Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comic 668: Deeply Embarrassing

i luv pandora 4 eva
Apparently I was one of the few people who didn't think this graph was all fucked up. Maybe if I look at it real hard I can see that "Deeply embarrassing music" should really be inside the circle it is next to, but honestly, I got the point pretty easily. Far be it from me to dismiss a criticism of xkcd, but I don't really care about that one. How odd.

Leaving that aside, the comic is not too bad. The point is simple - "Pandora plays embarrassing music when people are around" - and simply executed, so it's not likely to make me froth about in a bitter rage, as so often happens (you really should not be near me when I read a new xkcd comic). I didn't find it all that funny - in part because I only listen to embarrassing music, so I am used to this, and also because I tend to listen to Pandora on my own or with headphones (because all my music is embarrassing). Part of me wants to say "why the hell is he making this comic now? Surely he's known about pandora for years, right?" but again, that's not really enough. The worst thing to be said about this comic is that it is oh-so-similar to comic 400, and that's not something I can defend it on. That is just a problem.

Those of you disappointed that I am not more angry today, read on.

Unrelated to the current comic, but I've been glancing through the xkcd store as it quietly adds new products, and noticed this.

I think that the xkcd store selling shirts entirely based on a joke from the Simpsons movie is pathetic. The writers of that movie worked hard to come up with the script and to take their work and make money off of it is just wrong. I'm not talking about a legal, Creative Commons style debate - I'm just talking about what is being a dick and what is not. (hint: this is being a dick!)

update: No, I don't care that it is being sold to supposedly give money to some charity somewhere. And I also don't care that some comic book once made a similar character in like the 80s or something for a 17 issue kids comic series. the xkcd store fucking quotes the movie. OK? shut up and i hate you all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Comic 667: Free At Last

yeah this post is late. maybe it's because I was eating dinner last night with...GEORGE WASHINGTON??? anyway, deal with it.
Now unlike everyone else, I had never played this "skiing free" game, and so I had no idea what to say when it was introduced into the comic-story. Monster? It will always kill you? Ok. Of course, I am someone who considers skiing a metaphor for the inevitability of death because I am quite certain you will always fall down, painfully.

So for the billionth time, i must admit that perhaps this comic's point was lost on me, that perhaps you must have felt the terrible dread of the imposing snow creature, felt its putrid breath upon your bescarved neck, and thought that each moment must surely be your last, in order to understand what is happening in this comic. But I have a feeling it doesn't matter. I have certainly played games with the same feature, so I'd like to think I can relate.

But ultimately, what is the point? The girl thinks that the monster will kill her, then she finds out that it won't. So her metaphor was....flawed! HA ha ha. Death isn't inevitable? No, just that her image isn't. That last panel is meant to be a sort of "fill in your own joke here" pause because there is nothing funny Randall could actually write there. Seriously, all she could be thinking is "Huh, guess I was wrong."

Of course, what I think this comic is really trying to say is "Guys, I just found out that you can escape the skifree monster, let me show you my knowledge so you will be impressed." but that's just cynical old me talking.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comic 666: Evil Spirits

silent laughter
I'll get this out of the way first: I like this comic, at least more than usual. The style of prank is the sort of thing that I think Mr. Hat is funniest at: A whole lot of work for a rather petty (and ironic) conclusion. In this case, making the head of the American Skeptics Society believe in Evil Spirits. Not excatly helpful for any goal besides general impish pranksterism.

That said, silent hammers? What? I think Fred's edit was perfect on this:
Not only is this a crazy implausible idea, not only is it one that the characters seem to brush off like "oh hey, silent hammer, that's cool, i guess, but why?" but it is totally unnecessary! There's plenty of ways that Mr. Hat could have accomplished this goal without needing something as massively silly as "silent hammer." maybe he could have taken all the furniture out of the apartment and sawed it or whatever a few blocks away? Maybe he could just use glue to make some tables taller? I mean, once you've broken into the house you have a lot of options. Heck, just move things around, or leave like creepy notes places. Implausible? Sure. But this is the same guy who filled the US Capitol with playpen balls. So presumably he has some skills. Anyway, it's all more plausible than silent hammer.

