Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Comic 696: All The Cleverness Stripped Away

striped James

Boston, MA. 11:56 pm, Sunday. A young man thinks to himself.

Think, Randall! Just concentrate and think. You can DO this, Randall. You made almost 700 great comics and you are going to give up now? No fucking way! Bring on the Munroe Genius, man, bring it on like you do every monday, wednesday, and friday without fail. Come on.

Make a comic about something you like. What do you love? Lots of things. Aaagh, think. Sex! You like sex. And nudin' it up. Lots of naked folks, that's good. Good! You can work with this. Sexy times.

What do your readers like? Ugh, they are all a bunch of nerds. All they do is play nerd games and have nerdgasms and shit. What can I throw them to make them like this comic? What nerd games are out there?

wait. some of your readers just like math. FUCK. What can I do for them? fuuuuuuck. dammit. Gotta think of something.

And how can I combine these ideas? There must be a way. There must. You didn't become king of the internet by haphazardly smacking together random different ideas.

----------------------------------------------
Perhaps, one day long ago, you learned that any fortune cookie can be made more hilarious by adding the phrase "in bed" to the end. This is because when you heard this, you were in seventh grade, and nothing was more funny to you than the idea of sex, or as you called it at the time, "doin' it." For some of you, this is still the most hilarious thing there is. So just by taking something boring, a fortune cookie, and sexin' it up, you ended up with a foolproof formula for the world's greatest jokes.

Today's xkcd makes comedy history by providing a slight variant on that theme. Instead of "in bed" [havin' sex], he adds "without clothes" [havin' sex]. Different words, yes; different idea, no. Apparently, some people think it is funny to take nerdy games (or in the end, not even real games, like Conway's Game of Life) and make 'em naked. But that's stupid.

Apparently, some people are dumb enough that you can literally just stick a "guaranteed Komedy Gold formula" in from of them and they will take your bait. Because it is literally a formula: Take the game name, and add "strip" in front of it. THE END. This works equally well for any game. Strip Bible Trivia? Strip Plants vs. Zombies? Strip Russian Roulette [which is funnier than anything randall mentioned]? All of these are exactly as funny at the ones in the list. If the point of the comic is to say that some of these are less common than others, that's equally stupid. Because the results are exactly what you would expect. If it turned out to be different - lots of people playing strip prisoner's dilemma, for example - then it might be funny. But as it is, he's just saying, "hey look, fewer people get naked playing chess by mail than playing beer pong" and I go "DUHHHHH, what other brilliant insights have you got, Mr. NASA?" "



This is also another in a long list where Randall gives us notoriously-innacurate google results for something, as a way to try to prove some point he is making. See also: Silly ways to die, kiss more people, the right number of girls for the right number of cups, etc (update: and ninja turtles, if you read the methodology). It's a silly way to present data for a number of reasons, but my favorite is the one Sam pointed out here: you'll get a lot of results for "strip " that are not referring to a version of the game where people strip. When Randall gives us these google search comics, I always get the sense that he doesn't really want to show us the results he found as much as the clever search he came up with.


Why did he choose N to be his ratio variable? N should refer to the total sample size, ie, the denominator. Right?

------------

In other news, Dinosaur Comics celebrated its 7th birthday yesterday with what I thought was the funniest comic in months (and a rare comic that had its funniest line at the very end), while over in Achewood Heights someone also made me laugh really, really hard. Did anyone make an hourly comic yesterday, on hourly comic day? Let us know and share a link. I made one but I am not going to link to it, it did not turn out that well.

84 comments:

  1. xkcdexplained's commentary and this post remind me of each other :)

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  2. grrr xkcd is so annoying. little things that aren't exactly WRONG but just sort of cheapen the whole comic, for example calling his variable "n". It may seem ridiculously nit-picky but I love maths and n really does not seem like an appropriate variable. "p" would be much better.

