Sunday, August 30, 2009

Comic 630: What's That, Little Girl? You Wish You Were Back In Your Own Time?

oh good GOD i am happy to be back. last week was a steaming swamp of mediocrity from xkcd and so I suppose I am glad that I didn't have to deal with it myself, but it's this week now and we've got us a new comic.

go back to when you came from

I'm not going to lie: This comic confused the fuck out of me. "She travels from the past in order to...demand bagels?" I thought to myself. "perhaps the caption will explain wait, still nothing. Let me try harder." And so I read and reread this comic, for hours and hours and hours, until I finally understood what it meant. She was born in 1983, so she is pretending that she has "traveled" here for some mundane thing. When really she was just living her life! I get it now.

The problem is that when we see that girl and "1983" we have no immediate reason to associate the two. Because we can't tell at all how old she is, because all Randall drew was a stick figure with some hair. Hell, it looks more like some guys I know than a girl. Apparently she's 26, but she might as well be 12 or 42 or 8 or 90 for all we can tell. That's why it's so hard to figure out what's going on until you use just some cold hard comedic deduction.

Even so, I still don't like it. It's the same sort of stupid playing with words that you get from sentences like "this is the first day of the rest of your life" or that dinosaur comic about a time machine that moves at one second per second. And when I read the alt-text ("She also starts every letter with 'Dear Future '."), all I can think of is the opening of that one Office episode when Jim steals Dwight's letterhead in order to send him faxes from his 'future self.' Much much funnier idea. Because there someone thinks they are hearing from their future selves; here, we just have a girl being annoying. Nothing more.

But I do have one thing that is nice to say about today's comic: Usually, Randall Munroe only has nice things to say about girls and only portrays them in a totally positive, cool, interesting, funny, sarcastic, etc, light. This is so that real-life girls will like him more. But today, he called a girl annoying! Maybe not in so many words, but it's there. So that's nice to see.

PS when the hell is that xkcd book going to come out? Isn't it like 3 months overdue? thousands and thousands of xkcdsucks points to the first person to send me the needed html to make a "xkcd book is ___ days overdue" clock. let's say, for reference, that it was supposed to come out June 15th of this year (that's a nice approximation for "mid june" I think). It will is proudly sit[ing] on my sidebar. [thanks to John for sending me the code basically instantly]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Comic 629: Falter Ego

Normally, when I read an xkcd comic, the flaw or gap in the humor is apparent on the first read, with possible nitpicks spotted the second or third time. Only takes a couple minutes max to get around a joke (or a stat concept, ha).

But this works for me. The first two panels had me worried, with Randall loading up his double barrels of meme humor "conventions" and "furries," but the third panel, expository as it was, made me chuckle. The joke is way better than that time he stood up for furries -- here, we have a non-moralizing joke!

The fourth panel is a little dry, but it gets his point across and is more effective than if the comic stuck with the packing scene. The flavor text (which was also on point) kind of begs for an SMBC-style bonus panel of two furry-humanies debating which kind of sex is better, perhaps as a staged event, with the crowd dressed according to its division, but that'd be more art than Randy's churned out in a while. All in all, this comic bucks the trend of making me wish it would go an extra mile and instead makes me thankful that it didn't forget a joke. Lowered expectations, or a minor success? I'm willing to believe. *releases a dove into the clear blue sky*

And I'm pleased that my guest week gets to end with an alright comic. I don't know how Carl deals with the bingo chart of hate-filled responses, but for my part, I enjoy the cameraderie of belittling someone else's efforts...when they're bad. And when there's cameraderie. If this blog was just blind nerd-rage without laughter, then I'd have moved on as soon as I arrived. If xkcd remained an alright comic with its own readers and no hypetarians trying to convert me to love it because SCIENCE LOL, I wouldn't have thought to hate it.

Instead, xkcd's litany of non-jokes is a tie and a book and a spreading guide to tech support, and the feedback here splits between "not a bad post" and "don't ever post here again," and that works. The old crew is aware that this fish tank-sized community only exists so long as spite towards xkcd exists, and the new arrivals seem to catch on to our fun-loving ways soon after their obligatory winded speeches about how we could be leading actual, rewarding lives. Somewhere along the way, hunting cuddlefish went out of vogue, and I don't know why (Amanda? Rob?).

So, while this post was written with the skin of someone who likes xkcd (this time!), I'm ready to don the hater skin come Monday. But we all know what's underneath.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comic 628: I Predict This Comic Sucks -- I Was Right! Love Me.

xkcd: the lighthearted moments of childhood abandon combined with the bratty humor of a cafeteria line.

As with many comics on xkcd, this one can be slightly modified to represent the interaction between xkcd and its admirers:

Walking Meme Bank: "I'm funny, you know."
Wandering Digg Member: "That's bullshit."
WMB: "Think of a meme from 1981 to 2009"
Digg: "Okay."
WMB: "You just lost the game."
Digg: "Holy shit!"
WMB: "I try not to let it affect my webcomic too much."
Digg: "Wait, I have to upvote this."
WMB: "Don't go linking it. Forget I scribbled anything."
Digg: "But--"
WMB: "Check out this waste of a tie."
Digg: "I, uh...ok, sure."

If you asked 100 people to pick a random number between 1 and 100, your success rate of guessing (according to basic statistics) wouldn't be anywhere near 1%. On top of unrealistic math, Randall uses impure psychology, as the lady's shattered perception of the psychic lad suddenly makes her agreeable to seeing a movie with him. But if he's only able to read what people are already thinking, then she already would've wanted to go out with him, and propositioning people to spend time with you is called socializing and you won't find any of it in this comic.

On the softer side...playing with people's heads is funny, and I think conditioning someone is a premise rife with gags. But this is a lousy schoolyard prank that would still get you beaten up on a blacktop. The narration and flavor text, like with some horrible test gum from Wonka, don't match the original taste at all. There's a numbers trick that almost never works, ok, now go attempt it on everyone you meet and analyze the data? The setup is just too stupid and comes off as desperate if the end result is being near a woman for however long it takes her to realize guessing a number is as psychic as this comic was humorous.

