Sunday, August 31, 2008

John McCain needs a new humor advisor

I'm going to risk jumping into the sea of politics here, but I heard something recently that I think is worth mentioning here. It's an example of John McCain attempting to tell a joke and failing in a way which I think is instructive. It's been in the news a bit because he just picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate, and so people are replaying this quote of his from his 2000 where he ruminates on the purpose of the vice president:

"The vice president has two duties: One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other -- and the other is to go to the funerals of third world dictators."

(read it on CNN, if you doubt me! it's in there if you scroll down enough)

This joke is terrible. Can you spot the flaws in the humor? I'll give you a chance to think about it...

(cue jeopardy music...)

Did you get it?

The problem is that he is telling the punchline first. Everyone knows that Vice Presidents go to funerals, the joke is that they want the president to die so they can become president. So it totally ruins the rhythm of the thing to have the funny answer first and the real answer later.

Also, he would be much better off if his list of duties had three, not two, items. I'm not going to get into why I generally am a strong believer in the rule of three, but I am, and given that McCain left off his list the one actual, Constitutional duty of the Vice President I think it is only logical to lengthen the list. So here is how he should say it from now on:

"There are only three things the Vice President needs to do. One is break ties in the Senate. The other is to attend state funerals. And the last is to inquire daily as to the health and well being of the president."

There should be a sly pause before the last item on the list, and it should be said with utter sincerity and concern. It may still be unfunny, but it'll be a lot better.

In any case, it's better than Sarah Palin's answer as to what the Vice President does:

(and if you are wondering, no, I did not just learn how to embed videos. I just only recently thought to actually do it.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Comic 468: This comic contains all the jokes contained in the empty set

this image isn't loading, but trust me, you're not missing much

As stated previously, I am very busy these days (only for another week though!) and I was not going to comment on this comic, but then a commenter offered to do my work for me and so how could I say now? Like the two previous guest posts, I don't agree with all of it, though in this case that's because it's at an intellectual level waaaaay above what this blog is usually at. I think its author knows a serious amount about logic and stuff. The author declined to give a name, so I made one up. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the xkcdsucks stylings of Jermane Snappybritches!

#468, at first glance, looks like yet another let’s-make-oblique-reference-to-something-intellectual-instead-of-having-a-real-joke comic, which may be mildly amusing but fall short of being funny. However, if you are familiar with logic and set theory this comic isn’t amusing, but rather will bug you because of the mistakes it contains. If I were Randall I would draw a graph at this point correlating amusement with knowledge of formal logic, which would make a nice bell shaped curve. I won’t though. With that said, here are the comic’s problems:

1) #468 seems to be an attempt to wring humor out of a self-referential membership paradox. Famous examples of this sort of paradox are “the barber who shaves every man who does not shave himself, and no others” and “the set that contains all sets which do not contain themselves”. If you suppose that the barber does shave himself then that contradicts the claim that he shaves only men who do not shave themselves. And if you suppose that he doesn’t shave himself then this contradicts the claim that he shaves every man who doesn’t shave himself. The comic seems to be alluding to this kind of paradox, with the idea that “Gödel’s” fetish can’t be on the list, but neither can it be missing from the list. The problem with all this is that the man famous for dealing with and introducing these kinds of paradoxes is not Gödel, but Russell himself (see, for example, his famous 1908 paper: Mathematical Logic as based on the Theory of Types). And Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica contains rules explicitly designed to rule out the introduction of such paradoxes, again because they were aware of them long before Gödel arrived on the scene.

So why bring Gödel into this? I don’t know, and it seems to indicate a misunderstanding on Randall’s part. It’s true that Gödel threw a wrench into the work begun with the Principia Mathematica, but he didn’t do so by raising a contradiction for it. Rather he showed that if every statement or its negation had a proof within the system then a contradiction would result. Therefore he concluded that there wasn’t a proof within the system for every statement or its negation. This is a clever use of contradiction, but it does not amount to Gödel posing a devastating paradox for the work of R&W, as the comic seems to be implying. So that’s problem #1: what the hell is Gödel doing in this comic?

