Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comics 'n' politics

I would be remiss if I didn't show you guys this interesting story - seems a dude in Kansas named Sean Tevis wants to run for a seat in the Kansas Legislature but couldn't figure out how to raise much money. So he wrote a webcomic about himself and his campaign to get publicity, and damn it all if it didn't work like a charm.



It's intentionally supposed to feel like xkcd, and some of its nerdier jokes do fall flat, with the feeling that they were only inserted for the sake of making a nerdy joke (the rickroll one, in particular). Nonetheless, it's an intriguing idea, and I wish Mr. Tevis luck. It appears to be working as a fundraising tool, though I do worry about knockoffs in years to come. It's a very clever way to get attention, and a lot of it is funny, so take a look.


several months later update: Ah crap, he lost. But he did better than Obama or the Democratic Senate candidate in that area, so that's something at least.

Comic 456: See "Comic 349"

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "Carl, what could you possibly find wrong with this comic? It's funny! Admit it."

Never! Well maybe. See I have no real problems with this comic on its own (I have a few little quibbles, of course, I'll get to them soon, but they are not very serious) but this comic seems so very similar to comic 349. Each has 4 panels (456's go horizontally and 349's go vertically, but eh), each labeled with the a time that the action is happening. Each has a character trying to install a unix-based operating system, and, as the project continues, finds it to be very difficult, and they end up creating problems they had never even heard of earlier. Computers can be difficult! Ho ho ho! Not unfunny, but we've seen this before, Mr. Munroe.

Also, as someone who just installed Ubuntu, I can tell you this is not even close to accurate. I had no idea what I was getting into and was able to do it all very easily. At one point I called a friend for help ("If I turn off the computer now will I ruin everything and cry?" "Probably not...but maybe") and a few days later I IMd another ("What's that program that makes everything look AWESOME?" "Compiz!") but not even close to this. Everything has been spiffy since then. But I may just have an inherent genius and luck about me. Who knows.

Quibbles - The tag at the end, "talk to your kids about linux before someone else does" seems unnecessary to me. It confuses the rest of the comic - is the point that linux is like a drug? In that case, what are we to make of the character who understands linux? It's surely not a problem for him. It seems like the point of the four main panels is that linux is a problem if you don't know what you are doing; in other words, you have to be serious about it. I'm not sure why that's something you need your parents to warn you about. In the end, it feels like a poorly executed joke tacked on at the end. Doesn't work.

Lastly, and even more quibbly, in the final panel, why is the girl's speech connected to her with a jagged line? That usually denotes a voice coming out of a phone or TV (see: the rest of this strip), with smooth lines representing speech by a character present in the scene. So I'm not sure why it's jagged. Perhaps I am missing something.

In the end, I shouldn't be too harsh. This comic is a lot better than any we've had recently. Though I am sure we'll soon go back to shitty comics about how many hats people have. (sorry! I couldn't help linking again. that post was awesome!)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

come quick! shitty new clothes for you to buy!

Ah, the xkcd store. Where loyal xkcd readers can prove their unabashed love for the comic by buying a shirt or some other crap. HEY KIDS, don't you want to be as attractive as this dude or possibly girl?
I'll say you do!

Anyway the store is the thing which keeps Randall going, which lets him put all his effort into his little comic so he doesn't have to get a job and do something more productive, like be a Wal-Mart greeter.

Anyway the point is only a limited number of people want to read a dumb non-comic about people who wear hats and they will only buy a certain number of copies of the same old boring shirts, so he needs to always make new shit to sell these people. (Yes, I just wanted to add a link in to yesterday's post. I am proud of it.) HENCE the new shirt, which looks like this:

What it is is a linux cheat sheet, basically a list of some commands that the 1% of you who use Linux (ok, ok, the 1% of us, because I am one) might want to use but not remember. The idea is that is upside down, so you can read it while it is on your body. Obviously, this is a useless shirt.