Edit regarding the math: If you did this trick a million times, yes, the average success rate would be 1%. If you were a human being and did it to everyone you met (hundred? two hundred?), the result would skew, similar to how coin flips skew. I did cheat with the sample size, and shouldn't have referred to "impure math," now edited to the slightly less epic fail adjective of "unrealistic." Thanks to anyone who called bullshit and backed it up :)

Edit regarding the punchline: If he's not tricking her into seeing the movie, then is the joke supposed to be that she's just in awe of him from now on? I'd rather believe that Randall attempted a joke and not the completely ineffectual and bland alternative being offered.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Comic 627: Megan, Who's Your Daddy?

Hello fellow critics/hecklers/horse-beaters, I'm thomas (lowercase in blogger!) and I'll be bashing xkcd for your entertainment this week, starting with this flow chart.

Lord knows Randall loves his flowcharts, but this reminds me of his Mario Kart pie more than anything, in that it's largely true, in this case among "computer experts" of the house or workplace. Once a computers amateur gets over the fear of misclicking and deleting everything, simple logic and a touch of intuition can solve most problems. I have slotted neatly into a niche, Randall -- well done.

However, as applicable as I find this chart, I have two issues with it. First, it advocates taping an xkcd comic near a computer area, spreading the horrible trend of printed xkcd's to the relatives of its intended audience. Nonsensical ties and science lab fanboys were bad enough; now people who don't even know what xkcd is will associate it with some fictional "in crowd" of tech geniuses.

Second, despite humility of the narration, this chart only strengthens the superiority complex xkcd's fans will have. Not only would linking this to your grandmother say, "I'm done helping you anymore, now go away," it doesn't suggest anything people wouldn't think to do now. Look for a button related to your problem? Google? The chart includes an "ask for help" option -- what do you think the xkcd reader on the answering end is going to do? Link you to the damn chart! As a member of the Half-Assed Tech Support Squad, I sincerely hope that this image doesn't clog help forums everywhere.

Lastly, there's the mention of Megan getting prompted for printer help from her dad. I smell a snarky in-joke towards the real-life Megan who is dating a man old enough to be her father, but I'm terrible with Megan humor, so why don't you tell me what's cooking?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Comic 626: Calculus Puns A-Bound

today we have matt posting (with an extra paragraph by me at the end). Next week is all Thomas, all the time, and then, finally, I will return to you.
Newton and Leibniz
Allow me to repeat John Cleese's Three Rules of Comedy:

1. No puns
2. No puns
3. No puns

And that is what this strip comes down to. It's a pun, and not even a clever one. Puns are the lowest form of humor, and most of Randall's recent work. One might argue that xkcd does not take itself seriously; today's comic is a self-aware, semi-apologetic pun. However, admitting that puns aren't funny does not excuse making one and expecting your audience to forgive it, or even like it. Again, though, this is most of what Randall does, so it's hard to argue that this particular strip is worse than any other. It's just xkcd as usual.

This strip relies almost entirely on niche appeal. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but wouldn't it be better if he actually made a clever joke about calculus, requiring significant knowledge of the field to understand, instead of a terrible pun? Knowing the history of the invention of calculus does not enhance this strip. Beyond the mere fact that "derivative" is a term used in calculus, knowledge about calculus does not enhance this strip. On the flip side of that coin, anyone who doesn't know what a derivative is didn't get this comic. Randall has already accepted that this comic relies on niche appeal, and yet he failed to do anything interesting with it. Most likely, because he wasn't clever enough to. Nope, comics don't have to be funny anymore; they just have to be about something you like.

And then, to top it all off, he closed with a reference to CSI: Miami, which has become another popular internet inside joke. It isn't even that funny: you just make a pun in the first two panels, then the guy puts on a pair of sunglasses, and finally, YEEAAAAH. It's something people do on /b/ because they aren't funny or clever and it doesn't take much effort. The original comic was funny, but none of its derivatives were. And Randall's derivative is no different. If this were any other situation, I would be struck with the absurdity of Newton doing the CSI Miami meme, but not from xkcd. Randall does stuff like this all the time.

What's else to say? The art is terrible, as always. A stick figure with white hair and a stick figure with black hair? He honestly would have done better to use the original comic as a template, as this guy in the forums did. It would have worked best if he had redrawn the template to put Newton in it instead. But no; Randall only does stick figures. At this point, Randall would be better off doing a sprite comic.

You know what the worst thing is? I got the calculus joke, including the history of its invention. I got the internet joke. I'm a perfect example of the very niche Randall is going for, and I hate him. Why? Because xkcd isn't funny or interesting. It's as simple as that. And yet, as a computer science major, I'm surrounded by people who love the guy. If it weren't for them, I would have simply decided I didn't like xkcd anymore and stopped reading it. It is because of them that I hate it enough to write a guest post for xkcdsucks. And why do they love it? For half-baked puns like today's comic. Either make xkcd a niche comic, Randall, or don't. You can't have it both ways.


Carl again: I actually do like puns, but I feel like calculus puns are really old (we'll get there in a second). And it was delivered better than most puns he gives us (see the infamous classic Uterus-Hertz). So honestly I think I should be a little nicer to this one. I guess that means we are grading randall...on a CURVE! ZING! ha ha, oh man, ZING! ha ha, is there no LIMIT to the puns you could make? oh man i did it again! this post is turning so funny you might not be able to DIFFERENTIATE it from xkcd itself! my my, now I've gone off on a TANGENT of my own! oh! heavens, this is amusing! ok i'm done now.

MARRIED TO THE SEACANT. ok now we're done.

Comic 625: Pointless

enter crisis mode
So as I said, my intended guest poster lamed out on me so here we are again. this was supposed to be my two months off.

I'm not going to write too much about this comic because it really doesn't deserve much. Instead of trying to be funny, Randall just throws us some intense cynicism, which I guess is supposed to be the cool, ironic way that young people act now. Almost feels like he is trying to go for a Pictures for Sad Children vibe, like "there is no point to life, let us all be sad together."