2) Problem #2 is that there is no real contradiction involved here. In the comic R&W are collecting a list of fetishes, not names for fetishes or expressions of fetishes. And thus “Gödel’s” response poses no problem for them. Here’s the simplest explanation of why: suppose their list was complete. Then “Gödel’s” answer would be a complicated way of saying "nothing”. And there is no paradox in that. Now Randall may have realized this; the alt text does say that they found a way to resolve this problem (although this may equally mean that he doesn’t see it, since there is really nothing to resolve). But it goes on to imply that they ran into an infinity paradox. Which is also not necessarily the case. The list of candidates for fetishes may be finite. Or they may have reduced their list to one word “everything”.

Obviously this is all very nit-picky. And in most cases I wouldn’t bother to worry about such details. However, if you want to aim your comic at "intellectuals" you should spend some time getting the details right, just as if you made a comic aimed at mechanics you wouldn’t want to confuse the carburetor with the catalytic converter (and I sincerely hope those aren’t different names for the same car-part).

If you understood all that you are a smarter dude than I am. I think what the last part means is basically "This Gödel guy has some fetishes. They are either on the list or they are not. Unless he's lying or just changing what he's into to mess with list people, which is not contradicting logic but rather being a douchebag, which is different." If that's not what Jermane is saying there then whatever, it's what I'm saying here.

Seems to me this comic was just Randall's lame way of mashing sex and logic in a way that feels very forced. As I told Jermane in our e-mail conversation, the joke could just as easily been "my favorite food is anything that's not on your list" or "my favorite pizza toppings are anything not on your list" etc. It was like Randall just went "ha ha i will add SEX and it will be hilarious tee hee sex." Also like he just went "Oh man I just finished reading Gödel Escher Bach FINALLY so hey I'll write a comic about it kind of."

Also, just so people know, as far as I am aware all three of our guest posters are, in fact, different people. I am quite sure of this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Comic 467: 1comic0jokes

[If you didn't see my post requesting general feedback about this blog, as well as an unsatisfying explanation for why posts are sporadic for the next 10 or so days, check it out here]

sucktastic comics ahoy
While I will almost surely regret this tomorrow, I am staying up Past My Bedtime to post some quick and fairly belated thoughts on this comic, because they are simple and short.

1 - Hey hey, just when I foolishly thought he'd already mocked every meme out there, he comes out with another one.

2 - Hey hey, just when I foolishly thought he'd gotten sick of goddamn google search . Dude: It's just a search engine. Relax, ok? We don't all want unscientific studies in place of our comics.

3 - "Cups" should be "cup/cups." With the plural in there, "2 girls 1 cups" is both ungrammatical and inaccurate, as a google search for it brought up, as of this writing, only 2,750 hits. You'd think that maybe he'd make mistakes elsewhere in the chart, not in the key block.

4 - What's the point? There's a popular well-known video online, and it has many google hits. But variations of its name do not! EUREKA. I must report these findings to the world!

Update: It's tomorrow, and I regret it!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Immediate and Long Term Future

As you maybe saw, I have yet to comment on last Friday's comic. Partly that's because I have little to say besides "eh" but that's never stopped me before. I've been very busy and will be for the next two weeks. It's possible I will have time to write some quick posts and it's possible I will do some kind of end of the week summary of the week's comics. I'm not sure yet.

Anyway I figured this is as good a time as any to reflect on the monster I have created here and what its future is.

It's been about 4 months since I started this blog. That means it's been around, oh, approximately 3 months and 28 days longer than I was expecting. I have come to love it in a strange way, and this is emphatically not an announcement about ending the blog. I have no plans at all to end it.