FINE I will list the reasons it is useless:

-When you are not wearing this particular shirt, it is not useful

-When you are wearing it is basically no more convenient than a piece of paper, or a file on your computer with the actual cheat sheet.

-If any of the ink comes off, good luck reading those commands - they're pretty tiny

-COME ON you are using Linux, you should be nerdy enough to memorize these.

-How many people are actually going to think "Ho ho, it's computing day for me, why don't I make sure to put on my special computing shirt to help me!" ? I suspect it's more likely that these people never leave their homes and never change their shirt.

SO the shirt is worthless, or at least the image on the shirt is worthless. What's the point? I posit: To prove to other people that you are a fan of xkcd and a nerd. This shirt, like using the godforsaken word "blag," is just a way to telegraph that you like xkcd to the tiny percentage of people you will meet in the real world who will know what the hell it is. Wearing this shirt, in other words, is the clothing equivalent of correcting people on their use of "there's" vs. "there're" in casual spoken language. You might feel good about it but everyone else thinks you're a dick.

In other words, you might as well just buy this shirt instead:


For those of you wondering what I think about another certain new shirt, I think that the new Dinosaur Comics shirt is awesome. Why do I think that? I'm not going to tell you; this is "xkcdsucks" not "dinosaurcomicsrock."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Comic 455: A steaming pile of horse shit mixed with fresh bull piss

So this is what you are reduced to, randall. This, a pathetic excuse not only for a comic but for drawing - four and a half disgusting panels, featuring the charred remains of a once-great character, featuring no text, no story, no joke, obviously, no reason to care, and most importantly, no reason for me to not punch you in the face.

I thought we had it bad with this piece of shit:

At least that was part of a broader storyline, even if it was a lame one. At least you knew what was happening - a dude was sitting there and he was depressed, probably because he applied to transfer to Dinosaur Comics or something and they rejected him, so he was stuck in this xkcdump.

Do I really need to go into this comic? Aren't its thousands of flaws painfully obvious? I suppose I must. I'll be brief.

Formerly hilarious but now lame Mr. Hat, known for his distinctive black hat (since he is no longer known for sarcasm and creative bitterness), is walking along (apparently, though there's precious little implies movement) and he sees a guy awkwardly wearing two black hats. HOLY SHIT DID YOU JUST BLOW MY MIND? I THINK MAYBE YOU JUST DID. Then he backs up or is blown away or something. fin.

wow, genius! The guy...he has two hats! HEIGHTS OF HILARITY, RIGHT HERE.

Needless to say, the dipshit cocksuckers at the xkcd forums are jizzing their pants at the sheer brilliance of this comic strip. There've been 130 comments in less than a day.

"TheHand" writes: "Haha I love it!"
Dumb fatass "Master Gunner" says "lol, yet more completely, utterly, absurd, awesomeness, courtesy of Randall Munroe."
kgirlfae must have just started reading: "One of my favorite comics overall..."

There are all manner of "crazy theories" about whether the second guy is wearing two hats OR IS HE WEARING A HAT WHICH IS WEARING ITS OWN HAT??? you don't know! IS IT ANOTHER DUDE WITH A BLACK HAT OR IS IT MRS. HAT WITH HER HAIR SHAPED LIKE A HAT??? you don't know! OR MAYBE MR. HAT IS THE ONE WEARING TWO HATS. YOU DIDN'T THINK OF THAT, EH? you don't know! THAT IS THE GENIUS OF THIS COMIC. MAYBE THOSE LINES ARE MR. HAT'S MAGNETIC FIELD AS HE PREPARES TO DECIMATE HIS FOE? you don't know!

any of those could be true! this is the crazy sort of adventure that superhuman comic hero and second coming of christ himself randall munroe thinks of!

NO.

There is a simpler explanation.

the comic sucks.

that is all.

relax people.

it's just a super, super lame comic.

