Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comic 520: My Little Cuttle-Muffin

you are not ryan north

First: this is one of those comics that, during XKCD's high points, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about. It would have been unremarkable--not that funny, but not so bad that it merits attention. But we are past those days. You come here expecting me to mock and criticize--and YOU WILL HAVE IT, my friends! You will have it.

Okay, so, it is not exactly a new concept: cephalopods are scary. We all read Dinosaur Comics. I read Ryan North's news feed, I saw the video. I'm not going to say 'Ryan North does it better, so this one isn't good,' despite that being true. No, I am going to say 'this joke has been made before, so this one had better be clever.'

And it... wasn't.

There is actual art in this one, which is a plus. But the humor is lacking. I could go into this, but really I just feel like it is robbing the cuttlefish of its terror by making it something which can be trained by mere humans. I mean, the point is these are freakish alien monstrosities that can learn things on their own. Not that they are killer attack monsters that you can train.

And I am not much nourished by the whole 'scientist fight' thing, anyway. I mean, I have laughed at science fights before. But only when they were real. And if bio majors are going to take over the world, wouldn't they use some sort of horrible deathplague and not cuttlefish? I mean, haven't... hundreds of speculative fiction stories been written with that exact plot?

Basically, this was dull and not very well executed. Where are the cephalopods turning on their masters? Or, you know, doing creepy things besides killing physicists? Come on, Randall. Step it up a notch.


  1. I thought this was cute. Though not funny.

    Since it's so utterly unremarkable, I'd like to direct your attention to something else: the Palm contest finalists are out. Scroll down the page. You'll notice a common theme with them, namely that they mostly suck.

    Frankly though, Randall is not at fault.

  2. this type of science fight shit really pisses me of. it's not like there is one type of uber-science that will magically give me flying cars or anything. it's gong to take all kinds of scientists (physicists, chemists, computer scientists, etc.) to even make a simple hoverboard, nevermind flying cars. and seriously, it's two thousand fucking eight; WE WERE PROMISED FLYING CARS, ASSHOLES!!!!

  3. I liked this one. It wasn't great, but good enough. I've missed this side of xkcd. When was the last time we heard of the raptors? This time Randall wants us to believe that he dreamed about cuttlefish and got so scared he is prepared to join a war on the chemists. Over a dream. I do find that somewhat funny, and very in character. If the cuttlefish will be the new raptor I won't complain.

  4. As a person with one foot in hard science and one foot in soft science, I have to say that jokes about rivalries between different fields can be pretty amusing in a brief-slightly-witty-situational-humour sort of way. For instance, the Impostor one made me laugh, and the Sokal affair gives me something of a smug smile when I describe it. But this wasn't even a joke about any field of study. It was just the comic equivalent of a comedian saying, "Hey, guys, [insert subject] - what about that, huh? Pretty weird? Amirite?"

    Quite honestly, it would bother me if cuttlefish are the new raptors, because it'd be the same jokes recycled again and again. Someone just needs to write a program which randomly generates xkcd jokes, because he hasn't done a completely new joke in ages. "Hat guy is wacky!" "Aww nerd love!" "4chan reference!" Sure, they were fine to begin with, but it gets old after the twentieth time. To quote (out of context) the linguist Geoff Pullum, "to call [it] formulaic is an insult to the beauty and diversity of formulae."

  5. This one is fan service of the highest degree. Randall knows some of his readers are science people, so he crafted this one solely for them. Expect to see shirts and posters of this made, and in the case of the latter, posted on cubicles and in offices all around the country.

    I'm not kidding.

  6. I was hoping they had trained the cuttlefish to display "PHYSICISTS SUCK COCK" on their colour-changing bodies.

  7. Since when does the Bio department study animal learning? The Bio students didn't train those cuttlefish, that was the Psych department.

    That was definitely the Psych department...

    But hey, those impure sciences are all the same, right? right?


  8. Re the Palm Finalists: They're all completely awful, with one exception:

    "If you'd kept up on my Facebook profile, this wouldn't have been such a surprise..."

    This one's not great. I thought some of Carl's were better, but this is clearly better than the rest of the finalists:

    "80% of my calls are to your mom because the other 20% are to your sister! They both have Palm Centros and we always stay connected."


  9. Still puzzled as to where cuttlefish gained the powers of electrical eels.

  10. On the last panel there's a chemist casually drinking from his erlenmeyer flask. Even if the cephalopod joke wasn't that funny, suicidal chemists make it all much much better.

