Sunday, September 13, 2009

Comic 635: under locke and key

read the book for good times
Hey hey look, it's a comic just for people who read the book Ender's Game! If you didn't read it, fuck off. This comic isn't for you. But you should read it, it's good. As I'm sure you know.

Randall doesn't make these sorts of comics that often, to be fair, but there have been those exceptions. They're like any other reference comic, I suppose, but it's a dangerous trap to fall into. They significantly cut down on the percentage of your audience who will be entertained. And before you all go "Oh come ON everyone has read ender's game" or "well anyone who is an xkcd fan has read it" let me just assure you that that is completely not true. Plenty of total nerds haven't read it. OK? I know nerds who haven't even seen Star Wars. Crazy, I know, but it's true.

Anyway, I have read Ender's Game, so luckily I'm in a good position to complain about this comic.

The joke, as far as I can tell, is that in real life, Peter's plan to get famous would fail and no one would read his blog. Ok. It took me a while though - the way it's set up, it looks like the joke is just that the plan he has is basically the same as blogging, and seeing the wordpress page with all his posts is sort of the visual punchline. But that's not funny; it's just saying "HEY WHAT PETER 'N' VALENTINE ARE DOING IS BASICALLY BLOGGING" which doesn't make Randall funny so much as make Orson Scott Card rather prescient.

OK but the joke is that no one would care. That's fine, I guess, but the whole point of that plot of the book is that they are very very good writers, not just the usual idiots out there spouting off about 9/11 truthism and Obama birthism and all the other completely hilaious conspiracy theories we are seeing these days. Is it still unlikely that Peter and Valentine's plan would work? Sure. But it's unlikely that a young kid would go to a place called Battle School, beat all the other kids in the combat room, and go on to (SPOILER ALERT) do all that stuff he does. It's a book. More specifically, it's a science fiction book. It's not supposed to be what would happen in all of our ordinary lives. Furthermore, I'd like to quote Kirk's very good comment on a related matter:

Anyway, the adding of fivethirtyeight in the corner of the screen sorta defeats the observation Randall is making. Fivethirtyeight is a political blog that was so popular that it pushed its creator into mainstream popularity (he is a constant commenter on MSNBC, along with other media appearances). The point learned from fivethirtyeight is that if you are able to provide a unique product, you will gain notoriety even amongst a sea of competitors.
And the fact that I am quoting Kirk means that he too is gaining fame for pointing out a smart thing.

Anyway, the only other thing I have to say is that in light of the fact that Randall is The God Of Reddit, that Reddit is publishing his book, and the ongoing "ask randall the questions that get the most reddit votes" thread, the alt-text - "Dear Peter Wiggin: This letter is to inform you that you have received enough upvotes on your reddit comments to become president of the world..." - strikes me as a little self-serving and a lot fan-servicey.


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By the way, if you haven't gone through that reddit thread to make sure Randall actually gets hard questions in his interview, (as opposed to say, the current #3 question "Who is the most famous person who is a fan of xkcd?"), well what the fuck are you waiting for, man, go do it.

73 comments:

  1. Ohman, I am e-famous, the world is looking up for me.

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  2. Kirk pretty soon I will be begging to go to bed with you

    I bet you feel real studly

    yeah i felt the reddit thing in the alt text was odd too. hmmmmm

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  3. Kirk, can you sell some T-shirts? I'd totally buy one no matter what the price!

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  4. I WANNA MEET RANDALL wahh

    My bid is $125. :\

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  5. are you serious aloria, you are paying 125 for him to hit on you and try to get you to join his polygamous sect

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  6. No some people donated money.

    I won't get to go, anyway-- they said on the main page that they were going to charge $100 for tickets, so I'm sure all the hardcore fans bid way more than that.

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  7. XKCD updated fifteen minutes late today!

    ...and I actually thought that their analogies were quite clever. Even the alt-text one! It's a MUCH more witty handling of sex AND velociraptors than, like, the last twelve times he's mentioned either. So even though it's "We're oh-so-clever" and also "Love is unrequited and doomed", the fact that it's at least more clever than usual made me at least smile.

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  8. OKAY new comic guys!