Who knows, it could be some prologue to a better story to come. Or it could be followed by a comic that says "Monday's comic was intentionally lame. If you laughed, you are an idiot; please leave my website." But somehow I doubt it. I hope to god I am wrong.

Why won't people admit it? After a very good run, Randall Munroe can no longer think of three funny ideas every week. So he's doing artsy bullcrap. It's ok to like it. But call it what it is: artsy bullcrap. Not a comic. You aren't fooling anyone.

I'm going to go drink heavily now.

And probably shoot myself.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comic 454: Raises more questions than it answers

Really, Randall? This is what you think is funny now? "It's a phone line but I do it through the fax machine, so it is wireless a ha ha ha ha ha ha HA!" Who uses faxes? How is a fax possibly more convenient than...than anything? How is it easier to get an ethernet cable coming out of a fax than plugging it into the wall? Wouldn't it be funnier if this was a way of extending the cable rather than upgrading it or whatever? Also, don't faxes work over phone lines anyway, so how is this an upgrade? Also, aren't you aware that at no point in the history of time has a fax machine worked properly? FAIL.

On presentation, you get a 0. The walls make it look like you have divided this into three panels, which it clearly is not. I would have gone for no walls and a sort of zig-zag cutting thing in the middle to show that there is space you are cutting out.

Alas, the forums were no help in understanding if I was missing something. As usual. There were only 45 comments on this comic - compare that to 153 for the hurricane comic on Wednesday and 87 for mission. Obviously those have been around a few days longer but still, not up to speed, comments on comic 454! It's just an uninspiring visual gag that I think makes most people go "eh."

In the future, I will comment on the new shirt that Mr. Munroe is selling. Spoiler alert: I don't like it! End of spoiler alert.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Comic 453: Hurricane Invasion!

I've delayed writing this until after a newer comic is up (haven't read it yet) because I just have nothing to say. I suspect that had I not started this blog I would find this comic somewhat amusing, though nothing special. As it is, I see a map with three sentient, evil hurricanes (of which Bermuda is the funniest, because it is lost and so its destructive power is hi-lariously dissipated) and three hurricanes designed to make special shapes which are not even close to the usual shape of hurricanes!

The Freud one makes me think Randall is fully committed to the wide (and satisfying!) world of dick jokes. Though I must say - and if this starts another long conversation in the comments, so be it - that even though I think Freud was basically always wrong, he did, in fact have ideas apart from stuff sometimes looks like a penis. That's basically all most people know about him now; this is not limited to xkcd alone, of course. But you know, he had lots of other stuff to say about early childhood development and shit like that.

And I must say - I was very surprised to see Randall include cos(x) here but not make it actually a cosine graph. He could have zoomed out just a tad, to include the equator, and made the origin the place where the equator hits the left side of the panel, and made the cos graph start at its highest point and go down from there. It's nearly a sin graph as it is.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this one? I basically have nothing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Comic 452: Back to our story already in progress...

Can someone tell me what is happening here? I mean I understand the story contained within these four panels, but I feel like I'm missing something. I assume that Bakery Boy is the same guy who thought the airport was a bakery and who happened to be in a bakery he loved while he was singing.

When we first met Bakery Boy, I said that I liked the idea of a character always assuming that he was going to a bakery. I don't think it stays funny when he assumes that he is always in a bakery, because that's just incredibly bad perception and possibly developmental disability (he is, after all, eating metal in the end). Even so, I'm not sure the joke works a second time. We know he assumes he is going to a bakery, now...he assumes things are scones. OK.

The real problem is of course that we have no idea what story is going on. We know very little about Bakery Boy and we have no idea anything about the other dude. Where are they? Is there perhaps a logical reason that one could assume they were in a bakery? Why does the normal guy trust the stupid guy with explosives? All of these questions have potentially funny answers. I am hopeful that a few more comics in this series could tell a good and a funny story, but on its own this comic is a little odd.

