Sunday, December 28, 2008

Comic 523: Randall Speaks To Us

Hello chaps and chapettes, this is Thomas and I'll be providing a week of snarkiness in Carl's absence. I was nervous about what Randall would hit to me for the start of the week, but now I can rest easy and let his fly ball(s) land directly in my mitt.

This is a combination of "we broke up" + "math in unlikely places," which makes me as repulsed as the out-of-frame lady must be. And the relationship dipped because of the sort of graphing he's doing at this moment! This is like a roommate resolving his gluttony by telling you, "I know you hate it when I clean out the pantry" as he finishes the last slice of pizza and flattens the last beer can against his forehead. And, like a bad roommate, Randall's not very good at recycling, either. There is no charty joke like Randall used to do, just a jokeless chart with one visible character defending its crappiness. He's taken an empty can, pissed in it, and pretended he just found it in the fridge for us.

Nobody's buying you beer anymore, Randall, even if it makes your physics, math, and word games more fun for you. Sober up, climb the 12 Steps (no need to draw memes on them or stretch them out to a weird scale), and when you see the trash you've let accumulate beneath you, hang yourself from the 12th step as a warning to other webcomic authors.


  1. Or, OR, he could hang himself from The Yggdrasil! That might make that one Cuddlefish's friends mad though.

    Man this one was pretty terrible. I, uh. Yeah, wow. It's not just a chart comic, it's a comic about chart comics.

  2. Alternatively, one could replace the heart with "xkcd's not-suckiness" and the decline would've been several hundred comics ago, though I'm not sure exactly when.

  3. first off, welcome aboard, thomas. and good job getting this post done almost as quickly as this pile of crap was posted.

    yeah, it sucks. not much else to say.

  4. Guys, you're looking at this wrong. The voice from off-panel is actually Carl Wheeler.

  5. Why, he has made a metaphorical comic describing the decline in the quality of his own work! That's silly.

  6. in case you twats didn't understand, in the alt-text, he means his girlfriends period. have you read his disclaimer? "Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."

  7. Mr. Cuddlefish (Anon): Your tentacled reasoning is based on solid ground, but doesn't improve the comic. The period joke happens after the "girl doesn't like so many graphs" punchline, so it feels more like an easy out than humor. It's just more fun in the spirit of this blog to connect the dots between his stickman's graph and what we've been saying all along about his graphs.

    Otherwise, what do we have? "You don't like my graphs. Also, periods make women act funny." I think she has him dead to rights, hormones or not. You're free to explain any twattiness in my opinion, but we may have to agree to disagree as a human and cuddlefish.

  8. Oh, my dear sweet cuddlefish. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Go huff some paint, or whatever it is you people do these days when you are irrationally angry because someone has dared to insult your precious comic.

    I don't find your reasoning solid at all. He says this spike happened at the one month mark, not that it happened routinely every month--I am assuming this relationship has lasted for multiple months so far. It just doesn't follow. "One month" does not necessarily mean period. Pro tip.

    But perhaps I'm wrong and perhaps he is talking about her period. Who cares? It's not a funny joke, by anyone's standards (except for yours). What are you hoping to accomplish by pointing out this brilliant observation? That Randall can write shitty jokes in the alt text as well?

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  10. Unfortunately, Cuddlefish is right on this point. It's a math thing.

    He indicates that the spike is at the one-month mark on the Fourier transform. The Fourier transform is a way of representing a signal according to its periodicity. For example, a pure sine wave (frequency 2*Pi) will appear as a single spike on the graph at x = 2*Pi.

    So yes, this is a joke about her period

  11. Yeah, I've long stopped looking things up on XKCD. I would back when it was funny.

    Still, it is not funny.

  12. I liked this until Randy had to go ruin it with a period joke. Ahaha Randy, you're so cutting edge! What's next, a dick joke?

  13. Ramsey I like that you call him Randy.

    Cuddlefish, the disclaimer might say all that but it says nothing that says the comic must be funny and we must laugh. Heyyyyy maybe xkcdsucks should get a disclaimer! "Warning: this site usually contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), comockery (which may be unsuitable for Cuddlefish), and criticism of xkcd (which may be unsuitable for Randall-worshippers)."

  14. Also welcome to Thomas! I enjoyed your rebuttal to Cuddlefish, mostly because it contained the word "tentacle."

  15. I still think this is a humorous reversal of the "charts for all occasions" trend we've been seeing, and I find labeling of the y-axis somewhat amusing as well (the rough spots in XKCD tend to show a lack of amusing details, incomplete ideas, etc.)

    To analyze, this comic is thematically similar to XKCD 55 ("My normal approach is useless here"). The difference is that chart-fellow refuses to make that acknowlwedgement, and remains steadfastly chartist (or chert). Thus, the humor is conveyed through delusion rather than self-deprecation.

    And... delusion v. self-deprecation as approaches to humor, go!

  16. Delusion and self-depreciation do not work very well for Randall, who appears to actually be deluded and whose comic sucks. Normally I am all for self-depreciating humor. Deluded humor is usually good but if it sounds too much like a delusion the author actually holds, it clearly loses its charm. Self-depreciating humor... well, look at it like this. It isn't funny if an abusive boyfriend jokes about being an abusive boyfriend.

  17. Bollocks, I didn't realize I was going to create such a piffle over a bloody webcomic. I've read a few of your reviews, and none seem to mention the alt-text at all. The thing about xkcd comics is that the punchline IN the comic isn't the main focus. For the most part, the alt-text /is/ the punchline. Sometimes vice-versa, like the Donner comic

    p.s. Thank you Pat for explaining the Fourier Transform

  18. Everyone: a cuddlefish has been let out of its tank! Make sure not to feed or crowd it, or it'll respond by either inflating its self-importance until we appear to be a piffle or calling us out as twats.