Like a lot of people, I was a little confused by it at first, too. Not only because the "kindle" is just a rectangle (unlike the last time you drew one) and when people talk about books we, as a culture, still think of, you know, books, not computers (no matter how much you want it to be the future already). It's because in the first panel, the girl says "Kindle collections are pointless" and then she is like "NO they are pointless in general, collecting anything, because you will die." So why specify "building a kindle collection" then? That's so obnoxious. That's like:

"Why did you dye your hair red and make it all spiky, and attach blue LEDs to the ends of your hair spikes?"
"Oh, well I know it looks a little weird, yeah..."
"No I mean in general having hair is stupid."

dammit, if her point is that no matter why you do you will die alone, why the hell start that out by saying "it is pointless to build a kindle collection. Because anything you do in life is pointless. Because you will die alone." What a lousy way to shoehorn us towards a dumb line about pretend existential crises. am I making sense with this?

oh also: GOOMH I READ SOME DISCWORLD BOOKS ONE TIME! i thought i was the only nerd who did that!

update: Coviza points out below that Mr. Evans warned us the date may not work for guest posting, BUT when I e-mailed Mr. Evans to organize all this, I said the first available date was August 19th for comic 625, and he said, to quote what he thought was a private e-mail, "That date sounds good for me." END QUOTE. However, he did promise that in exchange for letting him blog he would draw a picture of me arm-wrestling a dinosaur (and winning). And he did, to be fair, send me that. And I should, to be fair, share it with the world. SO:

sweeeetoh john evans. I can't stay mad at you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

late nite comix blogging

hey! so as you can see, there's still no post for comic 625. That is of course because I never got one e-mailed to me by whatever he is. That's ok, I'll write it myself, just not now. I'll do it tomorrow. As early as possible so I can still leave it up for a bit before I post the thing for 626, which as astoundingly already been sent to me.

also I will maybe be Away from The Internet for a week or so. Don't worry, Thomas will take care of you here. BUT - one thing thomas can't do: approve moderated comments. So the comments (on anything older than 2 weeks) are going to be a bit slow for a while probably. deal with it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

other stuff

In non-xkcd news...

I didn't like last week's SMBC Theater, The Mustache, but yesterday's Equation was pretty good. It is certainly getting better since the first few. That's nice to see. Zach still looks like a massive, massive stoner though.

And I'm still keeping up with Homestuck over at MSPaint Adventures. It's starting to grow on me. I don't think it's that funny, but the story is starting to get interesting, and the lengths he goes to flesh out his universe (see, for example, the prints he is selling that explain the shirts his characters wear.) is astounding.. I think a big advantage this story has over Problem Sleuth is that the characters talk. It makes them much more interesting, particuarly since (so far) we've only seen them talk one on one, never 3 or all 4 together. And I'll be honest: The first few times I played the newest minigame, I thought the joke was that it was impossible to get any points. Then I randomly got a few points, and was like "oh...there is more to this, I see..." Now my high score is 306,984! BITCHES.

In xkcd news...

when is that fucking book going to come out?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Comic 624: Should Be Blocked

hey, guess what, I still don't want to buy an xkcd tie. oh but hey a strange man named Asher sent me a guest post today, so hey, go read it.
hey at least there is color, right?I'm sure we've all seen some similar version of this joke concept before, and I don't think it's a bad concept. But this is an especially lame execution, mostly because it doesn't make any sense. Plus he does a shitty job of writing his out his crappy joke, as always.

-First Randy sets the scene, in case you are such a monumental 'tard that you couldn't infer the guy is browsing the web.

-He also tells us he uses adblock, and by extension firefox! Just like we do! Randy is king of the nerds! Goddamn, seriously? Why the fuck does he need to tell us this shit?

-The problem with the RSS/github parodies is that the real ones make sense. They're not non-sequiters. They're (or so they claim) sites that attempt to connect people with like interests. But his examples, while ever so wacky, build upon the false premise that the originals also aren't good adaptations/comparisons. It reminds me of the Simpsons when Krusty tries new material, and talks about how weird it is that there are yellow and white pages. It just falls flat.

-And last, but not least, the totally unnecessary continuing monologue. Just in case you couldn't figure out that "GITHUB for Lesbians" is illogical, Randall tells you that it is! That guy serves zero purpose for the entire strip. It's like that crappy strip about the news and big numbers. I don't give a crap if he copy-pastes the drawings if they further the joke, but they're just there so he's not just writing mediocre quotes.

This hits so many of my top grips with xkcd:
1. Retarded and totally unnecessary monologue
2. Smug nerd name-dropping
3. Crappy art that does zilch for the comic

Randall is totally harshing my mellow, man.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tie XKCD Around Your Neck!

There is an exciting new message waiting on the front page of our favorite webcomic today! Did you see it yet? If not, I'll replicate it below:


The answer, for me at least, is no. Well, perhaps I should clarify that - the technical answer is yes, I have ever wanted one, namely, a few years ago when xkcd was funny and it was something I would want to be attached to my neck. But now, no. No I do not want an xkcd tie. And if I did, I would want it to be clever or nerdy, the way the good xkcd comics - even now - are. I wouldn't want it to just be covered in low-res stick figures.

this is ugly, hey
Seriously, they don't even have a normal Mr. Stick! Fuck, they don't even have xkcd's one character, Mr. Hat! They have Guy on Chair, Guy on Ground, Guy In Ball. They have two Girls Lyring On Their Stomachs, which i find only a little strange, and then there's also the word "xkcd" at the bottom. You know, the bottom is the part that ends up by your crotch. Why not have "xkcd" right there?

I made fun of the last new shirt Randall brought us, and said, among other things, that the only reason you would buy it is "to prove to other people that you are a fan of xkcd and a nerd." I think that's true here as well, since on its own the tie is fairly ugly. No humor, just kind of scattered stick figures. Not even any fun colors...this is just to show off that you like xkcd, nothing more at all. xkcd has gone from being a thing that people like because it is good to a think that people like because it is cool to like. And so the merchandise goes from being a good thing on its own to just being a thing that shows the world that you like xkcd.