But, once you get beyond that (if you get beyond that), then I think this is a nice return to the sort of shenanigans Mr. Hat got famous for.

now that i've written something nice, I fully expect to be attacked as soft-on-xkcd from the more rabid anti-xkcders out there.

silent hammer? COME ON.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Comic 665: The Chronicles of THIS COMIC SUCKS

shut up shut up shut up
I think xkcd is in the middle of about 3 or 4 weeks of really mediocre stuff. Nothing that's really pissed me off for a while, just a lot of things that make me want to pat it on the back and say "it's ok, you can stop. You don't have to force yourself this much."

And that's how I originally thought of this one. But then the more i looked at it, the more it filled me with rage. Perhaps it was the lack of dialog that threw me off, perhaps the fact that I so clearly understood what was happening shielded me from the terrible fact that what was happening does not make sense.

Ok, let's talk about this. The girl (who is being smart and tech-savvy, surprise!) is Lucy, from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (god i want to put an oxford comma in there but apparently that's not part of the official title). And instead of just heading straight into Narnia, she sends in some kind of mars-rover type webcam, to scout things out for her!

why the fuck should we give a shit.

Obviously, this option was not available to the Lucy in the story, written as it was in 1950. So it's just another dumb old random media mashup, one that tells us nothing new about any of the characters involved in either. It's not like those parodies where a character from something famous is suddenly put in a crazy new position, where you see how the creator thinks they would act. Here all we know is "what if Lucy had technology, and was really careful?" and the answer is she would use technology to be very careful. That's it! that's all there fucking is!

OK, here is my challenge to the xkcd fans: TELL ME WHY THE FUCK YOU LIKED THIS, or admit that you didn't. And no cheating by saying it wasn't supposed to be funny! it obviously was supposed to be.

what will happen for comic 666??????? maybe: nothing! has he ever done anything special for a certain numbered comic? 404 doesn't count, he didn't post it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: "Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar" - Achewood Volume II

buy it

Achewood is not like any other webcomic. There is something about it that makes most of its fans - myself included - completely obsessed with it, always trying to read as much as possible about its universe, and rereading the archives on a regular basis. If you ask us why, we will usually say something about characters.

Achewood's characters are unlike anything else in the world of webcomics. Not only does he revel in having them interact with each other, seeing just how their own personalities and speech patterns work with each other and in different situations. For example, when Lyle gives adorable five-year-old Phillipe his copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, Phillipe does exactly the "right" thing for his character. You read it and you go yes! that is exactly what Phillipe would do!

Chris Onstad is basically obsessed with the world of Achewood. He freakin wrote blogs for all the characters for years. He managed 12 blogs. TWELVE. And they were filled with just more and more conversations between the characters. Here's a Thanksgiving one from a few years back. Here's another, non-thanksgiving one. He wrote a cookbook in the voice of all his characters, and when that wasn't enough, he wrote another one.

All of this is to say that when the second official Achewood book came out (but in many ways the first one doesn't count, so this new one is the first one) no one should be surprised that it is chock full of character stories.

The comics themselves are things we've all seen before - starting with the first comic and taking us up through this one - though not every comic from the period is included. Unlike the Great Outdoor Fight book, it does include alt-texts [as an aside, the alt-texts are included in small type underneath each comic, leading me again to wonder why the xkcd book needed to stick its alt texts in random places and at random angles between panels. Also, the title of each comic is included, something I thought xkcd should have done to help organization].

Note: color comics have been rendered in black and white. It isn't a big deal - there are only, by my count, six color comics in this period, and you can't notice that anything is missing if you don't know what it's supposed to look like - but when the titles are things like Color Monday! it does make it pretty obvious.

Most comics have comments below them, some of which are rather trivial but many of which are pretty interesting for Achewood obsessives like me (and, as I said in the beginning, nearly every Achewood fan is an Achewood obsessive). In addition, this map is reproduced on the title page, and these two are inside the front and back covers. They look damn classy there.

But of course, for those of us who have read all these early comics so many times, the real excitement is the new writing. There are no new comics, but there's a Prologue, featuring a regular day's conversation between Onstad, Ray, and Roast Beef, and there's "A History Of Achewood," explaining just how it is that Phillipe, Cornelius Bear, Téodor, and Lyle ended up living with Onstad. So committed to his world is Onstad, and so aware of this fact are his readers, that we don't think twice when the introduction is missing all the usual introductory stuff - "So here's how I started this comic, then I got famous, now I got a book, thanks for buying it" - but just goes head on into how these stuffed animals came into his life. And it feels right.