However - I am wondering if there are any changes you would like to see. On my end, it's basically been the same deal - each time there's a new xkcd up, I read it, think about why it's bad, tell myself I should give it another chance, check the forums to make sure I'm not missing something important, and then, usually just before the next one goes up, I write the post. Occasionally some other topic comes up and I write about that.

So there are a few ideas I've had and I am curious which ones you guys think you'd like. For example -

---Branch out - talk about other webcomics more (sort of like the PBF post)
---Mock the forum-dwellers with more regularity - perhaps a weekly post making fun of one commenter in particular
---Go back and analyze some of the older comics, both good and bad
--a variant of that: Intersperse my generally negative comments about the newest comics with analysis of good older ones and why I think they work well
---Tone - meaner? Nicer?
--- More posts from other people

Should I write more? Less? Should I skip the occasional comic that doesn't interest me?

Anything sound good? Or do you have your own brilliant idea?

Basically I am looking for any and all feedback. As usual, put it in the comments or e-mail .

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comic 465: The Amazing Vanashing Talent

I basically do not have to work anymore. Here's another guest post (not from Stanley Spitz this time). As usual, I do not agree with everything he says, but I am a fat lazy bum so deal with it. So with no further ado, here's Mr. Esteban Smarinetti-
Let's say you have a group of 30 nerds who want to watch a movie. These nerds are an eclectic, and varied group. Some of them are easily and deservedly mocked film geeks, most are science and tech geeks, and maybe a few that don't really meet either label other than general nerdery. You propose two movies to watch. One of them is Bonnie and Clyde, a movie that gave birth to Hollywood's Second Golden Age with its radical use of violence, unprecedentedly explicit sexuality, and proposition that two murderous bank robbers could be counterculture antiheroes. The other movie is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, whose politics never went beyond "Nazis...I hate those guys," and pretty much defined campy, popcorn-munching entertainment for Generation X and Yers. I think anyone who reads this blog and those who read xkcd would predict that crowd would choose to watch Indiana Jones by a vast majority. I also think that a smaller but still substantial majority would also agree that Bonnie and Clyde is a better movie. Indiana Jones, however, is safer, and more enjoyable to watch in a crowd (read: easier to make fun of and quote incessantly). This thought experiment is meant to show that, in a group of intelligent, educated people, nostalgia and camp value is more valuable than searching for quality in art. Whether this is predominantly due to postmodernism, contemporary political apathy, or some other cultural factor I cannot say, but it is certainly a troubling thing to think about when you care as much about art as I do.

Randall Munroe is not to blame for this particular trend, but he has certainly taken advantage of our love of nerd nostalgia—dare I say exploited it—for his own reputation and self-aggrandizement. Wednesday's xkcd tackles the Father Superior of nerd geek nostalgia: Star Trek. Make no mistakes about it, despite it classifying itself as "normal" as opposed to "quantum" teleportation, this is still a reenactment of a Star Trek ritual that rivals only a Darth Vader breath in its ability to give nerds boners.

While Randall may have been able to get away with a post like this a couple of years ago, he's exhausted his options here. The post directly preceding Wednesday's was a surface-level inversion of a popular 90s television show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (few things are loved by nerds more than anything having to do with the 80s or 90s). Four comics previous to that, he not only used the same joke about popular misconceptions of science due to movies (this time it was Jurassic Park), but continued his trend of spending far too long on an extending story to make a pun that hasn't been funny since the first time he did it over a year ago... The comic right before that one was a Ghostbusters reference. For those who haven't been keeping score, that's 4 out of the 7 previous xkcd posts that have made overt references to beloved nerd pop culture artifacts. And two of the other ones both referred to movie cliches, one with Morgan Freeman sounding comforting (tastefully timed after his automobile accident, may I add), and one using Google Maps for a horror movie cliche. So in actuality, it's really 6 ironic references to pop culture cliches and geek movies/television shows out of the last 7 posts. Any more posts like these, and we may actually want to see the mushy love comics again.