But my favorite part is that it costs $32. what? Who the fuck wants to spend that much on a goddamn xkcd tie? $19 for a shirt is also pretty expensive but at least that covers your whole chest, and even the top of your arms! This is...this is not so much. Hell, it's twice as much as the awesome 8-Bit ties that Think Geek sells.

NO that's a lie, my favorite part is here:

c-h-a-r-a-c-t-e-r-s.Did you catch it? Look again!

you fucking misspelled "characters". What a god damn idiot you are! Yesterday's comic you misspelled "dysentery," the comic before that you got your whole proof wrong. I've said before that you should get an editor, and you didn't listen, and so I'll say it again - get a fucking editor. Now I know most webcomics don't have them, but most webcomics don't fuck up on a regular basis like you do.

anyway, have fun with your tie, randall. wear it to the webcomic awards show. no one else wants to buy it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Comic 623: Headed South

today i bring you HateBottles. i think you and hatebottles would be good friends.

you have died of stupid-tery
Hi, everyone. HateBottles here (anyone remember me from the three days I posted in the comments?). I signed up to give this review because I felt I'd be a little left of center, trying to find the good in the comic and give some kind of insight into how today's XKCD is better than it seems, yet still in need of a keen critical eye.

That said, when I read today's comic, I seriously considered abandoning my post.

Then I thought about it some more, and you know what, I DO have something constructive to say. But I have to start off with something I'm sure everyone here has heard before: Where's the joke?

It's easy enough to get the reference. Oregon Trail. It's obvious from a quick scan; there's the word "Oregon", there's a covered wagon, boom. Reference spotted. But the joke could really be two things:

A) In the past, life was really like this, and isn't it funny how the game was accurate?
B) Someone who only knew of the Oregon Trail from its videogame might think this is all accurate.

I think the answer is... it's supposed to be both? At the same time? It's not really clear, though. We have an inaccurate timeline that relies entirely on a videogame reference. That's it.

Now, I told you I'd find something good in this comic. Let me take a brief tangent for a moment and talk about how something funny is created. Comic strips, stand-up acts, films, quirky music... any kind of funny things. There are two very, very (very) broadly-defined steps. In fact, let me work backwards from Step 2.

Step 2: Execute on the situation in a funny way.

Randall has failed us here, folks. He has given us a timeline, sterile and inert. A few stick figures, a whole lotta words, and virtually no action.

So what's Step 1, then?

Step 1: Come up with a funny situation.

This is what really grinds my... biscuits. Yes, Randall has played with the differences between humans and machines in the amount of exactly one shit-ton, sure. That would be fine if he cared more about the universe he was creating, rather than letting it rest on a silly joke.

See, I actually think the scenario is awesome. In the hands of a more experienced artist, this could have been a period piece, set in the 1800's, where the characters act like people shittily playing Oregon Trail, the game. It could be awesome. It could be a poignant look at how people interact when social structures (and basically all of reality) aren't really issues. It could be fun, interesting, witty, and really sharp.

Instead, Randall Munroe has given us a timeline, landing on his front page with a barely audible "fuck it".

Maybe I'm getting a bit bent out of shape over what is essentially one man's random doodles. He's never been one to really flesh out a full universe, only the little gags that pepper them along the way. But something like this really makes me wish for more. He has an interesting idea, one that few people would have ever considered expressing. And he totally drops the ball in the expression.

Does he know he's actually clever? That sometimes, his ideas are witty? It looks like he came up with the Oregon Trail joke, realized it had nothing to do with XKCD as a whole, felt bad about himself, and covered the whole thing up with a safe, easy timeline. It's basically a chart, and XKCD has a lot of charts, right? Meanwhile, the clever idea is lost in the folds, begging the reader to dig it out.

People on this blog like to say Randall should convert his comic to a semi-regular picto-blog, and I like to agree with them; however, I would like to propose a corollary: He needs an editor, a co-writer, or whatever you want to call a second god-damned person for him to use as a sounding board. It's like his own comic about an Audio Preview for YouTube; does he even realize his jokes don't come out right? Maybe if he had to pitch them to someone first, he'd hear the magic words, "I think a timeline would be really lame, actually. Why not inhabit their world through the characters, instead?"

Or, "I don't think you need this panel. It's basically dead weight."

Or, "If you're going to have a pun, don't point it out."

[Or, "You spelled 'Dysentery' without the second 'e.' "

Or, "your motherfucking proof is wrong." -carl]

I genuinely hope he finds someone close to him who'll keep him honest. And heaven knows he's not listening to us, we're just his detractors, sitting over here... detracting. But he needs someone, bad. I don't think he wants to be the kind of guy that settles for less, and dammit, he's too smart to be that guy anyway.

HateBottles out. Peace be with you, and stay the fuck away from nails.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Comic 622: Left To The Reader

today Hought Carding blogs, but then I got so mad at this comic that I went on a rant about it too, and it was so angry that I made it one of my 'Angriest Rants'. That's at the end though. Sorry, Hought. You will have to share the spotlight with me.

it's fucking wrong!


I really don't know where to start with this one.

I mean, it's not funny. I can start there.

The thing is, that it goes beyond being just 'not funny'. It leaves to discernible impression. It's very zen - being almost not there at all - approaching oblivion. Although that's giving it far too much credit.

So, what do we have here? We have maths. Randy likes maths. Can I call him Randy? We also have fun and games with maths! Haiku! The inherent hilarity of putting something that's not a Haiku into a Haiku! Haiku! Also we have nerd girls. Perhaps not Nerd Girls, but girls who share Randy's passion for maths. Yaaayyyyy. Then there's a, um, 'punchline'. In the loosest sense of the word.

Not so much a punchline, as a weak justification for making a joke and turning Randy's speculative poetry about prime numbers into a comic.

Alt-text also leaves me uninspired. Maybe if I indulge in some sleep deprivation, this bland comic will metamorphose into something good, like new horribleville comics or marmite.

One theory I might cautiously put forward is that Randy didn't write this; instead, a computer program, possibly written by NASA, analyzed many of the trends that appear throughout XKCD, and came out with this. Which would explain why this comic has no soul.