What's a little different - but by no means problematic - is that Onstad takes a much more active role in their stories than he usually does in the comic. We know that those characters live in his house, and he made occasional appearances in the early comics, but for the most part, he's faded away. Perhaps it is because these are early comics, but it doesn't feel wrong to have him take this role. In any case, what we all read for is the animals, and we get plenty of that (for example, here's Téodor: "I'm just trying to keep blood out of the food. It imparts an iron taste").

Lastly, a note on organization: The comics are not quite presented in order. Instead, it cuts the 8 month series in half, and reverses the two halves. This actually makes a great deal of sense. The very early comics are a bit random and strange, and take a while to get used to. There are no recurring stories, and the characters aren't really very consistent yet. In fact, Ray and Roast Beef aren't even around. It's fitting, then, that the book puts those first comics at the end (under the title "Before we were Achewood") and starts with the comic that introduced the cats. The "History" segment is also split up, starting at the beginning of the book, continuing between "Achewood" and "Pre-Achewood," and then putting the last installment at the end. It's a clever way to make the book feel like it has more content.

It takes a while for people to get into Achewood (it took me three tries before I realized how much I loved this comic), and many of them may have an easier time with both the print format and the fact that it starts out past all the strange early comics. And of course, Achewood fans will love the book, and will likely take a very long time to get tired of these comics, no matter how often you read them. But then again, Achewood fans already knew that.

Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar: Achewood Volume II is 136 pages, hardcover, and $15.95. Note: xkcd: volume 0 was paperback and costs $18 ($35 for the signed copy!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comic 664: No One Appreciates You

i don't like itOh, poor coders. No one ever appreciates them. They work so hard and get no thanks. I guess?

I guess Randall just wants to shit on some businessy people (I guess he really wants to be hired by some university somewhere?) , because you could totally just reverse this: Academics you spend all this time trying to get grants and stuff and make your papers get published and it takes years and is totally thankless, and you have to deal with stupid students and stuff, and in business, you get paid and stuff and if you work it right you can get famous and invent ipods and stuff (simplified? perhaps. no, on second thought, no. not simplified). Anyway, the point is, this just feels so damn complainy, especially for a guy who has never been an academic, or even gone to grad school, or even tried to go to grad school (as far as I know). While we're at it, isn't a thesis basically what you write at the end of a doctoral program or some other sort of program? Don't you usually write only one? How is that different from a paper, besides the difference in who is writing it?

But whatever. Man, I knew that being an academic was awesome in the math/physics/comp sci fields. You know how I know? Because I read Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which covered this topic last week. Just last week! Am I being crazy here, or is this a little suspicious?

I am going to try to do a better job of reading comments and occasionally guys are just writing far too many. Stop writing! only one person has to call me a douche for me to get the picture, not all of you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

more book news!

I got my copy of the Achewood book in the mail today! woo. I will read it this weekend and write a review. In the meantime, large amounts of thanks to Aaron Colter at Dark Horse for sending it to me.

If there are any new(ish) webcomic products you want me to review (ie, you want me to try to get for FREE) let me know. I am a vast internet force now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Comic 663: Criminal

Sagan-Man? more
GUYS i felt so bad about being lame these last few posts that I am writing all super early today. Hurrah for me.

This is not so hard a task, because the comic is so freaking dumb. I think the point is to choose a scientific figure who Randall knows everyone will like (and he's got Feynman covered) and make a comic that basically says "Isn't [scientific figure] cool?" So that's what he does. Just by acting like Carl Sagan you can fight crime! Well obviously not really, that's why this doesn't happen, and it remains a cartoon webcomic internet nerd fantasy. But guys! How cool would it be if we finally overcame the bullies and criminals...using science! That is what this comic is about.

Oh, and if he can make his "profound truth" be along the same lines of a previous comic that was oh so similar well then so much the better. Right down to the shape of the comic, with the scene set for us in a box that overlaps the first few panels, some silent panels, and then the Crazy Thought at the end.