    Another one: putting n > 1% etc. That would be fine in most situations but xkcd is meant for nerds like me, and nerds like me notice little things like the fact that n is NOT a percentage, it is a number. Why not n > 0.01?? The xkcd fans will obviously say that it makes perfect sense and is valid and I'm just complaining for complaining's sake but seriously ... I expect better from Mr. NASA...

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  3. Dood randall isn't that bad.. your acting like he's in 3rd grade. You're already biased on xkcd so much that any comic he rolls out is bad. Even if it's semi-good you say its bad, if it's not that good then you say "fuck randall die you imature fiend"

    I mean it wasn't that BAD... it was pretty funny. Stop acting like its a research paper due every monday, wednesday, and friday.

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  4. His full-time job is to produce something funny three times a week. He used to have our support. Then he lost it. We didn't change.

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  5. Exactly, Jimbob. The more you look at it, the more you get the feeling that Randy just added in little things that he thought made his numbers look smarter and more statisticky--without actually bothering to learn how to make things intelligent or statisticky. Math, indeed.

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  6. Also, the use of the word "frequency". It makes sense in everyday use but in a mathematical sense what he is showing is not a frequency, it is a proportion. And don't say "but if you understand it then it doesn't detract from the joke" because it does. He is trying to combine sex with MATH. He has the sex part down (te he, naked people) but failed at the math part because he is using everyday terminology.

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  7. Admittedly, the alt-text made me chuckle slightly, probably because I saw that movie the other night.

    Even with statistical issues, I still wouldn't find this funny even if he got it right.

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  8. I don't think I saw anyone mention the Ninja Turtles comic as getting data from google results, my favorite of the bunch. Where this most recent one failed is in not providing any insight into the data. The Ninja Turtles/Renaissance Artist answered a question I'm sure most TMNT fans pondered at some time in a clear visual. Girls/cups color coded the chart so we could see a clustering around the most infamous result. "Died in a ____ accident" started with some things you'd expect on such a list and it was interesting to see how they compared. That one even ended with a punchline by adding some oddball items.

    "Strip Games" doesn't provide any insight. It didn't make any clear connection among the items in any of the groupings and the bracketing didn't help give a feel for how the data compare. In the other examples you feel like you better understand something about the topic; here, all you really get is a metric.

    As for fortune cookies, I now do the "except in bed" thing from xkcd.

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  9. This is my third comment on this site...
    And with each one, I begin to agree with Carl a little more.
    ... Sigh.
    Oh well. It take ten seconds to read, and every few days I at least get a smile out of the comic.
    This? Not one of those days.

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  10. So, Carl, was that an intentional reference to the one SMBC strip or not?

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  11. no, but let's say it was. adding a link now

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  12. I always thought space elevator cables were a bit thicker than that.

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  13. wait, did we actually finish developing the space elevator, or is Randall just using that eventuallity for the purpose of making a joke.

    Another comment, does that make Black Hat guy God now? Because God is who destroyed the Tower of Babel in the story.

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  14. See, it's funny, because the space elevator wouldn't actually be anchored to Earth anyway. Unless you're incredibly stupid, you have the center of mass of the elevator in geosynchronous orbit. Cutting the bottom of it would... yeah, not really do much.

    Not to mention that the entire system would have much, much greater structural integrity.

    Oh, whatever, the comic is shitty as well as inaccurate.

    Cam, you're right, there's no space elevator actually around. I don't think there's really a serious attempt to "develop" one, either.

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  15. The space elevator looks like it's the width of a garden hose. Wouldn't it be be larger so that it could actually transport things...?

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  16. "See, it's funny, because the space elevator wouldn't actually be anchored to Earth anyway. Unless you're incredibly stupid, you have the center of mass of the elevator in geosynchronous orbit. Cutting the bottom of it would... yeah, not really do much."

    Huh? A space elevator would be anchored at both ends. Cutting the bottom of the space elevator would cause it to fall into space. Cutting it at the top would cause it to fall to the earth. It stays up through the tension from the opposite pulls, one from the counterweight that's above geostationary orbit and so is "trying" to fly away from the earth from inertia (centrifugal effects), and the other being the conventional pull of gravity.

