In Praise of XKCD

Randall Monroe's comic strip is just getting too popular - maybe he should stop doing it:
This mix of brains and fun, as well as underlying sweetness helped propel xkcd from a hobby to a full-time job for the 23-year-old former NASA roboticist. Since its 2005 launch, xkcd has grown from doodles in the margins of a graphing notebook to T-shirts, radio talks and lectures on humor at MIT, where students batted inflatable raptors around the auditorium. The website drew between 60 million and 70 million pageviews in October, Munroe says, and xkcd's growing fan base has taken to re-enacting events that take place in the comic.

But if xkcd is currently making headlines, it's because Munroe's message to "get out and live!" is provoking a stream of real-time events. For example, Richard Stallman was attacked by ninjas in a comical re-enactment of an xkcd strip as he innocently attempted to give a talk at Yale. Photos circulate of people playing chess on roller coasters.

And then Munroe's fans read the installment in which a mysterious dream girl leaves the hero with a set of coordinates for a place and time in the near future.

In the comic, nothing happens. "It turns out that wanting something doesn't make it real," the comic's narrator says mournfully.

But in real life, those coordinates pointed to a real time and place: Sept. 23, 2:38 p.m., in Reverend Thomas J. Williams Park in North Cambridge, Massachusetts. On that day, nearly a thousand xkcd fans from as far away as England and Canada converged on the park, bearing tape measures and Rubik's cubes. At the assigned minute, Munroe emerged and spoke.

"Maybe wanting something does make it real," he said as his fans cheered and fought duels with foam swords. The comic that spurred the gathering was enlarged and hung from a fence, and fans took turns contributing to a new last panel, where dreams can come true.
XKCD is more than just another internet meme - it seems to make people do things. The picture above is a real-life person standing in a meeting with a sign saying "Citation needed", an in-joke for people who read and contribute to Wikipedia. This protester was inspired to do this based upon an XKCD comic. This is a case where life not only imitates art, it is influenced by it.

For me, I am merely an untergeek. I am neither a programmer nor maths head. Some of the comics go waaaaaay over my head. But he still has the ability to make me laugh 9.1 times out of 10.11111111.

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