Sadly, we still have the xkcd sycophants eating this shit up. for example, a delightful fellow who goes by the name "Steve The Pocket" writes that "I don't even get the joke, and yet I'm laughing." Do you see what we have to work with? How many people get that much slack? How many people can make such crappy crappy jokes and still have people actually admit, "I don't know what the fuck is going on but i will love it anyway!"

this is why i blog, people. this is my sacred cause.


oh hey rob finally wrote something about the last comic, you can read it if you want, I GUESS.

Comic 662: Carl Literally Sucks At Everything

iPhone or Droid or NOTHING? hm? thought of THAT?

Because Carl's post is pretty much terrible, Rob emerges from his dark grave etc etc.

So, apparently Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) has heard of the Droid! This is exciting news, you guys. He has heard about it and now he is going to wax philosophical in the only way he way only he knows how to: by talking about meaninglessness, which is shorthand for existentialism! That's pretty deep.

Mostly though I feel validated. You see, before today, I wasn't sure if Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) approved of my purchase of the Droid. Now that I know it has his stamp of approval, and--oh, fuck it.

I think there's a hint of self-depreciation in panel 2. Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) apparently already had a G1 (which he just cold doesn't mention in the comic). He apparently bought or covets the Droid. And now he is aware of what he is become--the type of person who sedately consumes, as Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) once put it.

Then panel three is a snarky comment at how the iPhone is proprietary software. Ha ha ha, free software is great, will someone please love me? And that kind of ruins it. I mean, the setup for a really good joke is there. It could be really excellent, the kind of stuff that made up the golden days of XKCD. If only he'd just drop those last two lines of dialogue. It's not necessary. It's not clever.

Without those two lines, Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) could have ended on a succinct note, for once, but I'm mostly annoyed that he took what could have been a funny line--"Yeah, on both"--and followed it up with some snarky "haha the iPhone sucks" jab.

Now, I'm a man who likes his snark. I am guilty of it, oh, basically all the time, ever. Just ask anyone! (Or don't, usually they just say "We don't want any" and slam the door in my face, and it's cold outside and just once I want them to let me inside for a minute so I can be warm.) But this is just a poor example. There's no depth to it, no absurdity, no irony. It is utterly bereft of the je ne sais quois, as the Russians say, which makes snark (which is a Russian word, look it up) so beautiful. It feels, not even contrived, but obligatory. Like the sort of thing a free culture nerd would say if this had come up in conversation. And then the people who happen to like their women like they like their software (proprietary) roll their eyes and say "fucking freetards" and then everyone gets on with their lives.

It's not webcomic joke material. It's utterly expected. It's completely mundane. It lacks chutzpah (a Russian word). It fails to capture the zeitgeist (also Russian).

So I guess what I am saying is, Randall Munroe (whose corpse has been mummified and preserved, that he may be with us eternally) ruins everything, and fuck Carl and his stupid face.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Comic 662: Do Not Care

iPhone or Droid or NOTHING? hm? thought of THAT?
I know what you are all thinking, and it's "My god, how can Carl Wheeler get any lazier?" and the answer is: by not even posting at all! I know I'm usually late, but today i am just not going to do anything. Is it that I am too busy? Maybe. Is it that I have nothing at all to say about this mediocre comic? Perhaps. Is it that I want to manipulate your silly emotions by depriving you of that which you most love, ie, my brilliant words? Possible.

In any case, take this opportunity to write your own brilliant critiques in the comments, and a promise that maybe in the future i will not be so damn lazy, and I leave you with this video that has been making me laugh all week:

oh and: needless to say, any of the fellows with postin' power can feel free to blog today, and those of you without postin' power can feel free to chant the name of your favorite guest blogger in the comments, in the hopes that it inspires them to write something.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Comic 661: Learning from the Internet

Two-shits sistem
Well once again we learn that xkcd is not a political comic. Not at all.

So many wonderful xkcd stereotypes in this comic. There's a woman (running for president!) who outsmarts a silly man (seriously, can anyone find an example of the other way around? Not counting Mr. and Mrs. Hat; they are always prankin' each other). There's taking computers/the internet and seeing how they are act when you jam them on real life. There's just plain dumb mistakes in the art (ach, that extra long vertical line in panel two looks so fucking bad. )

And most of all, it has shitty, shitty dialog.

