Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The way it should be

So yesterday's dinosaur comic was pretty awesome:

Then I read today's comic's alt-text, which informs us that Ryan North realized he basically drew this exact comic a few years ago - December 11th, 2006 to be exact:

Now ordinarily I would rail against this sort of thing - especially because Ryan North really should have known his own comic. But - and here's the key - when he realized the problem, he acknowledged it. Everyone makes mistakes, and the point is what you do afterward. Randall has yet to admit that he (perhaps totally unintentionally) completely ripped off Penny Arcade. This still bothers me.

Anyway, once again, xkcd continues to suck and qwantz continues to be exemplary.

On another note - I've started reading Daisy Owl and it's pretty good.

Comic 482: Height Spite


This isn't a comic. It's a science classroom poster. Seriously, what's here besides a log scale and a bunch of internet jokes, including, I'll note, a healthy dose of his own (sorry Randall, but xkcd really should not, by any reasonable standard, have at least as many references as futurama and HHGG combined).

I mean, why not just print out the front page of digg and paste the pictures on this:

I will give him this - I can't possibly say he didn't put effort into this one. But did Mr. Hat have to be standing at the top? Why was that needed? Why not just include him when he'll be funny?

Anyway, in conclusion, there is nothing in this "comic" that is both new and funny.

update: Well that didn't take long - there is now a poster of this "comic" that you can buy to put on the wall of your freshman college dorm room and hope people of the opposite gender like it! Wow, thanks again randall for helping us out there.

It really bothers me that the poster was clearly all ready to go before the comic came out - making the comic little more than an ad for the newest product in the xkcd store. LAME.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Comic 481: Idiot Stepchild Of Comic 202

a better version of this comic can be found here: http://xkcd.com/202
First off, I'm skipping Comic 480 because my entire post would be "eh, that was kind of funny, but it seems like sometimes you are putting no effort at all into these."

Ah, youtube commentors. A fitting target for anger. Probably, though, you already know what I'm going to say about it. But just in case -

This is comic is absolutely nothing more than a lamer version of comic 202. Both have exactly the same point - Youtube commentators are idiots and they write stupid things. Funny, yes, but no more so now than it was then. There are also a few reasons why the first one is better anyway -

- He actually gives examples of comments, which even if made up are pretty funny and are similar to what you'd see on youtube, whereas the new comic just kind of mumbles through it

- The new comic has a totally lame and unneeded Mr. Hat appearance

- There is a totally unneeded "ooh check it out I'm making a virus, i'm such a cool hacker" panel.

Anyway, I guess there isn't much more to say but this is basically a kind of sad shadow of the first Youtube Commentors comic. I mean, what's next? "My hobby: Drawing a map of the internet, and it's like got facebook over here and digg over there" or "Dude check it out, if you go up to him and say 'Sudo buy me a donut' he totally has to do it!" ?

Seriously, you need to make comics that aren't just reformations of old ones.

And you know what? While we're on the topic of dumb comments, I foolishly took Greg's advice on my last post and read the comments on Mr. Munroe's soon to be pulitzer prize winning novella and let's just say there are a few people who could use that virus even in the generally intellectually brilliant world of xkcd:

"you should consider writing entire books filled with this awesome."

"now i can get through class by thinking, what would this look like xkcd style and everything is so much better…until i realize its not but that’s what pie is for"

"Ron paul should be shot"

Bastions of sophisticated discourse, right there. But I'll be damned if you ever see Randall mention anything about how his own commentors are sycophantic lapdogs who live only to breathe the air that the glorious Randall once may have breathed, or perhaps stood near.

And as a final note, there was one comment on the story that truly made my day...

I wonder if that guy at xkcdsucks makes any money off his blog about your blog, how sad, he can’t exist without you to complain about, it would be really annoying if he was profiting from such ugly parasitism, is he making profit off of complaining about you? I want to know cause then I can make money off complaining about him complaining about you.

