Friday, March 22, 2013

Ask James Anything Month: Hopefully Worth the Wait

Whoof, it's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry, everyone! This March has been the most curiously busy of all the Marches I can remember -- which is, by now, getting to be quite a lot of Marches -- so my best of intentions on timely updates took something of a torpedoing.

Well, no sense in dwelling on it! Ask James Anything Month continues to roll, so let's gear up and dive back in.

cherenkov asks:

"Should I buy a motorbike or a snow blower?"

It depends on how much shovellin' area you're dealing with, I'd say, but unless your lawn falls somewhere between 'reasonable' and 'teeny' -- or unless you're really keen on shovelling, like you've worked it into your exercise regimen or something -- I'd lean towards the snow blower. A motorbike would be grand fun, I'm sure, but snowblowing season greatly outweighs motorbiking season around here, and the latter tends to drag obnoxiously into the former -- especially so in a year like the one we're having right now.

In fair weather, prepare for foul, as the saying goes. Thomas Fuller! Quotable dude, that guy.

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 03:45 asks:

"Hey James! Can you tell us... Who (or rather how) talk-bubbles were invented. Y'know, comicbooks & dialogue.
I'm a James too!

Well met, fellow James! Thank you for your question.

From looking into it, I can tell you the how, but I can't tell you the who. There are recorded, surviving uses of the speech bubble -- and its earlier incarnations of speech banderoles or speech scrolls -- dating back to the fifteenth century (!), if not earlier, and as they get closer to the present day you can see the original scroll-shaped format (which made sense in the day, back when people read from scrolls, y'know) widen out to the bubble we accept as convention today.

That said, we live in an era defined by its unparalleled technological ease and its theoretically infinite access to information, and we (can't even handle attribution now. So -- as much as I may wish it were otherwise -- it seems overwhelmingly likely that the original funnypage innovators of centuries past, the first people to say "yeah but what if we rounded it off more like this", are forever lost to time.

On a comics-related side note: I only learned, like, maybe a week ago that the scribblings and strings of symbols used to indicate-but-replace profanity in a speech bubble -- I identify them primarily with Captain Bluebeard and Q*Bert, but I'm sure you have your own defining examples as well -- have a formal technical name, 'grawlixes'. The term was coined by Mort Walker, the original creator of Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois (and those two properties share a combined universe, incidentally; I always love stuff like that), who wrote a satirical reference manual about comic illustration effects that was then used as a legitimate textbook anyway because the world works in mysterious ways.

I'm'a need to buy this for myself sometime soon, is what I am getting at. Hooray for comics!

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 11:11 asks:

"When you say "the Liberals are drifting dangerously close to Calgary Flames territory," do you mean they are dangerously close to being "Red Hot"?


. . . what


My goodness, that's... yes. That's something! That is most certainly a thing.

I'd never seen that particular video before, but it occurs to me now that each and every major hockey franchise must have at least one video like this lurking around. Right? Some terrible, wonderful, awful, amazing, probably cheesy, usually hilariously-dated promotional footage or music lurking around in their annals. (What, what's so funn--no, no, two Ns. Annals. C'mon, guys.)

So perhaps, similar to SBNation editor Jon Bois' recent bracket of March Madness predictions based on correspondingly-named warships, perhaps for this year's Playoffs (and they're coming fast!) I should try basing my annual prognostications on which franchises have the funniest promo footage behind them.

Having said that, the Flames probably aren't going to make the Playoffs this year, so it's just as well that we all watched that video now. RYEHD HAWT, RYEEEHD HAWT, RYEEEHHHD HAAAWWWT

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 11:15 asks:

"Don't you think, though, that if you had the most beautiful woman in the world draped off you, it would open all kinds of doors and opportunities for you? Tons of other beautiful women would be throwing themselves at you because if you go for it with them, it validates their lofty self-esteem. You'd likely travel the world for free, and never have to pay for a drink again. Bunch of other advantages if you really think about it.

Thanks for your replies, this has been fun!

Thank you, anonymous inquirer!

I'm not saying that I don't see the theoretical strategy behind the second of those two options in the previous post; perhaps if I were a more suave -- suaver? -- holy hell it is 'suaver' -- perhaps if I were a suaver operator and a more singleminded social climber and a less monogamous sort, then yes, using a woman to pick up other women might seem more strategically viable.

Those modifiers taken together, however -- not to put too fine a point on it -- kind of add up to some pretty serious sociopathy, and even taking those into account for the original hypothetical decision I definitely still prefer the "passionate but top-secret romance" angle of Door Number One against whatever this Neil-Gaiman-American-Gods-two-man-con bullshit is that we got going on here.

"Well--I mean, this is nice, but--what about [name of hypothetical beautiful woman in scenario]?"
"Huh? Oh! Oh, no no, it's fine."
"She's fine with you cheating on her?"
"It's not cheating, it--okay, that sounds really bad. I mean, no, it's just, it's not 'cheating' because I'm not actually allowed to sleep with her."
"I, uh--well, see, the rules of the deal--"
"The deal?"
"--were that I can't do anything with her, but I can use her to pick up women like you."
"...what the fuck."
"No, I mea--okay. I swear that sounded less predatory in my head."