    The comic itself was just bad (although it wouldn't have felt out of place 300 comics back, which I suppose is good), but I have to give Randy props for the alt-text (assuming, of course, that he meant it self-deprecatingly, which I really can't think how else it would be meant.)

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  9. Mal, I liked the analogies too, but it was sort of dulled by the fact that he's done the whole "Our relationship is like X." "No, our relationship is like Y!" *HIJINKS* thing several dozen times already. And none of the analogies will ever top "Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania..."

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  10. Complaining about love being difficult is like complaining about summer being hot. Sure, it's nice to bitch once in a while, but if you have to bring it up that often, you're just being a whiny bitch.

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  11. Did anyone notice that he's calling the book "xkcd volume 0?" I'm guessing he's putting all the good xkcds in his first book, and if that sells well he'll shamelessly publish 'em all.

    Captcha: Who gives a shit, captcha jokes are lame.

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  12. hehehehe Randall's arrays start at 0, how clever.

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  13. I would have liked the new comic back in the day. Perhaps I am just getting nostalgic from rummaging through the older posts here...

    anyway I still hate the "love is doomed" thing. Did he really have to shove in both analogies, really? He could have at least put some transition in between the two.

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  14. hehehehe Randall's arrays start at 0, how clever.

    Apparently he was not as clever when he first started his comic...at 1.

    Why no Easter Egg at index 0, Randall?? I was so hopeful!

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  15. I think this one is good, but I see the point being made that Randall fucked up the "romance" premise of "math, romance, sarcasm, and language" too much for this comic to recover any amusement.

    That said, at least this time he isn't fawning over/stalking someone. The dude's actually doing the breaking up here.

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  16. What's the point of having an XKCD protest blog? If you don't like it, just don't read it. It's not as though they have any distribution beyond that website. If it really sucked, people would just stop reading it..

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  17. What's the point of complaining about an XKCD protest blog? If you don't like it, just don't read it. It's not as though we have any distribution beyond this blog. If it really sucked, you would just stop reading it.

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  18. The alt-text (of 636) made me lol. And not even in a "lulz poor randy can't get laid" sort of way; I'm not that much of a jerkass (yet), and plus it would totally be a pot-kettle-black situation of epic proportions.

    ...

    ;_;

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  19. There's not enough room for the two of us, Sam.

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  20. What is Mr. Munroe's problem with Brontosauri? They wouldn't have survived in their time unless they were well-suited to their environment, and they sure as hell didn't eat nostalgia for a living.

    The turtle half works for me, but the bronto half is as worthless as it is shameless. Even if the bronto analogy worked, is he supposed to be having a "served!" moment? Way to break the news, stick man, I guess you got into the heads of readers who wanted to call out their SO as a bad match?

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  21. "It's not as though they have any distribution beyond that website."

    Yeah, besides being constantly linked on Reddit, Slashdot, Wikipedia, and any marginally related web forum thread... oh yeah, it's super easy to ignore!

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  22. @harrison: you can't possibly expect Randall to compete with the Mountain goats, can you?

    I agree that this was a clever comic, reminiscent of old times, but not actually that funny.

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  23. "Sex is like a velociraptor" should have been the entire comic. It would have been a great, surreal Garfield-minus-Garfield-style distillation of all XKCD represents.

    Instead we get 3 lame metaphors and not much in the way of entertaining punchlines. SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND

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  24. @thomas:

    It's the *term* brontosaurus that was a mistaken combination, not the creature itself.

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  25. Yeah, it's not like it has infiltrated an annoying number of blogs that I follow, as well as showing up on my friends' google reader shared items all too frequently.

    Lifehacker has outright sold its soul to XKCD; The Stranger occasionally links to them with alarmingly increasing frequency. Jezebel has posted one or two XKCDs as illustrations for their articles. Gawker so far only links to stories about his book deals, which are relevant-ish. (I still think literally the only reason it is newsworthy is that it is being written like he is having it published by a company, instead of just self-publishing, which is what he is basically doing.)

    It isn't that it annoys me to read them, as such, but it is everywhere, and it sure doesn't help my opinion of the authors who think this XKCD is so great it merits linking.

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  26. It's the *term* brontosaurus that was a mistaken combination, not the creature itself.