How freaking lame is that dialog in the last panel. "I thought one reply was all I needed!" That's not how people talk. That's how a tree talks in a third grade production of "Our Healthy Forests" when the tree is like "I am a tree! It is bad to cut me down." Do you see what I mean? Someone who actually thought you only needed one reply wouldn't say so; he would say "lol TROLLED! bitch" or something like that. Or "FIRST!" or "HITLER believed in political parties dumass" or "if you don't like it, just stop reading it" or something smart like that.

The stupidity of the dialog (from now on i am calling it "I am a tree!" syndrome) reminded me a lot of the youtube audio preview comic. Just...bad, god.

Anyway, I think Jay has some things he'd like to say about this comic so i'ma gonna get out of his way and let him post them.

the xkcd search function sucks as hard as the comic. Perhaps if randall knew about computers he could fix it. perhaps.
i am serious: who can find a comic where a man is smarter / better / nicer / more clever / etc than a woman? I am not sure one exists but will not be reading 661 comics to prove it.

Comic 661: An editor's helpful pen

Hey there, friends. This is Jay guest-posting, and we're going to do something different today. We get accused so often on this blog of not being constructive, I've decided to go over the latest comic with an editor's helpful pen, fixing what needs be fixed. Let's begin!

Dialogue has three purposes. It should be believable, it should convey something about the situation at hand, and it should be interesting to read. These purposes are often at odds with each other - for example, dialogue that was completely true to life, with all the ums and uhs left in, would not be very interesting to read.

With any piece of writing, you should use the fewest possible words to get your point across. Here, the word 'and' is superfluous. Randall is using it to tell us something about the situation - that the speaker is concluding a speech, that she said more before this. But we already know this. We can infer it from other clues in the panel, so the word is unnecessary.

It's not a good idea to underestimate your audience. Generally, people can figure things out pretty well from the context.

The passive voice is weaker than the active. It is more exciting for the subject of a sentence to do something than for something to be done to the subject. This would be snappier as "if you elect me." This would be stronger in a real speech too, as an appeal to her voters. Voters elect people - elections don't just happen.

This is more weak dialogue. Would any candidate promise to fix only 'some' of the problems? Would anyone vote for her? Randall is not thinking about what he's writing, and the result is dialogue that is boring on a cursory reading and completely falls apart under a closer look.

... which makes me notice the "try to fix" immediately preceding that. Even though this is a school election, the girl presumably wants to sound convincing. Maybe politicians should give speeches like this - "Uh, I'll try to fix the economy. No promises."

Italics are more distracting in handwritten text than in typed. You should only use them when you really need to emphasize a word. It's not necessary here - again, you shouldn't underestimate your audience. People are pretty used to talking and can usually tell what inflections a character is putting on a word without help.


This is petty, but Billy is such a cliche. I've never met someone who called himself Billy, but for some reason it's a stereotypical kid's name. If you think I'm reaching, watch for it, you can see it in other places. In this terrible strip for example.

Obviously this is a pet peeve.

Another unnecessary word.

"This is a school election" sounds better than "I'm running for class president."

The word political is unnecessary.

There are some writers who think that the exclamation point is an inherently weak punctuation mark, and that you should never use it. I don't agree - I think that because it's fallen into relative disuse, when someone does use it, it's jarring and lends emphasis to the sentence. But it doesn't work here. Why?

Most of the guy's dialogue ends with exclamation points. If it was just in the last panel, that would be OK. It would help deliver the punchline. But by the time we reach the last panel, we've become subconsciously dulled to it through overuse - it's not surprising anymore. We're not imagining anything he says with any particular emphasis. Notice how the girl's dialogue there takes center stage? There's a reason for that.

It's not that she's a girl that bothers me. I am fine with girls being shown as more intelligent than men, one-upping men in debates, whatever. It's that xkcd never depicts them in any other way. Can you imagine this comic if both of them were men? Or if their roles were reversed? Even the thought is bizarre. It's not how the world of xkcd works.

In the world of xkcd, men either act like women, or are inferior to them.

Despite what you may have heard, people's heads are attached to their bodies.

Just because you don't have recurring characters doesn't excuse your dialogue for being boring. This is utterly lifeless, substituting vanilla quirkiness for personality. These characters are not people, they are stage props with the single purpose of delivering the joke.

For an example of Randall doing this right, see this comic. He almost never does this right.