    Must be that time of the month, eh?


  19. You're the worst fake Englishman ever, Cuddlefish. You might as well stop trying now. (And you didn't make a "piffle" over a webcomic so much as you made one over being a complete and utter fuckwit.)

    You are entirely wrong about the focus of XKCD. The alt text has never been the main focus, nor should it ever be. Yes, we are all aware of the alt text. It is just never funny or worth commenting on anymore. Time was the alt text was consistently amusing, and from time to time it managed to salvage a comic from mediocre to amusing. But it was never the point. You can enjoy the old XKCDs without reading the alt text.

    The alt text's function is (or ought to be) to enhance the comic. It's a meta-comment about the comic, expanding on a joke. It only occasionally works as the actual punchline for a number of reasons. One, you cannot rely on the average reader to know about it. Two, if you do it consistently, it loses the effect.

    See, the alt text is something you read after you have seen the original joke. It tends to be something that he couldn't fit in the comic proper, and sometimes that's all right. The thing to note is the timing. You read each panel in a pretty steady time. The alt text is something you have to take the time to mouse over. The joke is setting in. It just doesn't work as a punchline.

    Lately the alt text has been utterly mundane. It is simply not worth mentioning. It is neither good enough nor bad enough to merit comment. And since it is tacked on as an afterthought, it doesn't fit in with the overall narrative of a comic, so when writing a post about the comic, there's nowhere to put a comment about the alt text--especially if it is as mediocre as it usually is.

    And look, you seem to have arrived here with the assumption that you know something we don't. You don't. We all used to rather enjoy XKCD, until it started sucking. That is where this blog comes from, actually! Fun fact!

  20. I prefer to think of it as Randall being self-deprecating by depicting a delusional character.

    Rob: but you see, out responses are derived from our initial attitude toward the author and the comic. Self-deprecation only works if we are sympathetic to the self-deprecator. The sympathetic response is "haha, that is somewhat insightful of you to admit," whereas the hostile response is "That's right, you cunt. You have flaws."

    In this case, of course, it's only a one panel comic, so whatever sympathy or hostility we bring in can only be determined by our reading of the previous comics in the series, and the degree of continuity we associate with them.

    As a result, objective evaluation of this particular panel is difficult.

  21. Eh. I don't really buy the "our responses are derived from our attitudes." I mean, certainly I am more willing to offer a negative opinion now than I was, say, six months ago, but I came to the conclusion that XKCD now officially sucks after holding the position that it was awesome and one of my favorite webcomics.

    This one was not spectacularly horrible, but it was not at all funny. I feel safe in saying that a neutral observer would find no humor in it.

    You are right in pointing out that a self-depreciating character needs to be sympathetic and that in a one-panel comic you cannot really make a sympathetic character. But I feel you are wrong in assuming this means you can't treat it with objectivity. Because the best, most objective standard of standalone comics is this: 'If a random person shows up and looks at this comic, will they find it funny?'

    Let's extract our histories with the comic from the comic for a while and look at it. Now, I have never been fully behind the philosophy that if you have done something before, you should never do it again. I dislike chart comics primarily because they are just not funny.

    This one is actually, and I am being generous here, a step up from most of the chart comics, in that it is not simply a comic which is a chart. But there isn't really much of a joke. It's "ridiculous concept" humor at best. "Haha, a guy who charts his relationship, that is funny." I have never liked "ridiculous concept" humor very much. It's a good start and a bad finish.

    The deluded character, now--coming from outside, I don't know anything about him. She is pointing out a correlation, he says it's a coincidence. I don't have enough information to find this funny. For all I know, he started graphing everything because the relationship started declining. Or perhaps it's unrelated. Correlation is not causation.

    But on the surface level, I think the reaction to this comic is best summed up in two words:

    "Yeah, and?"

  22. OK, seriously, is this one of you? Because I approve of this.

  23. I think Randall just wanted to give us all a christmas present: A chart comic, which is also a sad relationship comic, which is also spectacularly unfunny! I appreciate this gift.

    Pat, I totally agree about me being the off-panel voice. I'd like to think it was intended that way...after all, we have no reason to think this was a romantic relationship, right?

    I thought of this comic as thematically similar to 366: Using the annoying habit in the discussion of why that habit is ending the relationship. Add to that the fact that both habits are things Randall does frequently (Your Mom jokes and Charts) and it seemed pretty close to me...

    Fake British Dude: Bollcks and Bloody Hell indeed, old chap! The fact that you think the alt text is the punchline just proves that most of the real punchlines are so bad you didn't notice that it was supposed to be funny. But I've said many times, the xkcd alt-texts have a much much higher rate of humor success for me than the comic in general. Rob is correct as to the purpose of alt-texts, and it's not just on xkcd, that's pretty standard. Overcompensating, Pictures for Sad Children, Achewood - all have alt-texts that are more of an extra add-on joke.

    So clearly "cuddlefish" is the new meme on this blog. That is fine with me.

    And last: Jay is right. RandallGetOutofMyHead is my new favorite person. I wish I could take credit for those.

  24. Rob: I like that you have pulled out "correlation v. causation" in response this comic. The moral of this comic (at least, read from the "implied causation" point of view) would appear to be that a rigorous scientific approach is not always useful.

    Mainly I think "causation" is the preferred reading because it is funnier.

    Science bonus: Under the hypothesis that charting everything decreased the quality of his relationship, ChartDude (let's call him "Chet") has changed the outcome by measuring it.