Posts Tagged ‘blog: reader participation’.

800 Episodes Word Cloud

On the occasion of Wondermark’s eight hundredth episode, I thought I would celebrate by looking at a complete corpus of words used in Wondermark, and creating a cloud from them (similar to my existing tag cloud of subject matter):

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “I suppose it is unsurprising that the most common words used in a large sample of comics probably closely resembles a list of common words found in the language in general.”

So no great discoveries here, unfortunately. It’s further complicated by the fact that the text I’m using as a corpus is an export of my Oh No Robot database, which contains user-submitted transcriptions of all my comics, which themselves often contain transcriber-invented character names and extensive scene descriptions — both of which are great, but which somewhat muddy the dataset. The heavy incidence of the words “man” and “woman” in the cloud, for example, are probably due to transcriptions reading something like:

Man: I have started a bean farm.
Woman: We’ll be millionaires!
Man: Not if flies eat the crops first.
Woman: Time to invest heavily in pesticides.

In that sample transcription, the words “man” and “woman” both appear twice as frequently as any other word, despite not occurring in the dialogue at all.

It’d be neat to see, instead of a brute word-frequency cloud, something like a collection of statistically improbable phrases, or words that show up in Wondermark once and only once…things like that. I wonder what interesting things could be mined from the data? If you’d like to play around with the corpus yourself, dirty as the set is, here’s the text file I used. If you derive anything neat, let us know!

Looking Back at Y’haug’f’than

(Flickr photo by Tau Zero)

Over the weekend, the Wondermark calendar marked the eldritch holiday Y’haug’f’than, the day long foretold when forces beyond the imagination or comprehension of mankind crest a horizon of madness and slowly wind down the minutes remaining for all of human existence.

I’ve long felt that Y’haug’f’than is becoming a bit commercial of a holiday, so in an effort to respect the roots of the tradition by subjecting myself to deliberate pain, I underwent hernia surgery:

What about you? Leave a comment and tell us how you commemorated the weekend the air turned to ashes and our still-screaming flesh was melted from our brittle bones!

(Next holiday we will observe: February 30: Imaginary Day)

Wondermark will be offline on January 18th.

UPDATE: Thank you for all the supportive messages during the blackout. The NY Times reports that several dozen lawmakers have publicly shifted their opinions on the bills today, and when I called and talked to staffers for my two senators and my representative, nobody sounded too thrilled about the bills in their present form. So, we won? For now, anyhow, until the spotlight moves onto something else and the lobbyists go right back to work. The press that the blackout has generated is great, but we mustn’t forget that this kind of nonsense gets pushed through Congress all the time.

Wondermark will shut down on January 18th as part of the national Internet strike protesting two bills under consideration in the U.S. Congress, H.R.3261 (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, or SOPA) and S.968 (“Protect IP Act”, or PIPA).

You may have heard about the general strike (among the sites taking part are Wikipedia, Reddit, and Boing Boing), or about SOPA and PIPA. If you haven’t, here’s the general idea:

Massive entertainment companies, mainly movie studios, have presented these bills to Congress as a means to curb online piracy of their content. But the bills are written in a very broad, dangerous way.

To combat the problem of movie piracy, SOPA and PIPA give the government the power to firewall the entire U.S. internet.

This is like planting dynamite under a busy highway bridge in order to catch fleeing burglars, then handing the trigger to someone who hates cars.

What’s likely to happen?

• What burglars there are, will take another route. (SOPA/PIPA do not target pirates, but rather sites that link to alleged piracy. Real pirates can easily sidestep the restrictions.)

• Law-abiding business trucks, scared of the dynamite, will ALSO take another route. (The huge legal and financial burden of compliance with the new law will discourage startups, stifling independent businesses based in the United States.)

• The dynamite is likely to go off whenever the trigger person sees anybody who looks slightly suspicious — burglar or not. (Claims of “piracy” could be used as a weapon against websites to silence them for competitive or political reasons.)

Despite the fact that nobody in Congress can agree on health care, the budget, or anything else, bought-and-paid-for politicians from both sides of the aisle have lined up to defend these bills. It’s pretty disgusting. Movie piracy is simply not more important than the safety and integrity of the entire Internet, which is my whole livelihood.

Don’t take it from me, though. You can read more about the details of SOPA and PIPA here:

• An Overview of SOPA/PIPA [Infographic]
A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP [Reddit]
• Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

As of this writing, a Senate vote on PIPA is planned for January 24, and the House of Representatives intends to continue markup on SOPA in February. So the time to act is right now.