    I actually really like the new one. It might be because my browser window happened to be just short enough to cut off the punchline. And the alt-text actually added to it if you didn't notice yourself.

    "The space elevator looks like it's the width of a garden hose. Wouldn't it be be larger so that it could actually transport things...?"

    It's a cable made of absurdly strong material that does exist but we have only so far managed to produce in lengths of a couple centimetres. Also, it's at its least thick close to the ground. It's not about a box that holds people. That's the easy part.

    It's hard to say exactly how thick it would need to be at the thinnest point.

    If we're going for the unrealistic angle, I'm skeptical that pruning shears could take out a carbon nanotube cable. But not skeptical enough that I'm going to look up the relevant material properties.

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  17. Today, I present xkcd/Mary Worth crossover!

    Anyway, the space elevator that can withheld enormous tidal and centripetal forces, but easily cut by garden shears? Damn you Black Hat and your physics-defying implements!

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  18. It's a shame that people pick up on the unrealistic nature of the *COMIC* (key word there), or when they pick at the art style (okay, so it's nice to look at something pretty, but not being able to draw should not bar you from communicating humour in a visual medium).

    It detracts from the issue of the comic just being a weak excuse to pander to socially undeveloped nerds who are progressively destroying geek culture for those of us who are smart but don't get our rocks off from bleating out memes and references.

    xkcd is what it is to be a nerd now; an undiscriminating dick who just wants to hear things that they can repeat in the presence of other people in order to receive attention and praise.

    Anon xkcd defenders: That's why many of us visit xkcdsucks. The rest of our peers have been sucked into self-congratulatory wanking circles, and we need this support group to deal with it.

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  19. "or when they pick at the art style (okay, so it's nice to look at something pretty, but not being able to draw should not bar you from communicating humour in a visual medium)."

    It's not that it's simple, it's that he's lazy and the end result looks sloppy because he spent a grand total of ten seconds working on it.

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  20. That's fair, but I think that energy could be better spent on more meaningful critique, such as calling Randall a big, feckless, shrieker of a cunt.

    (I agree with you really)

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  21. For some reason, even I no longer laugh by reading XKCD, I still go to the website. The latest one just gave a 'WTF? Quite... lame' feeling.

    Actually, I think I only go to the website because the FORUM is 3000% more funny than the comic. I think that is very sad.

    Some how I agree with the statement "Fame brought(is bringing?) XKCD down, as Randall now knows he's got regular readers."

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  22. Well, comic 697, it was...hmm. It...uh...it sure does exist. Yep. Definitely existent.

    I don't know what it is. Or why it's supposed to be funny. But it's certainly there.

    So BHG cut a space elevator cable. Ha ha? I mean that's it? Is there like...some kind of joke, or point or...is this just...I mean...I don't know. I've seen cereal boxes funnier than this. But that's even assuming this is supposed to be funny. Because I don't even KNOW anymore.

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  23. Why does it need all this math stuff anyway ? It was easy to make a joke about it without all these n and %...

    It doesn't even need to refer to google... Sincerely, is the Interweb your god ? Google said so, hence it's right and can be used in science...? Pah !

    This is basically a Google Fight, and Google Fight is old.

    Once again, less words, more fun...

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  24. Randall. Please. GIVE UP THAT SPACE ELEVATOR SHIT. It's old, it's annoying, it stopped being funny years ago.

    So much PANDERING, people!

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  25. Hayo, hayo, back from the burrow, and not on a better time...

    ...because this comic truly enrages me.

    Text. Text and more text. Not even a graph, just text. And not even funny text, it has the look and feel of an elementary schoolbook infograph, and those usually are not funny. That it refers to "strip-" variations of games doesn't make it anyway the better.

    On completely unrelated news... no, wait, it's actually completely related! Newest comic? It also isn't good at all! Is this xkcd's inevitable downfall, or it's just Randall going through a (very very) bad time? Time will decide!