What strikes me about Randall's use of pop culture so heavily of late is how incredibly dated it seems and how out of character it is for Randall. In truth, this kind of humor was already falling out of favor before xckd was even published. Randall got away with it in earlier days because a) his pop culture references were much rarer and b) usually included a twist of science humor that was still fresh at the time (this comic being the classic example). But what's particularly appalling about this recent trend is that in one of the very first xkcd's was devoted to calling out exactly this kind of use of humor. Rereading this comic after the last few weeks of xkcd is like the scene in Citizen Kane when a bitter, older, ruthless capitalist Kane is sent the manifesto claiming to be a people's advocate that he wrote as a young, green, idealist newspaper mogul. But of course, that comes from a sincere movie, so that parallel is likely to go over the xkcd fanbase's head.


Thanks, Esteban. As before, e-mail if you want to talk about writing something for this blog. All authors are paid (compliments) handsomely!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic 464: All you 4chan readers will LOVE this one!


There are two very different levels on which I would like to discuss this comic. We will begin with the simpler level, which is the individual comic.

Besides the fact that basically no one outside 4chan has heard of a "Bel Air" (so the joke has an even more limited appeal than usual for xkcd) I liked it, more or less. This is basically what a "Reverse Bel-Air" would look like, I suppose. Perhaps I am getting a little tired of Randall's "internet meme" comics which all take the form "Find an internet meme and make it more so." This, or this, for example. I suspect, though, that given an internet meme he hasn't mocked, I could come up with a similar "but more so" comic. Hear that, commenters? The game is on.

Oh also I don't think a reverse bel air would only work once. Depends on how often people around you sing the fresh prince theme song.


If T-Rex wanted to talk about relationships at the end there,
I would have
said xkcd was copying him. But he didn't. And
this comic
maybe predates Bel Airing anyway.

A much better breakup comic.

Also: This seems as good a time as any to remind you about Fresh McCain of Washington.


Ok here it is - I can't help but notice this is his third comic recently about breaking up. 445 and 449 being the other two (I also can't help but view 458 in this light as well, and, for symbolic reasons, 457 as well...). I hope there is nothing wrong in Randall's life that he wants to talk about.

A Forumite pointed out that there have been no less that 4 relationship comics about a girl named "Megan." They are:

159 - Boy is romantic at Megan
215 - Boy breaks up with Megan
420 - Megan gets married, Boy is sad
439 - Things are "unresolved" with Megan. At least from Boy's point of view.

That last one is perilously close, in time, to 445 and 449. Honestly, when you look at it this way, it does seem to form a sort of story...But I think in the end Randall is not the kind of person who would put up comics so close to his real life. I think he just knows someone named Megan and uses the name a lot.

If we see more sudden sad relationship ending comics, though, we might want to check in and make sure everything is OK.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Softer World...More Like...a STUPIDER world! ha ha ha ha ha

So I got a few requests to talk about this A Softer World comic from, I dunno, two weeks ago or something. I've delayed because I still don't know what there is to say about it.

So the point is, I guess, that xkcd has vastly different expectations for men and women? You have Mr. Hat responding in very different ways to the same statement made by a man and by a woman.


But really the comic is just about Mr. Hat, who, we have established, has finished his transformation from a clever destructive dude to a piss drinking fucktard. So I don't really give much of a shit about him anymore.

The thing is though, for all of xkcd's faults, I really don't see sexism being a problem. I thought that comic 385 was pretty nice. Maybe you guys have some examples of it, but this comic
felt like satire but because there's no fundamental element of truth there, it didn't work for me.

In general, by the way, I don't read A Softer World. I find it depressing and not very funny. I do, however, like the xkcd parody of it. Ah, the old days, when I enjoyed xkcd....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Comic 463: Always Practice Safe Comedy

[Make sure you also see our very first guest post, which is about this comic but focuses more on the drawing than on the words]

Vote fraud is, as I said in my introduction to Stanley Sptiz's post, Very Serious Business. It's especially pathetic because an electronic voting machine with a paper ballot trail is a simple and effective way to have the efficiency of an electronic voting system with the accountability of a more traditional method.