What’s the point of the strike?

It’s to say, “Imagine what the Internet could look like if this level of censorship were legal.” Sites you visit every day could be blocked at the DNS level, making them essentially unreachable. If this is your first introduction to SOPA and PIPA, the strike is to let you know that it’s a real problem, and to solicit your help on behalf of internet users and content creators everywhere.

I rate myself highly cynical when it comes to the government. I’ve had firsthand experience with being completely blown off when I’ve actually taken the time to write to my members of Congress. Once, I wrote letters to both my senators, opposing an issue that both of them were in favor of. I received a form letter back reading “I, too, am in favor of this issue! Thank you for your support!”

So I know that it’s farfetched to claim that our members of Congress will even listen to us. But here’s the thing: these bills need to become toxic. They need to become political nitroglycerin. And that has everything to do with the lawmakers’ perceptions of public opinion.

If our members of Congress learn that supporting bills like this gets them a ton of angry phone calls, maybe they’ll think twice. We hope by calling them en masse, we can at least get some of them to realize there’s more to the issue than the bullet points they’ve been spoon-fed by lobbyists.

If they know that opposing bills like this gets them a ton of supportive phone calls, that’s food for thought as well. So if your representatives are opposed to SOPA/PIPA, call them too and let them know you’ve noticed, and that you appreciate it.

If your representative is undecided, that’s fine, because that means they haven’t cast their lot yet, or don’t realize how big an issue it is. This is your chance to let them know that the proper course of action is opposition.

Since Reddit will be down for the strike as well, I’m sure they won’t mind if I copy some info from a thread there about how to call your Congressperson:

From my experience: A staffer answers the phone. Say, “Hey, my name is [full name] and I live in [City], [State] [Zip] and I just wanted to express my opposition to a bill that [Congressperson] will be voting on soon: the Stop Online Piracy Act [if Representative] / the Protect IP Act [if Senator].

“There are extreme flaws and loopholes in the bill that could seriously harm the freedom of individuals, impact small businesses, and silence political speech on the Internet, and I wanted to ensure that [Congressperson] is aware of how dangerous this bill could be for his/her constituents. His/her willingness to go along with it is extremely surprising, considering his/her strong pro-liberty, pro-small-business beliefs,* and I’d like to ask him/her to reconsider his/her position.”

In my instance the staffer was really polite and said she would forward the message on to my senator, and recommended I request to schedule a meeting via my senator’s website. In the meeting request, I just basically repeated what I said above. Don’t worry what may happen if your meeting request gets accepted, I can’t imagine it would.

* I embellished this sample script a bit. But you catch more flies with honey, etc.

If you’re on the Internet as much as I am, you’re probably tired of hearing everybody talk about this, and secretly believe that the threat is hugely overblown. To be honest, I hope it is.

But I am also intensely curious to know if our democracy actually works. Can a legion of individuals contacting their members of Congress actually change minds? Or are we all just ignorant chickens bobbing about in our coop while the farmers do as they please? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more concerted, focused effort to test the theory that we in the U.S. actually live in a representative democracy.

I urge those of you in the U.S. to please call your representative and your senators today, and those of you outside the U.S. to help spread the word in other ways — because where the U.S. goes, the rest of the world may follow soon enough.

• Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA?
• Find contact info for your members of Congress

Wondermark returns Thursday with a new comic for your trouble. It will contain…jokes

Happy St. Whinge’s Day!

If you consult your 2012 Wondermark Calendar, you know that today is St. Whinge’s Day! Have you been watching for children with caps in their hands? I spent a good fifteen minutes outside this morning, ranting and raving about the ills of the world and jangling quarters in my pocket, but all I got was a dirty look from an old woman.

Still, I think this is a grand opportunity to whinge, whine and moan about bad luck, the unfairness of the universe, or petty injustices that otherwise would have to go repressed. For the next few hours, this is a safe space to be whiny. Here, I’ll start:

  • I got some strawberries from the farmer’s market just on Sunday and they are already all brown and soft! I suspect that the ones underneath the top layer were going bad before I even bought them. OH ST. WHINGE PRESERVE US!
  • I have been locked in a nonsense nitpicky battle with the IRS for seven months over the fact that our publishing company (Machine of Death) is partly owned by a Canadian! We are trying to run a small business and create jobs but we have been hitting absurd roadblocks every step of the way. OH ST. WHINGE PRESERVE US!
  • I visited an art-supply store and parked in a space with ten minutes left on the meter. I forgot to check the time when I went in, then got engrossed inside the store deciding whether to buy the bigger tube of paint ($8) or the smaller one ($5). I did complicated mental math trying to decide whether I’d really use all of the bigger tube, or whether the smaller, cheaper one would do. In the end my agonizing deliberation about whether I could safely save $3 earned me a $65 parking ticket. OH ST. WHINGE PRESERVE US!