    And, with that, the usual... Mole out!

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  26. Strangely, the Burma Shave wikipedia article was vandalized by some xkcd fan with a reference to the space elevator comic, which is a stretch even for xkcd wikipedia vandals... the style might be similar, but there's no reference to Burma Shave whatsoever. Needless to say, the reference has been removed.

    That prompted me to check out the revision history for the Spirit Mars Rover - sure enough, it had been similarly vandalized, and an argument even broke out in the discussion page.

    In that argument, someone brought up the fact that "xkcd is an integral part of physics geek popular culture". That comment alone made me want to throw up and solidified my resolve to distance myself from any such physics fanboy "culture". Who would have thought that having a "geek" facade would become "popular".

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  27. If you think that's insane, check out this conversation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Centrifugal_force_%28rotating_reference_frame%29#RfC:_Does_a_link_to_a_web-comic_belong_in_this_article

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  28. I didn't laugh at all... until I noticed the title. That was a bit funny.

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  29. New one wasn't too bad in my opinion. Title made me smile but the "poem" was pretty bad. It's unrealistic but it's a comic so who cares? Overall, not awful but nothing special either. :)

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  30. Huh? A space elevator would be anchored at both ends. Cutting the bottom of the space elevator would cause it to fall into space. Cutting it at the top would cause it to fall to the earth. It stays up through the tension from the opposite pulls, one from the counterweight that's above geostationary orbit and so is "trying" to fly away from the earth from inertia (centrifugal effects), and the other being the conventional pull of gravity.

    Haha, what.

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  31. Look how lazy RanDULL is getting. He can't even put "Tower of" in front of Babel? It looks like that RanDULL is sitting down in front of his computer at 11:35pm every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to come up with a new idea.

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  32. "Strangely, the Burma Shave wikipedia article was vandalized by some xkcd fan"

    It's "Randalized"*, folks. Learn the correct term.



    * Randalized or Randallized?

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  33. Get it guys? It was the space elevator grand opening! So BHG invented some nanotube scissors and cut the nano tube cable because he thought it was a ribbon cutting ceremony! Get it guys?

    WELL THEN YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY NOT WHAT YOU CALL "TARGET AUDIENCE"!

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  34. I done me an hourly comic http://www.tencentticker.com/msgbrd/viewtopic.php?t=1326

    Re: the comic, I think there was a good idea there, but he didn't actually do anything with it. What I don't like is that it would've been so easy, too.

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  35. Can someone explain to me the pun everyone on the xkcd forums is mentioning?
    They act as if that pun was the sole thing that made this comic really hilarious (which I don't really believe, but whatever).

    On another note, yes you definitely need to connect the cable to the ground. Letting a cable hang down from 20000 miles above the ground is not the same as letting it hang down from your room's ceiling.
    According to wikipedia, the connection between cable and base would feel a pressure of 62 Gigapascal.

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  36. The pun is between "pruning shears" and "shear strength".

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  37. That's what I guessed, but I don't see how that's a pun - the "shear" in "pruning shears" and in "shear strenth" refer to the same principle - that is, forces acting in opposing directions in the same plane.

    They're called shears because they cause a shearing force; the similarity isn't coincidental, and it's only a pun if it plays off two different words with two different meanings.

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  38. It's hilarious because if a space elevator is built it wont be surrounded by security guards and reinforced with any level of protection so that Herostratus (ie black hat dude) can come cut it down with some clippers. LAWLZ

    Also the thought of chronicling somebody using a simple method to destroy a complex achievement via a poem is hilarious too.

    All in all this comic gets a 24/10

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  39. "That's what I guessed, but I don't see how that's a pun - the "shear" in "pruning shears" and in "shear strenth" refer to the same principle - that is, forces acting in opposing directions in the same plane.

    They're called shears because they cause a shearing force; the similarity isn't coincidental, and it's only a pun if it plays off two different words with two different meanings."

    But most people don't know that, or make the connection. Thus to them it becomes punny.