Also, it's clear that Randall is trying out a lot of very different ideas for what he wants to do next with xkcd - looks like he's leaning towards longer stories with more established characters. Not a bad choice for when you run out of standalone jokes, but still it's a little weird to see him trying it out right in front of us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Andy Rooney Sucks

Ok ok, I know it's off topic. But for two weeks now I have, inexplicably, found myself watching Andy Rooney's segment at the end of 60 minutes. Basically he is a cranky old man who gets to complain about one thing at the end of each installment. And it's terrible. It made me want to start an Andy Rooney Sucks blog except that I suspect that no one else likes him either so what would be the point.

This past week he spent a few minutes complaining about one aspect of American society that you don't hear about much: the unpleasantness of airline travel. He pointed out, astutely, that it can be a hassle when planes are delayed! and that even when they are on time it is often uncomfortable on the plane! Ha ha, good one, Andy!

But that was the better of the two segments I saw. Last week he complained that milk does not taste as good as when he was a boy.

Click the screen cap for the video, if you really want.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Comic 451: Math people are STILL better than you

Oh joy, another comic reminding us that if we have not chosen a hard science as a field of study, we are stupid. Good thing too, because it's been more than a month since his last reminder.

Which isn't to say it isn't funny. The set up and punchline work pretty well, and the "total idiot lost in the world he is in" is a reliable trope (see: Borat) which is done well in the first three panels.

But it's kind of juvenile and insulting. Randall Munroe doesn't understand literary criticism, and so he thinks it's stupid and easy to fake. Ok. I don't understand it either, but I don't understand math. You could easily make this same comic with some complicated equation in the last panel and I would find it just as funny. A math person wouldn't, just as to a literary person panel 4 is total BS (I can only assume...). Randall really, with this comic, is not saying "literary criticism and related fields are BS" so much as "I don't understand them so they must be BS" which is pretty dumb.

I say this as a person who once very foolishly took a course called "Media Aesthetics" and did, in fact learn about Derrida and Deconstructionism. Well I didn't learn it, the teacher attempted to teach it, but as far as I am concerned, failed. I am a social science person. But I know it's not really science. I am, however, a social science person who thinks it probably is possible to rank people from best to worst, approximately.

Also - does anyone else find the tiny little hands in the comic, especially in panel 3, really freaky and weird? update: Credit where it's due, this was not an original observation but something pointed out on the forums.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comic 450: PENIS GAME!!

Remember that game? The one that was the most hilarious thing ever in 4th grade?
I have mixed feelings on this one. Before I get started, yes, the art is quite cool. Someone has found the "gradient" tool on photoshop, and I am proud of that Someone.

I do appreciate the comedic framework here. Serious and somber, solemn, reflective (ha!) etc, and then a sudden jump to a dick joke. Basically there is no way around the following fact - which I personally had told to me in a disappointed tone of voice from a former member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, so he knows what he's talking about - a dick joke can be as complicated or clever as you want, but in the end, it's just a dick joke. Anyone can make one because we are so awkward about sexual stuff that it will always be funny in a sort of instinctive way. And I was hearing this in response to a joke I had made - nay, a joke I had crafted. I thought it was great, and I had actually sat down and made it as good a joke as I could, and so I was of course very biased, but looking back now, it was not so special.

In fact, I once knew a webcomic that mocked how easy these jokes were...

Which isn't to say this is bad, relatively speaking. The sudden jump from serious to penis-y is good, if formulaic. And the vaguely supervillian, Mr. Burns-stealing-the-sun-style alt-text amused me as well. But in the end, yeah, ok, DUDE HALF OF THE WORLD HAS ONE OF THOSE so it's not really that funny.

Penises. They Exist.

Now can we please, as a culture, move on?

Comic 148: A Look Back

No particular reason for this post, other than that I felt like (a minimal amount of) photoshopping and that I reread this comic the other day and thought it would be fun to mock. So basically, is there a difference between this comic...


