Saturday, October 20, 2007

10 Best Web Comics [nsfww]

[nsfww = not safe for wussie work. There's no porn here, but I will be using words like "shit," "crap" and "piss." You, your boss, the camera above your desk and the NSA have been warned] 

I have lots of arguments with people about the boundaries of crap.

Crap is the stuff that you don't want to qualify as valuable or worth any effort at a particular moment. It's not necessarily an insult. I often talk about "all my great crap," or, "the kind of crap you can get from Archie McPhee," or, "the bunch of crap left over after brunch... help youself."

Crap is not shit. If something is "shit," it's worthless. As opposed to "the shit," which is roughly synonymous with my childhood, Boston slang term, "wicked pissah." In certain parts of New York (where I've spent a bunch o' time), a "pisser" is also a good thing. "That Kenny... funny guy. His party last night was a pisser." Also, a "piss-cutter" can be good thing. I guess if something is strong enough to cut piss, it must be good. Yet "not giving a shit" and "being pissed off" are bad things. So... where are we on the relative value of bodily function metaphor? I won't even start on f**k, as we all know that it now means everything and nothing.

But back to crap.

I have friends who think modern art is crap. Some think science fiction is crap, while others love it and think the term "sci-fi" is crap. Personally, I love Star Wars Episodes 4-6, and think that 1-3 are crap.

Mostly, though, the argument I hear is that "all this user created content on the Web is crap." When I point out that most of the professionally created content on the Web, on TV, in magazines, etc. is crap, too... I usually get a shrug and the reply, "Yeah. I suppose so. But there's so much more crap on the Web."

My point about the relative positive/negative metaphoric value of words like crap, piss and f**k is that there is the same relative value placed on the crap itself. What is now part of the canon may once have been, from the point of view of authority, crap. This is not news. What also is not news is our sociological inability to cope with a fantastically different medium than the ones that have come before.

We see this in telco. Phones were the devils that would interrupt family time and cause people to lose the personal, face-to-face familiarity that is the all important glue of society. Never mind that we'd been writing letters for a couple thousand years. Letters good (thoughtful, intelligent, educated prose), phones bad (conversational, immediate, pedestrian). Then cell phones were bad because they'd do the same thing in public. Then they weren't. Now people are complaining about Blackberries and other portable email readers. Give it five years, folks. The ettiquette will work itself out.

So there's lots of stuff on the Web. And much of it (like this blog) is "amateur" content; ie, nobody pays us. Much of it is also, by traditional standards of authority, crap. Of course it is. To claim that most MySpace pages, YouTube videos or eBay items are anything but crap would be nonsensical. I'm not saying that they aren't crap.

I'm saying that crap is OK. And that may be what the canonical guardians of traditional media are really afraid of finding out. That for many people, well... we like the crap. Yes, yes... required statement about the value of classics goes here. I'm a Lit Major, for the love of Proust. I read "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" in French. I've written 20-page essays on "The Wasteland." I've read Dickens that wasn't a course requirement. I like classical music.

But I also like web comics. Which wouldn't have existed without, well... the Web. Comics like (in no partiklar order):

There are many more. OK, two of the above (Homestar and Bunny Theater) aren't comics, per se, but cartoons; animation. So sue me. I love 'em and they're on my list.

My crap list  :)

Some will argue that a few (or all) of the above are the work of professionals. Just like reading the NYT on the Web, it's OK. It's not the medium that's crap, it's the bjillions of messages. But without the bjillions, there's no Web. And if they couldn't blog, post, comment and connect... they wouldn't have spawned the messages above.

The medium is the message. And the medium now includes everyone. And you don't get your crap without it being mixed in with everyone else's. As I've said before, there's not such thing as "user created content." Everybody is now a user. Stop worrying about it and enjoy. 

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