Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Vanishing Mr. Hat

We all remember Mr. Hat. He represents all that is good about xkcd - he's slightly evil, though usually in a harmless way; he's very, very sarcastic, and he can always be counted on for good fun. Many of the best strips feature him. He is apparently based on a character from a different comic, for we learn in the alt text of his first appearance that "It's no secret that the hat guy is closely based on Aram, from Men in Hats." Check out this strip for an example.

ANYWAY THE POINT is not about where the character comes from, it's about where he went because I've noticed that recently all he's done is get involved in some stupid fight with a female version of himself and that's about it. No more maniacal plots. I think this explains a lot about why xkcd has been sucking so hard the past few months.

But of course, my bold assertions are nothing without empirical evidence, so here we go: I decided to divide the series into 50 comic chunks, and measure what percentage of strips per chunk have him in it. Note that while Mr. Hat is well defined by his hat (see detail at left), not all men in hats are Mr. Hat. He has a very distinct personality. I have noted if there is a possible dispute about his identity.

Note also that except once while it was stolen, Mr. Hat always wears his hat. If he's not wearing it, it's not Mr. Hat. He's enough of a continuing character that I believe this is fair. the numbers!!

Chunk 1 - Comics 1-50
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 2 (I'm not counting 45)
Mr. Hat Density Index: 4%

Chunk 2 - Comics 51-100
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 5 (77 seems like just a guy wearing a hat)
Mr. Hat Density Index: 10%

Chunk 3 - Comics 101-150
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 5
Mr. Hat Density Index: 10%

Chunk 4 - Comics 151-200
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 6
Mr. Hat Density Index: 12%

Chunk 5 - Comics 201-250
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 3
Mr. Hat Density Index: 6%

Chunk 6 - Comics 251-300
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 3 (291 doesn't count - he doesn't talk and it's CLEARLY a different hat)
Mr. Hat Density Index: 6%

Chunk 7 - Comics 301-350
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 3
Mr. Hat Density Index: 6%

Chunk 8 - Comics 351-400
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 6
Mr. Hat Density Index: 12%

Chunk 9 - Comics 401-429 (present - not a full chunk yet)
Mr. Hat Comics (number): 2
Mr. Hat Density Index: 7%

Hey let's look at that in CHART FORM-
So from this it looks like, yes, there was a dip in Mr. Hat's appearances. But maybe it's on the rise again? After all, there's a pretty obvious peak there at the end.

Or is there? This is about the time that the Female Version of Mr. Hat steals his hat and they get in a crazy battle of Spy vs. Spy-esque revenge plots. These, I maintain, are not truly the essence of Mr. Hat - he is best when he gives quick, pithy one liners, not when he displays emotion. Anyway, you can decide that for yourself. If you would like, here's what the chart looks like not counting those four comics -

Of course all this raises the question - is his disappearance a cause of xkcd's recent sucktasticness, or a symptom? I'll let you decide that one as well.

So comments are a thing which exist

Apparently. It never occurred to me that of the vast armies of people who profess their undying love for xkcd, and of the vast subset who don't really like it that much anymore but who pretend because If You Are An Intelligent Young Adult Then You Love XKCD, some would actually find their way here and actually comment on my modest little blog.

So that's why I haven't been reading the comments. But I do have plenty of spare time in my life so from now on, I will read them and hopefully respond, and, if needed, update my posts. Like over here, where I was informed that I was demonstrably wrong, and corrected the post. I would also like to thank commenter Jonathan, who has been pretty encouraging (even though he doesn't know it and also I only found out about all this 30 minutes ago) and who showed me this comic which apparently led him here somehow. yay!

Oh and also, guys, there's a guy who translates xkcd into spanish! For some reason I find this awesome. I cannot explain why.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Comic 429: Some more relationship bullshit

First, a note. Read this comic. Then read comic 390. Is it wrong to say this guy is getting repetitive? OK, on to 429:

What?! What is this?! A relationship that is...quirky and unusual?! Good god! This webcomic is truly in bold, new territory! Seriously, what is this? How many ways do we have to read about two people who are both in love and nerds? Gosh Randall, it does happen sometimes you know. It's not like you're breaking awesome new ground here by seeing What Would Happen...If Nerds Dated: An Extremely Hypothetical Situation.

Oh also - you already did "false consciousness recognized as such with only mildly amusing results" - check it out: #117. Is it really that different? I!

I should start a side page just dedicated to a list of Comics Where Quirky People Have Quirky Relationships. Does anyone know how to do that on blogger?

Update: I figured it out all by myself! Go HERE for relationship shit and HERE for programming! hoorah!

More Update: Guys, after reading 248 again I'm beginning to think Randall just programmed a computer to spit out the same few jokes over and over again. And by "jokes" I mean "shitty jokes."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Comic 428: Starwatching

I'm going to be honest: This comic did not make me angry. It didn't make me think about what a hack Randall Munroe is becoming, and while I still want to punch his girlfriend in the face my desire to do so was only marginally increased by this. Really, this falls into the wide, wide category of "Mediocre." Nothing more, nothing less.

