Recursive Citations, Mysterious Motives

On the Wikipedia page on ‘pataphysics, an example is given of a ‘pataphor. The example is cited as coming from a page on ‘pataphysical programming written by someone named Darko Svitek. On Darko’s page we find that he cites Wikipedia as the source of the example.

Incorrect citations on the Internet aren’t news. But what I find amusing is that, in order for this to have happened, a back-and-forth must have taken place. One of the sources had to go back after-the-fact to change the citation. We have three likely possibilities, each requiring their own mysterious motivations.

  1. A writer on Wikipedia invents the example and includes it in the article. Next, Darko uses it on his page, citing Wikipedia. Finally, an editor on Wikipedia goes looking for the origin of the example, finds it on Darko’s page, doesn’t notice him referencing Wikipedia, and cites him. (Update: this has been coined “citogenesis” by xkcd.)
  2. Darko comes up with the example. Next, a writer on Wikipedia uses it and cites it. Then, Darko edits his page to say that it came from Wikipedia, either because he has a bad memory, or because he is playing games with us.
  3. The example originates from a third source. Both Wikipedia and Darko take it, inexplicably citing each other.

There are two potential avenues through which we could solve this mystery. Firstly, one could look up the editor that made the change on Wikipedia, or the author of the programming page, and email them. Secondly, one could use the Wayback Machine and the history of that Wikipedia page, to follow the evolution of this example. I leave this as an exercise for the reader.

In appreciation of your time, I give you this wonderful example of a multi-media ‘pataphor.

Repeated head injuries

In an interview, David Hellman (of A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible, my guiding light in endless seas of balsamic vinegar) said the following when asked about which of the comics were his favorites:

My favorites are the ones that capture some romanticism, yearning or pain, and convey those feelings with immediacy and mystery. Episode 13, in which Dale suffers repeated head injuries, achieved this, but the drawing has not aged well. (Other favorites: 14, 15, 18, 21.) I want readers to be moved and entertained, but also perplexed. I think one of my favorite kinds of experiences, which is ultimately what I hope to share with my work, are moments when I delight in something while also feeling confused and frustrated by it. Humans are able to perceive and experience incredible beauty, but our imaginations, or maybe simply our natures, push us on to want even more. That’s why some of the most vivid moments of life also contain sadness.

I like it. As for mystery: although I usually think that confusion and ambiguity are overused and weak stand-ins for actual content, I don’t mean to wage a war, not least because that would be hypocritical. In the context of their comics especially I really agree with this quote, that there’s something special about the feeling that something is not quite complete (often something that we imagine – probably falsely – would be perfect were it complete). This partly explains why we like the Venus de Milo and its cousins. Oftentimes some element of imponderability (!) is necessary.