...and this one?See this one really is just about being annoying. The response to "I think you mean website" is either "Oh yeah, I did" (not going to happen here) or "No, it's pretty clearly wobsite." Or if you want to mispronounce some more, "No, it's pretty clorely wobsite" or some such. But why the hell would say, basically out of nowhere "why don't you write about it in your blag?" Just because you have this one word you really want to say wrong so you force it into a sentence and you force that into the conversation. Why the hell would the character on the right want to put it on a blog??

Honestly, I usually like "My Hobby" comics but the more I think about it, this one is just stupid. Made worse by the fact that he calls his own blog a blag, still.

update: I wrote a whole new paragraph!
update 2: Ha ha, I just noticed that the url for the 2nd image there is http://bp3.blogger.com/_7sRArBiqnC4/SH-3rsFQmnI/AAAAAAAAAI8/ROcR91zVDe4/s1600-h/annoying.jpg . It's like someone is screaming in the middle of my url! Ok fine I don't care what you think I THINK IT'S FUNNY.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Comic 398: A Thoughtful Essay On "Tap That Ass"

This is a post that I've been meaning to write for a while. It concerns comic #398, which came only a few weeks before I began writing this blog. It was one of the comics where I thought, "Man, he has really lost his touch," and when it continued long enough, I felt compelled to take action. When in the course of human events, a webcomic stops being good, etc, etc.

Let's look at the comic, shall we?


So there you have it. Three panels which follow a similar pattern, and a fourth which suddenly changes the pattern, a usual formula for Laughter and other Good Times.

The joke is supposed to be that a character says, in each of the first three panels "I'd tap that ass..." which, of course, usually means "I would have sex with..." but then after a pause (and a physical break in the text) you see that they are not, in fact, talking about having sex with anyone, but rather much more mundane actions. Then, the last panel is a sort of "says what we're all thinking" panel, and the character just out and out says he wants to have sex with a tree (which we are meant, for a moment, to think the character in Panel 3 wants as well).

So what is the problem? It's actually fairly simple:

--"I'd tap that" means to have sex with, to choose (panel 1), to listen in on a phone call (panel 2) or to take a whack at/drill a hole into a tree(panel 3).

--"I'd tap that ass" means to have sex with. NOTHING ELSE.

None of the first three panels make sense. If you were, in fact, going to tap a phone, and you were, in fact, going to ruminate on it ahead of time, you would not say, "I'd tap that ass without a warrant." The only thing that that sentence means is "I would have sex with that person without a warrant." A logical sentence, perhaps, but not the one that is depicted in the picture. Same for Panels 1 and 3. In fact, it's an even worse problem in Panel 1 - because the phrase "I'd tap that ass to be the new committee chair" does, in fact make sense - it means "I would have sex with that person in order to get a promotion," which is, you must admit, a fairly common idea. Having sex with the right people to get ahead.

If he had just gotten rid of the word "ass" in all the panels it would have worked!
"I'd tap that..." ambiguous! maybe sexual! laughter! "...without a warrant." And then you see it's different from what you thought, and your brain has to jump to the new meaning, and suddenly you have a ONE WAY TICKET TO HILARITYTOWNE.

I don't know why Randall make this the way he did. I would have thought that basic comedy sense would have corrected him.

late late update: Reader Matthew photoshops the way this comic should be. You cannot tell me the original is better than this.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Comic 449: Things Fall Apart

I'm not sure what the point of this comic is. I know it's not trying to be funny - at least not funny in a way that makes you laugh, or makes you happy or anything. If it's supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be funny in a very sad way. The problem is that this comic doesn't do anything for anyone: If you've never been in that situation then you don't understand it; if you have, then all it does is remind you of horrible feelings (though different kinds of horrible, depending on which side you were on).

If you are going to say "OH but it's artistic, it's meaningful" well not really. Unless he really thinks that no one has every thought to put this feeling in print before, he's not doing anything new or interesting. He's basically just saying "Hey guys, here's a common situation and guess what? I UNDERSTAND IT A BIT."