Someone back me up on this -- 'suaver' doesn't even sound like a word, does it? Say it aloud. 'Suaver'. 'Suaver'! Ridiculous.

YWGer asks:

"As many of us know, there are a diverse range of comments following online articles, most notably on the websites of CBC Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Winnipeg Sun.

Some people are of the opinion that for an online comment to be valid, it must be mature, moderate, politically correct, and written with passable grammar and spelling. In short, online comments should be dismissed outright if they do not meet these standards and branded as that of 'crazy internet trolls.'

Other people contend that while some comments raise eyebrows given the views advocated, the people who post such opinions nonetheless represent a notable subsection of the Winnipeg and Manitoba population. In essence, to truly have a finger on the pulse of the city and province, one must recognize that these non-PC opinions are shared by many and could also give us a sense of upcoming shifts in public opinion. In short, these opinions are therefore valid and serve a useful purpose.

It seems that the former is often espoused by professional journalists & columnists (and many 'established' bloggers who play Twitter footsie with them). Whereas the latter seems to be championed by a smaller few columnists and the online commenters themselves.

James, what is your opinion on this matter?

Hmm! Hmm. All right, let me try and unpack this one for a moment or two.

I'm not entirely convinced that the quality of commentary can be expressed on a straight line like this, with "socially acceptable and well-written" at one end and "socially unacceptable and poorly-written" on the other; I think you'd need, at the very least, a quadrant graph -- X-axis for opinion palatability, Y-axis for language mechanics -- to begin fleshing out the whole picture of the online-comment universe.

Although then you'd also need separate graphs for named commenters and anonymous commenters, or at least separate colours for the data points of each, but then of course this particular approach also risks conflating subjective analysis with objective analys--aaaaaand, see, now, here I go again.

Okay. Let me start over. The problem as I see it with dividing all online comments into 'valid' and 'invalid' based on the successful ticking of four arbitrary checkboxes is that, relative subjectivity of each box aside, it turns that particular avenue of public discussion into a pass-fail approach rather than a grading approach.

Grading comments and commenters, I can roll with; take a gander at a given thread and you'll find you're able to (again, subjectively) stratify respondents into letter tiers pretty darn effectively. Comments that hit all of the criteria get an A, and comments that hit none of them get an F (or just deleted, y'know, depending), sure, but you have to allow for the inevitable existence of B, C and D comments as well.

Then -- again, subjectively -- one has to decide for oneself how each of the four criteria should be weighed. Are they equal? Is one box more important to check than another? Is a moderate with unspectacular spelling and grammar considered better than, worse than, or equal to a radical with excellent language skills? Is a poorly-argued comment that you happen to agree with considered better than, worse than, or equal to a well-argued comment that you disagree with vehemently?

Then, also -- who gets to make all of these decisions on everyone's behalf? And what steps does that person or group then have to take to properly counterbalance the editorial slant (not to say bias!) of their site? And even then, if one begins to consider how standards will differ across competing outle--aaaaaand, see, now, here I go again.

Okay. Dang. I fear this one may be a smidgen too complicated to tackle in a compilation post; I may have to come back to this idea, after the gimmicked month is over. Still, good topic, though! I'm glad you pitched that one.

Moving on!

The Analyst asks:

"Where does The Winnipeg RAG Review sit within YWGger's dichotomy? After all, it's prone to bashing racist, insane wingnuts, but does so in more in a rough edged, conversationally intolerant manner that might equally offend those with more genteel sensibilities. "

It's... it's not my dichotomy, man. I think you'd have to ask him about it yourself. (And, no, before you ask, I also can't tell you if he's a secret racist.)

And, finally:

Anonymous, 2013-03-15 12:12 asks:

"The most important question of our time: can a slurpy kill a fetus?"

research to this point remains incomplete and inconclusive regarding the potential effects of slurpy on babby

more science is needed

And, on that note -- thank you for reading this most recent installment of Ask James Anything Month! At my current output speed, we've got at least one more round of it before the month is through, so go ahead and Ask James Anything!


The Analyst said...

Are civic centre-leftists like Brian Mayes and Dan Vandal destroying themselves by joining aboard the failed Katz administration while conservatives like Paula Havixbeck are abandoning ship?

unclebob said...

Since you want to use the ship analogy - Katz is a derelict and abandoned vessel. The law of the sea says anyone can claim it for salvage and use it for what they want.I believe Vandal and others now own the Sammyboat and you should expect it to operate quite differently.
Maybe Paula saw a couple of those Wyatt and Vandal black pirate hats climbing over the side and decided the lifeboat was safer.

unclebob said...

BTW James - on the beautiful woman question - why not make a deal with your twin brother - even if you don't have one but as long as she thinks you do.