Ok, he thinks bloggers are watching over him? Um, ok. Randall still loves Cory Doctorow? Who knew? What, you forgot to tell a joke? Eh, whatever, it happens.

Seriously what's funny about this? Also, are there really that many dead bloggers?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Comic 427: Bad Timing

Here is another character and his girlfriend (don't worry, they're in a balloon just to make it quirky) comic, except that this one ends with them getting attacked by the infamous Red Spiders.

Now I first have to point out that it was only last week when I expressed my desire to have the red spiders come back, although of course I specified that I wanted it to be cool. Nonetheless, I called it.

Think back to what the red spiders used to be, waaaaaaay back at the beginning of xkcd - they were a little creepy, a little threatening - crawling over boxes, apparently learning to build things, threatening a city, necessitating a counter offensive. And here, they...disrupt a relationship talk. I mean scary....but....

Also I'm not sure why in panel three the guy knows about the spiders, and why he assumes that the girl knows about them. But that's not the problem really, it's the spiders coming back but being lame thing that annoys me.

Now - if it turns out that this is only the first of many red spider strips, this is like some prelude to a series of horrible death and destruction comics with the spiders, that would be ok. I would admit to being wrong here. But it seems unlikely. But who knows?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comic 426: Geohashing

This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. It's not a comic, first of all. I'm noticing this more and more - XKCD isn't a comic. It might be a series of drawings and words online, but a comic implies at least an attempt at humor, and this is not an attempt at humor.

This is a way of randomly generating coordinates. Ok. That's all it is. You could easily do this without basing it on the dow jones, though it would not be as self-important that way (Randall, I've found, likes to fancy himself a follower of current events). It's a very complicated way of generating random coordinates, meaning that to "geohash" you need, at a minimum, a knowledge of MD5 or you have go to his website.

And for what? To find a random location every day? Which maybe other people will visit? Hooray, I have a computer telling me where to visit. Yay.

I hope to god this doesn't become popular. I will kill myself.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Comic 425: Fortune Cookies

Look kids: It's the fortune cookie "In bed" joke! Yes, just like you know and love it, slightly altered to look original but still the same joke you all still make in restaurants, courtesy of Humor Doctor Randall Munroe!

Here's why it's not original - if a fortune cookie is funny when you add "In bed" to it, it will be just as funny - no more, no less - if you go with New Idea and add "except in bed to it." It will be as funny or not for the same reasons, except from the sad side of the happy/sad divide. It's not a new idea so much as inverting an old idea - much like if I were to go around saying "That's NOT what she said!"

Also fun note - my favorite adding of "in bed" ever to a fortune cookie was to this one: "You will read a good book today." IN BED!! A HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Comic 424: Security Holes

This is actually quite amazing - a comic which I at first thought would suck hard because of all the computer stuff, but which was actually pretty funny for people who don't give a shit about different operating systems. And there's even a good Lord of the Rings reference! Sure, he puts in that crap about Debian-OpenSSL to remind you that he knows more than you, but it's still a good comic. I note that this is at least his second reference to preventing 9/11 though. That's a little...odd.

Summary: Best comic in many weeks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

10 Worst xkcd comics 1-200

This will be fun. Like my highly acclaimed 10 Best xkcd Comics post I wrote to prove they aren't all bad, I've gone through the first 200 xkcds and chosen the worst. I'm not including the weird ones at the beginning because they weren't really meant to be comics, and I'm not including the Red Spiders because there is a part of me that hopes the Red Spiders will come back and actually be cool. Maybe. So these are the ones I actively dislike.

12 - all he does here is personify some math or science thing for the purpose of...personifying something less than zero to interact with the personified math thing. So what he's saying is "Here's some facts about numbers. ONLY I MADE THE NUMBERS PEOPLE!!!" (Honorable mention for the exact same reason - 26)

48 - Why are there pink dots? Why snow-line white shapes? Also, cookies for whoever gets more pretension in fewer words.

79 - This is just lame because a) everyone tries to do this when they first read Shakespeare in English class in middle school, b) it's not even close to easy enough to be a hobby (you might as well say "my hobby is holding pieces of paper and watching them spontaneously burst into flame") and c) even if it were possible to do naturally, no one would notice or care, unless maybe you rhymed them. But that's apparently not part of the hobby. "My hobby is talking like a fucked up person."

82 - WTF my friend, WTF. Oh and hey there alt-text, your comment "..." was great. GREAT. Same goes for 98.

88 - Maybe this is me being stupid, but is there a reason M. C. Escher is associated with the Moebius strip in this comic? They don't have much in common really. A Moebius strip is not an illusion, and I don't think they are featured in many of Escher's paintings. Are they?

Update: A commenter points out that Escher did, in fact, paint many Moebius strips. Really, this shouldn't surprise me. I feel kinda stupid now. Nonetheless, it's still not that funny an idea. Seeing as how the joke is a Moebius bracelet, maybe it should have said "WWAFMD?" It would have been a bit more obscure, of course.

