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ACT: Hardball Questions For The Next Debate

I'd guess the vast majority of you read Astral Codex Ten regardless of whether it gets posted here, but Scott's latest culture war (adjacent) post is not to be missed.

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I think this post was great, though much different than the previous ones. I thought the previous ones were more clever, though this one was wacky, which was fun.

But I think the best part of it was Scott's treatment of Trump. Though the events depicted are obviously unrealistic, I feel like Scott nailed Trump's preternatural ability to play to his crowd and ultimately come out on top no matter what the situation, while still also somehow being completely buffoonish, crass, and an embarrassment to just about everyone he deals with. Scott may be one of the few people who "gets" Trump.

Funniest I've read in a while

Not many things can make me laugh out loud in a public place. This made me laugh so hard I lost control over the fart I'd been holding in. I hope the subway train was loud enough.

Conversely, to me it is perhaps some of the worst "comedy" I have ever read in my life, and I am genuinely astounded that it could make anyone laugh.

Just offering an alternative perspective, dear reader out there, if, like me, reading this thread for you feels like having walked into a North Korean birthday party for Kim Jong-un.

Can you give an example of comedy that does make you laugh? I think this sketch really relies on its readers enjoying word games, which most nerds do like.

I laughed, but I'd concur it's worst of the bunch, bc it's basically just a single joke stretched out very long, and relies too much on pure wit with almost no actual content.

Well, I enjoyed the hardball question series too, but they also were quite similar: a very long and detailed setup and then the question was unrelated to the setup itself or was a "Descartes before the whores" kind of pun.

My favorite contemporary comedian is (surprisingly for a modern right-winger, I know) notorious mass shooter, terrorist, and Hamas fighter Samir al-Hayyid. Some favorite content of mine from him is (and they're all videos since he's not primarily a writer and his main piece of comedic writing, a book called How to Bomb the U.S. Gov't, isn't as easy to link to):

I do object to the notion that it's inherently "nerdy" in any meaningful sense to think that mildly (and I must emphasize the "mild" here) clever wordplay = funny. It strikes me as rather simplistic actually which is generally the opposite connotation of what you should ideally associate with "nerdy". And perhaps this is just me being a metacontrarian in a space like this but I mostly think that comedy, given that the feeling of being amused is inherently an emotional response, should strike primarily at the senses, not try to painstakingly backdoor itself in through flattering the intellect's ego with (again, actually rather simple IMO) ham-fisted "wit". (Yes, if you can't tell, I have never cared one bit about a media production that Joss Whedon has been involved with.)

Certainly I will grant that many people who identify as "nerds" (which is why I've never bothered) strongly disagree with me on this point, but when I say I don't consider it inherently "nerdy" in any meaningful sense, I mean that to say that I consider it more characteristic of the people who ruined "nerdy" stuff rather than the people who made it worth ruining in the first place. That is, you might call it a "pet peeve" of mine.

I also don't really relate to the "I could never write like this!" compliments. I could probably write the entire post. I just wouldn't, because I don't find it particularly valuable. I like a lot of Scott's stuff too, but comedy has never been his strong suit to me. It's all "wit" with zero instinct, soul, charisma, or personality. It's not the charmingly foolish jig of a jester who is willing to diligently answer the call of his profession and lower himself to getting down in the mud a bit like a pig to entertain you; it's yet another invitation from a smug "raconteur" to reveal yourself Smart™ enough to acknowledge how Witty™ he is. No real passion.

I love the work of both Sam Hyde and Joss Whedon. Am I a freak?

I thought the bits where the non-Trump candidates were sputtering all over themselves weren't funny, but I laughed out loud when Trump started reciting in heroic hexameter and the TRUMP: Trump bit.

I’ve been desperately trying to find people with whom I can share this. It’s weird enough to make that difficult, but god, I just keep laughing at it.

You can just hear Trump’s voice coming through on his dialogue. Incredible.

I came to Scott for the based anti-SJ takes and stayed for the mind-bending philosophy and futurism. Between these it's easy to miss that the man is really witty.

He wrote an entire novel-length story and filled it with puns and interlocking/interleaving wordplay, often bouncing between English and Hebrew.

And I'm over here unable to even put together the words to describe how much I wish I had that talent.

IMHO this was a little disappointing; it was amusing, but I went into it expecting something on the level of 2015, 2016, or 2020, which were hilarious.

Kinda funny that the 2020 one considers deploying a $1000/mo UBI is infeasible in the question to Yang, but then later that year the gov't would distribute significantly-sized checks to people with relatively little difficulty due to Covid policy.

Spending huge amounts of money for one year is very different from spending huge amounts of money every year, indefinitely. Imagine you went on a lavish vacation, staying at fancy hotels and eating at expensive restaurants for a week, and then your kid asked you "why can't we always live like this? After all, we just did so with relatively little difficulty for a week."

Not to mention, we've been paying the price for our massive money printing that year ever since with major inflation.

I think that “infeasible” was in the sense of financial solvency, like free college for all, or anything about social security. Not in the sense of the government being unable to mail a check.

I do prefer the older ones myself, even if I'd class this as A tier content, those were S in my opinion.

I was reading the 2015 one and was like "these are kind of clever I guess", but when I got to the Marco Rubio one I was like "wow. Between this and Unsong, writing plausible-sounding fantastical alternate history comes as easy to Scott as breathing".

Wait, how much of the Sword stuff is real? Did Jeb! really give Rubio a sword?

I didn't think those were nearly as funny.

Different strokes.

Right, that poem in hexameter with the constraints of half the vowels forbidden was Scott flexing on the rest of us wordcels, I'm in awe.

The hardest flex of him is in the comments:

I've never understood why people think English is bad for dactyls. I really like them and wrote a piece entirely in dactyls once to see what would happen:

WOW this has made me think of that post in a new light. Read it at least four times and had no clue.

Many people have said this! I'm torn between "I guess I wasted my time doing this" and "people seemed to find it beautiful, and I wonder if it's because subconsciously they noticed it was poetry even if they couldn't exactly put their finger on why."

A dactyl is a long syllable followed by two short syllables.

Dactyls are easy though? I remember arguing with my teacher in 4th grade that they sounded a lot better and were easier to write than iambic pentameter. I didn't know they were called dactyls at the time but I wrote in that style because it seemed so much easier and more natural.

No I don't believe you, it's a type of dinosaur 😌

Yeah, Scott is talented in both prose and poetry to a level I struggle to see myself ever reaching, but that's alright, I'm content in being far above average myself.

but that's alright, I'm content in being far above average myself.

In prose, poetry and humility?

2/3 is a passing grade right?

I'm coping by telling myself he probably used ChatGPT to do most of the work.

I did actually try using GPT-4 for the same purpose, with a bit of coaxing and pointing out BPE errors, it did produce what seemed like hexameter, but I couldn't get anything close in terms of quality. Eh, let's see how 5+ handle it.

Indeed, Scott has that touch of the divine not accorded to us mere mortals. I so so wish I could write like he does, instead I have to contend myself with merely enjoying his output, which in all honestly is a pretty great position to be in too, think about the large masses who don't have the skills to even get anything out of Scott's works.