If any of you know how to make money off this blog do e-mail me. However, I am concerned that this Apropos character has learned my deep secret - without xkcd, I cannot exist! I will turn into a greenish vapor and vanish, making all around me puzzled and perhaps doubting their sanity for the rest of their lives. Also, if the idea of this "ugly parasitism" making money bothers you, my god, don't ever listen to talk radio. Or watch the news in an election year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Look at me I can write short fiction too, people! LOVE ME

So as you maybe saw, your friend and mine Randall Munroe has written a story. That's right - he's not just a brilliant comic artist of the first order, he is also a tortured genius of a prose author.

You are probably wondering how this simple story has unearthed so much sarcasm from me. I understand. It's because Randall is trying to prove that he knows a lot about a topic he doesn't actually know much about. I don't want to bore you, but I will anyway - let's take a look at the fictional Mr. Bernanke's thoughts here:

"Damn these subprime lenders...
We can’t afford more debt...When the country owes trillions and is asking for more, its shadowy creditors start calling in favors."

The problem is that the subprime mortgage crisis has nothing to do, really, with the debt that we owe as a country. The US doesn't take out subprime mortgages, poor homeowners do. The US's problem with debt, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the current crisis. No one is calling in "favors," in fact, other countries have basically nothing to do with it.

Summary for people who don't care: Randall completely does not understand the financial situation and is just using the names and concepts he keeps hearing to pretend he does.

This was exactly the problem with comic 476 - which I guess he decided he liked enough to flesh out into a full vignette - it pissed me off then, and it pisses me off now. Stick to what you know or learn something new but at least learn it. Talk about how complicated the crisis is and how you don't understand it - which is completely acceptable, it's complicated - how you wish it were more like a computer science problem or something like that. As it is it's going to sound as fake as a story I wrote that starts "Linus Torvalds turned on the computer, desperately searching the linux files for and hint of the decrypted the ascii information which could stop the partitioned hard drive from deploying the nuclear bomb! BUT COULD COREY DOCTOROW STOP HIM IN TIME???"

Even I want to smack myself after that.

So now you understand the problem.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Comic 479: Tone It Down

insert self righteousness here

I found this to be a very obnoxious comic. It's entirely saying "hey people, look at this way in which I am better than you." It's especially dumb because if you think about it, what is a ringing sound for a cell phone? There are rings that sound like old landline phones, but those are uncommon and weird. Is he really saying he never uses standard ringtones? Why is that something to be proud of?

Anyway, I just find it very self righteous and not something I imagine many readers will identify with, and if you don't recognize some aspect of truth in something then it will never be funny.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Comics 477 and 478: Some praise and some criticism

your image loading status=sucktastic
Just a few quick words on the typrewriter one: Basically it amused me. Obviously it is not realistic at all (you know, he would probably notice at some point that reddit.com did not magically appear on a screen in front of him) and I don't like that the joke in the alt-text is the same as the point of the comic, but I will admit that I am a sucker for the www.fivethirtyeight.com reference...oh well. On the whole, well above average, I would say.

if this image does not load, you can always just hand a staple gun and twelve Snickers bars to a five year old for the same effect.

This one, on the other hand, made me think some thoughts. Beret Dude has been seen by my count six times before -he was being very interested in squirrels, kayaking, hanging from a tree, (with his hat stapled to his head) thinking he was going to a bakery, thinking he was in a bakery, and then being inexplicably quiet as a bartender. And now here is he again, being Totally Wacky! and also destructive. So I guess the idea is he is just a crazy and energetic new character? It feels, like the nth Debian reference in there, a little forced. "Say hello to Beret Man! His thing is that he has ENERGY! and he's insane. And that is all. He is SO FUNNY. I will probably put him on a shirt soon." Is this a new character we can count on seeing frequently? If so, I hope he becomes less...single minded and flat.