And then the dialogue in the last panel:

Not only is this not how people talk, it doesn't communicate the joke effectively. It does not flow from the rest of the comic - is the joke that he learned about politics from an inappropriate source (the internet), or that he was unprepared to give more than one reply (as people often are on the internet)? Both, apparently.

T-shirt money is not good motivation to make a comic. Without usable, honest feedback you cannot evolve creatively. Filler is never OK, especially if every comic is filler. It is insulting and a waste of the reader's time. Everything about this comic is wrong. This comic is a waste of your time.

Here's the revised comic, with my edits and Carl's punchline.

And here's what I think about the punchline.

Thanks for reading yo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Comic 660: Just Plain Evil

Sympathy for the Devil
For a second comic running, I don't have too much to say. This worries me.

Yes, the comic feels like it was taken out of SMBC, had its humor removed, and stuck on XKCD. That's not a problem, really, it's not like SMBC should, or does, have a right to this sort of "best case / worst case" joke. But SMBC does have a fairly unique style in terms of being completely mean spirited, as in this best case/worst case comic [i would thank the poster who posted it but it was anonymous...]. XKCD can't really make up its mind on this. Is it all sweet and sad etc, at times, but at other times just plain evil. It leads to a sort of webcomic personality disorder, where not only can we not recognize a stick figure as being distinct from any other, we can't even know the sort of way that xkcd stick figures usually act.

Usually, with a character, you are given some cues about them - even if it's the first time you are meeting them, you see their clothes, say, or their hair, or the way they talk, the words they use, etc. And this is good, and important. because in order to care at all about the characters you have to know something about who they are, what they think, how they respond in certain situations.

But in xkcd there is none of that. There's just - stick figure. usually a plain stick figure is a man, but that's all. We don't know a damn thing else, ever, and in my opinion, that leads to forgettable characters. Does any other popular webcomic have these two features? No running characters (ok, besides the played out and one dimensional Mr. Hat) and no visual or verbal cues about them?

Anyway, I know I didn't say much about the comic - I'll leave that to the physics kids. But take this rambly essay loosely inspired by the comic in its place.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Comic 659: Less Than The Sum of its Parts

ba dummmmmm

I find myself at a rare loss for words, simply because I cannot say with my usual certainty what exactly is happening in this comic. Ordinarily I turn to the forums and to your comments for help, but there isn't a consensus here. Is the man inspiring the girl to donate her organs, because once they are "done" being used by her body, they are like lone lego pieces that can be used for other projects (/bodies) ? That was how I first interpreted it. Or is she irritated by his philosophical elitism, and thus driven to make him an organ donor, using his own logic? Or, is she changing her organ donor card from "donor" to "non-donor," because the Lecture convinced her that she will lose all her individuality if even a small piece of her is removed? Or maybe she is changing his card from one to the other. I'm not sure you can make a persuasive case for any of them.

That's because so little context is given. Presumably, randall has an idea about which person's organs are being donated or not. But he doesn't tell us, at least not clearly. He could have shown the whole driver's license, including a picture, so we know if it's the girl or the boy. He could have shown us a little more of a reaction from the girl instead of "blank stare," so we could know if she is generally agreeing with the man or disagreeing. I personally think the first interpretation I listed is correct (which makes the comic only slightly funny, in a sort of profound life-explained-through-toys sort of way) but I really don't know.

So I won't say any more, and maybe the next comic will be simpler.

Prediction: At least one cuddlefish will write a long rant about how dumb i am because obviously this comic is X Interpretation, and I am worthless scum etc and this shows how unqualified I am to write this blog and therefore xkcd is great, but before I get a chance to respond, another cuddlefish will write the exact same post but says it is obviously the exact opposite interpretation.

In Other News: I have just learned of a most extraordinary coincidence. Google Analytics informs me that on September 2nd, 2009, the day of the infamous Comic 631, the number of people who visited my blog after googling "xkcd sucks" jumped up to 631. how can it be??

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Comic 658: SEXcruciating!

get it????Oh lord. What are everyone's two favorite elements of xkcd? If you said "making everything about sex" and "ridiculously bad puns about science" well you are in LUCK! because today's comic stoops to both those levels, AND does it incredibly badly!

