Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Look at me I can write short fiction too, people! LOVE ME

So as you maybe saw, your friend and mine Randall Munroe has written a story. That's right - he's not just a brilliant comic artist of the first order, he is also a tortured genius of a prose author.

You are probably wondering how this simple story has unearthed so much sarcasm from me. I understand. It's because Randall is trying to prove that he knows a lot about a topic he doesn't actually know much about. I don't want to bore you, but I will anyway - let's take a look at the fictional Mr. Bernanke's thoughts here:

"Damn these subprime lenders...
We can’t afford more debt...When the country owes trillions and is asking for more, its shadowy creditors start calling in favors."

The problem is that the subprime mortgage crisis has nothing to do, really, with the debt that we owe as a country. The US doesn't take out subprime mortgages, poor homeowners do. The US's problem with debt, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the current crisis. No one is calling in "favors," in fact, other countries have basically nothing to do with it.

Summary for people who don't care: Randall completely does not understand the financial situation and is just using the names and concepts he keeps hearing to pretend he does.

This was exactly the problem with comic 476 - which I guess he decided he liked enough to flesh out into a full vignette - it pissed me off then, and it pisses me off now. Stick to what you know or learn something new but at least learn it. Talk about how complicated the crisis is and how you don't understand it - which is completely acceptable, it's complicated - how you wish it were more like a computer science problem or something like that. As it is it's going to sound as fake as a story I wrote that starts "Linus Torvalds turned on the computer, desperately searching the linux files for and hint of the decrypted the ascii information which could stop the partitioned hard drive from deploying the nuclear bomb! BUT COULD COREY DOCTOROW STOP HIM IN TIME???"

Even I want to smack myself after that.

So now you understand the problem.


  1. Brilliant analogy with the Linux bit!

  2. I am a self-styled writer and pretentious hack. I haven't read the story yet, but there is a reason I usually stay away from current events. It is because I will probably come off sounding like a dumbass.

  3. I wrote a screenplay called "Four Weddings and a Credit Crunch". It didn't happen.

  4. have you read the comments on the story? i'm not sure it could be any more of a wankfest...

  5. The only thing I tend to agree with on this post at all, is that the comments on his story on xkcd are a wankfest, well said greg.

    However, honestly, it sounds like you don't understand the financial market. The story on XKCD is off the wall, silly, stupid, annoying, and hardly about the financial market at all.

    It did point out some of the personality and views of Bernanke, Greenspan and even Ron Paul. In particular their varying views on the politics of money. This can easily be corroborated by looking up the numerous public speeches of these men.

    On the topic of creditors, the sub-prime lending market and who's fault it is, it is hard to blame this on the borrower. Seeing as the 700 Billion Dollar bailout plan has quite a bit to do with the trillions of dollars of national debt, I would disagree highly that the sub-prime mortgage crisis has nothing to do with the debt we owe as a nation. The sub-prime issue is really a derivative market issue which goes back to those shady investors (ok, not really the lenders) who have been using those derivatives as investment vehicles and now need some big time cash to stay alive. Don't believe me? Ask AIG, Lehman Brothers or Merrill Lynch (or one of the numerous other high end derivative investors that haven't gone under yet, who need that bailout).

    So anyway, it seems like you don't like xkcd, which is fine. However, it may be best to be honest about your criticism. Something like "Hey that xkcd guy made a stupid, off the wall, no sense at all story about the Fed that caused a huge XKCD fan wankfest, and I hate it," instead of trying to debase it with commends that show you understand the financial market just about as well as Munroe does.

  6. oh my I can't believe we are getting into this -

    You can say the debt is relevant to anything because if we have to spend money we will have to borrow it. But the story made it sound like our debt was a cause of the problem, which I don't believe is true.

    The creditors about whom Munroe discusses is clearly the United States' creditors, such as China, and not American investors. Surely you agree that the sentence I quoted makes no sense at all. I don't think I know that much about this issue but I know enough to know that.

    Vlad - I like that title. Just like I like the title of Randall's book.

    Greg - I am not sure I want to. I guess I should look....

  7. I read the story finally! It was kind of mediocre. I didn't feel like he was trying to make a comment on anything. It reminds me of my attempts at delving into comics: kind of amateurish.

  8. This brings up a good point - for satire to work it has to point to a truth about the subject it is mocking. This is just trying to make fun of something random, a broader point (like, in theory, the comic about youtube comments being stupid) would have made it much deeper and higher quality.