disconnected jottings

* “This is an example”:http://xkcd.com/327/ — perhaps the platonically perfect example — of a joke which is either screamingly funny of wholly incomprehensible, with no region in between. It seems to me that if you understand it you are bound to be the sort of person who finds it funny, and if you wouldn’t find it funny you would be most unlikely to have acquired the background knowledge to understand it.
* To the Albert Hall last night, to see the Cowboy Junkies. One really excellent performance, of “200 More Miles”, which was better than any of the recorded versions I have; the rest competent, but never quite on fire. Perhaps the extraordinary voice of Margo Timmins is fading a little. I’m still glad we went. Then I found an invitation to see Patti Smith in Cambridge in my inbox this morning. Curious. The last time I saw her in Cambridge, I recken I was in a room with about 25% of the American anti-war movement; but that was November 2001 in Cambridge, Massachussetts. She wasn’t terribly good, and the atmosphere of pious rectitude, though I admire and in some sense like it, convinced me that this would never be a mainstream sentiment. But the first time I saw her, in about 1978, she gave the most completely sexual performance I have ever seen.

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9 Responses to disconnected jottings

  1. Regarding the XKCD strip, I think you’re overstating the case in a way that people often do. To get the joke, is it really necessary to have any significant specialized knowledge of databases, or is it (as I suspect) merely sufficient to know that databases exist and that they depend on information being structured and marked-up in finicky ways? My knowledge of actual databases could be inscribed on my little finger with a Pilot Razorpoint, but I laughed out loud when I first saw that strip.

    A lot of the humor in XKCD revolves around math and computing issues that are outside my particular sphere of knowledge, yet I read it regularly and almost always find it amusing. Certainly, there are a lot of people who react to any kind of in-joke with an unbecomingly defensive bark of “I don’t *get* it,” but that’s their loss.

  2. Mrs Tilton says:

    Heavens, I hadn’t even realised the Junkies are still touring! I envy you, Andrew; I really envy you.

    Can’t think of too many shows I’ve seen that really give me that warm feeling in my belly long after the event. Maybe Betty Carter that one time in NY, or Jonathan Richman back from Californian exile for the evening in Somerset, Mass. Saw the Pogues in Münster surrounded by Grenadier guardsmen; Shane was only quite drunk, the squaddies were howling for “Sally McLennane” and it was magic. Heard _Le nozze di F._ not too long ago here in town. Not at all bad; but Cherubino (a Finnish Swede) was a delight.

    Other than that, though, it might as well all have been The Wiggles.

  3. acb says:

    Patrick, did you realise that the name she has given her son will actually wipe out all the information about every pupil’s name from the database if entered? Or was it funny just on the principle that any mistake is likely to have that effect?

  4. jim says:

    Patti Smith in the ’70s was really something else. I was a graduate student in New York then and she was a consolation.

    I thought the xkcd strip was amusing, no more. Yes, I do know sql. I think it’s very hard to generalize about humour.

  5. Pete says:

    Yes, I actually laughed out loud when this one showed up in my RSS reader.
    My favorite bit is “Little Bobby Tables”.

  6. Rafe says:

    I showed that joke to my wife yesterday and she had no idea what it meant or why it was funny.

    It really is a shibboleth of the comic strip world. Heck, I may start showing it to people at job interviews. If you don’t laugh, there’s no need to proceed.

  7. I wish to exhibit myself as a counterexample: I understand SQL in general (sigh) and SQL injection attacks in particular (deep sigh), but I found that XKCD rather less hilarious than usual.

  8. Rupert says:

    First CPU: 04869h!
    Second CPU: That’s funny. You don’t LOOK bigendian.

    R

    (oh, and Post from Preview seems broken again – this under Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-GB; rv:1.8.1.7) Gecko/20070914 Firefox/2.0.0.7 and (spit) Vista)

  9. acb says:

    I know that post from preview is broken. I don’t know how to fix it except by removig the button, though I will try to think of a way when I have a moment.

    Also, is 48h a vulgar suggestion?

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