YES, the word "exclusion" starts with the prefix "ex-" which can, I will admit, be modified to become "sex-" and sex, as you may be aware, is hilarious. It is a guaranteed laugh, because everyone is so awkward about it! So you can always always always tap into that awkwardness for Laffs A Plenty. Obviously, xkcd does this very often. That's why it is so funny!

So what could be funnier than taking something not usually about sex - the Pauli exclusion principle - and making it be all about sex? It is perfect. It fulfills the XKCD Paradox Of Nerdiness - being about science, so it is nerdy, but being about basic high school science, so everyone can feel good about themselves for getting the joke. Heck, even I get the joke and I basically know nothing about chemistry.

God, seriously though, how lame was this joke? Don't we all talk about the concept of being "sexiled" when a roommate is having sex, forcing one to sleep elsewhere? I assume I am not the only one who has heard this word. "Sexiled" is a far funnier word than "Sexclusion" - for one thing, being kicked out of your room because of Sexy Times inside is much closer to being "exiled" than to being "excluded" - after all, how many people actually want to be included in the sex? Basically none, right? I mean, no one is like "Ugh, my roommate is having sex and excluding me from it" they are more like "ugh, my roommate has driven me into EXILE." Also, the word just sounds smoother - following the "ex" sound immediately with a hard C is much more awkward than following it with a long I. That just flows nicer. What I'm trying to say is that this comic is a pale shadow of a joke that everyone already knows and uses.

Not that that will stop Randall from making more jokes like these. That's why I want to help him out. Each of the following words has had the word "sex" cleverly added into it. Each one could be the subject of its own great comic, or even, if you work real hard, a 5 part series.

extra --> SEXtra!
extraterrestrial --> SEXtraterrestrial!
extracurricular --> SEXtracurricular!
extortion --> SEXtortion!
extraneous --> SEXtraneous!
exit --> SEXit!
ex-wife --> SEX-wife!
explanation --> SEXplanation!
exhibit --> SEXhibit!

God, so many great jokes here. Tell me some other good words in the comments.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Comic 657: Wayward Journeys

I know i usually forget to do this, but I'm making this post now in case you want to talk about the highly unusual comic 657. Yes, I know that if you read this by RSS feed, it makes it more difficult. To you people I say, just check back wednesday night. Also, if you are reading this by RSS you are most likely Rob, in which case i hate you and you should get the hell off my blog.

A few quick thoughts

-Regardless of what anyone says, this comic is very, very impressive, and clearly took a lot of thought and care to produce. I don't want to think about how hard it is. This doesn't excuse any of Randall's earlier lazy comics, but it does show that when he wants to, he can do something intense like this.

-to the always classy sje on the forums: You are a moron, there is only one critic on this site who matters, and that is me, and I read it right, and have seen the movie like a billion times. That clever little "let the voice of one person stand in for the whole website" is lame, and if I were to use it, I might assume that all of the xkcd forums were filled with giant assholes that reveled in the mistakes of others.

PS i thought of an xkcd comic today and I want to say it now, so xkcd fans can tell me is sucks and then will have to backtrack when xkcd inevitably makes the same joke - it would basically a twitter post version of Fermat's last theorem, saying that 140 characters was not enough to explain it fully. Math reference + Internet Twist = XKCD Gold.

also, how long before we get a logical journey of the zoombinis comic? Maybe Mr. Hat is playing the game and uses all sorts of practical, assholeish tactics to avoid the usual logical rules.

OK. Now it's time to get down and write about this comic.

This is an impressive comic. A lot of the usual anti-xkcd folks are impressed with it, and I fall into that category as well. Let's break it into two distinct parts, the charts themselves and the joke or jokes.

The charts are cool. Now granted, this sort of thing is not original; the most famous chart in the world (according to some sources), the Napoleon's Forces one, is of this style. It's actually a chart which xkcd has referenced before (incidentally, I could have sworn he referred to it twice. lots of cookies to whoever can find another example). Even the idea of doing it for a story dates at least to Slaughterhouse-Five, as many people have pointed out. But that's really not the point - I don't want to criticize him for that; unlike many other examples it's really completely fine that he's done this. I just want to make sure that all the fans who are like "oh wow he is so brilliant to think of using graphics to see where people move as time goes on!" know that they are dumb.