In any case, the best staple related xkcd will always be #262. Read the alt-text.

And of course, move the Megan Count up to 5.

also, why is the "yes" at the end coming from above? The best I can come up with is that the man has been stapled to the ceiling but that seems unlikely to me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Comic 476: Graphs, Relationships, Cell Phones and The Federal Reserve: TOO MANY IDEAS FOR ONE PANEL

insert useless graph here
Every element of this comic makes me sigh in disappointment. Not anger, like I sometimes feel, but just...so much that just doesn't make sense.

First of all, and maybe this is just me, but I never have had this problem. Maybe for like a second ("was he talking to me? oh no he's on his phone") but usually the funny phone thing is when someone is on a hands free thing and you don't see it so you just think they are very very angry and very very schizophrenic.

The graph is too much. Look Randall, I know you like taking things like emotions and making them empirical but this is just a little much. No reason for you to jump from "sometime THIS awkward thing happens" to "thus, I will graph it!" And adding the fact that apparently your second relationship was...what, a very long conversation? The graph doesn't even make sense. It's way out to the right, so I guess that means it was a very long conversation, and it blips up a little bit, so I guess that means your relationship didn't happen very often? Better just to leave the joke out...

Also, while there's nothing wrong with the stick figure example in theory, I think the "Bernanke" reference is also too much. No relation to the comic at all, just totally random and smacking of "oh man I want to totally be current let's see now who is in the news oh goodness yes, that will work just fine." It seems way too much like the guy at the party trying and failing to look like he knows what's going on in the world.

So, in short, a comic full of parts that are slightly off, adding up to a whole that just feels all wrong and not funny. THE END.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Comic 475: Oh, we've got "difficulties" alright...

Further Boomerang Difficulties
good god is this a shitty comic or what. It renders me nearly paralyzed with anger. These is just so much to hate here. I mean, people are resorting to, as they did last time, rearranging these panels to make them funnier. That is not a good sign, in my view.

I will try to proceed as calmly as I can. but it will be hard. CHRIST THIS IS STUPID.

In the first four panels, a man throws a boomerang AND THAT'S IT, GANG, nothing else happens. NOTHING HAPPENS. This is even worse than guy sits on a bench, because that had a sound effect at least, and worse than two guys in hats see each other because, I dunno, that at least had some mysterious lines and like there was a guy wearing two hats, which as you know is always Komedy Gold!

In the second set of panels, a man throws a boomerang and then a voice cries out "OMG TEH OZONE LAYAR" or something. I guess the idea is...he pierced the ozone layer? He...destroyed the ragged remains of the ozone layer? What, exactly happened here? OH WAIT I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED randall munroe realized that he needed to prove to himself that he knew all about SCIENCE so he threw in some shit he learned about in Ecology 102: Our Precious Atmosphere and figured eh, that's good enough for now! I've got sycophants ready to praise my genius so need for reason or logic, those two pesky idiots! After all, no one likes realistic humor! PEOPLE WANT THE MOST INSANE THING which they can never relate to because that will make them have a HEARTY CHUCKLE and Komedy Gold!.

let us move to the third line of this most brilliant of comics

Golly gee here he throws a banana instead of a boomerang! It is unexpected and thus it = Komedy Gold! Also, there is a girl because Randall Understands Girls i'm sorry he understands Women and knows how they act when their bananas are misused. This particular woman was apparently very fond of that banana, because she is speaking about it as though she were on some deserted island and it was her only food. Normal people, of course, don't care that much about their precious last banana. So the dude threw a banana look it has a thick peel you can go pick it up at eat it it's not a big deal. what the hell, lady

But oh man the real Komedy Gold comes in the last row!

Here, the man throws a boomerang and he literally breaks the wall of the comic and goes flying out! oh my goodness this is so funny I was on the floor crying within seconds of realizing the hilarious enormity of what randall was doing here. He was in space! And then he broke through the wall of his space capsule! I am laughing again now, just thinking about it. The character literally broke through the boundries of the format he was in! This is totally new. This has never been seen here before. Nothing like it AT ALL.

