« Dagors Away | Main | Are Digicams Doomed? »

Saturday, 04 December 2010


Dilbert is a source of consternation for me: I don't "get it" half the time, and this particular cartoon is one of those times. Usually I just pretend that I got it and move on, but I'm calling this one out.

Okay, I understand the devil and all, but what the heck is he holding in his hand? It looks like an oversized spoon or something. I can grasp that Dilbert is at work and the devil visits him and tries to make his life miserable because he seems to be too happy, and I suppose no one should be happy at work. So the devil drags him to a meeting where there's a headless man sitting in a chair whereby Dilbert is instructed to photoshop the co-worker's photo onto his headless torso. Yeah, okay, so what's that all about? And what happened to the co-worker's head? Seriously.

If someone could hold my hand and take me through this cartoon and explain it to me I would be appreciative. And am I the only reader here drawing a blank on this one? Seriously. No, seriously.

No, *Dilbert* isn't supposed to do the Photoshopping--*you're* supposed to do the Photoshopping. You put your own boss's or co-worker's head on the person in the cartoon. You then put the cartoon up in your office, so everyone gets a laugh at the expense of the person who makes your meetings hell. Yageddit?


The devil - Satan -- is called the "Prince of Darkness." This minor devil isn't that important, so he's called "Phil, the prince of insufficient light."

The real devil carries a pitch fork. Phil isn't that important, so he carries a spoon.

The real devil casts evil-doers into pools of molten lead, where they burn for all eternity. Because these people haven't done anything bad enough, or important enough, Phil casts them into endless, pointless, boring meetings.


As someone who reads Dilbert pretty much daily, and expanding on what Mike said, and for Player, here's my explanation :

-- The "devil" holding the spoon is the recurring character Phil, The Prince of Insufficient Light.
-- He carries around his pitch-spoon and doles out punishment to those in the office for various infractions.
-- The punishments are usually some kind of office related horror, like and engineer being forced to talk to the marketing department.
-- In this case, the punishment is a horrifying meeting - and as Mike said, what could be more horrifying that a meeting with your own co-workers?

The "Devil" is Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light and Ruler of Heck. Heck is a bit less tortuous than the other place. He has a spoon because he isn't as evil and sadistic as the real Devil.

Phil is also the pointy-haired boss' brother. Sometimes, Phil has to bring people up to his brother's department for punishment if they did something really bad, but not quite so bad as to go to the other, hotter place. He's sort of a passive-aggressive incarnation of corporate, cubical purgatory.

So what is the spoon for? And why does it say "Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light"? I believe the devil's name is Lucifer; I've never heard him referred to as Phil. And I grew up in Utah, where people talk about Satan a LOT.

And if Dilbert (or Phil) has insufficient light to make a photograph, he should try raising the ISO or using a larger aperture. Attending a meeting with a headless torso isn't going to solve anything. One must really understand the basics of exposure if one is going to pursue the art of photography.

Oooooh, ok, thanks Mike! That's funny as heck lol. It still took me 5 minutes or so to get it even after your explanation. Duh. And what's scary is that I probably never would have gotten it on my own :-).

Satan? Phil?


LUCAS is the Prince of Darkness, as anyone who has owned a British roadster knows...

Scott Adams' sense of humor has nothing on that of the Lucas electrical engineering staff.

There is an old saying, "if you sup with the devil, use a long spoon". I.e., keep your distance.

I've been working in the cubicle world for 30 years. The Dilbert cartoons are not cartoons, they are the most accurate representations of that world I've ever seen. He hits the nail on the head almost every day. I have met several people who don't get it. I don't get that.

Let me try a thought cartoon on you, since there is no link. There used to be another corporate cubicle cartoon called Porterfield that ran for years in the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto. Porterfield was a mid-level manager in some unnamed firm. In one episode, Porterfield is shown in an unemployed claims office talking to someone else in line. He says, "Sure I screwed up the Smith account, but you putting me in charge of it wasn't exactly a masterstroke." It's 30 years later and I still laugh.

Scott Adams also writes Dilbert in small story arcs that span a day to a couple of weeks. If you only read one day from one of these story arcs you will kind of miss the point of a particular day's comic.

Here is the lead-in to this comic.


Dilbert, Non Sequiter and Bazzaro are the three cartoons I always catch on a regular basis. I really miss The Far Side but understand why Garry Larson stopped doing a daily strip, that would be a real grind. Another favorite are Gahan Wilson cartoons.

I didn't get it either. Lots of things baffle me these days and I am glad to know that I am not alone. Maybe I should start my own web site and call it The Senile Photographer.

Mike posts a link to a cartoon strip, and then a discussion follows on its meaning. Sartre's turning in his grave.

Player, I do think that Dilbert is aimed at a fairly narrow segment of the US population (though large enough to merit print space in the funnnies). It is definitely not for everyone, so no worries there. You needn't be concerned.

Dilbert was amusing in the early 90's...but somehow once I realized that I HAD to work, and to work WITH people, it became less so. God knows people are nuts, but there has to be a better way of dealing with it than constant low-level anger. I haven't even looked at Dilbert in years.

Is the D700 the King of Insufficient Light?

Yes Chris, people ARE nuts. At 61 I've come to the conclusion we are all crazy, it's just a matter of degree and direction. Some people are fun nuts, some scary nuts and a few are brave nuts. The last own popular photo blogs.

Okay, I understand now why I don't get Dilbert: I've been self-employed most of my adult life, plus I've always tried to avoid fluorescent lighting and office buildings. And the only place I've ever seen a Dilbert cartoon is right here on Mike's site, so each time I see one of the cartoon strips I have no coherent history of having followed Dilbert. I didn't even know that Dilbert was always featured at work. Okay, rationalization aside, I'm really just an idiot haha. I do appreciate the shared insight though. Thankyou kindly. I believe that, in the future, Dilbert won't be so challenging for me.

Brilliant - have been a follower of Dilbert since the mid-90's - he had an uncanny knack of reflecting the cubicle zeitgeist with such uncanny accuracy I wondered if my colleagues were sending him emails about each new management-speak euphemism.

It's a considerable tribute to it's creator that the relevance and razor sharp observation is as fresh now as it ever was.

One reason that it is "as fresh now as it ever was" is because people have been sending Scott Adams emails "about each new management-speak euphemism." Some of the story arcs come directly from reader submissions, albeit massaged into three panel comics to protect the guilty. Truthfully, some of the cubicle escapades are so far-fetched that they have to be real because no sane person could ever come up with them.

To bring the thread back to photography, here is a link to a comic featuring a photographer:


If you don't "get" Dilbert, count yourself lucky that you haven't gone through the experiences necessary to do so.

If you *do* "get" Dilbert, you understand why I wrote that last paragraph... :)

One of my must-see-daily things pretty much since I first set foot in a cubicle.

I've probably been lucky; the cubicles I've sat in haven't been nearly as toxic as the ones Scott Adams chronicles. Although there's one guy I'm wondering if I should risk telling his hair is looking more and more pointy lately. Still, a lot of them are funny. There's a fair amount of accurate observation of engineer nature, geek nature, management nature, and so forth.

A cow-orker of mine had a short correspondence with Scott Adams back when he was still with Pacific Bell; his Vice President was coming to be the CEO of our company, and she wanted all the dirt in advance. (Didn't work out, and that company is now three acquisitions further on (anything that's left is now part of Oracle).)

To fully appreciate Dilbert I think one needs to be an engineer working in a big company in technical market.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007