Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for October 25, 2010

My Twitter profile

Before I get to the question, I just want to remind people that I'm not going to post adult content or swearing that goes beyond what one might reasonably expect seeing in the comic itself. Please also keep that in mind when making comments on this blog.

And now, ze question:

What comment would you leave on someone's video of Justin and Super F-Elliot fighting the fire monster?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parallel Universes Followup

Dear everyone who is still e-mailing me about this: I am not "forgetting" the idea of infinite parallel universes.  I made a long comment in response to one of my earlier posts that really should be it's own blog post, and I'm posting it here. I've bolded where I start talking about "infinite".


My argument is that if there is no randomized component, then the decision is going to based on a variety of factors that we are not even conscious of, including biological, environmental, hormonal, etc.

If that is true and no randomization is occurring, then the outcome of person X being presented with Y cereal boxes under condition Z is going to be constant. The creation of an alternate outcome would be dependent on at least one variable being modified, hence why I consider a lack of genuine randomization a big deal.

To put it another way, if every effect has a cause, what cause exists for them to ultimately choose one cereal over another? One does not walk up to 5 boxes of cereal and walk away with one out of the five with no reason at all behind it. Even if they're totally apathetic and just grabbed a box without looking, their behavior still follows a series of causes and effects that could be tracked and predicted if one had all the information and the means to process it.

I also consider the idea of alternate universes being created as a result of every decision to be somewhat self-aggrandizing. I just held up my hand and chose not to snap my fingers. I find the claim that I just split the universe in twain by doing so a bit ridiculous.

As for 'infinite'. I know what it means. A problem here is that 'infinite' has multiple definitions, and one can argue which term applies to 'infinite' multiple universes. I'm willing to accept this one:

"Immeasurably great" - the number of alternate universes, should they exist, are beyond our ability to measure. The exponential creation of these universes is also beyond our ability to measure. The number is so vast and growing that mankind would be wiped out by the death of the sun before finishing saying what would be a long-outdated number of universes.

Going by this definition, every POSSIBLE universe could exist. Jon Stewart could exist in many different continuities, but he would not be in all of them, nor would we all be in all universes. It would be a cosmically huge mix and match scenario.

This one, however, I am less willing to accept:

"Unbounded or unlimited; boundless; endless" - This implies every universe, possible or not, exists. Under this definition, a universe where the world blew up during the American civil war, was reconstructed by industrious space beavers, and ultimately resulted in an exact copy of the world as we know now, except every five seconds we all freeze, then unfreeze without realizing it, exists.

Now, for all I know, that universe TOTALLY EXISTS, and that would be super cool. However, even if countless universes exists, I don't think that one does. I can't prove it either way, so it's just an opinion, but it's one I think logic has the back of.

In short, I'm actually pretty open to the idea of the first definition being true if there is actually a multiverse, and short of seeing documentation proving otherwise, I'm assuming "immeasurably great" is what quantum theorists are saying.

The second one, however, where any reality can exist for no reason, just seems silly to me. It's not something I'm going to accept has sensible from anyone without solid proof.

Also, of course I think I'm right. I wouldn't be saying this stuff if I didn't think I was. It would be pretty cool if I was wrong, but I haven't heard anything that sounds like definitive proof of that yet. If definitive proof is found, however, I'll probably tweet something along the lines of "cool!" followed by a link to a news post about it ^^;


I would also like to point out to anyone who is annoyed by my statement "nothing is random" that I am equally annoyed by people saying "there are an infinite number of universes" as though they were saying "the sky is blue". A lot of people say it like it's an indisputable fact that's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. It hasn't been.

I can't prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing is random. It's impossible; all it would take would be one provable random event to disprove my assertion. As such, it's a belief, not a scientific fact.

Infinite universes hasn't been proven, either. For all we know, we're it. There's evidence and hypothesis's that support there being more, but until there's solid, indisputable proof that there's even just one other one (such as by, say, actually making contact with another universe), that too is a belief.

I'll make everyone out there is a deal. I won't claim nothing is truly random is scientific truth if you won't claim there are infinite universes as scientific truth. At this point, they are both beliefs. They are beliefs with foundations in science and reasoning, but beliefs nonetheless.

Friday, October 22, 2010

EGS Twitter Survey for October 22, 2010

It's a whole new you!
My Twitter profile

I've decided to do something fun to accompany EGS story comic updates. At 1 pm Eastern US time (noon for me, hence the "odd" time), a scheduled tweet will ask a question related to the latest update and post most of the tweets I get prior to a set deadline (the deadlines will probably vary. I say "most" only because there's always the possibility that I might not want to quote a particular tweet. This is the internet, after all.

And after all of your answers? My answer.

Who tweeted what will remain anonymous, and I'll also accept e-mail responses that are under 140 characters. This anonymity is to respect people's privacy settings and, let's face it, to make this easier for me. It's a lot faster to just copy/paste the responses.

Without further ado, my question to the readers and their answers:

How would you react if it was you in today's story comic?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Episode Rant: Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

I'm a big fan of early seasons of The Simpsons. Hell, the entire reason my horribly named comic, El Goonish Shive, has "goonish" in the title is because of an episode from season four where the line "hired goons?" got stuck in my brain and refused to leave.

The episode I'm interested in ranting about today, however, is from season two, and is titled "Itchy And Scratchy And Marge". It is reportedly a popular episode and an example of the creators being inspired by the public's response to their own show. I have several nits to pick about its story and it's messages, however, in particular my opinion that Marge, while not really in the right, is not ultimately a hypocrite.