And the thing is this. For all the intense, diarhettic shittiness we see here, I might be ok with it. I might just say, "ok, he tried and failed to do something different. He got desperate, and he tried this, and he failed, and that's really not new." Except for this one fact - this comic is meant as a follow up to another shitty comic. That was a quagmire of random drawings with no plot, no logic and, obviously, nothing even mildly resembling a joke. I hated the concept then and I hate it now. What is the point? "Ha ha, those boomerangs are so crazy! so crazy you just DO NOT KNOW EVER what will happen with them! Maybe you'll get a flying shark! maybe you will turn out to be in space! Who the hell knows, with those crazy boomerangs! I can't even express it in one comic, all the possibilties! I thought I could, but then I thought of some more and had to draw another comic! ha ha ha I should probably just register www.boomerangdifficulties.com so I can make my full time job listing these HILARIOUS things! oh my goodness my favorite was the one where it turns out he's in space!

Oh goodness, look at the time! I'm late for my appointment to masturbate while looking in a mirror!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Comic 474: Large Humor Collider

hm, this isn't right...
I'm not going to write too much - in order to preserve my creative energies for the newest comic, 475,- but this is generally a good effort. It's more clever than funny, but I have to give him credit for getting all six flavors of quark in there with only two (in my opinion) awkwardly forced in (namely Top and Bottom). The first three panels aren't really needed I think, this could have made a nice single panel strip. But in general, I say it's a step in the right direction. It would be nice if I thought that more often....

Anyone want to disagree with me?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Comic 473: Still Raw

it's ok, nothing to see here you can't see on Comedy Central's End of 2006 special

There's really nothing wrong with this comic if you think about it totally on its own. I mean, most of me was expecting the last panel to be "true love is still possible in this world of sorrows" or some other lame unfunny shit that would make me, yet again, want to punch someone in the face. So that's good, at least this comic didn't move me to violence.

But ultimately all I can find myself thinking is "Ok, the pluto thing was funny...in 2006." Summer 2006 I believe. The facebook groups, the mock-serious newspaper editorials, the jokes, the altered textbooks, the thousands and thousands of cafepress shirts. I mean that's clearly the point - he says it's been two years and they still care about it. Which might be funny....if any of us still cared about it. Which we don't. Why not choose a more recent controversy (oh, I dunno, maybe Chrome vs. Firefox...) and make the joke "ha ha, these people care so much about this debate that they broke up over it" which is better, I think, than "ha ha, these people care so much that they are a) still talking about it and b) broke up over it" which is too far removed from reality to make me laugh.

It breaks down when you think about it - did they break up two years ago? In which case, why are is he bringing it up now? Or did they just break up, in which case what was going on for two years? A more civil debate of the issue?

And to the alt-text - "we actually divorced once over the airplane/treadmill argument" - how many times, exactly, has the couple gotten divorced?

Also, I just can't help but notice we have another end-of-relationship comic. I am starting to think something is wrong. It's been a while since there was an even remotely positive relationship comic and it's been four months if you don't count Mr. and Mrs. Hat exploding the other's car as positive. We've had maybe a dozen negative relationship comics in that time. I am worried.

update: Discussing, in the comments, whether the Pluto joke is too old, I realized that a long time ago, when xkcd was less desperate, it actually had a comic dealing with people who try to wring too much humor out of too-old memes:

All Your Base

Sometimes I wonder if Randall Munroe ever reads the archives of his comic, alone, and cries.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A new guy on the scene


As I was poking around this old internet of ours, I recently came across a new(ish) webcomic, Abstruse Goose, which is invariably compared to xkcd. #9, for example, makes me almost wonder if they are drawn by the same person. The author knows that he is writing in the same style, as you can see here and here. There's no getting around it, it's very, very, very similar to xkcd. Though where xkcd draws people without faces, Abstruse Goose draws only faces.