    Thanks for pointing this out (assuming it's the real joke here), since I never would've gotten this. It's extremely poorly worded in that case; he's referring to the word "brontosaurus" and not an actual brontosaurus in that case, and I still don't know how it makes it a "mistaken combination," and...

    No, wait, it still doesn't make any sense. But at least your explanation makes slightly more sense.

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  27. Anon 10:45, I actually wiki'd "Brontosaurus" just to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything, and the note about Bronto being an obsolete term flew over my head in terms of this comic. It is not the Pluto of the dinosaur world; it's just a renaming.

    Also, "the term/word/label" would be much clearer than "a" in the dialog.

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  28. I haven't learned anything new about dinosaurs since I was twelve, and when I read that line I figured that 'they' had since discovered that what they thought of as a brontosaurus never actually existed, and that they had mistakenly combined several parts of different dinosaurs or something, but still kept the brontosaurus around for kicks. I guess the truth is more boring.

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  29. I am also confused about what he meant with the word "combination". It kinda reminded me of the spambot comic ("products you like"), where Randall thinks he came up with an awesome pun, but in reality it just falls flat. Brontosaurus is just another name for Apatosaurus, and not a combination of different dinosaur fossils. As for the word "brontosaurus", which means "thunder lizard", it's kinda pointless to claim that it was a "mistaken combination", since the guy who named it didn't mean to imply that it really has anything to do with thunder.

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  30. Just got online, Carl finally reviewed Friday's strip -- and there was much rejoice, yay! -- and caught up with the newest comic. I'm amazed...

    I mean... did Randall actually make a strip about ROMANCE and LANGUAGE? Maybe even SARCASM? Well, not so much, but he's daaaaamn close! I mean... if the "brontosaurus" term stuff is the actual punchline. The biggest problem here: he said "A Brontosaurus". Had he dropped that article, then we'd get it's the name, not the creature, without much trouble. Phrasing, Randall, just a matter of phrasing...

    Alt-text: cool. Of course he had to put sex in it. Romance=Sex, ain't it, Mr. Munroe? BTW, my question's going up and up. I'm quite glad, internet notoriety is innocous but still feels good... right, Kirk? :D

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  31. Okay, I've finally become cynical enough to the point where I read the comic, thought it wasn't at all bad, and DIDN'T HAVE A SINGLE OTHER REACTION. Not even a snicker, or anything. It was just "oh, goody, Randall didn't fuck it up".

    Regarding the alt-text of the Locke strip, YES, Carl, you hit the nail in the head: the Reddit thing is pretty much the definition of fan-servicey, and if you ask me, perhaps just a little bit...

    *sunglasses*

    ... Orwellian.

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  32. YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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  33. Wait, was that even a pun? Dammit.

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  34. Having read Ender's Game, I very much enjoyed today's comic and was slightly apprehensive over how you ripped it apart. Thanks for making me wise to its (albeit relatively slight...see vaginas) flaws while not totally destroying a far better-than-average comic :)

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  35. He gave a way the punchline with the title. After reading "Our love is like a turtle" I knew there was going to be an "Our love is like a brontosaurus." Brontosaurus is an obsolete term, so I could already guess that the analogy would revolve around that.

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  36. @Jon Wow, that means you can't even post it on Reddit, since they don't accept comic posts with the punchline in the title? Oh, Randall, you amuse me so... XD

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  37. WTF is "ungering"?

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  38. Also, was I the only one who thought the guy's reply would be a snappy reversal of the "perfect design" thing? What with xkcd's self-proclaimed geekiness and scienceyness (neologism ftw), referring to a turtle's "perfect design" is pretty much asking for it. But instead, we get lame emoing.

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  39. Oh wait, that says "lingering". Whatever. Damn Randy, you barely draw, why not just type your shit out so we can read it (if we do indeed *want* to read it..see what I did there? yeah.)

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  40. Obviously Randall has convinced himself that irreducible complexity exists and is evidence of the insufficiency of pathological naturalism, and has become a theist.

    (The question of whether or not a god's complexity is irreducible is irrelevant, mumble mumble eternal mumble created time itself.)

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  41. "It's not as though they have any distribution beyond that website."

    Wait, did somebody say SQL injection? OMG I have the perfect comic. It's so hilarious!

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  42. Yeah, I kinda expected this one to be a dig at creationists.