The Lord of the Rings chart, covering 1000 pages of novel as it does, is of course the most impressive. Particularly if it was done entirely freehand, as I suspect, it would have taken many tries and many drafts, and many consultations of the book. His blog post sheds a tiny amount of light on this (but I warn you - do not click on that animation link at the end....). The Star Wars graph, while clearly simpler, is also impressive on its own. And I guess Jurassic Park as well.

The presentation of the graphs leaves a bit to be desired - on the front page, they are just far too small to make anything of, and the "joke panels," discussed below, are shunted off in the bottom where the eye is not really able read them, let alone concentrate on them. But is there anyone out there who seriously doubts that this will not be turned into a poster, probably before christmas, and that Randall had this in mind when he made it? Any copyright lawyers out there who know if this would constitute fair use or not?

But of course, xkcd is a comic, and so it can't just show you something cool, no matter how cool it is. It has to make a joke. And this comic, I think, tries to make two. First, 12 Angry Men, a great movie but one where nearly the whole thing takes place in one jury room, so the chart version is comically simple. Ha ha, I guess. You wonder why he didn't go even more sparse and do a well known two-person movie, like My Dinner With Andre. Or a single line with The Cube. Whatever.

Then the real joke is the last graph, Primer, a movie so complicated that I've seen it 4 times and still have some key questions about just what is happening. It's not the crazy jumble that Randall makes it out to be (for one thing, like most time travel stories, the time travelers create duplicates of themselves when they go back in time) and it is, in fact, comprehensible. Nonetheless, that is how the movie feels, the first time you watch it. Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy the joke. So few people know this movie that to me it just felt like Randall the insecure nerd trying to prove that he's heard of this cool nerd movie. Most people who have just discovered it, like me, did so either directly or indirectly because The Onion AV Club brought it a lot of attention this summer. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that Randall just watched it recently, and wants to tell people - like he did with House of Leaves - that he is just as well versed in nerdery as they.

In comparison to the nearly overwhelming impact of the "serious" panels, these last two jokes ("12 angry men is simple" and "primer is complicated") seem pretty pathetic. Why not just skip them entirely and leave us with only the high quality stuff?

Of course, had he done that, there's a good chance I would have said "this is cool and all, but it's not funny. It's not trying to be funny. Isn't xkcd supposed to be a webcomic?" and I would have been right.

That's why Randall Munroe should stop trying to be funny, as I have said a thousand times. By trying and failing, he's just bringing down the quality of the good stuff, like the serious panels in this comic. That's why he needs to scrap the webcomic format entirely and move all his fans over to Randall Munroe's World-Famous Death Defying Amazing Picto-Blog and he should do it as soon as he possibly can.

This was a very cool installment of xkcd. But it only reinforced to me that Randall does have good ideas, and xkcd is not the best channel for them.

PS here is something interesting - looks like xkcd is now overtly objectifying women for profit. I wasn't expecting that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Comic 656: Treatery

October 30th
First off, sorry for being so slow with these posts, and not responding to e-mails etc as fast I would like. You know how life can be sometimes, that little bastard.

Anyway, let's do the best we can under the circumstances: Guy wants candy before halloween, so he dresses up as a well-known time traveler in order to justify asking for candy a day early. Mildly clever, but here is a case where Randall's terrible drawing just make life sadder for everyone. He can't just draw Doc Brown - because he is physically incapable of drawing a figure that people will recognize as the character. So he does his best - coat, glasses, wavy hair - and decides, no, that is really not enough for people to recognize (and he is right). So what can he do? He has the person in the house tell you: "NICE DOC BROWN COSTUME." There's another example of our favorite xkcd-unrealistic-dialogue, so stick that in your pipe and do it without a condom.

(update: some silly people seem to think that I am saying here that it is unrealistic for people to compliment a costume that a child wears whilst trick or treating. That's not what I'm saying, because yeah, that happens. What I'm saying is that in this case, Randall had to make the dialog far more stilted than would happen in real life, because otherwise we would not know what this person is dressed as, because the art is lousy. ok guys?)

Lastly we have the problems that only dawn on you gradually - if this person is clever enough to go and do all this, shouldn't he be old enough that "halloween" just means drinking excessively in costume? Is this really the most efficient way to use time travel to procure candy? Why has this fellow not been punched in the face yet? Etc.

In short, CANDY+BACK TO THE FUTURE does not always equal a great joke, SORRY RANDALL.