I think it is accurate to call it the next xkcd. In a perfect world, Randall Munroe would start fading out his comic and this would would take its place, until it ran out of ideas, and so on, in the great Circle Of Webcomic Life. It currently has a much better average comedy value than xkcd; for example I found AG #15 to be way funnier than a comparable xkcd, #307.

But it too is not immune from the flaws of the genre - the current comic is very preachy, and not in any way funny.

20, as well, is just plain dumb. "That's a totally lame wish, loser" would have been way better. As it is it's just like "wooo, look who found some lame freeware stereogram software it's meeeeeee." But I digress - in general, I like it.

I would like to know a bit more about the author, and whether it is updating regularly. The first mention of it on Digg.com appears on or about June 18th, though that doesn't really tell me much about how new it is. Anyone know more about this comic? I'm also curious what you think about it in general.

Update: Hm, I think think comic 52 (posted after the preachy your-life-in-months one) is also pretty lame. It better not start to suck right after I discover it. Come on, Abstruse Goose. I went out on a limb here complimenting you. Don't embarrass me here.


In other news: 35% of top companies register [their name]sucks.com. But do they register [their name]sucks.blogspot.com, is my question. This was actually a problem I thought about when making the url for this site - it was a bit harsher than I wanted (at the time) but I wondered "what would be the most likely search term for a website of the kind I am envisioning?" and "xkcd sucks" seemed best.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comic 472: well this will be short...

if you can read this, your browser is fucked up

Apparently a reference to a book I haven't read or heard of. So I can't judge it fully, except in the broader sense of "Hey maybe you shouldn't post freaking obscure comics." You know, comics so obscure that you have to clearly state at the top "Today's comic is a parody of House of Leaves."

Also, you should link to a more informative page than the amazon one. Maybe the wikipedia page.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comic 471: Randall The Tolerant, Randall The Caring


This comic makes me realize there is a whole new category of xkcd comics that I haven't really noticed before: the smug "aww, I'm so much better a person than everyone else" comic. With, of course, the typical xkcd "hey guys look I know what some internet memes are!"

So what do we have - Weird Dude is mocked by everyone except the Kite Flier (and we know randall is a kite person) who is kind and understanding. Rob noted in a comment on the last post noted that "It's usually pretty obvious when Randall is getting preachy. They are usually neither very subtle nor very clever." I think this is both. "I stick up for you when I can." Seriously? Why not just write "I am nicer than other people! Won't you love me, world?"

I get tired of writing this, but again, what is the joke supposed to be? People are mean to dude dressed like Tails, then Randall is nice to him, then there is a brief remark about appropriate analogies. The "joke" at the end feels like more of a tagged on attempt at a joke, not a real punchline. Or was the whole thing about how nice he was really supposed to be leading up to "ha ha, you chose an animal themed analogy!"

Better endings include:
-Kite Dude is actually not tolerant; whole comic has been a set up for a massive prank of some kind

-Kite flying somehow connects to being a furry, perhaps it turns out he can fly or something, and he helps with the kite

-Furry turns out to be totally deserving of his reputation, like he's totally creepy or something like that.

Obviously those are not funny on their own, but I suspect that at least one of them could be worked into something better than the out-of-left-field random fable ending that.

I say it all the time, but just to be fair I'll say it again: I don't hate this comic, I just think it's very Eh and not very funny. And could easily be better.

PS - if you are going to comment and say that the kite dude does not represent Randall, don't bother, you're wrong.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Comic 470: Protesting Is Only Fun If You're Angry

goddammit this comic sucks

As you all know by now, I am too busy currently to post my own thoughts. this will change soon. Until then, let's welcome back our good friend Esteban Smarinetti for his thoughts on this comic.