To conclude; this comic makes me remember the 'least interesting man in the world' comic, and smile fondly. Mostly because those beer adds that the comic were based on were kinda sweet.

Oh yeah; the art in this one is a pile of horse-ass too. I mean, obviously, the art is also bland, but sleep deprivation/hallucinations is one subject particularly suited to be shown through compelling art. You could have the teachers head and expression exaggerated and bulbous, while the sleep deprived student's eyes red raw, and bloodshot, with the visuals getting gradually more ludicrous towards the end of the comic [see, for example, the latest Subnormality - carl]. But, none of that, because Randy draws stick people. Always stick people.

-Hought Carding away!
Carl again: I'm going to break some of my Summer of MADNESS rules and add my own post to this. Because I hated this comic a lot more than usual, and probably a lot more than most of you. And it's been a while since I all out blogged.

This comic is a drowning man, grasping for small molecules of humor to keep him a live another week, another month. Randall loves math and used to love drawing comics about math, because for a while there it was a rare thing on the internet so he kind of cornered that market. So here he tosses out another lame math reference for his math-nerd fans. It's not a complicated one - all the math and science in xkcd has been getting simpler over time to appeal to more people. Perhaps you didn't understand it, you stupid idiot you, but it is a pretty basic proof for those who are into math (I recall a friend explaining it to me in 7th grade).

So he's basically just trying to appeal to lots of nerds for sheer nerdery's sake. Because if you don't already know that proof (and there's more on this later) there is no way you are going to understand this one. That's a function of space, sure. For 17 syllables (well, really just 12 without the "QED") it's a fine attempt, but why the fuck write a haiku of a proof, however simple? to be a fucker. That's why. Just to say you did. fucker. Just so you could use the phrase "QED bitches". you're a bit of a QED bitch yourself, randall.

But that's not enough for him. He doesn't just present his little haiku, he has to think of some other justification for it (since "because I am a douche" might look a little odd there). So he makes it some sleep deprivation joke. But not one that makes sense. "Lectures get interesting after 48 hours of sleep deprivation"? What? What does that mean? After 48 hours, things just get horribly tedious and you just want to sleep. Lectures don't magically turn into haiku form. That doesn't make sense. In any way. Making ideas into haikus takes more work and concentration, not less. You are stupid. Maybe if you said "being on acid makes lectures more interesting" that would work a little better.

Randall: You did a good sleep-dep joke already. A long time ago. I'm not saying not to do it again, I'm just pointing out what a good joke looks like. Being tired means that the tired person gets confused easily and perhaps falls asleep randomly, not that the people around them suddenly speak in haikus and fly. god.

But all that is usual xkcd sucks stuff. Not funny, stupid, etc. That's not, on its own, enough for me to upstage Hought Carding like this. Here's why I have to write my own part. Now it's a little math heavy so you can skip it and just read the bold part down below for the gist.

Let's talk about the proof that primes go on forever. Here it is in short: If there were a finite number of primes, then there would be one prime, Q, that was the largest (see, interestingly enough, yesterday's dinosaur comic on a similar idea). So you arrange all the prime numbers, from 2 to Q. And you multiply them together. 2 * 3 * 5 * 7 * 11 *.....* Q. And that will be a crazy huge number that I will name, oh let's say Z. Now Z is of course clearly not prime, because it is divisible by all those numbers. BUT - Z+1 will not be divisible by any of those numbers. That's just what happens when you multiply a bunch of numbers together and add 1. The result is not a multiple of any of them (this makes intuitive sense; if there's a number that was, say, a multiple of 11, you'd need to add 11 more to it to get a new multiple of 11. Just adding 1 isn't enough. Likewise for any other divisor). So Z+1 is not divisible by any prime, and all composite numbers are (hence "composite," because they are "composed" of primes). SO therefore Z+1 is prime, so your list at the beginning was not the list of all possibly primes, so you are wrong, and stupid, the end.

I go through this boring math stuff A) to prove I know it, B) because the nerd in me really does find it elegant in a way, and C) Because Randall got it fucking wrong. he got it wrong. Randall wrote that the proof is to take the "Top Prime's Divisors' Product + 1", and see what its factors are, the implication being that there are none and so you have a new higher prime.

What he is claiming, using my terms, is that the product of Q's divisors + 1 is prime. But of course, Q doesn't have any divisors other than 1 and Q, because it's a prime (the "top prime" as Randy calls it). So the product of the top prime's divisors is just the top prime, Q, again. And that plus one will have a ton of divisors! Probably. It's one higher than a prime number, which is (except in the case of the number 2) always going to be even, for one thing, so divisible by at least 2, probably more.

Here's an example - 31, could be your pretend "top prime" (obviously it's not, but no prime will be, that's the point). So you take the "top primes's divisors product +1 " = (31*1)+1=32. It's "Factors are..." 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32. So...there's a bunch of them!

Luckily some forumites noticed this problem, and at least one even corrected it in a new, better, haiku.

So let me now, with that clearly explained, be nice and clear about this next part. Let's even use some bold.

Randall. You draw a webcomic three times a week. Its motto is that it is a webcomic of "Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language." "Math" is one of those. You also worked for NASA. Doing math and physics. You hang around with MIT kids, who are mostly good at math. You do not have to spend much time on your comic. You have a good career. SO WHY CAN'T YOU JUST TAKE THE TIME TO NOT FUCK UP? You are an irresponsible hack of a cartoonist.

the end.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Comic 621: The Least Interesting Comic

hello boys and girls. today's guest post is brought to you by Mr. Ego Raptor.

it is...the most boring comic in the world
There's a 60% chance Randall is friends with this guy.

Going into this guest blog, I was terrified that Randall Munroe might actually put forth some effort into his comic and force me into the awkward position of enjoying the comic. But, thankfully, Randall is generous and made his web comic that I hate based on a commercial that I hate, giving my hate such laser-like intensity that Emperor Palpatine himself would say "Chill out, man. It's not worth getting upset about." So why is this comic so bad?