Now you! Leave a comment with your own complaint — and let me be the first to say, “Well, that’s just incredibly bad luck, that is!”

(Next holiday we will observe: January 28: Y’haug’f’than)

New Holidays for 2012

Wow! You suggested a ton of great holidays for 2012, and I suggest that every one of you carefully read the comments on the previous post and observe every one of those delightful feast days, commemorations, and convenient days off work.

Here are the ones that will be included on the 2012 Wondermark Calendar (the cover to which is pictured above). I shifted a few dates around to ensure an even distribution, and added a handful of my own. Please get ready to observe:

January 11: St. Whinge’s Day
This is a day for letting off steam over all your bad luck in the past year, and the unfairness of the universe in general. On this day, children may carry a hat or cap in their hand, and anyone may toss a coin into it. Anyone who does is entitled to tell the child about an instance from the past year where the malevolent forces of the world clearly conspired against any sensible probability. The child is expected to listen attentively and reply with the ritual words: “Well, that’s just incredibly bad luck, that is!” (Submitted by Immanio)

January 28: Y’haug’f’than
A day predicted by the astrologies of long burnt out stars in which Esh’am’borath the Goat Mother of Ten Thousand Young will ascend from the murky, cyclopean gates of the Neverliving and rend the sanity from our still screaming husks. Typically celebrated by the exchange of trite greeting cards, or by that one annoying woman at work that bakes cupcakes at any excuse. (Submitted by Howard P. L.)

January 22: The Black Feast of St. Argyle’s
The day you reschedule your winter holiday to, either because you couldn’t get time off in December to visit your folks or because you were stuck with your in-laws on Christmas. It’s a second chance to get your holidays right. (Submitted by dawnwich)

February 30: Imaginary Day (Also known as Double-Leap-Day)
A day so rare it hasn’t occurred since 1712! Because it requires Good Ol’ Dr. Time to leap twice, and he gets quite tired after the first one, usually. (So tired it takes four years to recover, if not more.) It’s not likely to happen in 2012 either, but it’s included in the hope that it will! We can celebrate its coming in the traditional way, by hopping around like Mexican jumping beans all day! (Submitted by Josh)

March 4th: Verb Day
The only day that is a verb. Celebrate by engaging in active pursuits, such as running, dancing or juggling. Civic festivities often include the ceremonial invention of new verbs, such as “scraddling”, which will be new for 2012. (Submitted by Lee)

March 20: Bloodletting Day
A springtime purification ritual, observed by many religions, in which practitioners celebrate by dotting their bodies with leeches. Followed by:
March 21: Lethargy Day
(Submitted by Beth)

March 31: National Beard Appreciation Day
Celebrated on the last Saturday in March by proudly wearing one’s beard in public spaces. Those without beards are expected to provide food and refreshment to their bearded betters, or may wear false beards (and receive false food in return). Standing ovations for particularly spectacular specimens are considered a polite show of support. Shaving on National Beard Appreciation Day is considered very gauche. (Submitted by Eddie)

April 14: Robots’ Michaelmas
Earmarked since Babbage built the earliest thinking machines, waiting for when the bots gain sentience. It will be the one day of the year when robots may disobey their masters and wreak whatever havoc they please, but only on the understanding that April 15 (Robots’ Sorrow) must be spent putting everything back as it should be. (Submitted by Stewart)

May 9: Non-Denominational Regret Day
A day for thinking back on the things that could have been, or should have been. Celebrants write their regrets down, then fold their papers and spear them on the branches of a tree. Children with few regrets often write down what they hope they will regret in the coming year. Everybody then takes home one other person’s regret, and the tree spontaneously dies. (Submitted by Leif A.)

June 6: The Feast of Arithmetic
Each year, the Feast of Arithmetic takes place on a date in which the month and day add to the common abbreviation of the year, i.e. 6 + 6 = 12 (6/6/12). There are no festivities, and everybody has to work late.