In short, I don't see how anyone can come away from this comic feeling any kind of happy, or even thinking about sad things in a new way, unless they totally lacked imagination.

On a related note, the excellent comic Achewood is both funny and depressing (and just plain awesome). For example, this is pretty sad. And of course the comics that dare to ask What Is The Saddest Thing? Chris Onstad is allowed to do this with no Achewood Sucks blog from me for two reasons - 1, they can also be insanely funny, 2) the sad ones are usually part of a larger story or at least build character development; in xkcd the characters are usually faceless and you don't see them over time, so you don't ever care.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Comic 448: Global Nonsense

Again, a wholly boring comic. First of all, in what way could it possibly be easier to figure out the timezone where people sleeping from midnight to 8 would have sleep schedules concurrent with yours? Why not just say "DUDE I totally was up till like 6 yesterday I totally like ate dinner FOR BREAKFAST." Obviously that isn't funny; neither is this comic. Oh and it goes without saying that this only works if you sleep exactly 8 hours a night (or some other standard length). Usually, when my sleep schedule is messed up it also affects how much I've slept, so I would have several options of time zone.

I wonder why he didn't make this a "My Hobby:" comic? It seems pretty natural - "My Hobby - Referring To My Internal Clock By Where It Seems To Be." Whatever.

Seriously - and I won't mock for this because it's not something I can argue about - did anyone actually find this funny? Not just "cute" or "amusing" but if you read this and actually laughed or something close tell me. I just can't believe it's possible.


By the way - if any of you loyal readers are on the xkcd forums, I would totally piss my pants in excitement if you started a thread on this blog. Yeah I'm full of myself, is that not OK? Send me a link - czwheeler@gmail.com

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Comic 447: Too Old For This Shit

I have noticed that I have had the same reaction to the past few comics. That reaction is "huh." There's nothing wrong with this comic, but I read it and I go "ok, yeah?" Is the joke just that the kid is young but acting like an older person? Is it, thus, a comment on the earlier and earlier ages at which we lose the innocence of our youth? Or perhaps a sadly ironic commentary on the tragedy that while mathematical concepts and constants stay the same for eternity, we must age?

I doubt it. But I have no idea. So I decided to make this an open forum. e-mail me a blog post to put here, in my style or not, and I'll post the ones I like. czwheeler@gmail.com.

Because this comic wholly uninspires me.

Update: I didn't get any responses I liked enough to put up here, which doesn't surprise me that much. There's nothing to say to this. Just sort of staring blankly is all I think anyone could come up with. And, of course, the pathetic excuse that it's not meant to be funny. Good try, my friends. But that excuse is lame.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Comic 446: Firefly Isn't "Popular"

So the joke is that....nerds edit wikipedia? I guess? And add nerdy references even to something that is boring? FUNNY.

Sorry, but like MacGyver, wikipedia is just too easy a target. That's why it's been done before. A lot. Even the "only obsessive nerds use wikipedia" joke is old. Come to think of it, where else have I heard wikipedia jokes ...

So...again, not a bad comic, in that it doesn't make me mad, but just - eh? What's the point?

PS - Who thinks Randall is actually a Simpsons fan? I don't. But I have no evidence. I should find some!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Comic 445: It can't possibly suck as hard as it looks like it sucks

I AM GOING TO assume that there is an episode of Firefly where some guy sucks at throwing boomerangs. Or that there is a bonus level of guitar hero that I have yet to unlock where you get a shark to fly at you. Or that at last week's geohashing and randall munroe worshipping excursion somewhere, a floating girl appeared and broke up with people. There must be some explanation for why this comic makes sense, and I simply don't get it.

Because I would hate to think that there is nothing more to this comic than meets the eye. Because how it appears to me - stupid, stupid old me - that a guy is throwing a boomerang and it hits him, then several hit him, then a shark appears, and then a floating girl appears to break up with him. Because that comic would just suck so very hard. So very, very hard.