But I digress.

When I read this, I felt like there was something off about it. I couldn't quite place it, but something about the delivery of the joke just felt wrong. And in my painful but necessary trip to the Forums (the things I do for you people...) someone posted what was apparently another version of this comic. It looks like this other version was posted first, and replaced by the one up now.

See if you, you budding Humor Analyst you, can tell the difference:

FINE it took me a while to see it too. Look at the third panel: In the new comic, the third panel reads:

"Imagine you're at a parent teacher conference, and the teacher reassures you that he always wears a condom while teaching."

In the original version, it reads:

"Imagine you are at a parent teacher conference, and the teacher reassures you that he cares about student safety. Which is why is always wears a condom while teaching."

For a fun game that YOU can play at home, which of these is better and why?

I would say that the original one is far superior. Its timing is exactly right - the perfectly innocent set up line - "the teacher cares about student safety" - and then a pause, which is actually represented by a little line in between the two sentences, and then the punchline: "so he always wears a condom." It works, you realize that "safety" in the first sentence meant safe sex, not general safety, and then the analogy dawns on you and you laugh at the joke. The analogy, it probably goes without saying, works especially well because both McAfee and condoms are designed to protect from viruses, albeit of different kinds.

The first one is much too clunky and confusing - he wears a condom while teaching. But you don't know where it's coming from; it's too direct.

Of course, both versions of the comic have the wholly unneeded 4th panel explaining the joke to you. "OH I'M SORRY LET ME EXPLAIN IT TO YOU. I WANT TO BE SURE YOU GET THE JOKE." It quite frankly ruins both, because you end up with the punchline in the second to last panel, not the last where it should be, and this extra little nothing tacked on to the end. (the alt text in comic 29 is basically the same deal)

I would say though, that if you cut out the last panel of the better version, you have a pretty good joke told pretty well. The question, of course, is why this was taken down in favor of the inferior one. I GUESS I WILL JUST HAVE TO ASK RANDALL WHEN I SEE HIM.

Comic 463: Special Guest Post

[Vote fraud is a serious business. Request a paper ballot when you go to vote this November. Unless you support different candidates than me, in which case, don't.]

Voting Machines
As I have occasionally alluded to, I have been thinking about getting guest writers to post here. Hearing the same voice on every xkcd strip may get tiring. So here's our first one, from Mr. Stanley Spitz:

This comic is pretty good. I mean, who doesn't chuckle when they're anticipating under-age rape? Only normally-adjusted adults, and none of them read (or blog about) xkcd anyway. But we can't just settle for "pretty good" and "chuckles" and "rape" and move on with our lives because our blog a mission (see left). Does our friend Randall have a mission? Is he using protection? Is it ribbed or spiraled? This comic helps us look at these tough questions.

The most important thing about "Voting Machines" is that it uses dialog at the thorough expense of any visual humor.

"But Stan," you may ask, "isn't this true of every xkcd? I mean, they're all talking stick figures."

"Huh. I GUESS," I might reply.

"Furthermore," you may continue, "aren't the emphasis on dialogue and the deliberately amateurish art part of the fun, even the satire, of the strip?"

"Well, crap, you've got me there," I might say. But I wouldn't say that because I've got a bigger, rantier point to make.

Indeed, the satire of using stick figures for a comic is pretty neat. Next time you open a newspaper, think about how many of the comics could have their figures replaced by featureless stick-figures with no loss of effect. Consider today's "Pearls Before Swine,"

Fig 1

The early xkcd comics ingeniously comments on this sad state of affairs. The smudgy hand drawn-art and the stick figures devoid of any expression cleverly show what little art is left in today's comic strips.