June 23: Library Day
Held on the first Saturday on or after June 20, Library Day is celebrated by parading from house to house at dawn, gathering your friends, dressing in outlandish costumes and waving flags and noisemakers, and marching down the avenue to the local library. Following that, there is folk dancing by the information desk, maypole and morris teams included. Some communities do lion dances, but that custom is not yet universal. At noon, the librarians dish out ice cream, and everyone settles down with their favorite book. (Submitted by The Mock Turtle. Note that I very much want this to happen, as it sounds extraordinarily lovely.)

July 29: National Ice Cream Day
The only holiday on this list to actually be real (after a fashion), National Ice Cream Day was declared a holiday by Ronald Reagan. It’s freaking hot and everyone could use an excuse to skip work and go have some ice cream! (Submitted by Patricia)

July 21: Tomorrow’s Eve
The third Saturday in July. Celebrated before Tomorrow Day (or Today Day, as it is known in Canada), people usually get together and make Tomorrow Day resolutions (go to the grocery store, finally clean the garage) and reminisce about the day past. (Submitted by Gary)

August 12: St. Crepes Day
Generally only observed in pre-war Belgium, St. Crepes Day celebrates the patron saint of waffles, Simon du Crepes, who was killed in the great pancake flood of 1483. Not to be confused with Lumberjack Day (September 26), on which pancakes are eaten, on St. Crepes Day traditionally waffles are eaten for every meal, and nothing but. Garnishing St. Crepes Day waffles with syrup or other additives is generally thought to blunt the penitent and holy nature of the observer’s contemplation. (Submitted by Andy)

August 14: Breakup Day
Personal relationship not working out? Today’s the day to call it quits. By virtue of being antipodean to Valentine’s Day and three months out from the “family holidays” (Thanksgiving and Christmas), Breakup Day is the nadir of emotionality. (Submitted by neoeo)

August 25: Just Make It Day
It’s a hot, lazy day, so head on out to the backyard, bust out the toolbox, and take that Complicated Thing apart, and see if you can put it back together! Or see if you can build a Complicated Thing in the first place! A day to throw away the instructions and pick up a project. (Submitted by SD)

September 2: Picklemas
Celebration of the end of the pickle harvest. Traditional activities include the Pickle Festival, pickle rolling, and the charitable distribution of small jars of gherkins to families too poor to afford pickles of their own. (Submitted by Carl Zetie)

4th week of September to 2nd week of October: Oktoberfesterdämmerung
You start out celebrating Oktoberfest in the afternoon as normal, drinking beer, eating sausage, etc. As afternoon turns to evening, the festivities take on an increasingly melancholy tone, and you are overcome by a vague sense of loss. This becomes tempered with fond memories of youth, and slowly turns into a generalized mourning for a golden age now past. If you do it correctly, you should start to see the stars blink out of the sky by about 9pm or so. (Submitted by Mad Jack McMad)

October 1: Pluto Day
A day set aside to remember, reflect upon, and honor the service of the now retired former 9th planet. Festivities include parades that gradually drift farther and farther away. (Submitted by Aidan)

October 21: The Feast of St. Apostrophe
Named for the patron saint of punctuation. On this holiday, acolytes seek out wayward, lost apostrophes on signs like “Free Book’s” and bring them back into the fold, justifying their existence by adding context, such as “Free Book’s brother Jim from jail.

November 30th: Beardsgiving
Celebrate the true start of the holiday season by surprising your bare-faced family members with new beards as they sleep! Keep it simple with permanent marker, or score bonus points with hobo shavings and super glue. After all, who DOESN’T want a luxurious Santa beard in December?!?
(Submitted by Obidan)

December 1: Thanksmas
On the first Saturday in December, celebrate a mashup of Thanskgiving and Christmas with your friends, because families are terrible and friends are better. (Submitted by Skylar English. Another that I hope actually catches on, not because my family is terrible, but just because this sounds super fun.)

December 2: Freak Out Day
If you’re in school, it’s finals. If you work retail, it’s busy. If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday, it’s time to shop. And if you’re anyone at all, the year is almost over, and how in the world did it get this late, this quickly? Just take a day to freak out. It’s okay; everything will still be here tomorrow. But for one day, it’s okay to freak out.

December 15: Lightningmas
As explained on Tweet Me Harder — Kids can celebrate the myth of lightning by wearing special pajamas and zigzag hats, putting on a pageant, making a large bag, and putting it out on the roof at night. In the morning, the bag will be full of muffins! But that still doesn’t make lightning real.

All of these holidays are collected for your convenience on the 2012 Wondermark Calendar!