For those of you who may not watch 5 hours of television a night, there is a beer called Dos Equis. "Who are they?" you might ask, and the answer is "I don't know" because no one knows who they are without googling them to sound like a smart ass in the comment sections. So Dos Equis decided to build brand recognition by making a series of commercials called "The Most Interesting Man in the World" which is a series of unfunny Chuck Norris jokes. But Dos Equis couldn't afford Chuck Norris as that would require a budget. So they hired some guy that vaguely resembles Sean Connery and filmed him doing absurd things, like carrying a fox away from British people and fighting ninjas. Unfortunately, the writers never saw the footage, so the lame Chuck Norris jokes don't match up with the absurd footage. The commercial is bad because it's derivative, talentless, and lazy.

But when it comes to being derivative, talentless, and lazy, Randall Munroe shall not be outdone! He decides to make a derivative of the derivative Chuck Norris joke (a second derivative, for those of you unfamiliar with the horrors of Calculus [can we call this comic Chuck Norris ' ' ? -carl]). Randall's idea is to be ironic, describing mundane feats while the other jokes describe incredible feats. But the joke falls flat on its face because the descriptions of the Least Interesting Man (henceforth called Limmy) are unfunny. There's nothing enjoyable you can take from this comic. A far funnier idea would be to describe Limmy's mundane behavior in a grandiose fashion (i.e. He can check his e-mail with one hand tied behind his back, He can stride while chewing Stride, he can upload pictures of stick figures to the internet and call it a comic, etc.). It takes no effort to make boring stuff sound boring. But effort is in short supply in XKCD these days. Especially when you look at what he draws.

While I criticize the commercial for never matching what I see with what I hear, at least I'm seeing unusual stuff. The commercial lets my imagination run wild compared with the infinite blandness of Munroe's comic. The first panel is just two stick figures standing there, acting so boring that not even Randall can finish the sentence. However, not to be out-lazied, the second panel is just one stick figure. But the third panel out-lazies them all, by being an honest to God paste job of an earlier xkcd.
oh man i hated that comic
Okay, maybe not an exact paste. The first panel at least illustrates two arms.

By the fourth panel, he's abandoned all hope of doing anything remotely memorable in this comic. He includes as many stick chicks in there as possible in the panel with no regard for blocking, for no apparent reason. Limmy also seems to be looking off in a random direction, babbling to a horribly illustrated cup (I know art isn't XKCD's strongpoint, but I've seen pre-schoolers draw better than that).

This comic is terrible because it rips off a terrible commercial which rips off a five year old running joke from the internet, which is inspired by Sidekicks. Earlier this summer, we could count on Randall ripping off other people's original work. But now that's too much effort for him.

If XKCD sucks anymore, it will collapse on itself.

~Ego Raptor

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Comic 620: Crashing Back To Earth

i still don't know if i will care enough to make this a regular thing. But - as long as I'm here -

1) i thought the newest SMBC Theater, "Ultimate Staring Contest" was better than the first four - I was astounded at how much they made the live-action skit feel like a cartoon (it was the labels on everything that made me think this, then, spoiler alert, the exploding head). But I thought it was funny, in cartoony, loony-tunes sort of way.

2) i took a picture for you guys. Specifically, for Amanda. Amanda: I don't know why you want to rebel against me but consider this picture a plea for you to stick around.

update: Hm, Dragon whatever hasn't sent me a post yet. Come on, Dragon whatever! I'm going to assume he is dead, and, rather than rely on the kindness of strangers, like last time, I'm just going to write the damn post myself. I'll add yours if you send it though. if you are even alive.

so what do we have today.

Those of you who read this blog regularly probably already reacted to this comic in the same way that I did: with the simple phrase, "picto-blog!" Click that link for a full explanation, but in short, we've noticed that sometimes, Randall Munroe has genuinely interesting ideas. But unfortunately, he does not run an Interesting Idea Blog, Illustrated With Pictures. He runs a webcomic, and so he takes these ideas and he jams jokes onto the ends of them, and it just ends up as a big old pile of fail.

And today is no exception. Testing out possible flight conditions on other planets/moons is awesome. I can see that easily. But like he so often does, the punchline is fucked up quite badly.

The joke, as I see it, is in the similarity between ancient greek guy Icarus trying to fly, and falling and failing, and Our Hero, trying to fly, and failing, and specifically, the physical humor of the modern day Icarus having his work (not to mention himself) come crashing down to earth. That the well read reader makes this connection in his head is the source of laughter, if such laughter occurs.

The issue is that this connection should come after you read the end of the comic. The punchline should not be in the third-to-last panel. For those people who did not get the reference to Icarus, the joke is merely in the "HEAT LAMP" shot, which is also not the last panel. The last panel that we get is the dude falling; which really is just a forgone conclusion after the two previous panels.

A much better - but still not best - variation would be Way Walker's edit that he links to below. I would still add one thing though - the Greek Mythology line (or some reference to Icarus, perhaps Randall's original phrasing was a bit awkward) should be added, by the off-panel woman, in the final frame. Then you get the joke at the end, and it makes sense. I also like the elegant concision of merging the top three panels with the wide white spaces of the big bridge shot.

Oh and come on: Icarus's problem was that he used wax, which melts at a fairly low temperature. Hot glue is hardly the same - sure, it can melt, but if you've ever used a hot glue gun and accidentally touched the hot part you know just god damn fucking hot it has to be, and how at that heat Our Hero has bigger problems than falling a few feet, like having his skin burn off. God knows how Mr. Hat is surviving operating what is essentially a small star. Mr. Hat appears to be less into greek mythology and more into being a giant douche.

Hypothetical question: If the main character had succeeded is flying, what would he have done with that power? Does he have a way to get to Titan and try it out there?

not related to anything update: You know what I just remembered? Back when I started reading webcomics, I could list the ones I read, all four of them, in a nice little rhyming couplet. It was -

Dinosaur Comics and xkcd
Perry Bible Fellowship and Married to the Sea

isn't that INTERESTING?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


dear readers of this blog: A most profound apology. The man I thought was my friend, "Rob", was scheduled to blog about comic 619 today. But in the last few minutes, he has sent me an e-mail of a MOST RUDE nature, informing me that he is abandoning all material possessions in order to live on an organic rhubarb farm in eastern West Virginia. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. I am astounded, I am angered, I am shocked. Could he not have waited a few days? Or informed me of his decision earlier?