Fig 2

But we all get into trouble when we forget the joke. For example, I used to deliberately mispronounce "Chipotle" as "chä-pōt-əl" to make fun of people who said it like that. Now, I've just gotten into the habit and look like an ass when I say "Guys, let's hit Chä-pōt-əl," without realizing it.

So it is with Randall. These days, his characters aren't so amateurish and unexpressive that they're a form of statement -- they're just poorly drawn. Like today, they've got some expression (what with the pondering in panel one and the gesticulating in panels two and three), but it (1) doesn't add anything to the comic and (2) weakens the satire. I could point out the weaknesses with this xkcd strip by replacing the characters with early-xkcd characters.

Fig 3

And when you produce the thing you used to satire, it's time for a little soul-searching.



I don't agree with everything he wrote, but it's still interesting. I'll have a post later tonight about the actual text and joke of the comic.

If you are interested in writing something for this blog, shoot me an e-mail -

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Comic 462: Another Case Of Deja Vu

First of all, there is nothing comforting about imagining some kind of horrible, eye-less Morgan Freeman monster. Nothing at all. Seriously, what is that below where his eyes should be? Some kind of nasty scarred flesh? That's creepy and gross. Combine that with the faceless priest in panel 3 here and I think you have a solid argument that maybe Randall should learn to draw some eyes.

But ignoring that as best I can, how is this comic any different from this one?


Answer: While they both involve getting celebrities to voice someone's thoughts, the celebrities are of different races! Also the newer comic has a conveniently placed dick joke.

I would point out that this is the second comic in only the last 11 (11!) that references enlarging penises, and I would speculate as to what that suggests is preoccupying Randall's mind, I would, but I am, shall we say, a larger man than that.

PS - Jeremy Irons reminds me of a wonderful simpsons moment. Allison is a new girl who has joined Lisa's class and is even smarter than Lisa. At first happy to have someone at her level, then jealous of her, Lisa visits Allison at home. To quote from the good folks at the Power Plant:
Alison: It's great of you to come over, Lisa.  I really want us to be
Lisa: You're a wonderful person.
Taylor: Hi, Lisa, I'm Alison's father, Professor Taylor. I've heard
great things about you.
Lisa: Oh, really? I --
Taylor: Oh, don't be modest. I'm glad we have someone who can join us
in our anagram game.
Alison: We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a
description of that person.
Taylor: Like, er...oh, I don't know, uh...Alec Guinness.
Alison: [thinks] Genuine class.
Taylor: Ho ho, very good. All right, Lisa, um...Jeremy Irons.
Lisa: [looks with consternation] Jeremy's...iron.
Taylor: Mm hmm, well that's...very good...for a first try. You know
what? I have a ball. [pulls one from his pocket] Perhaps you'd
like to bounce it?
Ah, comedy...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Comic 461: Where Have I Seen This Before?

I was all set to write a really positive post about this comic. Really, I was. I was going to mention that it was genuinely funny, had cool art, etc. I figured it was probably a good thing that every once in a while I really liked a comic, to prove to myself that I don't just have a bad attitude. I was going to think long and hard about the last time I enjoyed a comic that much, and I have a feeling it was going to be before this blog began.

Then I got this comment on my last post:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may find this link relevant when thinking about #461:

That links to the following Penny Arcade comic (click for original):

Can You Tell Me How To Get
That's from August 19th, 2002.

Jesus fucking christ.

It's the same comic. Basically. And don't say "OOOH well one is google maps and one is yahoo maps" because I will punch you in the face. It's the same comic. Map-making website gives bizarre, mysterious RPG like instructions. The end. That's a damn specific joke.

Obviously Randall Munroe reads PA because he's parodied it before. Twice. I think I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that Randall read this comic. I don't care how long ago, he read it, and he copied it almost identically.

He probably forgot about the original, I'm guessing at most he felt the idea was vaguely familiar and decided he was just being crazy and it was all his. Maybe he entirely forgot about PA's comic. He should still acknowledge the similarities and take his comic down.

