625: Collections

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You know what really helps an existential crisis? Wondering how much shelf space to leave for a Terry Pratchett collection.
Title text: You know what really helps an existential crisis? Wondering how much shelf space to leave for a Terry Pratchett collection.


Cueball enters, excited that he's managed to buy every one of author Terry Pratchett's Discworld books for his Kindle e-reader. Megan says that it seems pointless to her to build a Kindle collection.

Cueball interprets this to mean she thinks it's pointless to build a collection on an electronic device, perhaps due to the DRM (digital restrictions management) software common on these devices which can (for instance) make it difficult to transfer the files if the device breaks. (This was the subject of 488: Steal This Comic and DRM has been the general subject of many xkcd comics.)

However, Megan is actually commenting on the futility of building up any kind of collection at all, since nothing we do can change the fact that we're inevitably going to die. And when we die, we always die alone - i.e. no one else can follow you on that last journey. And no matter how much you have collected (or earned) during this life that will not change. (A magpie is a bird traditionally thought to be drawn to collect shiny objects and bring them back to its nest.)

This view is in line with those advanced by the philosophical movement known as existentialism which theorizes that life has no deep, hidden meaning and hence even things that we personally feel are meaningful (like building up collections) will not change the outcome of life in the end.

Cueball obviously has seen Megan in such moods before (see 220: Philosophy), and excuses himself for not noticing immediately (in the first panel) by the fact that he sometimes mistakes her existential crisis as technical insight. Megan deepens her crisis by pointing out that she sometimes makes the mistake to think that the universe cares. This is a disguised criticism of Cueball's behaviour, meaning that she would rather want him to care about her existential crisis, instead of simply brushing them off.

The title text points out that Wondering how much shelf space to leave for a Terry Pratchett collection. (That would then be all his works not just the Discworld series...) is an excellent way to get out of an existential crisis

By the time of his death Pratchett had written 41 Discworld books and more than 70 books in total. The day after Pratchett died Randall made a tribute comic to his memory in 1498: Terry Pratchett.


Cueball: I now have every Discworld book!
Megan: Eh. Building a Kindle collection seems pointless.
Cueball: Yeah, I know the DRM means I'll probably lose them someday.
Megan: No, pointless in general.
Megan: Sure, you satisfy deep magpie-like urges by building neat collections, but you still die alone.
Cueball: Sorry, sometimes I mistake your existential crises for technical insights.
Megan: Sometimes I mistake this for a universe that cares.

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I can probably help Cueball (or whoever it is) out in his title-text musings, with an entire bookshelf (floor to ceiling) dedicated to Pratchett books in both Hardback and Paperback versions and related works by him and his collaborators. Apart, that is, from the totally separate bookshelf space reserved for the unabridged audio books of same - these mostly in cassette format, with just a couple of Audio CDs (a purchase error, at the time) and a couple of the newest in MP3-on-CD format (my reluctant nod towards progress). Now talk to me about how long magnetic and optical media can last, in relation to paper. Assuming I don't get hit by a house-fire, flooding, supervolcano, coronal mass ejection, etc. Hmmm... I wonder if I can get them carved onto stone tablets in a reinforced vault? 21:26, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

Microfilm is all you need. --Qwach (talk) 16:36, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Digital data can be copied. Use it. Best way to protect information is having it stored at two different continents and periodically check that copies at both are readable. Wait. Actually, best way to protect information is to get it into some popular piece of software people are going to download in millions ... speaking about which, I wonder how many copies of fortune database of Terry Pratchett's Discworld related quotes is installed globally ... -- Hkmaly (talk) 01:16, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

Surely the title text is not just "musing about the shelf space" but wondering how many more Pratchett books will be written; #625 is from August 2009, and Pratchett announced that he had Alzheimer's in 2007/8, and on 2nd August 2009 stated that he intended to commit suicide before his disease "reached a critical point". Which would also suggest that he wasn't "gleefully" considering it, either. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The problem with dementia is that you keep forgetting ... to.. ermmm..
The problem with dementia is ...that you... keep forgetting ... to.. ermmm..

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 01:07, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

"For instance this is the case amongst many religious people who believe the universe is created by a supreme being who cares for us humans" This seems like a misinterpretation of abrahamic and other monotheistic theologies. Many theologies in Christianity and Judaism do not propose that the universe cares anything for humans, rather that the universe is something created by God without a conscious (and therefore no will, so they actually believe that the universe is not uncaring but is infact "acaring" without the capacity to care) and is apart from God himself. So it is not the universe itself that cares but the being that created the universe. So the question they propose is not whether or not you believe the universe cares for you but whether or not you believe the greatest unequivocal being cares for you. The thought is still, however, just as if not more astounding so it remains your choice whether you believe this or not.-- 19:10, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Discworld is Fun! 21:21, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

I met Terry Pratchett once, what a lovely man. I miss not having new Discworld books to look forward to. -- The Cat Lady (talk) 21:25, 17 August 2021 (UTC)