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  40. the pun isn't pruning shears v. shear strength. it's shear strength v. sheer strength.

    and no, that's not funny either.

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  41. There's two places where "shear" is used - in "shear strength", which obviously refers to a material property (reinforced by the fact that it's compared to tensile strength), and "pruning shears", which obviously refers to the tool.

    There's nothing that implied, or plays off of, "sheer"... that's just a word that sounds like "shear". homophone =/= pun.

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  42. the best part about the new comic is that, assuming BHG had anywhere near the physical strength to actually damage a material strong enough to make a space elevator, all that would happen is that the weight of the lower half of the elevator would keep the severed end floating somewhere around ground level, making it easy for the crew to just reattach it.

    Seriously. The people supporting space elevator engineering checked the numbers for a worst case scenario of someone crashing a plane or something into the base, you'd need to cut the tether a lot higher to make it fly off into space.

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  43. Note that "strip settlers of catan" was already used in a webcomic too, with a pun to make it funnier...
    http://homeonthestrange.com/view.php?ID=262

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  44. Our tall buildings are anchored on only one end and they sway at the top. If you make a space elevator and anchor it at only one end? It will sway at the other end. Unless you try to make the material inflexible, in which case it'll just snap.

    Plus geostationary is an EXTREMELY unstable orbit for something to be in when it sticks into earth's atmosphere instead of being in empty space.

    Plus, the only way to get a space elevator anywhere outside of the equator is to use an anchor anyway, even in theory.

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  45. Have to admit that this comic doesn't test. It's weak. It's the first weak joke he's done in a couple of weeks. I'll give it to him. If he were charging admission, I'd get my money back but since he's not, it's easy to allow a clunker to slip by.

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  46. HEY!
    HEY RANDALL!
    HEY! HEY!

    I fixed your comic:

    http://i50.tinypic.com/2925q34.jpg

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  47. So, I couldn't be bothered to read everyone's comics on the space elevator comic. Instead, I'm going to post my reasons for hating it and if I'm repeating someone else's, I'm sorry.

    1) The text is hard to read. Seriously, the first time I read it I started out reading... "After countless spend trillions over a modern babel because some fuck engineers fifty years disappears pruning shears." Its funny because it starts out almost making sense and then starts rhyming, but not making sense.

    2) The joke is "some people worked hard and someone else messed it up." Oh man, I always laugh when people's hard work gets messed up by an idiot. Its hilarious.

    3) This is now how a space elevator would work. If you attach it to the earth, its going to have to swing round and round the planet... does anyone really think this is a good idea? If so, I offer them the street near my house with incredibly heavy traffic to go play on.

    4) The alt-text makes less sense because now its people who know whats going on and love the space elevator messing it up.

    If four reasons enough? I think its enough. But I'll add a fifth one.

    5) The brunette in the back can see whats happening, and doesn't care. Arguably, the next next to her does care, but I can't tell if he is shocked at what black hat guy is doing or really wants champagne.

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  48. Here's something to fuel our hate for xkcd fans. A comic artist decided to write an opinion piece on art in webcomics and declared what we all were thinking: the art in xkcd (and some other webcomics) is crap. Cue 1000 rabid xkcd fans calling her all sort of names for daring to speak against Randall's masterpiece. Rarely there is so much concentrated stupidity as in the comments to this article.

    http://www.comicrelated.com/news/3964/art-in-webcomics

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  49. I don't think anyone has mentioned this thus far: this comic pretty much messes up the characterisation of Black Hat Guy, who has been the most established and most recognisable characters in xkcd, and basically the only recurring character (Beret Guy barely exists as a character...).

    Apart from his hat, BHG is defined by his misanthropy, or at least amorality/nastiness. He's played cruel pranks to humiliate, even kill people etc. In addition, he is characterised as quite brilliant, with very clever set-ups for his pranks.