I can certainly handle snark/pretentiousness. Some would even say I deal almost exclusively in that domain. I am generally spiteful of people apathetic to politics. I can put up with them, however, so long as they don't vote out of ignorance. Combine snark and pretentiousness with political apathy and ignorance, however, and, well, you can expect a beatdown on my end. Taking it one degree further, if you're not only apathetic to politics, but look down on those who do care about politics with snark/disdain, you would be first against the wall if I were king (wouldn't I make a good Stalinist?). xkcd is now permanently on my shit list.

Some would say it's easy, and perhaps even encouraged to make fun of protesters. Some would say that complaining about the political slant of an online cartoonist is a waste of time (those who feel this way probably don't read this blog). And some would say the larger themes I'm seeing in this webcomic, which is inherently a lark, are not only insignificant, but not even there. To counter point 1, consider wherein the joke of the strip lies. The joke is not about making fun of the irrationality of protesters; we don't see protesters doing anything particularly crazy. In fact, the sincere protester, as petite and earnest as a stick figure can be, just stands there in dismay. What Randall is making fun of is not the craziness of extremist protesters, but the entire concept of protesting. The joke implies that the ironic billboards are actually the correct stance: that things are somewhat ok, or maybe not, whatever, it doesn't really matter anyway. For a purported hard science defender, this comic reeks of hipster postmodern smugness. Didn't Randall once have a strip promoting slicing a hand off these kind of people?

Secondly, yes, Randall's following amounts to nothing but a particularly weird subculture, but within that subculture, he's a lead player. Not only is every xkcd strip guaranteed to make the front page of Digg, but the very competition to submit the latest xkcd and get your article on the front page has created a Digg subculture of its own. People who claim to be nerds worship the ground that Randall walks on, give him a free pass under any circumstances and flame anyone who disagrees. It's one thing to have this kind of following when it is unmerited. It's another to have this following when you're having a negative, pernicious impact. Of course, if popularity on Digg was taken verbatim, the Republicans would be nominating Ron Paul in Minneapolis this week en route the fast track to the White House.

But keep in mind how crucial Internet subcultures have been in post-Web 2.0 politics. It's arguably the main reason Obama eventually overtook Hillary Clinton for the nomination (or at least surpassed her in fundraising), and it's the reason George Allen's macaca comment turned a potential Presidential candidate into a Republican loser in a red state. Even when the internet and social media doesn't directly impact politics, it's an indication of where the future is heading, so it's where the mainstream media looks. Randall has already gotten written up in Wired, and he's fast on his way to becoming one of the impresarios of web culture as its influence only grows stronger. All this at the same time as he's basically promoting apathy and distain for people who do care among his legions of followers. Keep in mind that, with the Internet aflame in the wake of the Democratic Convention, Sarah Palin's nomination, the upcoming scaled-down GOP Convention and Hurricane Gustav echoing Katrina, this strip couldn't have come at a worse time in terms of taste (though Randall probably thought the exact opposite in regards to his timing, as it injects himself and his ego into the political fray at a peak moment, however stupid his commentary may be).

Finally, in regards to whether the deeper meaning exists, you can take the strip at face value if you want. I was trained from an early age to look for deeper meanings in images and cultural artifacts, no matter how banal they may ostensibly seem. If you see any other deeper meanings to the strip, or find evidence that contradicts the deeper meaning I see, feel free to leave it in the comments. Until then, Randall Munroe, you are dead to me.

My main thoughts were a) this is not that funny, and b) Simpsons did it! When the Simpsons visit Washington DC (way back in 1991!) they see these protesters in front of the White House. As you Randall's "Things Are Pretty Okay" is very similar in particular to "Things Are Fine" + "A-OK." Not going to say he stole the joke, but you must admit it's close...
well look it was the same joke that is what you need to know.

And now that we're at it, it's not all that different from a Toothpaste For Dinner comic from earlier this summer...


Again, I'm sure it's all a coincidence...