96 - Oh. A man is getting confused between tangible objects and intangible ones. He thinks that one has the property of the other! Ha! HA HA HA!

104 - Ok so it looks like we have a super stalker climbing on the Shroud of Turin. Ok. No joke. Just what is basically a creepy threat. Uh huh.

118 - Here, Mr. Munroe realizes that he can rhyme some words with people's names. Thus, he makes a lame joke off a song that I can't imagine many readers of this comic are familiar with (Everyone knows Paul Simon's Sounds of Silence, sure, but who even listens to 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?). He thinks that because he found a rhyme for "lover" with "hover" he is funny. This is, however, untrue. Good try!

128 - Wow, you like math so much that you think of emotional problems in quantitative ways! Ha ha ha! Is funny because is not possible to quantify emotion!! Ha ha! But silly artist try anyway! Ha ha! Did same joke in comic 55!

168 - This would be a funny idea, except that nearly all euphemisms are intentionally vague - that's kind of the point. You say a vague phrase that suggests what you mean to avoid the discomfort of directly saying what you want. If you don't believe me, try it. And you don't even get to try the one example he gave until you have kids who can swim.

And an honorable mention to 175, because, like most good humor, the Simpsons did it (Remember? When Bart sells his soul to Milhouse, and now automatic doors don't open for him? But they open for Rod and Todd? And as they walk through they say "Thank you, Mr. Door"? THAT WAS AWESOME).

After finishing this list, I realized I really do like the vast majority of the early strips - few of these 10 even made me as angry as many more recent ones.

Comic 423: Finish Line

I like the fact that the two MarioKart players are first shown speaking through their characters - that's an interesting way to tell the story in this comic, if not very funny. But it doesn't need to be funny, it's the first panel. Anyway this is a fairly bland comic - I suppose I like it more than I dislike it, but it's not that funny. Follows a kind of familiar pattern, of someone pretending to be very Serious about Important Things but then they aren't. I dunno. I have very few opinions in this one instance.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Comic 422: A Better Idea


Oh also who do you envision reading your comic? High school kids? I mean I'm sure some do but it's weird for your characters to be talking about being adults, and learning that they can make bacon in their own apartments, and putting ball pits in their living rooms, but then...they go to prom? Ok, whatever.

Also what's up with two comics in a row with people, but no dialog or narration? You know how far back you have to go to find a comic like that? I stopped counting after about 40, but it's probably way more. At least 412 had "Boo." Dude is losing his touch for language....

Comic 421: Making Hash Browns

This was pretty funny, if poorly executed. The idea of doing something in a terribly inefficient way and using fire is pretty solid comedy stuff, though the idea that you could actually slice a potato with a tennis racket is a little crazy for a man who claims to like "science" which as I understand it is somewhat reality based.

Anyway, I like the picture and the idea but I wish there had been some talking, maybe? It looks like an awful lot of white space, and the potato is so tiny and stuff. There also shouldn't be a cup on the plate, it doesn't have to do with the cooking and is distracting. I stand corrected; it is meant to hold the completed has browns.

Oh and alt text: There are ZERO ways this can go wrong.

Comic 420: Jealousy

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Randal Munroe's comic, "Love Love Love Love Love Whoops It's Inappropriate." I'm glad you stuck with us for comics 49, 116, 158, 176, and 317. If you enjoyed those comics, you'll be sure to enjoy this one.

By the way: He does get a point in his favor for this comic, because he mentioned some other guy's girlfriend, rather than his own. Hooray for restraint.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

XKCD:Overrated Returns Next Week!

I have a secret mission beginning tomorrow, so I'm going to let the blog alone for a bit of time. Don't worry, I'll be back about a week from now, explaining why all the xkcds in that week sucked.

In the meantime....

update, 3/23/2009: for those who are far too interested, i just changed this post title from "xkcd sucks returns..." to "xkcd:overrated returns..." because this page keeps coming up at the top google hit for "xkcd sucks" and i want to change that. also the blog was called "xkcd:overrated" at the time anyway.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Comic 419: Forks and Spoons

Eh. To me this comic only plays on the inherent humor of sporks, which is kind of cheating in my opinion. Anyone can make sporks funny. I mean it's a funny idea, I suppose, though you wonder why they sporks turned evil. Feels like it was only to emphasize the "powerful forces" so it seems ok until you realize that what we're talking about here is cutlery.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Comic 418: Stove Ownership

This is pretty funny. I like it. Reminds me a little of the "Times when I'm Happy / Times when I'm wearing pants" non-overlapping Venn diagram, though I'm not 100% sure why.

Oh and something wacky is happening with the links on xkcd - going to the homepage took me to the last comic, typing in the URL directly took me to this one, going to the homepage and clicking forward did nothing, and going to xkcd/417 and clicking forward took me to 418. Mysteries!