    However, this comic does not suggest that he is purposefully destroying the elevator (and if it did, that would be a pretty terrible [even worse, that is] comic). Rather, it presents it as a "hilarious" accident. "Some fuck brought pruning shears", plus the image and the alt text, clearly shows that the joke is that some fool cut the elevator instead of the ribbon at the grand opening. BHG is therefore cast as the bumbling fool -- totally inconsistent with his characterisation throughout all the rest of xkcd.

    Of course, it's arguable that the person in this comic is just another person with a black hat, and not 'the' BHG. But that would be stupid of Randall -- he rarely gives characters clear identifying markers, and has on a number of occasions used hats to identify recurring characters. If this is not the BHG, his most recognisable character, why give him a black hat?

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  50. I was under the impression that Black Hat Guy cut the cable solely as a massive "up yours" to everybody who worked so hard to get it operational.

    Timofei: I haven't raged quite so hard lately as I did when reading those comments.

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  51. It's the first weak joke he's done in a couple of weeks

    hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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  52. Sam, that would make most sense in terms of BHG's broad characterisation (does nasty things), but if that truly was Randall's intention, he's done a horrible job of it. 'Some fuck brought pruning shears' suggests that it was a foolish accident: that they made this thing, and then celebrated this thing, but in the course of the celebration accidentally destroyed it. The image and the alt text further go to this, making the joke essentially that in the traditional celebration, they ruined the elevator.

    If the point is though that BHG ruined it on purpose, then it is utterly devoid of humour. The 'joy' of BHG has usually been not that he does cruel things, but the absurd, brilliant ways that he goes about them. Here it's just straightforward being cruel with no other point. And it seems the point of that setup then would be to say basically, look this is a complex, important technology that's easy to destroy, but that's not a humorous or intelligent or deep observation, it's pedestrian, it's obvious. Plenty of things in our world take a lot of money and time and effort to create and can be destroyed with much cheaper things and in a lot less time.

    So basically, this comic goes completely against the characterisation of Randall's only properly established character, or it is just entirely banal, humourless, shallow, stupid.

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  53. I actually like the new one. I know I'll probably get yelled at or something for this but... it vaguelly reminds me of Shel Silverstein, in the cadence of it and the very simple joke. Probably I only like it because of the way it was set up; had Randall used a caption or something, it would have been terrible, but the delivery is, in my opinion, good. Better timing than usual and no text after the punchline.
    Is it fantastic? No. But it's good enough that I didn't feel like I wasted thirty seconds of my life by reading it, like I do so often.
    Like someone said above me, maybe it helped that my screen is small enough that I couldn't read it all at once, so the joke wasn't ruined right off. And I did like the alt-text; I hadn't even noticed how they'd hung up the banner.
    And, yeah yeah, "that's not how science works, you couldn't cut the cable with shears, why would the scientists punch holes in the cable, space elevators don't exist blahblah."
    The comic is based on reality like the Balto movie in the 90s was based on a true story... it gives a vague nod to something real, and runs with it in a completely opposite direction. Side note: I fucking love Balto.
    Those are only really complaints if you're looking for something to complain about, in my opinion, and as much as XKCD has let me down in the past few months, I generally do try to enjoy the comic and ignore the floating heads...
    Though, I do agree with the others here that this doesn't jive with BHG's M.O. Probably Randy should have just used some generic drunken idiot or something. But whatever.

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  54. Those are only really complaints if you're looking for something to complain about, in my opinion, and as much as XKCD has let me down in the past few months, I generally do try to enjoy the comic and ignore the floating heads...

    Actually, they're only not complaints if you're looking for something to appreciate. YOu just explicitly told us that you're deliberately biasing yourself in favor of XKCD and ignoring its faults. That's the sort of bullshit that people try to pin on us; it's refreshing to see an XKCD fan straight-up admit it.

    Also the comparison between this and Balto is retarded, especially since Randall didn't "run with it" at all. He was just like "Space elevator ==> Could be easily destroyed ==> DONE TIME TO WATCH TRANSFORMERS PORN"

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  55. "The 'joy' of BHG has usually been not that he does cruel things, but the absurd, brilliant ways that he goes about them."