    What I don't like about the cephalopods is their levitation and death rays. Biologists suck at making organisms do these things (levitate and zap).

    Generally, I think it's a pretty alright comic for now.

    BTW, there's this reiteration of this biological uplift trope which is SO MUCH better:

  11. I'm going to echo B.F. Skinner on this one. At least the comic wasn't about how math is purer than all the sciences. And a science rivalry at least requires inside jokes across several fields and not just listing computer references, so I'm satisfied.

    Although Randall feels the need to explain cuttlefish and not his usual physics/CS, so he must be aware of his audience's focii.

  12. Foci, not focii.

    Okay, so first: science fights!

    Does anyone remember when Pluto stopped being a planet and astronomers were like 'we can call it a pluton!' and geologists were like 'uh, no, we already have something called a pluton' and the astronomers were like 'well apparently it WASN'T AT ALL IMPORTANT so we are using it anyway'? That was awesome and hilarious and totally really happened. This is just 'haha chemists vs. biologists.'

    Cow: Those aren't suicidal chemists; those are people drinking alcohol out of novelty flasks. That is probably meant to be champagne or at least wine. It is Randall's way of saying 'a toast to you, sirs!'

  13. I thought this one was alright, you can't always take xkcd (or any webcomic for that matter) too seriously. It's like watching the latest Indiana Jones movie, if you tried to take it seriously you'd hate it.

    Oh, and for the record, I don't read Ryan North's news feed or comic, tried it a few times and it hasn't taken my fancy.

  14. This was not cute. This was not funny. This was just bad.

    It's not a comic. It's a short story with a terrible plot. Which is also a dream sequence. With an unfunny punchline. And shameless pandering.

    Being the attention whore that I am, I usually try to be funny or witty in my comments here to garner laughs of my own and the passing adulation of the Internet pseudo-masses, but for once I have forgone this option because I have spent all my energy HATING TODAY'S XKCD.


  15. I actually thought this one was ok. It still had a little bit of "only scientists matter" with only caring about physicists, chemists and biologists. I think a few social scientists might be bad enemies. Or at least there are some other professions worth fearing. Other minor quibbles are that the last line ("if we join you") would have worked far better as an alt-text, leaving the "XKCD Salutes Bio Majors" as the last line. Also, lame that he would mention the display screens without using them for anything.

    Other than that though, it really didn't bother me too much.

    Jay: I've got a post on the Palm contest, which I'll put up in a second. I wanted Rob's post to have some time at the top.

    M- Yeah, you would have expected raptors here. Much more inherent terror than a fish that sounds like "Cuddlefish"

  16. Here's another reiteration of that science vs. science trope. It's made of one panel with a monochrome drawing of some woman chemist and some text. Do you think it funnier?

  17. Carl I am appreciating the idea of the social scientists team vs. physicists-chemists-biologists team. I believe I would enjoy this!

    OMG "cuddlefish"! It's an odd sort of pet name. Perhaps we can refer to Randall or one of the Anons as "cuddlefish."

  18. Amanda, Carl: The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.

    Cuddlefish is a nice cute pet name I'd call someone I like... It has been a while since I felt something good towards Randall.

    BTW, does anyone else, when seeing Randall, thinks of Stephen King's Randall Flagg?

  19. I second the motion to refer to the Anons on this site as "cuddlefish."

    I second it A LOT.

  20. Ahaha. All in favor, be a human being.


  21. YAY now I wish we could find a way to make the comment form say "cuddlefish" rather than "anonymous."

  22. I have recently found your blog and I was curios as to why you would criticise something as awesome as xkcd. I read your faqs (both of them) and I started to understand. I agree that lately there are a lot of copypasta jokes on xkcd and even when I disagreed with some of your opinions on certain strips at least you had a point. Most of the time I found that you criticised something that was unimportant and thus not destroying the humor for me but that you still had a point. But this I time I got, for the first time, the idea that you just wanted to criticise this strip and that you hadn´t even understood it.

    So now is the time that I have to say, your blog is overdone. You stopped being usefull and now only sustain yourself. What a shame...

  23. To be fair: this was written by guest poster Rob, and not I, Carl Wheeler, the proprieter of this blog.

    On the other hand, I agree with everything he wrote. So....

  24. The insinuation that the divers scientific disciplines are at war with one another (much like vampires, werewolves, pirates and ninjas are) is hilarious. Do you not understand this?