He has thrown the SUMMER OF MADNESS of of its kilter, and I am at a loss for what to do. I will keep you informed of the state of this emergency as events unfold. Probably I will cry on my own for a long time.

pray for this blog.

UPDATE - 8/5/09 - 10:25 PM - Oh thank goodness. A kindly e-mailer has written in with a guest-post to save the day. I am so grateful that I have not bothered to read it; I trust it is excellent in each and every way. Ladies and Gentleman, please give a huge amount of grateful applause to a man calling himself "Billiam Monty Hughes"...

why does that name sound so...familiar? well, whatever. Let's just ctrl-v this thing right up and go back to my expensive wine induced nap in my gold-encrusted terrarium.


Title: My name is Billiam, king of kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!


Greetings, one and all.

I recommend you cherish this moment, humble reader, as never before has this brutal blag had the privilege to display an expansive opinion from my own unique vantage point. Unlike all past reviewers before me (Carl Wheeler, Roberto, James etc.), I did not score a 7 on my Intelligence Quotient test (I actually achieved an exceptional 224 (├╝bergenius level), for your information). Secondly, I am not a delusional, envious moron like most of this blag's fan-base. You see, you do NOT truly hate "Xkcd". It is impossible to dislike, or even be apathetic towards. It is a paragon of perfection. You are tricking yourself. You are simply JEALOUS of "Xkcd", so you attempt to find faults even though none exist. This is also why many also "hate" Control Alternate Delete, the second best web-comic of all time ("Xkcd" defeats it, obviously). I pity you, I do. Poor, poor, Carl...

Perhaps you would enjoy some exposition on my past and lineage? I go by many aliases, but most refer to me as Billiam, for I am BILLIAM MONTY HUGHES. My surname (Hughes) is a prestigious mantle, passed down through the generations, father to son, son to son, and finally to me. I will hopefully later pass it down for MY son (possibly also the child of the lovely Sophie Devrient? CONTACT ME PLEASE!!!). My forefathers were all men of intellect, bravery and strength. I have not disappointed them. Their very thoughts altered history and they fought valiantly for YOUR freedom. The freedom you are now ABUSING to be a COMPLETE AND UTTER whale penis to a person who just happens to illustrate images that are superior than your own. It is pathetic and I cannot tolerate your repulsive behaviour.

I appreciate and enjoy "Xkcd" as it is (perhaps you should too):

It is a flawless, constantly-updating classic of entertainment created by an extremely talented and intelligent man (Randall Patrick Munroe) that shall stand the test of time, unfaltered. Randall Munroe obviously invests a large amount of (well-earned) time in the construction of his miniature masterpieces. Centuries into the future, children, tweenagers and teenagers shall learn of "Xkcd" in classrooms, remaining relevant for all eternity. That is, if Wheeler's minions fail in their objectives (to defile the respectable name of "Xkcd", preventing it from gaining the readers it deserves and transforming Munroe into a shell of his former self). I CANNOT, SHALL NOT and MUST NOT let this occur.

This is war. An E-War, but a war nonetheless. As barbaric as any other. It is hoped that this battle can end without casualties, and that both sides can reconcile with each other and live harmoniously in unison. But I am no fool. This "dream" is naivety of the highest order. This is not a joke. I am prepared to fight many battles for my cause (the forces of good), like my fathers before me (WW2, that other one etc.). Amidst the aura of combat, my mercy depletes exponentially, and my code does not forbid me the right to murder VERMIN (what all "Xkcd" "haters" truly are).


The detractors of "Xkcd" are one faction in this war, led by Carl "Ugly" Wheeler (essentially an amalgam of Adolf Hitler (Former leader of the German Nationalist Socialist Party) and Lex Luthor (fictional BALD villain)), Malethoth (MORE LIKE FEMALETHOTH) the Mad, Roberto (SPIC SPIC SPIC) and James (Possibly a homosexual?) and populated by the "common" people. Their aim is to cripple "Xkcd", alienate its few fans and MURDER its esteemed creator, Randall P. Munroe. The reason as to their violent, unfathomable, primitive hatred? Jealousy. Why can't you understand that nigh-perfection is still an admirable goal...

The other faction is the altruistic defenders of "Xkcd". Led by Randall Munroe, William Monty Hughes and I. Belial and Sophie-Devrient play a significant role in the defense of good. We did not initiate the fight, nor do we wish it to continue, but we must uphold peace by enforcing war. I wish this was not the case, but we must defend what is right... By stopping what is wrong.

If you do not cease your petty squabbles, the result of this war shall impact the entirety of the internet. The war-ground shall grow in size and in brutality, eventually all will take a side. If this comes to pass, I hope they shall choose the just one (mine).

-Billiam Monty Hughes, Son of Gary
IQ 224
"Cogito Ergo Sum"

What is war good for? Absolutely. Nothing.

Remember. You have been warned of the hazardous implications of your purely immoral actions. You shall not be spared.

Oh my, a slight tangent. I must now return to my review of "Xkcd".

Here is a list of my top six hundred and eighteen favourite "Xkcd"'s, in numerical order:


If you can read this review, in the exact form I intended, then my plot has succeeded. The chances of this review being posted on "Xkcdsucks" free of modification is... Astronomical. There are literally googolplexes of imperfect alternate realities parallel to our own where Carl "Ugly" Wheeler did NOT post this review. Where fascism rules supreme.

This world, is not one of them. Fortunately. Fate (and my own considerable literary talent) have blinded Wheeler and he has been tricked like the drunkard oaf that he is.

Incidentally, today's "Xkcd" was HILARIOUS, like all those before it and all after. As a Linux user (which grants me not only familiarity with the theme of the comic, but also additional significance to my opinion) and an intellectual, I deem it... "funny". Anyone who cannot appreciate the unadulterated "awesome" that is this specific comic is obviously too idiotic to perceive it. And, as most know, idiots do not have valid opinions. They shall be ignored, as they should be.