    That used to be BHG, but around the time the "woman steals BHG's hat" comic came out, he was steadily on a downward course from 'briliant sadist' to "insane killer". Eventually all he did was kill people for no reason whatsoever.

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  56. @Timofei:
    "http://www.comicrelated.com/news/3964/art-in-webcomics"

    I haven't read the comments (and I have no intention of doing so), but the writer of that article is a douche. Minimalism actually has its benefits, you know.

    "XKCD, however, is unabashed laziness, never even having established a regular cast, let alone a diverse one."
    No shit, it's gag-a-day.

    "This is true of both Marilith and Least I Could Do."

    Good reason NOT to do this, then.

    Also this spectacular display of asshattery:
    twitter.com/julesrivera/status/8348473946
    Note that Danteshepherd (creator of 'Surviving the World') apparently does not make any money off his comic.

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  57. from http://www.comicrelated.com/news/3964/art-in-webcomics:

    "Cyanide and Happiness is even worse because it's far stupider than XKCD"

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAaaaaaaaa.....

    shut up.

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  58. Surviving the World guy clearly deserved this, because in response to that article he created this piece of crap: http://www.survivingtheworld.net/Lesson558.html. It's not a comic, it's just a blog that is very hard to read.

    Anyway, here are some simulations of space elevator breaking at various points.

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  59. That article is pretty dumb - she's decided that her personal interpretation of what constitutes valid art in webcomics should apply to everyone else.

    If I chastised "comic art" for being lazy because it isn't photorealistic, who cares? Anyone can define the goals of their "webcomic", and it isn't always going to be, "look at me, I'm a fancy comic artist".

    That said, if those intended goals aren't met because the art is just that terrible, then it is a failure - someone posted a link to their hourly comic above and I didn't view beyond the first panel because the drawing style was painfully bad.

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  60. Putting requests at the bottom of comment threads on blogs I don't spend much time on probably won't work, but I've spent the last hour or so trying to remember the name of a web comic that I'm 95% sure I first read about in a post on this site, wherein the highly detailed art work of that web comic was held out as an example of what xkcd could do given that xkcd is Randall's full time job. The only other thing I remember about this comic is that there was one which takes place on Christmas wherein a space marine returns from an extraordinarily convoluted mission, which he relates in panel after panel (after panel) of giant speech balloons, to a prostitute. Don't think other comics in the series were sci-fi at all, so don't let that throw you off.

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  61. Randall's full-time job ISN'T making a funny comic. It's generating safe content to appeal to a particular demographic in order to sell t-shirts. He's in marketing.

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  62. @washerdreyer: subnormality?


    and wow surviving the world is awful i could've done without ever being introduced to that.

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  63. @Mal: Agreed.

    "and wow surviving the world is awful i could've done without ever being introduced to that."

    Sorry, I don't really like it either.

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  64. Is the next post's title going to contain a play on the phrase "Sheared away"?

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  65. How about "Randall has a butt for a face"

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  66. The comic: I enjoyed it. I agree that it has something of a Shel Silverstein quality to it. The only part I didn't like was the f*** in the last line. I don't mind the vulgarity (even with my own self-censoring), I just don't like how the --ck br-- ruins the flow of the line. It's a minor point, could be artistic choice (associated with the breaking of the elevator), and I'm not sure if there's a simple substitute that doesn't ruin the meter.

    I also think it's fitting with Black Hat's character given the title. As David took down Goliath with a stone, Black Hat took down the tower, in all its (tensile) strength, with some pruning shears. The flair is in doing something big to achieve something small (modifying the death rate to send a message) or in doing something small to achieve something big (a little snip to take down a space elevator).

    As for Jules Rivera, I'd like to know what he thinks about a softer world. No regular cast and the photos aren't painted over, but I still like it.