    -A turtle is humble and simple by virtue of perfect design.
    -Did you just say "design"? I can't believe I'm dating a creationist nutter!
    -Hey, did you know people rode brontosauri before the flood?
    -ARRRRGHHHHHHH! KILL ME NOW!

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  43. To be honest, that would've been a much worse comic than the one we actually got. Let's thank Randall for having some tact.

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  44. I can't help but notice that the squirrel wasn't drawn twice. It just had its parts rearranged with a bare minimum of alteration. Couldn't get it right twice, eh, Mr. Munroe?

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  45. 636:
    I think wrong combination was referring to the wrong head/body combination. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikijunior:Dinosaurs/Brontosaurus .

    Also, I laughed at the alt-text, sorry.

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  46. New one is terrible.

    But when I read "our love is like a turtle...", I knew it was going to be bad. xkcd has quite possibly the most stilted dialogue of any comic I've ever read.

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  47. Timofei
    Why yes, I -did- know that...
    http://xkcd.com/15/

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  48. @sam: For some of us, it's because we like complaining. For others it's jealousy. For many, it's that people don't find xkcd all that funny and want to find like minded people to prove it's not just them.

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  49. Also, why isn't the IRC linked to anymore? Book countdown clock should've been replaced by that.

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  50. http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1637#comic

    Brontosaurus mentioned one SMBC comic ago. THE EVIDENCE MOUNTS YOU GUYS!

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  51. - Our love is like a turtle: humble and simple, enduring by virtue of perfect design.
    - Our love is like an eye: some people say it appeared the way it is all at once, by a magic wave of the hand; but it actually evolved, from a primitive shape, slowly growing more complete and beautiful, element by element, and still revealing new wonders for us to explore.
    - ...
    - Also, sex
    - Ok, you're still Randall.

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  52. I read combination as being used in the biological (taxonomic) sense, although Randall doesn't understand the rules of nomenclature well enough to apply it correctly. Combination refers to the combination of species (epithet) and genus.

    The orginal combination of Apatosaurus excelsus is Brontosaurus excelsus. There is nothing "wrong" or "mistaken" per se about B. excelsus. It's true that it is (currently) universally accepted that B. excelsus is actually in the same genus as Apatosaurus ajax, so by the rules of nomenclature, the genus Brontosaurus is a subjective junior homonym of Apatosaurus and is not used. If future scientists decide that these two fossils actually come from different genera (which is certainly possibly, but probably unlikely), then the name Brontosaurus could re-enter use.

    Brontosaurus is not a mistaken combination; genus alone does not a combination make. I wouldn't call it mistaken either; the hypothesis that Brontosaurus is a separate genus from Apatosaurus isn't widely accepted, but there are potential circumstances where the name could be resurrected.

    The bad combination of skull and skeleton in a museum display has no bearing at all on the validity of the name.

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  53. @Fred
    Holy crap, I hadn't realized that. The evidence mounts, INDEED.

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  54. so Sepia are you telling us that Randall read a Wikipedia article about Brontosauri and then got it wrong? Man he never ceases to amaze at how well thought out something can be and then (maybe for lack of a proper editing procedure or lack of an editor) in the process turns into this shit.

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  55. What a dumb-a** post. So one should avoid all cultural references except those you are familiar with, American Idol maybe? Such references give depth to writing, and often inform readers and lead them to the original literature. You guys are the Peter Woit of online comments (there's a reference for you), people who feel that unrelieved negativity is somehow a useful contribution to humanity. You are a wart on the a** of society.

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  56. ASS. It's ASS. It's okay, you can type it out. We've seen the word before.

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  57. Hey Aloria, can I get a piece of yours?

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  58. @Joe:

    Yes, references to other things gives depth to writing. I mean, look at Family Guy.

    Or maybe in both cases, it's just a crutch for bad writing / lack of ideas.

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  59. Joe: Peter Woit, the popular opponent of string theory? That IS a good analogy, but more in the sense that he is making much needed arguments against something that has become way too popular in the scientific community, almost becoming dogmatic.

    Disclosure: I liked 635 and 636, I also think that the negativity in the comments here can sometimes be not thought out very well and over the top. I thought Carl's the criticism of 635 was par for the course and not a dumbasterisk post.