I'm serious - copying ideas is a big problem in comedy (I'm looking at you, Mencia! asshole!) and I am willing to accept that Munroe just made a mistake, but it's a bad one, and he needs to correct it.

(as an aside, I am currently a few years into the PA archives, and enjoying it a lot, as someone who is not at all a gamer)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Comic 460: xkcd was also better when it was underground

ok ok ok I know that the point of this strip is just a pun, and I shouldn't take the first 3 panels seriously, but I must. The pun is only as strong as its foundation, and I'm not sure this foundation makes sense. Dinosaurs are always underground (in the literal sense) regardless of whether Hollywood makes a movie about them or not. I might believe that "Today's grad students....don't care about fossils" if there were anything else for paleontologists to study (say, if there were an actual Jurassic Park with actual dinosaurs to study). I don't think you get to grad levels of studying Dinosaurs without branching out just a tad bit from what is in a movie (and its terrible, terrible sequels...)

The problem with all this is that all the female character is saying is that she is bitter that today's new paleontologists are only into it because it is cool (or was, 15 years ago...) and that she was into it before it was cool. The pun is supposed to be that when they were not popular ("underground") they were also literally underground. And that only makes if paleontology is no longer about digging up bones (false, as far as I know) or if the Jurassic Park mania were still going on (certainly not the case). So it all adds up to basically just a tired and lame pun, and it's that kind of pun that gives the others a bad name.

I don't like Randall acting like he's an expert on all sorts of random fields. Obviously he can make plenty of computer science references because that's his thing but to get into details of paleontology seems kind of pretentious to me.

Also, while I respect the stick-figure style randall uses, it gets weird when you can't tell anything about a character - in this case, the characters' ages. Obviously they are older, but the kids they are complaining about look exactly the same in the comic.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Married To The Sea Summarizes What This Is All About

I am the one standing:

On a related note: Married To The Sea is highly recommended. Especially this one.


Holy Ghost

Is this the first overtly religion themed comic we've seen on xkcd? It might be interesting to see more. As a filthy hellbound atheist, I can say that there is plenty to make fun of in religion (though it would be a very different direction for xkcd to go).

As usual, I didn't think this was all that funny, perhaps because I think using a well known comedy as your own punchline is a bit of a cop out. Basically, at its core, this comic is just a play on the phrase "holy ghost" and the concept of "ghostbusters." I think a more interesting angle on it would be to actually show the capture of the Holy Ghost and what happens next with him and his captors, not just them getting in trouble later. It would have to deal with all the complexities and uncertainties of the concept of the holy ghost (how would you draw him?) but I think it would make it much more interesting and much funnier.

Also, if you want some hilarious awkward religious tension, read the forum thread on this comic. My favorite post was the one that started "It's nice to see so many Christians out there." Yeah, I'll bet you were feeling real lonely, what with Christians only being 75% of America.

Comic 458: Randall Tells You That You Are Not Kissing People Enough

I think we can all agree that this is not in any way a funny comic. Basically it's saying more mopey internet people wish they had kissed someone than wish they didn't, assuming they used the exact same phrasing as Randall used here.


The fact is that people don't do things more than they do things - for example, I currently regret not eating a burrito for lunch. I also regret not eating a delicious sandwich for lunch, I regret not eating several pounds of chocolate for lunch, and most of all, I regret not starting a multimillion dollar computer company during lunch, because I really would have liked that. It's not that people don't kiss each other enough, Randall, it's that people regret things more than they are glad about things they did do. That's why google gives 3 times as many hits for "I should have" as "I shouldn't have."

And anyway what is your point? That people often regret not kissing other people more than they regret kissing them, so you should kiss people more? Thanks for the tip, randall! Any other helpful advice? Because I have some advice for you: Stop writing a shitty romance advice comic, because we don't really care what you have to say.