    Overall, I didn't like his criticisms, but the defense of xkcd was worse. xkcd was at its best when it was the good parts version of Munroe's doodles. It's ironic that its first defender said, "there is indeed a difference between a randomly scrawled stick and a quality posed stick". It was good at first because it wasn't trying to be anything more than "randomly scrawled stick[s]". Minimalism has its place, but xkcd is more about rawness than minimalism (the early sketches, more recent posters, and unnecessary panels and dialog are not minimalist). Now it's trying to be well done and raw, which is just as contradictory for art as it is for steak. Maybe xkcd could be better if it really were to try for minimalism?

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  67. Shear mediocrity would be good.
    Mal... No need to be aggressive. You don't agree with me, fine, and I understand your complaints about the comic. I was just saying why I liked it. And yeah, I am biased, because I get more pleasure from finding the (sometimes few) good things in the comic than ripping it apart. This doesn't mean I don't see the faults, it means they don't generally ruin the comic for me.
    What I meant when I said "they're only faults if you're looking for them" is that the casual reader is either going to go, "space elevator? wtf" or "hah, fucking things up." They're probably not going to wonder whether or not space elevators are anchored to the earth, what would ACTUALLY happen if the cable was cut, etc. Are these reasonable complaints? Sure. But only for someone who's not just casually reading the comic for mild giggles.
    And of course, if you're a rabid fan of XKCD you'll go "OMG SPACE ELEVATOR + BHG = EPICWIN. Only a reference to [internet meme] could make this better!"
    Which, can I point out, I didn't. So, you know.

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  68. Yeah, see, most things are tolerable if you actively turn your brain off before trying to read it. If you deliberately refuse to think about what you're reading, why even bother coming to a site explicitly for critical analysis of the text?

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  69. Okay so Jules Rivera is an idiot, but at least he's less of an idiot than the xkcd fanboys at the bottom. I stopped reading the comments when I got to this gem:

    "I promise you this. the writers of XKCD put as many hours into their content as other comics put into their art."

    I could comment on that. But I think it speaks for itself.

    And God damn Surviving the World is fucking awful. I read that linked comic. I use the word "comic" there loosely (VERY loosely). At least I tried to read it until it turned into a giant wall of text.

    I have nothing against photo comics as long as they're well, COMICS (hello A Softer World). Surviving the World is just a blog in photograph form which makes it hard to read and stupid as hell.

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  70. i don't even give a shit about 698 i can't imagine anyone who does

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  71. The last few comics have been halfway decent (OK, the strip games one was a bit lazy, but at least Randall made the effort to compose a poem for the space elevator one). But 698 is just horrible. It's trying to be funny but just ends up being depressing. Total fail.

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  72. Good news. No more girlfriend comics!

    Bad news. More emo-ness!

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  73. Leonard: yeah, Randy is really bad at capturing the "funny because it's depressing" mood. He tries though!

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  74. 698: Oh only the woman gets to use profanity. Keep on empowering those womenfolk, Randall.

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  75. Oh hey, 698 has a punchline. Oh hey, 698 is a recycled version of an old joke.

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  76. at least the alt text would be good if the comic was.

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  77. I was expecting the newest one to head in the direction of trying to force the other to hang up in a contrived manner.

    Then I saw the last panel and anticipated xkcdsucks to rise up in anger.

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  78. "698: Oh only the woman gets to use profanity. Keep on empowering those womenfolk, Randall."

    Surely you are kidding.

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  79. Ok, I liked this xkcd. I had a giggle, looked up iterated prisoner's dilemma, and had another giggle.

    But you're right right about russian roulette carl. It's way more funny. Although if randal did it I bet you'd complain that he was just being weird and gross and trying to pass that off as a joke and then claim to be incensed at the lack of humor... but yeah, strip russian roulette. I'm so using that now. Because necrophilia is funny (so says carl). Oh, but n=1.3% (apparently lots of people on the internets talk about strip russian roulette already). This makes it a relatively common internet topic which would have screwed up the whole joke, which would make carls criticism pretty lame, but randall could have used it as the alt-text which pretty much vindicates carl's superb taste in humor (even when contradicting himself) and ability to provide good critique of the same.

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