Marge is on a crusade against cartoon violence after she discovers her youngest daughter Maggie is imitating violent behavior from The Itchy and Scratchy Show. She attempts to convince the writers to write less violent material, and winds up protesting the show with the support of other concerned parents. Marge is invited to appear on the talk show Nightline, and while there asks other concerned parents to make their voices heard. After receiving literal truckloads of complaints, the Itchy and Scratchy writers give in and remove all violence from the show.

Sometime after that, Michelangelo's David is on display in Springfield. The same parents who helped Marge censor Itchy and Scratchy want her to lead the protest against the statue on the grounds that it portrays male nudity. Marge does not object to the statue, but is nonetheless invited back to Nightline based on the presumption that she would. She is asked how she can be for one form of freedom of expression and not for another, and concludes that she can't be. The world is once again returned to normal as The Itchy and Scratchy Show becomes violent again.

The Message

One message this episode somewhat conveys, possibly by accident, is that what's appropriate content for a child should be determined on an individual basis. Lisa and Bart watched the show regularly without incident, but Maggie was imitating the show and injured her father as a result. Instead of forcing the networks to change their shows, one should decide for themselves what's appropriate for their children. In Marge's case, she should have allowed Bart and Lisa to watch, but not Maggie.

The message the episode seemed to want to deliver, however, was about freedom of expression. I'm all for freedom of expression, but the manner in which this episode tries to get the point across gets under my skin, and it all boils down to this one question that was asked of Marge:

"How can you be for one form of freedom of expression like our big, naked friend over there, and be against another form, like Itchy and Scratchy?"

Marge's answer is "I guess I can't", suggesting that it is hypocritical of her to object to one and not the other.

My problem with this is that they're NOT THE SAME THING. One is a statue of a naked man, and another is a violent TV show aimed at children. Maggie seriously injured Homer when she imitated Itchy and Scratchy, and it's suggested that other fathers were similarly injured. Marge may have dealt with it poorly, but within the context of the episode, her objections were the result a legitimate concern. It is NOT hypocritical to object to something that is viewed as a threat to one's family while not objecting to something that isn't seen as a legitimate threat to anything!

This is nitpicking, of course. It's a funny episode and there's plenty to like about it, but a particularly big pet peeve of mine is when people over-generalize, and it seems to be becoming more common. A symptom of over-generalizing is erroneous declarations of hypocrisy, and  I've heard many "that's hypocritical" claims that may as well be based on someone eating apples but not eating oranges.

"They're both fruit! How can you object to one and not the other? They're the same!"

I could go on about this pet peeve, but let's stick to the context of this Simpsons episode. To me, this episode is an example of preaching to the choir. It has a good message, but the manner in which it's presented is only going to speak to people who are already on board with it. The final point about freedom of expression is another point entirely. One can claim it's not, but consider someone airing Criminal Minds at 3pm and marketing it to children. Is the issue as to whether that's appropriate for children really freedom of expression?

Then Again...

Of course, the meta-point of this episode was about The Simpsons itself, which is a show intended for adults. The freedom of expression argument definitely applies in that scenario, as the issue isn't, in theory, the impact it might have on children. Children do watch the show (I myself was under 10 when I saw this episode), but they also watch other sitcoms geared for adults, so whatever. Point is, a show intended for adults has a more legitimate claim to "freedom of expression", especially in the real world where the only supposed incident of a child imitating the show and getting hurt was a skateboard accident. Frankly, if someone's taking up skateboarding, there's going to be injuries with or without Bart.

As such, considered from ye-olde meta perspective, the message has a bit more weight. Even then, though, I think it would make more sense for the ultimate lesson to have been for parents to determine for themselves what is and isn't appropriate for their children to watch. It seems much more applicable than "artistic freedom! Ha ha!" To me, that sounds less like a lesson and more like the creators acknowledging that the show is bad for children, but they're gonna keep doing it anyway because it's their right to do so.

And You're Ranting NOW Because...?

I'm bothering to rant about this now because I think it's worth thinking about. I think a lot of attempts at making points like this wind up falling short for similar reasons. There are other episodes of other shows that do similar things, and when I get the chance I'll explain my feelings about them, too (consider yourself warned, Family Guy! Not that you care, but still...). As a quasi-writer myself, it's something I need to keep in mind when beating audiences over the head with my own heavy-handed views on the world.

As for The Simpsons, they got better at this over time. MUCH better. I'm nitpicking an episode from late 1990 here, for Pete's sake. I may as well pick on someone for liking a cheesy band in elementary school. As I've said, though, it's still worth analyzing in retrospect and keeping whatever lessons one might take away from it in mind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mythbusters: What the hell?

Before anything else, it has to be said: Jamie Hyneman is a badass. He's like, "Yeah, I know you're the president of the United States. I'm still going to wear what I always wear."

Secondly: what the hell? I saw tweets over the weekend about how Adam and Jamie were going somewhere over the weekend and how it was all very hush-hush and would be revealed on Monday, but I never would have guess they were going to hang out with the president. I assume this photograph was taken immediately before putting up a bunch of plastic sheets to keep Mentos-propelled Diet Coke from getting on all those books.

I'm sure the information is available as to what exactly they're doing, but I had to immediately comment on this photo. All I know for certain is that Obama is going to be in an episode of Mythbusters. If there isn't at least one scene with Adam or Jamie asking "can we do that?" followed by Obama saying "yes, we can", I'm going to be sorely disappointed.

Regardless of what they're doing, I'm happy for Adam and Jamie. I like these guys and their show, and getting to meet and hang out with the president, regardless of whatever one's personal political leanings might be, is an honor they should be proud of. Jamie was already something of a mythological folk hero (seriously, look up his past exploits), but now he can cross off "meet the president" on his folk hero checklist.

As a final note, Obama is quoted on the Facebook Mythbusters group as admitting that he was disappointed about not getting to blow anything up. Whatever issues one may have with the president, my opinion of him just went up a notch.