I score about a .667 with xkcd, which is to say, about a third of the time, it's too geeky for me to get the joke. That's not a knock on the cartoon: I imagine there are people who don't always get Tank McNamara because they don't follow sports closely. I like the idea of comics geared to a specific audience.
Today's, however, falls into the middle ground, where I know what he's talking about, and, although he's including details I didn't know, he does it in a way that it's not so geeky that I can't figure it out.
I get it. I just don't care.
It's kind of like those on-line quizzes that ask you how many of the Great Books you've read. There are some, like "The House of Seven Gables," that I never read because I wasn't an English major, but I recognize are in the canon, and I hate not being able to check them off.
And, besides, you can't hang out in intelligent society without pretty much knowing what happens after the part where you put it down.
I feel that way about Go Pokemon. I know what it is and I don't feel I need to investigate any further in order to know I don't care.
Still, there is a difference between not caring and being an ignoramus.
I don't follow tennis because I don't particularly care about it, but when Tank McNamara makes a joke about Venus Williams, I get it. You'd have to be pretty ignorant not to have come across her name.
Or, to use another comparison:
Jules: Well, you know the shows on TV?
Vincent: I don't watch TV.
Jules: Yeah, but, you are aware that there's an invention called television, and on this invention they show shows, right?
I prefer to be Jules than Vincent and I hope you recognized that as coming from "Pulp Fiction" because cultural literacy isn't just about whales and rafts and optometrists with captivating billboards.
Sometimes cultural literacy is about Pokemon Go, which is why I'm glad Clay Jones did the research because now, having read the essay that goes with this cartoon, I know everything I need to know about it.
Though I wish people would donate money to a worthy cause each time they caught a Pokemon. Back when my Facebook feed was cluttered with people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads, there was at least some redeeming social benefit attached.
Speaking of cultural literacy
It's one thing to not know about Pokemon Go, but it's another to not know about #BlackLivesMatter, and it's quite another thing entirely to make comments about something that is clearly serious without first finding out what you're talking about.
It's even more foolish to make ignorant comments about something happening in your own country when people on the other side of the globe, like South African cartoonist Dav Andrew, are better informed.
Just as you cannot possibly not know who Venus Williams is, or that Ahab sought the white whale, or that there is an invention called "television," you can't be unaware of what has sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, so that, if you have the intelligence of a mollusc, you should know to dig a little deeper into the subject before shooting off your mouth.
When I first saw this Kris Straub cartoon, I intended to post it, but then it became so viral that I didn't bother.
And judging from the number of people using the "but this is the house that's on fire" argument, I'm thinking everyone inclined to comment intelligently has seen it, or that perhaps Straub was simply illustrating an existing metaphor.
So when I see people arguing that "All Lives Matter," I have to think that they are making a deliberate attempt to not know what's going on.
But suddenly the other thing I'm seeing on social media is an uptick in people countering the objection to innocent black people being shot by police officers by demanding that they should, instead, protest "black on black crime."
That is not innocent ignorance but closed-minded stupidity because (1) it assumes people can only care about one thing, and (2) it imposes a racial element on an economic issue.
Stopping people for being black and then shooting them is not the same thing.
This "but what about black-on-black crime?" element is fueled by rightwing hatemongers, and Bill Day's cartoon makes the point that we tolerate open expressions of sociopathic hostility that, a generation ago, would be shameful.
At which point I'm not sure what I find more distressing: The fact that people are now willing to openly express things they would have been ashamed to say in public before, or that there are voters who claim there is no point in voting for "the lesser of two evils."
Juxtaposition perhaps only I picked up on
I was saving this topic for tomorrow, but I'm going to be handing over the reins for a couple of weeks to Brian Fies while I undergo some cancer surgery, and I've been aware over the past few weeks of how my own situation may color my response to comics.
Mark Anderson's gag struck me as funny on a gallows-humor level that perhaps you have to be here to get.
On the other hand, I assume that Pickles is not a one-off but the start of a serious story arc.
It made me think of a woman I worked with who had a mole on her neck that I thought she should have checked, but I didn't know her well enough to broach the topic. Eventually, she did get it looked at and removed, but too late.
Perhaps somebody should have nagged sooner, but I wasn't inside her small circle of friends.