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  60. and carl wasn't even being that harsh about the reference. He pretty much said it was ok

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  61. I actually thought the Ender's Game comic was a very good comic. It's not a "haha funny" comic, but a bit of social commentary. The joke *isn't* that "lol what Val and Peter did is just like blogging". Rather, the point of the strip is to show what a naively optimistic view Ender's Game presented. While I'm sure there are insightful policy blogs out there, the largest and most popular political blogs are focused more on the daily partisan dance than writing deep thoughts on how to solve political problems.

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  62. Isn't that pretty much exactly the same joke, just in slightly more sycophantic terms? Since he DIDN'T portray Peter as writing deep thoughts on how to solve political problems, but as one of the reactionary xenophobes that are ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    To be fair, Demosthenes was SUPPOSED to be a reactionary xenophobe (which makes his popularity all the more bizarre)--but then again why is it Locke's blog we're seeing?

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  63. Yes, Mal. And I agree that this comic is actually a joke about Ender's Game, not just a reference to it. It wasn't a funny joke, but that alone makes it better than most of the recent comics.

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  64. You know, if this comic were one panel in a comic titled "How Card failed to predict technology" (or something, a list of whatever) it might have worked. But expanding just the L&D thing to a full comic means it shouldn't fall apart if you think about it for a second.

    Admittedly, my memory sucks. But if I recall, Peter had them write in places where bunches of people, important people, were ALREADY reading. It'd be more like super long forum posts than blog posts.

    Also, that squirrel pisses me the hell off. It is there for no reason other than for Randall to show off that he has read the series at least that far.

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  65. What's your problem with squirrels, man, STOP CRITICISING WHAT YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND [/fanboy]

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  66. Any person who is interested in Ender's Game should read this brilliant review.

    http://plover.net/~bonds/ender.html

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  67. To be fair, Demosthenes was SUPPOSED to be a reactionary xenophobe (which makes his popularity all the more bizarre)--but then again why is it Locke's blog we're seeing?

    I don't know about the political scene where you come from, but in America, this kind of pundit is the most popular. Have you heard of Glenn Beck?

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  68. No, the idea is more "What makes Demosthenes so special? There are like a hundred million reactionary xenophobes posting in political forums."

    Also I love Bond's review of Ender's Game.

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  69. Hey guys! I won a ticket to the NYC xkcd book party. The final ticket price ended up being $50 (which means that's that the 100th highest bid was.)

    LET'S START PLANNING.

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  70. conclusion: people who like xkcd are cheap bastards

    p.s. this discussion has already begun in the comments of the latest blog post

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  71. I never read "Ender's Game" so I interpreted it as an @$$hole that starts a blog to feel self important, change the world, explain to the universe how he's right and they're wrong, etc. Then like 99% of these self serving blogs (unlike Carl's) no one cares. LOL

    What would have been even funnier is a blog where he posts bizarre stuff like "We should nuke Thailand" or "Siberian Huskys should be allowed to vote" with replies like "You are a genius" or "Get out of my head" or "Is Megan seeing anyone right now?" ROTFLMFA

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  72. I have to honestly say that, upon reading this comic, (from another site, of course, as xkcd itself is only a waste a time) I experienced the very unique sensation that Randall had stolen my joke, like none other before. Sure, it is very easy to make math and physics references, that even a high school student could understand (Hey, what if I compare a photon to childbirth! Women think that's painful, try splitting up and interfering with yourself as you pass through two slits!) Unfortunately, this instance is both more obscure and potentially witty; I checked that I while I may have submitted it I have not not had this published in a nationwide newspaper's periodic humor contest in the past, so I have nothing concrete other than my own records and anecdotes to friends. But anyway, by far the most terrible thing about this is the horrible job Randall has done in the setup of the joke, and that is what angers me the most. Rather than a lame reddit reference, it is so much more insightful as follows:

    Locke or Demosthenes naturally makes a post on some subject like world economics, as above. But rather than being a random/ignored blog, this is done on a busy venue where feedback comes naturally. But, immediately, the post is naturally derided by random commenters with increasingly extreme names and avatars - Darth Vader, the Republican Party, Hitler, and culminating in an adminstrator closing the whole thing down. But again, horrible to see my joke perverted as such, I shall continue to search for more previous evidence of publication.

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