And anyway, the "kiss people more" idea was already done way better by qwantz, and you can even buy that one on a shirt:

Feelings Are Boring T-Shirt

And as to the alt text - "And nothing for 'I'm glad I saw Epic Movie' " I can only say that currently, there are also no results for "I'm glad I read xkcd."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

man I am way behind

I know, I know.

I'll be back very soon, and I'll blog on the last three (three!) xkcds as well as that A Softer World comic and all the other stuff you've been sending my way.

apologies again, but I haven't forgotten about this...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Word On The Perry Bible Fellowship

Update, 12/21/2008: Alas, the Perry Bible Fellowship site is down, seemingly permanently. This is a great loss for webcomics in general. So the links below do not work. I found other copies of all but one of the comics that were on here.

Hey there, webcomic fans. I have some thoughts today.

The jokes are usually brilliant, the drawings are actual art and it's often wonderfully dark. See how good the drawing is? My blog looks classy just embedding it. Maybe you knew all this already. That's ok, it's not the point.

The point is that a few months ago, there were a whole bunch of fairly shitty (by PBF standards) comics. For example, this one:

Still not sure on what the point is there - preacher tries to be cool, preacher is clearly lame, preacher gets hurt. O.....k. And up till this point, PBF only very, very rarely missed. It was simply a very high quality comic.

Anyway the point is that after 10 or so fairly lame comics, PBF just stopped. Nick Gurewitch just stopped drawing it. It was getting too hard, he didn't want to always have to be thinking of jokes (not to mention the huge time committment his drawing was) and so he stopped, rather than dilute the quality of his work.

I think of all this because he recenly posted a new comic, apparently the first in five months, and it's just kind of eh (except its third panel, which is terrifying).

I have a lot of respect for the decision to stop. This is what I think xkcd should do. It's tough, because it means admitting that you are out of ideas, but honestly, if we keep getting this "guys you should kiss people!" shit it's basically admitting it anyway.

Anyway I'll leave you with one of the first PBFs, a great commentary on fighting in general:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Comic 457:

godDAMNit with the wordless comics. I am sick of them.

It took me a long time to get the joke here, believe it or not. I sort of saw the joke - but it felt wrong, like I was looking at it in a mirror or underwater or something. It didn't make me laugh, and I suspect most people would be hard pressed to say what the joke actually is - is it a comment on the difficulty of bra un-hookings? Is it an idea for a devilish, nerd-friendly product? Is it a nerdy fantasy, "if only I could understand women by going online and reading some tutorials! Tutorials with Java!"

I eventually came to the conclusion that it's basically just a comment along the lines of "bras are a puzzle just like any other one", and, perhaps on a deeper level, that nerds see only the physical puzzle and not the social and psychological one required to get there.

In any case I think it fails because it's too hard to see the point (and again, if you don't think that's the point of the comic, please tell me what is). Rubik's cubes are generally played with as physical objects, but they are entirely mathematical puzzles. That's why they can be done entirely on computers and solved by algorithm. It's really no different than if the cube in the comic were a series of addition problems.

I think he should have taken an actual physical puzzle - something like one of these bad dudes:

That would have been a much closer analogy and made a bit more sense. I mean, those puzzles are supposed to come apart in the end - even when you solve a rubik's cube you are left with the cube in one piece, and so it's not going to help you when you are getting laid. It's just going to be uncomfortable.

And the deal with the wordless comics is this - in this case, it's not a comic. Not by any stretch., It's just a flitter of an idea - something that popped into Randall's head. Most people would take this potentially funny idea and work with it, develop it into more than just a "hey what if this existed" joke - but apparently randall thinks it's fine to post as is, and hey, let's take off for the weekend.

Friday, August 1, 2008

an idea!

For the newest xkcd comic, what do people think of me doing it as a video of me solving a rubik's cube while commenting on the comic? Seems like it could be fun for a change. Or it might be lame. I'm not sure how else I could make my next post interesting. The video would be about three minutes long.

vote in the comments, my fine friends...

update: I decided against it! Mostly out of laziness. Perhaps sometime in the future.