Of course my first stop when this happens is that first ring of hell, the xkcd forums, to see if they could help explain it, as has happened on occasion. And there was no explanation, only a long discussion of people re-ordering the comics to make something mildly better. I applaud this sentiment, and if Randall's goal was something like this I guess I kind of understand, though none of the new creations are actually that funny. I don't think that was his intent though. I can't quite explain why (something about the alt-text) but I am fairly certain he had a particular story he wanted to tell here, not provide the base units for other stories.

Also, what is freaking up with all these comics with basically no words? I know there's some at the end here but still, it's not artistic, it's annoying.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Comic 444: Randall and Macgyver Get Lazy

See here is the thing. This is not a bad comic. It's just...kinda lazy. Macgyver is a very easy target, so to speak, because the premise of the show was so ridiculous. It's not hard to make fun of - that's why, for example, Patty and Selma are obsessed with him on The Simpsons (his best line on the Simpsons - "Don't thank me, thank the moon's gravitational pull".)

Anyway, it's not a bad comic, just an easy one.

Wait till you hear my thoughts on the newest one, number 445. Oh lord. I am saving my spite for that one, let me assure you.

update: Oh yeah, alt-text? I think it's clear that the greatest wikipedia list is obviously Fictional Ducks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Comic 443: Far, Far Too Much Information

I want to start off this post by explaining that I am NOT going to complain about quirky relationships. The joke isn't about a quirky relationship (I don't put "light bondage" into the category of "quirky", for one thing); it's about a hilarious and painful mistake that the characters Deserve for being Dangerous Sexual Deviants. I like the rhythm of it too, with a noun at the top of each frame and then a sort of counterpoint description at the bottom.

I do have one complaint - this is very technical and you will no doubt find it boring. So skip it. But -

The bottom line, "Relationship After Camping Trip: Strained" should not be where it is at all. It nearly ruins the flow of the joke. Here's why - the bottom line is essentially acting as a caption. It is removed from the other frames, stretches the whole width of the comic, and is at the bottom. As such, it reads like a description or title for the whole comic (for an example of this being used more or less effectively, see comic 365). The caption can probably be read either before or after the rest of the comic and it will work about equally well.

But that's not the purpose the "Relationship" line serves - it should be read last. I posit that it would noticeably dampen the humor to read that line first. The "Relationship" line is the punchline. The first four lines are the set up - they are almost like a syllogism:

1. Virginia Creeper Looks like X and can be used as a rope
2. Poison Ivy Looks Looks Like Y and grows near Virginia Creeper
(implied conclusion [a] - they look alike)
3. Girlfriend is into bondage
(1 and 3 imply [b], that vines will be used for bondage)
4. Campfire is dark

All lead to implication [c], the punchline, namely that poison ivy was used by accident. Because we have to make that jump in our minds, it is funny. In many cases (puns being a good example, but many jokes fit) you have to make the conclusion yourself, and when you do, that's what makes it funny. Had the syllogism been spelled out, it wouldn't work as a joke, or at least, not nearly as well.

Yes, the last line is at the bottom, and so it is read last, but it would have been better to present it in the same form as the others - in a small box, and to make it clearly at the end. Yes, I know this would give you 5 boxes and maybe it would look weird, but Randall is a smart boy and I'm sure he could figure something out. A 6th box to add, or perhaps stretching out the two plant boxes.

Anyway, this just goes to show that while Randall M. can be funny, there are times when he just doesn't understand humor in the best way. Another example of this is in my long and complex thoughts on comic 398, which I have been meaning to dissect like this for a while. Sometime later (suffice it to say it's a sucky comic that would need only the tiniest of changes to be much funnier).

Anyway, that's all. Damn but I write a lot. Hope you didn't read that whole thing.


Update: A loyal reader sends in a version that uses the magic of photoshop to make this a better comic:

I find this much better. Tell me what you think, gang.