereby ruining sweets for him forever) and I said something about there being "the gay one." Pete said, "Dude - they're all gay." I said, "No they're not. Or at least, only one of them is obviously gay." Pete knitted his eyebrows together the way he does when he believes you are speaking what is fundamentally nonsense. "No, that's the decoy gay, to get you to say, 'Oh, that's the gay one,' and to distract you from the rest of them. They're all gay." Ask him about his theory. He was forced into a field study of this phenomenon while working at Hollywood Video, where he had to watch Tap Dogs again and again. (Also, he hates tap dancing. And musical theater. Although I'm not sure that last one is related. I think he just doesn't find their breaking out into song all the time believable. Too much Python as a lad, perhaps.)


ALSO, I MADE THIS AWESOME ASCII DOG (or whatever it's called with the pictures of dots and slashes) BUT THE THING MESSED IT UP. ::sad:: This is another try. With periods.

Man, that is scary as fuck. It's like that dog is being shot with some kind of crazy particle ray.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Narrative In The Modern World

I have frequently thought about what the purpose of blogging is. For me, anyway. I mean, I'm not famous; I'm not doing anything earth shattering (or even interesting, for that matter); I'm not living abroad; I don't have kids; I'm not an artist; my opinions are often prosaic; and I've been told no one wants to hear about my dreams. (I blog about them anyway. Ha! Take that, People Who Aren't Interested In My Dreams!) I kind of think blogging is great. I love getting to hear what my friends are thinking about, where they're going, what they're cooking, what their kids are up to... It's like being plugged in without having to spend hours on the phone. All the stories, none of the greetings or awkward transitions. Actually, I used to love the phone. Until everyone had a cell. Now with delays, echos and quiet zones (where you can't hear someone, for no known reason), I dread the phone.

I have asked myself the same questions about journaling. What is the point? Who am I doing it for? Does anyone really care about my thoughts on politics or media or whether or not it's weird for Julian Lennon to hear Hey Jude as muzak in an elevator? More importantly: does it matter? Maybe it's worth it just to put something out there. Therapy for therapy's sake. Experiential recording for posterity's sake. I don't know. My journals are weird, weird books. Usually only the first quarter ever gets filled, and yet that can represent three or four years of entries. And there's lots of (probably) unnecessary exposition. One even has a family tree. You know - just in case. Just in case what?? What could I possibly be anticipating?

I've noticed a lot of commercials are appealing to the modern American's desire to leave a narrative mark. "It's your story. Citi Bank helps you write it." That's the one I saw most recently. But this idea that everyone has something to say... No, scratch that. That everyone has something interesting to say. Or worth saying. "Log on now and chat with your favorite characters!" I mean, does that make any sense? They're not real! It's a writer, or an intern, who drew the short straw and has to answer your retarded questions. "What's your favorite color?" "What inspired you to become a detective?" "Are your parents proud of you?" Some of it is cool, like the CNN iReporters. Every time there's a flood or an ice storm, you get awesome pictures of the bizarre shit that happens in Ruralville, Kansabraska. But even then... I have learned to never read the comments posted on CNN. They're all like, "I will pray for him. That man needs all our prayers!" And that is for everyone, from the President, to Obama, to the father of a dead child, to a serial killer. It doesn't matter; all CNN commenters ever do is pray and exhort others to pray.

Anyway. These are my thoughts. Read them. Also, I have been hittin' the lolcats again. Sry. But it's Ben's fault. He IMed me this link.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Is it my meds?

When Zyrtec (my allergy med) went OTC last month, there were three days or so between when my last script ran out and when it would be available in stores. So I was without it for three days, which kind of reset things. Zyrtec used to make me tired right after I took it, for like the first month or so, so I thought I'd start taking it at night because, you know, I have to sleep then anyway. But since then, I've been having some hell of crazy dreams. Is it the Zyrtec or is it just coincidence? Who knows. But last night I dreamt that I was playing an arcade game about skateboarding (with an actual skateboard on a roller in a Dance Dance Revolution-like set up) and then Radiohead came on and I went through the screen into the streets of the game. And Thom Yorke was there and he handed me a piece of asphalt, for which I was surprisingly grateful. He was walking backwards and singing, and I kept tripping as I was walking forward, and the asphalt would fly out of my hands. Thom would jog over and pick it up and hand it back to me. At some point, we'd gathered a large group of people around us, and then we went into a bakery for breakfast. There was a discussion about how too many sweets for breakfast made my brother sick. Then we sat at a large table and ate bagels.

I'm not even a big Radiohead fan; I pretty much only know what Thom Yorke looks like because Pete is a big fan. But the skateboarding game... I think that would be popular! It had a little display at the bottom of the screen highlighting which part of the board you should be leaning on to do the tricks. And when you pushed forward with your left foot (I'm a righty, so that's how I rolled), it was the board that moved on a roller, not a treadmill under your left foot, which added verisimilitude. I was only on the easiest level (and not very good at that), so I have no idea how tricks, jumps and allies would work. Maybe you'd have to jump and it would register the weight difference. I don't know. Anyway, video game manufacturers - get on it!