Farewell, foes and friends.

Great thanks to Billium again for sending me this in my hour of need. I trust that it is complete; if there is any element to the review left unsaid please fill it in yourself in the comments. Now - to the terrarium!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Comic 618: Can't They All Just Blow Up

just wanted to make sure we had a record of this. Apparently those times we thought "wow, this seems thrown together five minutes before midnight" were correct.

unprofessional! How much do you want to bet the comic will be about conventions? update: Good thing no one bet with me.
late update: oh hey, TomR sent me his post. let's see what he says.

explode! explode!
Hey, I'm TomR. Youll probably know me more from the CouldBeBetter forums than the blog, because Internet Explorer hates Blogger, and I'm not going to change browser just for one site, especially when most sites are designed for IE in the first place (TO Carl - maybe not put this in because people be angry and like "NOOO USE FIREFIX BECAUSE I HAVE NO FRIENDS")(tomr - you should use firefox, dammit! also, I have no friends. --carl).

So, comic 618.

Right, the first thing about this comic is that it's a reference to something. And if you don't know what it's talking about, then don't even bother reading today's strip. We don't need your kind here. Hey, WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT BEFORE? That's right folks, xkcd number 50!

I've been seeing a lot of this shit in xkcd lately what with the whole pep rall thing then the Idiocracy and sheeple comics. Apparently Randall can't make up his mind about things.
I'm beginning to think Randall ghostwrites for, or will be writing for, Cracked. They use an xkcd comic in this article (last night when I read this it was uncredited, so I was thinking all "but didn't they do all that shit when people used THEIR articles without permission? Hypocrites! Hey, like xkcd!" and that's where this paragraph came from, but now they've put a little "thanks xkcd" thing in there, which makes it maybe a little better, but the idea is still floating about in my head), both sites have a bunch of sycophants following the links to whichever site the writers found and think they are better than everyone else, both make mountains out of molehills, and both are shit.

Anyway, back to the comic. There are two ways to make a reference to something: the right way, and the Family Guy way. The right way is to make it a throwaway line, and give it contet so that people who don't get the reference can laugh at the base joke, or at the very least not be confused. Then there's the Family Guy way: just slap it in there, and if someone doesn't get it then, well, they're a moron. Guess which way Randy did it?

The joke isn't up to much even if you do get the reference: Armageddon (or Deep Impact, which is supposedly the better film because it is more scientifically accurate, even though Armageddon is much more fun. The critics claim Deep Impact is better, but they also claim that Wild Hogs is shit and The Dark Knight is great, so what do they know. Of course, Randy had to choose Deep Impact to keep up his nerd cred.) Except it turns out that there was a friendly boy on it who just wanted to be friends! D'awwww!

Jesus fucking Christ Randall, why not just draw the fucking Teletubbies and have done with it.

Comic 617: Current Events Are Always Funny

Your friendly neighborhood Rob here, filling in for Carl on uploading Lompta's treatment of 617, which is an abysmal wreck of a comic that should be wiped off the face of the earth! Let's see what Lompta has to say.


This is a surprisingly difficult comic to mock, mostly because there's no joke to attack in the first place. Randall briefly recaps something that was recently in the media spotlight, throws in the fact that alcohol can lead to irresponsibility, and calls it a night. Nothing is particularly funny about either of these tactics. It's pretty well established that people can act stupid when they're sufficiently drunk. It's also pretty well established that Obama is a fancy guy for deigning to step out of his magical presidential realm to solve a high-profile conflict. The alt-text is equally disappointing, because it's yet another observation that everyone has noticed before. Yes, graduate students understand alcohol from an experiential standpoint, just like current events do in fact happen and strong drinks can get you into trouble.

I think this comic actually says a lot about where xkcd has gone. Randall often makes strips obscure enough that people will feel smart for getting them (or just for reading them anyway, because it's a thing for smart people to do), and yet he still apparently feels the compulsion to make a joke about every major current event. One of the strengths of early xkcd was that it was so random, that it made good jokes but also wasn't afraid to be surreal. Comics like this one totally undermine that. Randall doesn't even have anything to say about the beer summit, really. He's a fan of Obama, and maybe just wants to remind everyone that he did a cool thing. So he draws a parallel, I guess, except that even that fails.

The structure of the comic, as far as I can tell, is supposed to go something like this: racist accusation (based on prior knowledge of encounter) leads to jail for single black professor, just as tequila leads to jail for black professor, policeman, and president. Other than the visual of people in a cell, though, there's really no parallel at all. If anything, it trivializes the difficulty Gates faced in the whole situation. Comparing an innocent man being jailed to rampant irresponsibility being punished is insulting, and also not funny.

And while I'm at least vaguely on race, it seems like a pretty stupid topic to cover in xkcd, because you can't even tell what color anyone is. The only way a reader can understand the core issue of the beer summit is if they already know about it, so in a year or so nobody will have any idea what's going on in this comic at all. From an outsider perspective, it looks like the president randomly stepping in to mediate an argument between a mysterious man in glasses and an anonymous policeman.

Also, the structure of the weak joke makes it even weaker. The punch line (I guess) of the three men in jail should come directly after the frame of Obama facing the tequila. Our imaginations are way better than Randall's art at thinking of the trouble they could have got in, and riding in a limousine shouting out of the sunroof is kind of cliche/lame to begin with.

Also, I don't think you can't put the president in jail anyway, at least not while he's still president, so this doesn't even make sense. That's a small weakness compared to the rest of them, but worth mentioning.

I guess I can only say so much beyond the fact that there isn't even a joke worth mocking. It also doesn't make sense in general or make any point that isn't conventional wisdom, but neither of those are necessarily essential for a webcomic. There's nothing here but the hope that people will find it ridiculous and therefore funny, mostly just because it's Randall Munroe saying it. He's a smart guy, but this comic is more than enough proof that he gets away with too much.

Or maybe he doesn't. Now that I've glanced at the forums, it appears that even the fans aren't happy with this one.

That's enough for this lurker. Lompta out.